Stick With Your Vision

Posted by Ari Weinzweig on May 18, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Ari Weinzweig, Author and Co-founder of Zingerman's, challenges you to stick with your vision through the zone of doubt and blame. And no matter what you are going through, no matter the struggle, look for ways to add meaning to your life. 

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Episode with guest: Ari Weinzweig

Author and Co-founder of Zingerman's

(This episode was recorded in May of 2021.)


Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. There will be ups and downs when changing things up but it is important to push through even when things aren't going as smoothly. (click to jump to this topic below)  It's going to be fabulous, transformative, incredible. they've read all the articles, they're totally jazzed and then like, by month four. And, you know, no one's coming to the huddle. And, you know, the accountant forgot to put the numbers out and nobody talks and you know, and it's just starting to realize like, okay, we're three, four months into a year or two journey, Maybe three year journey to really integrate this into our culture in a meaningful way.

2. Everyone is different. It is still important to honor them for who they are. (click to jump to this topic below)  So, if we do it at that casual level, unthinkingly, then when we actually attach those same behaviors to things that actually have difficult emotional pieces attached to them, and centuries of challenge attached to them, it doesn't go well. So, I've tried to teach myself to just honor that everybody's different, and that my job is to honor them for who they are as best I can.

3. You do not just become an overnight success. You go through many unseen struggles before success actually happens. (click to jump to this topic below)  But I had written a piece the previous week about one of the natural laws on that list that I wrote in part one of the business book, and its natural one number 11, which is that great things generally take a lot longer to make happen than most of us want to believe. And this is just true. I mean, you know, people look at what we do, or what you all do down here. And it's like, oh, man, they're like, overnight success. It's like, did you actually read the book, Great Game of Business, like, it's anything but man. 


Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.

Sponsor Ad 0:03

The "Change the Game" Podcast is sponsored by Prairie Capital Advisors, helping businesses think forward. For more information, visit That's

Announcer 0:24

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 this episode of the "Change the Game" Podcast with special guest Ari Weinzweig. In this episode Ari challenges you to stick with your vision through the zone of doubt and blame. And no matter what you are going through, no matter the struggle, look for ways to add meaning to your life. Here's your hosts Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.

Steve Baker 0:53

Welcome to the "Change the Game" Podcast, where we're changing the game by doing business differently and highlighting stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker and with me as always is Rich Armstrong. How are you today Rich?

Rich Armstrong 01:07

Good, Steve, how are you?

Steve Baker 01:10

Very excited. today. We've got one of our friends. In fact, I think we owe him like a blazer like they give to SNL hosts after they've been on a few times. Good friend and in special guest. Ari Weinzweig from the Zingerman's Community of Businesses. He's the CEO and co-founding partner of Zingerman's. And, of course, for those of you who are listening that don't know what Zingerman's does, they are headquartered out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and they produce, sell, and serve all sorts of fun flavor traditional foods and produce about $35 million in annual sales. Ari is probably if he's not best known for like his corned beef, or bacon or something like that. It would be as prolific author and he's got all kinds of books and articles out there. And his latest that we want to talk about today is, Working Through Hard Times: Life and Leadership Learnings from 2020. So welcome, Ari, how are you?

Ari Weinzweig 2:11

I'm doing great, as well as one could do in a pandemic. I'm doing great. I, we've all gotten used to qualifying our level of personal wellbeing so I I'm good. And I feel fortunate to be in a relatively healthy organization. Like you all come to believe that healthy organizations have better immune systems. And so, we're in the context of disease, we're better able to withstand and rebound from difficult times.

Steve Baker 2:47

Absolutely. So, you're coming to us live from the Roadhouse right now?

Ari Weinzweig 2:51


Steve Baker 2:52

Could you just bring us up to speed on, you know, how the team and how the community of businesses are doing right now?

Ari Weinzweig 3:00

Yeah, I yeah, I think we're doing pretty good. I mean, it's not great. In the big picture. We have diversity as you all do it at SRC. But we have diversity of businesses. So, we have everything from our mail order. Business, which like most mail order businesses has, over the last year has boomed busiest year ever by far, all the way down to our food tour business, which has been at zero for the last 15 months and went from doing fine to have no sales in like four days last year. And then, as a range, I mean, our bakery. The Bakehouse is essentially doing well. Solid and everybody else is like I said zero at the low end up to about 60% here at the Roadhouse and the deli. zing trainer training business, like what you all deal with is shifted to online and probably worked their way back up to about 40%. And as I mentioned, before, we were coming on and chatting with you all going to Fort Worth next week to do my first live in person presentation in 15 months, which I'm a little nervous about. It's been a while.

Steve Baker 4:17

I'm sure you'll do fine.

Ari Weinzweig 4:18

I think I will. But it's you know, when you've been doing it, I've been doing it for you know, once a month, twice a month, four times a month for years and years. And in a good way. It's not like I don't pay attention but get in a rhythm. It's a little like you didn't play basketball, you know, players I it gives me empathy for players that got hurt, and they were out for a year and trying to come back. It's not like they don't have high ability. It's not like they're not going to be fine. But you need to think about things a little more than you're used to thinking about them which can be good but also challenging.

Steve Baker 4:48


Rich Armstrong 4:49

Well, you know, I've seen you many times on the stage already and I think you're going to do just fine.

Ari Weinzweig 4:54

Well, I'm feeling more confident as we go but anyway to sum up, so let's see. A little over a year ago, you know, mid-March, when all this came apart, as I wrote about in the new pamphlet that you mentioned, so we, you know, things were starting to look weird for a couple of weeks before it really hit. And it was kind of clear something was coming, but I don't think any of us really knew what was coming. This is still when people were like, Oh, yeah, it'll be over in a week, you know, and we had a fundraiser. I had a wonderful dog, a Corgi named Jelly Bean, who lived to be 17 years and she died be six years ago this this month, and we do a fundraiser in her memory for safehouse Center, which is the shelter for victims of domestic abuse. We do we live we live near there. They all used to all the staff used to see me and Jelly Bean going jogging every day. And so, we decided to do a fundraiser in her memory to put a little positive spin on a loss and so we it's every February we call the Jelly Bean jump up and we have a dinner at the Roadhouse and it's sometimes it's a little bit later. So, it was March, that Tuesday night in March, the second Tuesday, and we had the fundraising dinner, we pulled it off, full room and went real well. And then the next day, everything came apart. And if I remember, right, it was March 11, and 12th. And then the 15th was our anniversary. So, our 38th anniversary organization and we got a pandemic. Before the pandemic, I would have told you that we were on track for our fiscal year, which ends at the end of July to do about 70 million in sales. And we had about 700 staff members. Now I'll tell you, we have about 550 staff, and we will do about 50 over 50 million probably this year. The week after it started, we furloughed about 275. And we've brought back a lot of them. And now we're in the same boat everybody in the country is which is unable to find enough people to work.

Rich Armstrong 7:01

Yeah, it just switches so quickly

Ari Weinzweig 7:04

got remarkable.

Rich Armstrong 7:06

Well, hey, Ari, last time we were together, we talked a lot about humility, importance of that leadership trait.

Ari Weinzweig 7:12


Rich Armstrong 7:13

In this past year, certainly that's been required a lot. Would you agree?

Ari Weinzweig 7:19

Yeah, I mean, I think it's always required, I started to I mean, as we talked about, when I wrote that pamphlet, which came out a few months before this one, that's work I had started long before the pandemic it was, wasn't like my top priority was a longer project. But it turned out to be particularly really poignant for the year that's passed. But I have been doing a lot of work in the context of organizational ecosystems and this metaphor and look at culture as the soil, I just actually wrote about it for the Enews that I do tomorrow, we can put the link to the E news somewhere in the notes, too. And I started to look at humility as humans are topsoil and really not that great froze without it. And that the natural state of the planet is there's a lot of topsoil, but through our interference, humans have depleted enormously the amount of topsoil and on the surface of the planet. And this is a problem that we're all dealing with in the agricultural world. But in the organizational world, the depletion of humility, I'm going to suggest creates similar problems. And you can access a lot of return and quotes on investment quickly, without it, but to really create the kind of lasting, sustainable, meaningfully positive organization that you and I and probably everybody listening want to create. I think humility is really an essential ingredient.

Steve Baker 8:49

That’s great

Rich Armstrong 8:49

wait an analogy.

Steve Baker 8:51

It is, it's amazing. And if someone didn't have much humility, this pandemic certainly would probably teach them some,

Ari Weinzweig 8:58

well, you would think you would think but I'm going to suggest that probably a lot of people that don't have it, don't they see it as not their fault. And that is because other people's screw ups because part of the beauty of humility is that it helps us to see how we could have done better and reminds us that we're all in this together. And that none of us have all the answers and whether we like it or not, we're all interdependent. This is one of the principles of open-book from the beginning. And I think it's true, it's always been true. It's, it's true. Now we know you know, if there's no road, you can't get to work. I mean, if somebody didn't figure out how to get the electricity to my house, I don't think about it every day, but I'd be in trouble. Right. So, we're all interdependent and humility allows us to learn from everybody and help everybody from a grounded pun and not pun intended and not intended place. Yeah,

Steve Baker 9:54

yeah. Let's, uh, let's talk about what you've got out now. Your latest work: Working Through Hard Times.

Ari Weinzweig 10:01


Steve Baker 10:02

This certainly was not your first crisis that you led your team through.

Ari Weinzweig 10:06


Steve Baker 10:07
Sure, it won't be the last.

Ari Weinzweig 10:08


Steve Baker 10:09

Pretty significant. And why was it important for you to document the lessons learned from this one?

Ari Weinzweig 10:16

Yeah, that’s a good question. I wrote the preface to it in December, you know, and so much has already changed even the last two, three months, I mean, so trender is set the stage, reset the stage for people. So, this is really look like vaccines would come out, but wasn't really for sure. I don't think I knew anybody who had been vaccinated. I don't want to get into politics, but the state of politics was not calm and uplifting, regardless of where one's perspective falls on the continuum. You know, it was the middle of winter in Michigan. I mean, there's so there, there was a lot to be concerned about. And even within our own particular setting, up here, the caseloads had gone back up again. So, dining rooms, which had been open for seating at 50% got closed down again, which I'm not arguing with, we want people to be healthy. We want to do our part. So, we were back to having only carry out I mean, so there was a lot of darkness on the horizon. And I mean, I wasn't feeling hopeless. But it was certainly a time that I think called for us to see the bigger picture and see a more positive future, even in the darkness. So, for me, that was a big piece of it. And then also, I guess, I mean, as you know, I'm a history major. So, I kind of it felt meaning. Like, I think when this is all over everyone, there will be 1000s of books written about what happened. But I wanted to actually write something from the middle. Because I think the perspective is different from the middle. And I don't mean I won't write another like part two of this when it when it is or has wound down. But I think it's interesting to do it from the middle. And as you said, the other thing that drove me was realizing as I looked, I was writing throughout on stuff that I thought would help it was helping us to get through and sharing that through the E news. And I started to realize, like, this isn't just about a pandemic. I mean, this is timeless stuff. And as you said, we've been through other crises. And we're going to go through more, and we're going to go through them on a national level, because stuffs going to happen, we're going to go through them in organizations, and that could be a crisis of leadership, it could be a crisis of a local problem that happened, it could be weather related tragedy, people down south getting hit with hurricanes, I mean, there's all sorts of things. And then we're all going to go through personal stuff, too. You know, we go through loss, we go through relationship issues. we all struggle with various points. And I started to realize that all the answers that are in the book, in the pamphlet are all really timeless things and stuff you can use. Yeah, anywhere, anytime and is relevant for anybody interested.

Rich Armstrong 13:15

Well, what are the lessons that you identified? That was pretty interesting, but not sure if I understand exactly what you're getting at is sticking with the stuff through the zone of doubt and blame? Yeah, elaborate on that?

Ari Weinzweig 13:29

Absolutely. So, I really can't remember who taught us that phrase zone of doubt and blame, but it's a good one. Rosabeth Moss Kanter with a Kay who wrote the book Confidence, which I really liked, she used to be the editor of the Harvard Business Review, and actually didn't know this until a few years ago, but turned out to be a University of Michigan MBA, who, by the way, wrote her graduate work on utopian communities, which I didn't know that at all, but anyway, she calls it Cantor's law, which is that partway through everything looks like a failure. And in hindsight, I guess, I hadn't thought about it. So, you just asked, but maybe in December when I wrote this, it was part of that but it's just true. I mean, I'm sure you've experienced this coaching people on open book. I mean, they start it's a honeymoon, you got a relationship with open book, oh, man, this is like your fourth date. This is awesome. It's going to be great. They're like the perfect person for me. You know, this system is great. It's going to solve all our problems. No big deal, man. A couple of weeks, maybe a month, we'll have this down.

1. There will be ups and downs when changing things up but it is important to push through even when things aren't going as smoothly.

It's going to be fabulous, transformative, incredible. they've read all the articles, they're totally jazzed and then like, by month four. And, you know, no one's coming to the huddle. And, you know, the accountant forgot to put the numbers out and nobody talks, and you know, and it's just starting to realize like, okay, we're three, four months into a year or two journey, maybe three-year journey to really integrate this into our culture in a meaningful way. And so, the zone of doubt and blame is like, it's in the beginning, you got a lot of energy. And even in the pandemic, that's like, okay, we could do this. But now you're like, in August, we're six months into these very challenging times, there's no end in sight. In some ways, it was getting worse, not better. And again, you know, the state of the world was uncertain, the state of politics was uncertain. Racial antipathy was, which is not a new issue, centuries old, but it was coming to the fore, in very violent and, and difficult ways, which again, aren't new, but it was in the news. And, you know, there's a lot of reasons to be down, right. And it's, you can pick your metaphor. I mean, in the game context, this is, you got a pretty decent team, but you're down 18 at halftime in a basketball game, like you can come back, but the great team says, Okay, let's see what we did wrong. And what do we got to do to get there? The not-so-great teams gives up and that's the zone about blame.

Steve Baker 16:10

Yeah, I love it zone of doubt, and blame you when you say that it reminds me of what Jack Stack always says about the difference between players and champions. He says the champions have just learned how to train through the boredom, keep going.

Ari Weinzweig 16:22

Oh no that’s true, and it's called the zone of doubt and blame because it starts to turn into this, like, whose idea was this

Steve Baker 16:28


Ari Weinzweig 16:30

And Stas Kazmierski, who, you know, passed away. I think it's five years ago, this month, actually, who taught us the visioning process that I wrote about something here and that we use so much he used to work in a very large corporation. And he said, their salute was when they asked who was responsible, they went like this, which people can't see, can't see on a podcast, but I'm pointing each arm in the opposite direction with the finger pointing in different directions. So, it was everybody but you. And I think in a healthy organization, to Jack's point, we each take responsibility for ourselves, and we take shared responsibility for the collective. And that's what allows us to push through to get to the other side.

Steve Baker 17:11

Yeah, for sure. Well, Ari, one of the things that we have all learned lately is the importance of connection. And you take that one step further. And you talked about in the new pamphlet about the power picking up the phone and connecting people. How do you make that work in your schedule? I mean, really?

Ari Weinzweig 17:30

Well, yeah. This is a funny thing. And I mean, that's kind of why I wrote it up is just like, it's just when people started to ask me what I was, you know, they're like, all you're doing, you're doing all this work to take care of everybody else at work, but like, what are you doing to take care of yourself. And like I don't, I'm doing exactly the same stuff I've been doing to take care of myself for years, which is to have a good regimen around self-care. So, you can get through and one of those, which I wrote about in here is journaling, which we could come back to, and one is running every day and getting my head clear that way. And another one is my girlfriend and I cooked dinner every night. Because I like to cook and even though we have all these food businesses, I actually like to cook at home, because it's calming, whereas eating at work is not calming. is awesome that other people come but if I'm at work, I'm at work. So anyway, so I do those. But I realized like, one thing I do is just reach out to friends, colleagues, or whatever and just chat and then that there's just something like every, it just seemed like everybody would be like, let's make a time. What can we make an appointment for a phone call? Like, can you just pick up the phone and call me like, whatever? You don't or like, I don't want to bother you. I'm like, like, I had enough therapy to know I don't have to answer the phone. No, it was one of the best things I learned. He was like, if you don't want to answer you don't have to answer. It's not like showing up at my house ringing the doorbell at one in the morning. I just won't answer, and I call you back. And there's something nice about that impromptu, you know, spur the moment of the moment, conversation and sometimes people don't answer but whatever, even if you just I believe even if I just leave a message, letting them know us thinking about them that helps. And then I just kept finding them. I've done this for a long time. But I was doing it more partly through dealing with my own stress right and trying to find ways to reground and anchor and as I wrote in the pamphlet in SM you know, I was talking to one of my friends. Mary Sue Milliken owns border drill with her business partner Susan Feniger out in LA, they've been in restaurants about as long as we have, and we've been friends like 25-30 years. Anyway, I called her and we're talking and she's telling me what they're dealing with. And it's a rough year in the restaurant business. No question. And we're getting off the phone. We're finishing up and I'm like, Yeah, well, I don't think I helped you, which was great to talk to you. I said, Yeah, I feel bad. I don't think I really helped you with any of the stuff you're struggling with. She goes No, but I feel like 10 times better. And I'm like, Well, actually, I feel 10 times better too. And I mean, of course, like, you know, this is the bait. This is why therapy is therapeutic as you're talking to an empathic person. And it just helps to share and realize we're not alone. We're not the only one struggling with how to pay the bills, we're not the only ones who don't know what to do. We're not the only ones who feel slightly incompetent, and over our heads and a little bit freaked out about what's going on. And just that feeling of connection really helps man and if you think of what it does positively for our own energy, and then think of the impact our energy has on all the people we work with is pretty huge for a 10-minute phone call. Big Big payback.

Rich Armstrong 20:43

Yeah, huge, huge and just connecting, I mean, it's, it's one of those years that we feel so much in isolation anyway, just to get a voice on the phone and be something other than zoom is probably a good idea.

Ari Weinzweig 20:57

Yeah, and I mean, Rich, to answer your question, logistically, I mean, I don't know just I don't I'm not in like, we're in Ann Arbor, not in LA. So, I don't my drive time, anywhere in town is 10 to 15 minutes, Max, but I just make calls from the car. I mean, it's, before I go, I just think of who I'm going to call and then I got two, three people in mind and get the get the phone numbers logged up. And then I just started dialing and just never know, you know, but it just really encouraged me to keep reaching out to people throughout this that I might not call them. I think the connections, paid dividends at every level. I mean, emotionally, and then really, it's not my intent, but they often pay off and people are like, Oh, yeah, you know, I was just thinking I need to find somebody to do some service training for this nonprofit and turns into a zinc train thing. So, it's not why I've called but when you're connecting, good things come from it.

Rich Armstrong 21:49

That's for sure. Well, it kind of relates to another message that you were you had shared in this pamphlet, in the book was that collaboration, kindness and caring for each other is what will help us overcome and probably has helped us overcome. You also talked about the idea of leaving every day with dignity. Can you see some examples of what you mean by that?

Ari Weinzweig 22:11

Yeah absolutely. So, it's, uh, you know, when we all talked about humility, but back whenever that was a few months ago, I shared as I wrote in the humility pamphlet, it was a subject I had really never paid much attention to. I mean, clearly, I knew the word. Like, I'd never heard of it. But I mean, we didn't teach about it. We didn't talk about it in the organization. I hadn't written anything about it. And I started on the process because of humility, because I got asked to speak at a symposium about it that I would have said no to, but the woman asked me is wonderful. And she used to work for us. And I didn't have the heart to say no, and then I had to figure out what to say. And that really pushed me as we started this into a pretty interesting study of a really important concept of practice, and dignity. Again, it's clearly, I know the word clearly, I'm all for it. I don't think anybody I've ever talked to you said they're not for it. But what got me thinking about it, in particular, in the essay that's in the pamphlet is back late, like mid-summer, late summer, and there's just so much anger in the country and people blame each other and pointing fingers, and again, I'm not choosing sides. It's just regardless of what side and pros one was on, there was a lot of stuff that was not going that well, let's say, and there was a lot in the news about bringing back civility. And, you know, back in the old days, when the two political parties, leaders, even if they disagreed, policy, the congressional leaders might still go have lunch together. And, you know, they were there. And we need to bring back civility as thinking like, civility is better than anger all the time. But it's so neutral. Like, we can get a ceasefire, but that's not really the same as really what I believe is more important than that, and I realized that was dignity. And then I started to read about dignity and think about it at a deeper level. And it just as like, is there really any reason not to treat anyone with dignity, regardless of whether you like them, regardless of politics, regardless of race, regardless of who they voted for, like I and when the more I thought about it as just, there's I can't think of a reason like I can think of plenty of people I disagree with, but it's not a reason for me to not treat them with dignity. And it pushed me to really look at, you know, make essentially making a rule for myself to help embed that belief in my behavior, which is just treat everyone with dignity all the time. And I don't mean I don't slip but I think as a life guideline, it’s hard to go wrong. Yeah, by doing that.

Steve Baker 25:04

Love that. it's great to get you always bring these ideas to, you know the front of our minds that are probably things we should be thinking about all the time anyway. And one of the things that I've always loved about you Ari is you made visioning something I could consume and take into my business life, my personal life, and I've shared it with so many people. You know that article you wrote in ink all those years ago, send it out all the time. And so, it's always been important to you. You've shared the process at our annual conference before and in the pamphlet, you're saying now's a terrific time to write. I don't know if that's counterintuitive, or if I'm just from the Ozarks. So why is it a terrific time to write say,

Ari Weinzweig 25:50

I'm going to try, I'm going to treat you with dignity, whether you're from the Ozarks, Ohio, or Ontario, I don't really care. I care about you, but I'm going to treat you well, regardless. And I think, I guess just backing up to the other question is, so part of dignity, I would suggest is treating everybody like the unique human being that they are. Because all of the work around, you know, people from Appalachia do this, or democrats do this, or it's like, it's so dehumanizing. And, you know, we do it in casual ways to when we say stuff, like, you know, whatever, you know how, you know, I'm from Chicago. So, it's like, this is what a Bears fan is, was like, there's a lot of bears fans, dude, and they're not all the same.

2. Everyone is different. It is still important to honor them for who they are.

So, if we do it at that casual level, unthinkingly, then when we actually attach those same behaviors to things that actually have difficult emotional pieces attached to them, and centuries of challenge attached to them, it doesn't go well. So, I've tried to teach myself to just honor that everybody's different, and that my job is to honor them for who they are as best I can. Anyway, visually, yes, I think it's I do believe it was counterintuitive, certainly for me, is somebody who grew up worrying a lot. The last time I would feel grounded enough to write a vision of my future would be in the middle of a year of crisis. But I've learned the hard way that it's, although it feels counterintuitive, and by the way that's learned it's not naturally counter intuitive, but belief exhibits it's a belief. Although it feels counterintuitive, it's actually probably one of the most important times because when we don't know where we're going, there's just way more the confusion and emotional ups and downs of what my Irish friend Ashlyn Rogers in Dublin calls the Quran writing the corona coaster, you know, one day you're up one day, you're down, one day, you think you got it the next day, you don't know, if you're going to be in business, another two weeks out, that it's actually much easier to handle that emotional instability and uncertainty when you know where you're going. So, if we have that clarity of what we want our life to be like, five years, three years, 10 years down the road, then the struggles of getting through this year and a half, whatever it's going to turn out to be, are difficult. But we can just keep taking a deep breath, we know where whatever the end zone is, we know that Cathedral we're building whatever metaphor you want to use, we can keep going, even if we get knocked down, knocked back, you know, lost our bearings for a few minutes, we can still take a deep breath and go like, okay, here's where I'm headed. And without that, depending on how you've got up from getting knocked down, you might be going in a complete opposite direction and not even realizing,

Rich Armstrong 28:48

You certainly, you know, practice what you preach. And I did notice that you guys released your new vision for the year 2032 to share some highlights about that, but maybe for the audience, kind of the process you went through.

Ari Weinzweig 29:04


Rich Armstrong 29:05

To develop that.

Steve Baker 29:06

Yeah, and I'm actually I was actually just working on a piece work for it before we get on a call for another pamphlet. [Because] I'm going to put one out with a couple essays about additional essays about visioning, that haven't been put in print on paper before and then also put in the 2032 vision, the 2020 vision which preceded it and the 2009 vision that we wrote 1984, which is the first time that we actually wrote a vision in this way. So, the 2032 is funny, because so we started, we wrote in 2006, and 7, we wrote our 2020 vision. And when we got to, like 2018 the way we do this, visions, not time was like a mission statement, by contrast, or time specific, and so it was written to end in 2020. And so, you know, 2018 it’s been obvious we got to get going. And writing a long-term vision when you're a couple years out is rarely urgent, but it is important. But other things pop up that push it back here and there. And inevitably, when you engage as we do by consensus at the partner level, so this is 20 people trying to come to agreement, which we did, but come to agreement on the future, we want to get staff input because we were inclusive organization, even if they don't get the final say, we want to hear people's voices. So anyway, we were set to actually roll out the 2032 vision at the end of March last year. Well, needless to say, that didn't happen. And about a month or two into the pandemic, when I was chatting some of those phone calls and people you know, in their queue, trying to find humor in there, in the darkness would say stuff like Well, I guess you're going to have to rewrite a new vision now. And, of course, this led me this led me to self-doubt and anxiety. But I went back and reread what we had written and I'm like, you know, what, I, I don't think anything has to change. I mean, it's 12 years out, like, it's a doubt we're going to be wearing masks and 2032 there'll be plenty of new problems. But whatever they get to come up with people smarter than me are going to figure out healthcare solutions to this. And we'll be on to some new challenges long since I'm sure by then. And I chatted with other people, Maggie from zing train Paul, my partner people I've been working with a long time. And they're like, Yeah, no, there's really nothing that needs to change. So, we held course, and then this January, we actually held a town hall on zoom, not my preference, but on zoom, where we did the formal rollout, so very little had changed since then, of March other than tweaking some grammar and some sentence structure and a few words here and there and filling in some missing subheadings. But other than that, it stayed where it was. So, I'm happy to send it to anybody who wants to look at that email me it's, I'll send it back. And it will be hopefully later this spring, early summer, I guess, out into this new pamphlet, if I get my essay done and anyway, but some of the highlights. So, I mean, some of much of it is true to where we've come from. I mean, it's important, I think in a vision for longer term organization, you don't want to lose your roots. So, there's a lot about food and getting even better at quality. We've been thinking of continuous improvement since long before the Toyota book. Thanks to Decker Laker got written, this is just the way we've always approached life as y'all have down there. It talks about guest service. And in the context of being in the moment, it talks about how everybody else is going to technology and mass service methods. It just I won't say who it was, but I just had had a couple very frustrating days trying to book a hotel reservation or first the website, I tried like eight times, and I couldn't get it to go through. So, then I'm like, Alright, I'm going to call. Very nice woman was very slow. And we got near the end. She's like, Oh, no, my computer backed up, it's not going through. And then finally, she's like, well, I'm going to have to transfer you over to one of my colleagues. And I'm like, I have to start again. Flick. Yeah, I'm sorry. Nice, seriously. Anyway, but so what we want to focus on a positive note, we want to focus on being able to bring that personal touch back to the dignity, bring that personal touch to the interaction when people are being treated more and more like statistics pulled off a social media, covertly, we want to treat you for who you are, and really be able to bring a personalized experience as much as we can to everybody, because I believe we can differentiate ourselves. So, there's a lot of that, then there's some stuff that's new, like it talks about succession planning, I mean, which you guys are also dealing with, because Jack's, you know, pretty much of mine and Paul's era, right? So, it by doing it 12 years out, it allows us to talk about the succession in a healthy way, but nobody's pushed out the door tomorrow. But it gives a clear message to the up-and-coming people like by 2032 Paul, and I will not be in the day to day and hopefully we'll still be engaged. But we're not going to be in the day to day, so it doesn't have to say exactly which week it's happening on. But it does give you a clear picture of where we're going and it sets the stage to have continuity and those, let's say belief continuity, strategic continuity, etc. Then it opens up some new territory for us to in good ways. Like it says that we're going to be open to opening other Zingerman's businesses, which has been our vision for a while to create this community but we're going to be open to non-food businesses. So, I've been thinking a lot about a business that refinished his old engine parts. Do you think that's?

Steve Baker 39:09

Who knows?

Ari Weinzweig 35:11

Might work man. I don't know, it sounds. But anyway. So being open to, to non-food businesses, and as you know, I mean, it's a lot driven for us by what the prospective partner wants to do. But so, it could be anything from a craft jeweler to, I don't know, a tattoo artist to a gardening business to really anything. I mean, you know, I still have this fantasy of going back to a really amazing customer service focus gas station. Like when I was a kid, like were to come out and clean your window, like, I mean, dude, I paid 20 cents more gallon in a heartbeat, to get treated with respect, and actually have somebody come out there and have a nice conversation. So that's in there, it talks about doing more of our work with young people. So this is starting to teach the visioning work, you've mentioned, teach the dignity stuff, teacher energy management, all of these things that we've taught through zinc train, and I've been writing about the really life skills, I mean I wish I would have learned it at eight, like, I didn't have to screw up a lot of my life to learn them I could have, I could have learned it as a 10 year old, because it's really a life skill. I mean, in hindsight, like, I'm like, how do they let you into University of Michigan, when you have no vision of what you want to do? And I paid my family, and I paid out of state tuition, so it wasn't expensive. And you have no idea where you're going, right? So, I think these are life skills, we want to do that. And then it talks about diversity and inclusion work. I mean, this is huge, they're not, I would suggest, they're not the same thing. Although the terms have become a little bit bounded in common conversation, you can have diversity, but not inclusion, and you could have inclusion without diversity. And we want to be able to really bring those to life. This is not in the least about blaming, I just look at like, we're all here, we're all responsible for making things better. And I'm not really that obsessed about who caused what to happen. But I'm more focused on how do we as an organization, contribute to creating a more positive, holistic and dignity filled future for everybody. And then it talks also, about working in harmony with nature. So, this has to do with the ecological footprint. And as you know, a lot of my writing is about human nature and treating people you know, as we've been talking about, so, and then it closes out with a section on love, which is something that I have said, and I will continue to say, if you had told me in 1982, when we opened it, I'd be talking about love at work, I want to roll my eyes and laughed at you. But I have come to see that it's in our mission statements that Paul's suggestion, I think, since 1991. And I've come to really see that it is my belief is that in a healthy ecosystem, coming back to this metaphor, that love is what emanates from the healthy ecosystem. And in the same way that with energy, like, it's much easier to have good energy as you and I know when you're part of the healthy organization. And we're also at the same time fully each responsible to bring positive energy every day. So, it's not blaming the ecosystem. It's just easier in a good ecosystem. And I've realized it's the same with love. And just like dignity, writing that in the vision has pushed me like, how do I bring love into every interaction that I have. And we have a lot of work to figure out what that really means now, because the visions where we're going, but we got to figure out how to really implement it. But I think it's, I believe it's actually it's good for humanity is good for us as people as part of the organization, it enhances our contribution to the community, because whether the customer can say that they that's why they like to come in here. I will argue that that is a big piece of what they like about being here. And that it's helped keep us going through the pandemic because people go, where they can feel hopeful. They go where they feel cared for, and where they feel treated with dignity. And it's not under menu, so to speak, but it is in what we deliver.

Steve Baker 39:15

I love it.

Rich Armstrong 39:16


Steve Baker 39:17

Well, I have to shift gears a little bit because I've been dying to ask you this question anyway. I mean, first of all, I you knew you're a radical because you're talking about love and dignity and business. What are you you're a heretic? But let's go back to some I, every time I've seen you Ari, if you weren't speaking you had your Mac out and you were writing. And so can you give us civilians, a little tip or two about how to create a discipline of writing because I think it's really therapeutic from the sound of it.

Ari Weinzweig 39:49

Yeah. Well, I can only tell you what works for me. There's lots of books about it. I mean, in many ways, I think it's what creates a discipline around anything, and I just wrote a piece in the E news a few weeks ago, is sort of what Stash Kazmierski taught us to call a belated glimpse of the hobbyist.

3. You do not just become an overnight success. You go through many unseen struggles before success actually happens.

But I had written a piece the previous week about one of the natural laws on that list that I wrote in part one of the business book, and its natural one number 11, which is that great things generally take a lot longer to make happen than most of us want to believe. And this is just true. I mean, you know, people look at what we do, or what you all do down here. And it's like, oh, man, they're like, overnight success. It's like, did you actually read the book, Great Game of Business, like, it's anything but man. And you know, even when people look at whatever great musicians that are 22 and they're like, man, or like an overnight success, I found every single time I start to really pay attention, their whole family was in music. Radio playing guitar for the time, they were for their mother got him a ukulele when they were five, every holiday they were singing to get, you know, in my family didn't do any of that. I mean, so I don't mean that I would have been a great musician, but I just learned it from the outside in by listening, but I wouldn't ever make an attempt to do it. And so, it takes a long time. And what I realized is, it takes a really long time to change a belief. Yeah, yeah. Much to my frustration, because I want it in my unconscious, I want people to just like me just decide you're doing it and like, let's get on with it already. But the reality is, it takes a long time. And one of the ways that I realize that we can make that happen is through either a regimen or an, again this isn’t new news. But I mean, through a regimen or some rule that we uphold, and you know, I'm not religious, but people who go to church every Sunday, or go to synagogue every Saturday, like they're taken very seriously, and in a good way. I mean, it's just meaningful to them, and that their diligence helps them uphold that meaningful tradition to them. And that's why for me, as I said, like, I just run every day. Now, I'm not saying everybody else should, I'm sure it's not the healthiest thing, I'm really slow. But I just keep running. And it just allowed me to like, there's no excuses like that count. Like there's always excuses, but they don't matter. Because I'm in Michigan, man, it's almost always too hot to wet, too cold. I'm in a food business, it's always busy. And somebody always called in sick. You know, there's always 1000 reasons not to go. But once I was just like, you know what, I'm just going every day, then it doesn't matter if I'm in the mountains, I've gone when it's eight degrees have gone when it's 108 degrees, and I just keep going unless I'm like, really, really sick or whatever. And so, I think with the writing, it's the same thing. So, one piece for me, which I wrote about in the pamphlet is a journal every morning. That's not really writing for publication, but it does get my brain going in meaningful ways in terms of writing for publication. I mean, I must say it's partly self-discipline, not in a flippant way, but it's just like, I just take it seriously. And then I've learned over the years, a lot, I'll highly recommend book by Brenda Ueland, (U, E, L, A, N, D), that was written in 1937 called if you want to write She was also a radical in her own amazing way. And her writing really flipped a lot of my beliefs about writing around because I used to fixate on every sentence and worry and worry, and they didn't have that. And then she just was like, why don't people understand that writing is just talking on paper, like, relax. And when I read that, I was like, totally, like, what's the big deal? Like just I know what I want to say Just say it, like, stop trying to write like, I think a writer writes and just say what I want to say. And that helped me reduce stress. And then I've just learned, like, I guess it's kind of the zone about blame, because I go through that with every article I write. And every e news I write, and I actually wrote about that a month or so ago. Like, every time I sit down to write that e news, I'm like, this sucks. People are going to hate it. Jenny Tubbs, who edits for me is going to, like send the whole thing back and tell me it's terrible. And, and no one's going to like it. And this happens to me every single week. And I just have learned that that feeling is normal. Don't pretend it's not happening, but also don't let it stop. And just keep writing. And I've, I've learned just like with the visioning stuff, as you know, the faster you type or the faster your hand moves to write, the less the voices can get in the way. And I just have learned enough by doing this, that sometimes the stuff I think is good when I'm writing it isn't that good? Later, and the stuff that I thought sucked actually was much better than I thought so and, in that spirit, I mean, doing the E news, I mean, I've been doing our print newsletter for a long time, decades, but the E news every week, it's challenging, but in a good way. And so, every week, I mean, it comes out and I just sent mine in yesterday at three o'clock. And this morning, I re edited. And tomorrow, they're going to send me the proof to just find a few last things, and I'll go out tomorrow afternoon.

Rich Armstrong 45:21

Awesome. That's awesome. So, what is next for you Ari in terms of your writing

Ari Weinzweig 45:27

Well, I’m working, like I said, on this visioning pamphlet to come out? You know, depends, because we're self-published, then I don't have that I only have my own deadline.

Rich Armstrong 45:36


Ari Weinzweig 45:38

And then also, it's not really my writing, per se, but we have our statement of beliefs coming out. So, this is work that came out of the beliefs book. So, we've long had our guiding principles or values, eight of them, and we've had those for 30 years. But this is getting clarity around beliefs that are not about ethics, per se. They're just more about how we work and it's realizing like, it's the cultural norms that people find out usually by doing it wrong. And then somebody goes now, dude, we don't do that here. You know, and it's just stuff like we believe in visioning. Right? So, if you don't, I don't judge you, I can help you. But it's, you're going to have a really hard time working here. Because this is what we believe. So why not just tell people before they start. And then it'll also help us with decision making. So, like the first one on the list is that we focus on positive beliefs, right. And so even for me, having done this belief word for 5,6,7 years, it's still been very eye opening to realize how many people who I like working with but still default as I did for much of my life to negative beliefs, and then make them bad people. But they just see every you know; I don't really believe that she means it. Well, how is that helpful? I know so. So that's coming out in print, actually, in a couple weeks. So, people will be able to buy it online, like our staff Handbook, and all that. And then after that, this whole ecosystem thing, which started as an essay, or started as in part is the introduction in part for the book, which is on beliefs, where I first thought of beliefs as the root system of our lives and expanded on a bit has expanded a lot. And I thought I'd write an essay or a pamphlet on that. But as I've been working at, it keeps evolving, which I guess is appropriate for an ecosystem. And now it's clearly turning into part five of the book, which is good news. But it also means it's not going to come out in the next few months. So that's, that's what I'm working on.

Steve Baker 47:38

That's awesome. Well, Ari, it's always so much fun to talk to you. And it's thought provoking. And I do feel the love. We always try to wrap up by asking this question, what is one question we should be asking you?

Ari Weinzweig 47:54

Well, that's a great question. I was listening to a podcast on soil health the other day, because we do a lot more and more with regenerative agriculture. And so, the guy asked, the person being interviewed was asked a question, he laughed. He goes, you know, people who are really good at podcasts always say, that's a good question while they figure out what the answer which is true, which is true, but I don't know. I mean, I think for me, I guess I'll just say to come back to your writing questions is that I didn't consciously write the pamphlet to help myself, but I realized that the writing as you kind of alluded to a little bit earlier, it was actually therapeutic for me. And I've written a few pieces over the years that the epilogue of part three of the book on self-management is about a good friend of mine he died way too young from lung cancer and I wrote a piece about her and wrote a piece about my mother after she died 14 years ago, I think next week, you know, and just it's a realize it's helped me to deal with stuff. I was listening to a podcast by David Kessler about grief and he studied under the woman his name have drawn a blank on who's the famous person who wrote the five stages of grieving.

Steve Baker 49:22


Ari Weinzweig 49:22

Yeah, yeah, Elisabeth Kubler Ross, thank you. And he studied with her and he has proposed a sixth stage which is adding meaning. And, and it made sense because then when I look back, like even with Jelly Bean, my dog that I mentioned, making that fundraiser and her memory gave some meaning, and it doesn't mean that we think the loss is good, it just as he said, it doesn't mean you're happy that the person passed away. It means that you put meaning for yourself into how you dealt with the grief. And I think the writing for me is a way to help process that and it put meaning into the pandemic, in a context, I guess, in hindsight that wasn't necessarily conscious when I sat down to write. But in hindsight, I realized that it actually did that. And then in a way, it's a way of grieving the reality like, you know, not like things weren't changing every day anyway, because ecosystem, it's always changing, but it's a loss for us. And even if it's even if everything went back 100% to the way it was a year and a half ago, is still the loss of a year and a half of our lives. So, I think for me, that helps. So, there you go.

Rich Armstrong 50:35

So, for the audience that the pamphlet referring to Working Through Hard Times, is now available, can you share with folks how they can get their own copy?

Ari Weinzweig 50:43

Yeah, so one of the one of the things that we do in order to be congruent with my beliefs and our values, we do all the publishing here in town we do we print everything, design everything, and we print them locally in Ann Arbor. And then we're kind of off the grid. So, they're on either that's our training business. Or that's the monitor that we publish under. And we can send them out and if people want them for gifts or whatever, because I've had people buy, like 50 of them and give them out to their staff who have worked through this and want to physician you bought a bunch, you know, 30 or 40. And then he just gives them out to his good patients. It's a nice little token, it's not really that costly. So, I'm happy to arrange we can arrange for that to so or And then all the books are on there, too.

Steve Baker 51:37

Awesome. Well, Ari I’ve made a number of different notes here I'd like to share with everybody. These are my takeaways from our classes, right? So, stick with the stuff, stick with stuff on through the zone of doubt and blame, get through to the other side. Keep running, keep riding. So, I'm thinking tenacity, yeah, pick up the phone, reconnect with people, you never know what will come of it. I love that. both business and personal visioning is important in a pandemic, or any time but this is especially good as a jump off the corona coaster got that one. Now, it was a terrific time to create a life of your choosing. Kind of like that feeling. And then this last one was no matter what you're going through, no matter the struggle, look for ways to add meaning. And that means a lot to me. So, thank you for that already.

Ari Weinzweig 52:30

Well, thank you guys. I mean, you're part of, you know, in the ecosystem metaphor. I mean, we have our own Zingerman's community ecosystem here, and then sort of sub parts of that within the, as you mentioned, sitting at the Roadhouse or the Bakehouse or whatever each have their own little piece of that, but in a in a wonderful way. And phone calls play into this is that we are part of a greater ecosystem to and there's a lot of downsides of, you know, globalization or whatever people like to get down on. But there's upsides of it too, which is that you and I could be having this call right now. And here at Zingerman's, we have this connection with SRC, that's 25 years running now, and that works in the same way that I feel honored that the work we've done has contributed positively for you all, going to open book 25 years ago has been a huge piece of what we do. And it's contributed enormously to us. And there's certainly been times I haven't done it lately, but we're I've called Jack and asked for help. And he's always as you know, I mean, he always comes through and he's very generous. And so, we're part of this greater ecosystem. And just, the more we can help each other, get through all this, it'll just eventually be a good story that we laugh about. And like, number one, we had to wear masks. No, and it'll, we'll get past it. We'll get past it. But I have hope, which is what I wrote about in there. And I am hopeful that we're headed in the right direction. So, thank you all for contributing to our lives here. And to the lives of so many around the country that are even around the world now that are listening to this.

Steve Baker 54:06

I like it, Great stuff. Well, folks, this is Ari Weinzweig with working through hard times. And you can catch that at You can also catch Aris live session at our 29th annual Great Game of Business conference, September 8 through 10th 2021. Check it out at Ari, it is always a pleasure. This has been really special. Thank you so much.

Ari Weinzweig 54:33

A pleasure, gentlemen. Anytime, man.

Steve Baker 54:36

All right, folks. Say hi to everybody down there.

Ari Weinzweig 54:40

Yeah, we'll do.

Steve Baker 54:42

So, folks, let's keep the conversation going. Send us your questions, your stories, your best practices, ideas, challenges, most of all your victories. That is capitalism at its best. Thanks for being with us, and we'll see you next time.

Announcer 54:56

The "Change the Game" Podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more, visit great

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Topics: Leadership, Transparency, Sustainable Business, Pandemic, Writing

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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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