Motivation, Decisions and Bad Habits — Expert Insights; Chick-fil-A’s Resilience, Amy Cooper in the Park, and an Arizona State Scandal Brewing

(Red Diamonds Newsletter, written by Michael Toebe)

The Red Diamonds Newsletter is a weekly publication on communication, decision making, behavior, trust, conflict, professional relationships, resilience, reputation and wiser, more successful crisis management. It regularly includes interviews with bright, accomplished minds.

This Week’s Contents

Success in Breaking Free and Moving on from Problematic Habits
(Interview: Peter O’Donnell, founder and president of Healthy Futures Group)

Developing Beyond Dangerous Behavior
(Interview: Sheena Eizmendiz, founder of Sheena Eizmendiz, LLC)

“Best Of” Quotes: Rejecting Our Habits and Saying “No” to Ourselves

Reputation Intelligence: How Chick-fil-A Safely Navigated Trouble

“Wow” Crisis Management in the News: Amy Cooper, Ray Anderson

Comments and Questions


(Red Diamonds Newsletter)

Peter O’Donnell, founder and president of the Healthy Futures Group talks to me in this interview about a comment I came across late last week:

“Learn to reject your bad habits. Learn to say “no” to yourself.”

It captured my attention because of its boldness and connection with our best lives and reputation, personally and professionally. I also wondered how this directive would work in practice.

(Peter O’Donnell, founder and president of Healthy Futures Group)

O’Donnell discusses what goes into decisions and how we can learn what motivates them. He also describes, in simple language, what it looks like.

See what you think:

Success in Breaking Free and Moving on from Problematic Habits

Comments and questions can be sent to

Sheena Eizmendiz of Sheena Eizmendiz, LLC and WellBiz, spoke with me in an interview about the ties that bind when it comes to habits of the mind and body.

Why is this important? Habits empower, hold us back or they lead to us attracting big problems, consequences and punishments in our lives, personally and professionally. That’s why it’s critical to learn what we’re thinking, the mental models we’ve created and whether they’re as trustworthy as we think.

(Sheena Eizmendiz, founder of Sheena Eizmendiz, LLC)

Something that caught my attention was when Eizmendiz made a statement in a video “save myself from myself.”

I did so because it seemed aligned to the quote I asked Peter O’Donnell about leading off the newsletter, about rejecting our bad habits and saying “no” to yourself.

You can read more about it all at this story:

Developing Beyond Dangerous Behavior

Comments and questions can be sent to

(Red Diamonds Newsletter)

So many intelligent people had something to say about the quote of learning to say “no” to yourself that inspired the two interviews leading off this week’s newsletter.

I regret I could not include everyone yet I am beginning a new feature where more voices on a topic can share their education, work, experiences, expertise and wisdom.

I’m calling it the “Best Of” and it will expand on this week’s insights that weren’t in the articles I wrote.

I hope what gets shared here will inspire thought and reflection. What you will notice is they all have something unique to say.

The comments below, again, are in response to the quote:

“Learn to reject your bad habits. Learn to say “no” to yourself.”

Here we go, see what you think and write me with comments or questions if you like at or contact the people below if you would like to seek their professional services and assistance.

  1. Amie Devero, Managing Director
    Beyond Better
(Amie Devero)

“This is an issue I work on a lot in my executive coaching with leaders of high-growth tech startups. Our undesirable habits fill a purpose for us or we wouldn’t do them. And they have become more or less unconscious and automatic, so disentangling the whole structure of trigger, habit, and pay-off (the habit cycle) is harder than a simple scolding.

“There is a whole science to giving up bad habits or more precisely, replacing them with positive habits but it does begin with the internal conversation we have with ourselves.

“There are two approaches I usually suggest for my clients:

“The first is to think about the habit in terms of what it is doing to do for your ‘future you.’

“We assume that who we are in the future will be the same as who we are now. But, every one of our memories will show us that isn’t accurate.

“We change all the time, and the person you are in a year will differ from today’s you.

“So, when you have a habit like smoking or overeating, or wasting time on Twitter, the person you need to speak to isn’t ‘Present You.’ It is, instead, ‘Future You’ who will pay for that extra weight, lung cancer, or extra pressure to get work done.

“If you can get really specific in your image of how the price of the habit will be experienced by ‘Future You’ then the moment when the cake is about to enter the mouth (e.g.) you can hear ‘Future You’ asking why you did that?

“Another strategy is crafting the change in habit as a change in being. For example, many years ago I used to smoke. One day I got fed up with the smell, wheezing and cost. So, I threw out the box of cigarettes in my pocket and told myself ‘From now on, I am a non-smoker.’

“When I next wanted a cigarette, I spoke to myself as I would a non-smoker who was suddenly craving a smoke. ‘That’s weird, why would a non-smoker want to smoke,’ I said to myself. To which, I responded ‘You’re right. That is weird.’ And I didn’t bum a cigarette. In fact, it’s been 24 years since I quit.

“The change of thinking was about whether or not I did that thing, not about trying to stop that thing. Research says this is more effective.

“Instead of saying to yourself or others ‘I’m trying to stop eating sweets,’ simply declare, ‘I don’t eat cake.’

“That change in how you say it from trying to do who you are gives you power over the habit.”

Jenn Espinosa-Goswami, Chief Motivational Officer

(Jenn Espinosa-Goswami)

“According to James Clear, there are 3 primary drivers of results in life:
1) Your luck (randomness) 2) Your strategy (choices) and 3) Your actions (habits)

“Having a strategy that maximizes your ability to choose positive habits is the best way to deal with negative habits.

“How do I know? Over the course of one year, I lost 100 pounds entirely on my own at the age of twenty with no previous dieting experience. I also trained myself to go from zero running to running my first half marathon at the age of 39 in a period of six months.

“These experiences have taught me the blueprint for replacing, substituting and eliminating poor habits or creating brand new ones, not through saying ‘no’ or focusing on what didn’t work, but through adding more positive habits into my life.

“You have to understand the cycle of habits in order to properly create different ones. Every habit has a trigger event. While being aware of that trigger event is the first step, you then need to incorporate automatic responses in your environment.”

Rhea Henry

(Rhea Henry)

“Saying ‘no’ to yourself is often the first step to discovering what it is that drives you to do something in the first place. The first time you say you will not do something today will lead you down the rabbit hole of the underlying forces that shape us to find the real reason that we take certain actions unconsciously.

“Personally, my journey of replacing my bad habits with better ones involved interrogating the reasons I indulged in my bad habits and then coming up with a more compelling reason to do something else.

“You can say you enjoy a certain bad habit, and that’s valid but it’s more compelling to change if you say that you enjoy the satisfaction of indulging in your good habits more.”

Michelle Pargman, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

(Michelle Pargman)

“When we can practice identifying the feeling we are experiencing, we can then execute a plan that will actually address that feeling, ‘name it to tame it.’

“Bad habits are often misguided attempts at self-soothing, and recognizing that we have other options (Y.A.H.O.O. — You Always Have Other Options), gives us an opportunity to entertain what those are.

“If I’m lonely for example, I have the opportunity to count on a pre-made ‘warrior list,’ a list of positive support people and resources that I can call and check-in on, to create a win-win: an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone else while I can adequately or at least attempt to take the loneliness down a notch.

“This is certainly a more appropriate alternative to soothe ourselves through feelings of loneliness, rather than using food to self-soothe for example.

“Don’t tell anyone, but food only solves physical hunger, it does a lousy job at resolving feelings.”

David Grammer, Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor
Grammer Family Therapy

(David Grammer)

“The reality is that it is less about saying ‘no’ and more about avoiding temptation. It’s more about minimizing opportunities for failure and maximizing opportunities for success.

“Within this process it is important to acknowledge small victories.”

(Red Diamonds Newsletter)

Chick-fil-A has taken many punches to the face and its reputation in recent years yet it has remained poised, become more socially aware and safely navigated trouble to continue thriving.

The company took some media relations and public relations negativity yet is still strong in the marketplace and rapidly growing because of what it does so very well in the eyes of the masses: prepare satisfying food and present guests with some of the best, most appreciated service in the industry.

Chick-fil-A just continues to win big in business and is now the third-largest restaurant chain in the US (by sales in 2019), bringing in $11.3 billion, behind only powerhouses McDonalds ($ 40.4 billion) and Starbucks ($ 21.4 billion).

(Dan Cathy, president and CEO of Chick-fil-A)

Chick-fil-A and its Chair, President and CEO Dan Cathy have been criticized and vilified for being “anti-gay,” “homophobic,” “hostile to LGBTQ people,” and “supportive of anti-gay advocacy” including speaking against gay marriage.

Those haymakers thrown at a company leader and his organization’s reputation have likely hurt emotionally to some degree. Chick-fil-A, however, because of its excellence in its aforementioned strengths has more than stayed afloat.

It also did itself a favor when Cathy decided to pull back on financial support that hurt and offended critics. He was able to hold true to his religious and social beliefs and did his best to speak honestly, carefully and with humility and sensitivity.

Did it help? That is open to debate. For many, likely not. For some, maybe. Yet what is for certain is that Cathy prevented further reputation bleeding that would have proven harmful to revenue.

There are reputation lessons to be learned:

Constantly be aware of the figurative temperature of society, especially any group or person that can cause you pain. Chick-fil-A knew that the heat of conflict and adversity was getting dangerously hot yet it was not responding effectively.

Once it began to show an increased level of social awareness, respect, sincere empathy and focus on relationship management with adversaries, company leadership slowed the speed and acceleration of the negative narrative.

That helped mitigate reputation damage.

Chick-fil-A knows its strengths in the market and has kept its head down, continued to do its business with excellence with food quality, service that inspires raving fans, impressive detail in all it does and consistency and sterling customer experience.

It keeps building the business and has taken a more humble approach to communicating Cathy’s values and deciding how to conduct itself socially.

Chick-fil-A’s reputation might not be without a dent in some people’s minds yet it does still rank high. In the 2019 Corporate Reputation Rankings in The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient, the chain ranked 22nd.

Yes, that is down 18 spots from 2018 yet Chick-fil-A is still a strong company with analysts forecasting a bullish future.

The company is resilient and better off for successfully learning from its reputation conflict and some might say, crisis.

(Red Diamonds Newsletter)

Amy Cooper. Wow. Fired. Clearly emotionally overwhelmed, triggered in fight or flight and defensive, she went way off the deep end and did something that is very common yet taboo to talk about.

It’s not just outrageous racism, it’s lying to harm someone legally, quite possibly with their life, definitely with their reputation.

(Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper)

It can be argued she was being harassed. No woman wants video on her by a stranger in a public place. She expressed her dismay about it and then asked Christian Cooper to stop. He didn’t. He could have deescalated the conflict. Yet Amy Cooper’s emotional reaction was revealing as to what someone will do in a moment of emotional flooding. It can get ugly, fast.

We don’t know anything about her life experiences or fears. I imagine many women could relate to being surprised and filmed in a park and reacting fearfully or angrily. Yet the exact words that came out of her mouth and the perceived wicked intention prevent widespread empathy for her current plight, reputation crisis and misery.

There was no way, in self interest, after that video became public and went viral that Ms. Cooper’s employer, Franklin Templeton could retain her services.

To her credit, Ms. Cooper apologized. She likely has no idea however of the long road back she has to overcoming that act, poor character forever on video, that created an unsavory reputation.

What she can do is seek out professional assistance to understand why, in a moment of fear or rage, she said exactly what she did, lied in a way law enforcement would likely believe her (why wouldn’t it) and very likely cause another person, a man in this instance, great personal and career pain.

In most cases, someone acting like this suffers no consequences. That’s an ugly variable in this equation too.

The good news for Ms. Cooper is her reputation can be repaired, restored or rebuilt. It will take sustained poise, lasting humility, highly-developed emotional intelligence and would benefit from professional reputation guidance.

This, however, is not helpful speech: “My entire life is being destroyed.”

There is also a process called restorative justice that can prove powerful in the healing process if Ms. Cooper and Mr. Cooper would mutually have interest.

Ms. Cooper can rebuild. It will be painful. Yet she can make it through this crisis if she finds someone skilled who she trusts and walks the necessary crisis management path through the figurative fire.
(Business Insider story here)

This can’t be good: Arizona State University athletic director Ray Anderson is likely in need of effective stress management after his men’s head basketball coach Bobby Hurley complains that Anderson “minimized the harassment allegations that three wives of ASU staff members brought forth against a prominent booster.” (Story here)

(Ray Anderson, ASU athletic director)

Hurley is not just complaining. He’s offended, disgusted and angry and it’s rarely a healthy work environment when this type of potential scandal hits a boss and creates division with a high-profile employee whose anger ends up in the media.

Arizona State and Anderson are in crisis. Both need to respond with crisis management wisdom now. This story is just getting started. Anderson’s career well-being and financial security are at great risk if credible evidence comes forward confirming Hurley’s claims.

If ASU however, as higher education is often known to do, handles this crisis with disinterest, the reputation and career costs will escalate rapidly. As for Hurley, bravo for showing leadership even if it means his daily work existence with his boss, could be challenging or miserable.

(Red Diamonds Newsletter)

Do you have comments about the newsletter, something you’ve read in it, or do you have questions? Reach out to

(Red Diamonds Newsletter)

Michael Toebe is the writer of the Red Diamonds Newsletter and also hosts the Red Diamonds Podcast: Michael Toebe (found on numerous podcast platforms). He is a specialist for reputation, professional relationships communication and wiser, more successful crisis management.

Until next week

”In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

Albert Einstein


“There’s a way of doing it better — find it.”

Thomas Edison



Newsletter on communication, decision making, behavior, conflict, psychology, professional relationships, resilience, courage, reputation and crisis.

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Red Diamonds Newsletter: Michael Toebe

Newsletter on communication, decision making, behavior, conflict, psychology, professional relationships, resilience, courage, reputation and crisis.