Yesterday I got to taste some of the cleanest, freshest, coldest water I will have in my entire life. I didn’t realize that at first.

I was about seven miles into a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I was out of water. I had passed some dead and stagnant pools of water that I can draw from in an emergency but was holding out for a better source.

Near the top of the ridge I passed over a small stream and so there wasn’t much water there. At first, I was a little incredulous. To draw enough water I was going to have to hike down at least 25 or 50 vertical feet and slowly fill up my water filter.

I sullenly hiked down. It wasn’t until I got further down I realized that the stream was small because that was the spring bubbling out of the side of the mountain. This was living water. I was as close to drinking cold, fresh and pure water as I could be.

But my perspective had to change.

  1. I had to literally get down so I could observe that this wasn’t a small muddy stream but a fresh spring
  2. When I got down I realized that there was as much water that as I needed
  3. I had to change my mindset to realize that this was a privilege and not an inconvenience.

The stream I came across wasn’t good enough, the spring I drew from was the best. The only difference was my perspective.

How would you like it if I recommended products to you based on the prizes and SPIFFs I would get in return? I hope you’d be pissed.

Yet, exactly that is rife inside the IT industry. Just last week I got an email from a vendor that would enter me into a contest to win a Tesla Model 3 every time I signed up a new customer for one of their products. I.e., every one of our clients we sold this widget to would count towards a Tesla entry for me.

Friends: this is a terrible way to do business and we won’t play that game. If you want my stamp of approval there is one rule: you and your product need to be so good that people thank me for recommending it. In short, you need to be a rockstar for my clients.

Also, this means that if I recommended someone or something to you I meant it.

If I wanted a Tesla I’d buy it myself.

It’s easy to forget to take time off during the day to physically refresh your eyes, your back, your hands and to mentally refresh. Sometimes you can feel lazy for taking a 5-minute break or, God forbid, you’ve become enough of a workaholic that not working through lunch feels like an outright sloth. Stop it.

The first time I ever ran a marathon I hadn’t done much research to know what to expect. I let a crazy friend talk me into it. It went… fine. Especially if you discount the 8-10 miles where I was wondering why did I pay money to hurt myself like this?

The night before my second marathon my uncle gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten: walk through the aid stations. In long races aid stations with water snacks and porta-potties are set up roughly every 3 miles, or every 24-40 minutes. Each aid station is roughly 100 feet long.

My uncle explained to me that the refreshment my legs would get in 30 seconds of walking woud more than make up for the time “lost.”

He was right.

I ran my second marathon 20 minutes faster than my first and on an injured leg.

At work and in life we also need to walk through the aid stations. The work we do is important, a lot of it is hard and there is always another day’s worth of work to get done. You will get more done by giving your mind and the body the short spurts of rest they both need during the day then slogging through.

As a leader to anyone the only thing you earn solving a problem is the privilege to solve a bigger problem.

Big problems mean you’ve had big earnings.

The highest performance athletes all have a common thread in their workout structure. Over the course of a week, they have at least one “easy” workout day and one recovery day — typically no workout.


To perform at the top of the game you have to give your body time to heal itself and let muscles grow back stronger. If you only workout you’ll only tear up your muscles and never give them time to grow back larger.

Incredibly, this is true in the workplace as well, as high performing individuals tend to take more time off than their less productive counterparts.

As you look forward to a holiday weekend don’t try to outwork the other guy by working an entire holiday. Think about how you can give your mind and body the time and space to recover, to recharge, so that you grow stronger.

in many (most? all?) areas of life there are two areas that you will be judged on:

results: how well did you do, especially compared against a reasonable goal or standard.

how you treat people: were you kind? did you go the extra mile when it mattered to a person?

how early you rose, how late you stayed, how much you sacrificed — all of these are apparitions. they are void of all meaning without results and treating people beyond well.

Beyond success lies the place where you are the most you that you can be.

Spend time each day thinking about who that person is, what they are like, what they do, how they do it, why they do it.

Focus on that person and success will be a milestone on your way to your goals.

(If you don’t like that person, this would be a good time to imagine a different person!)

Acting professional does not make you professional.

Being a professional will lead you to act professionally.

There are two words in the English language you should use regularly, “thank you.” There are two words you should use to respond to that, “you’re welcome.”

Not “no problem.”

It was a problem.

Maybe it was a small problem.

Maybe it was a big problem.

You don’t know what size problem it was to the speaker who told you, “thank you.”

But your action, large or small, solved their problem.

“You’re welcome,” accepts their payment of appreciation. “No problem,” declines it.

Let them pay you with appreciation.

Today is primarily East Tennessee, we’ll zoom out to Tennessee briefly at the end.

In short today: this won’t ever be the 19218 pandemic. That doesn’t mean that it can’t get a lot more painful.

Today we are just looking at East Tennessee. Our primary data source (The COVID Tracking Project) has made some significant technical changes that it is going to require us to reconfigure a number of our reports.

The most important things to know go beyond the headline numbers and require additional context.

First, deaths and hospitalizations are arguably the most important numbers for us to track. However, (quality) hospitalization data is updated is weekly or bi-weekly. Also, hospitals don’t take patients from a single county. So, our local hospitals serve a region larger than just Knox County. As of July 14th, the hospitals systems in and around Knox Coutny had over 100 COVID-19 patients. As of today, 44 Knox County residents are hospitalized, or about 1 per 10,000 residents are actively hospitalized with COVID-19.

A few weeks ago we were told that we were posting scary graphs to social media. The graph below is a concerning graph. You can see hospitalized cases start rising significantly from mid-June. Hospitalizations lag infections by a week or two, so these July 14th numbers represent infections occurring the first week of July, when new cases per day in Knox County were probably in the 20-40 range (accounting for test lag times).

Of course, hospital capacity matters as well, as of July 14th there were a total of 690 beds available (22% capacity) in the area systems but only 24 ICU beds (9% capacity).

Those aren’t great numbers.

By the way, a note on the “surge capacity” plans on the Knox County website: those numbers were developed in March when there were no elective procedures allowed. While every hospital spokesperson we’ve heard has said that there is still capacity, the real “surge” numbers are something below what is listed online. The hospitals are currently working on updating the plan.

Our known cases are headed dramatically in the wrong direction as well, currently the 7 day average is about 100 new cases/day. A week ago we were at 72 cases/day and we were at 48 cases/day on July 7th, meaning we are doubling new cases roughly every two weeks.

But that is known cases, i.e., test results are back. Lag times in tests are so bad that last Wednesday Dr. Buchanan of the Knox County Health Department said that there were getting some results back so late that people had already finished their isolation periods! That completely undermines the idea of testing and contact tracing.

But it’s not just cases, people are dying in Knox County, too. You can see it pick up dramatically in July when supposedly only the “safe” demographic have been contracting COVID-19.

Knox County has had a pronounced shift in cases towards the 21-30 year old age group over the last few weeks. This is good news in the sense that the disease burden is significantly lower in this demographic and it has a very low hospitalization rate and death rate. However, if our total cases are quadrupling each month (two 14 day doubling periods) it won’t take long to to fill those remaining 24 ICU beds.

You can sum up the situation as this: we aren’t in an emergency today. We aren’t Florida, Texas, California, Arizona or New York. But we’re on the way there if we don’t do something to slow things down.

This isn’t a courageous position to take: in the last three weeks the governor’s office, the CDC, the Knox County Health Department and the Knox County Board of Health have all spoken about Knox county becoming a hotspot now. (The White House is also calling Sevier County a “red zone”)

The one thing that has really stood out to us since the early days of the pandemic has been the slower speed of growth Tennessee, and especially East Tennessee, than in other places. We may be doubling cases every two weeks but that’s far better than every few days, which the east coast struggled under during the spring. We still have time to improve or stabilize the situation. But don’t expect that to happen on its own.

To zoom out, the decacounty area doesn’t look much better than Knox County, however, Knox county looks like the primary driver here.

This really mirrors the growth we are seeing across the state as a whole.

Deaths continue to slowly grow, from 4/day in March and 14/day today:

Tennessee News

Governor Lee signed executive order 54 allowing mayors in Tennessee’s 89 rural counties to introduce their own mask ordinances. The governor’s office implicitly believes that the other six counties already have this authority.

The Tennessee state of emergency currently goes through August 29th. This allows for remote notaries, electronic government meetings among other such measures.

The next Knox County Board of Health meeting is July 22nd, from 5:00-7:00pm, watch it at

How We Are Adjusting

We are transitioning to our Work Safe Level 2 this week, which is a more conservative stance from Level 1, where we are currently at.

Personally, we continue to get most groceries delivered and won’t inside restaurants. These numbers, for your author, rule out anything less conservative. Restaurant patios are also out for now, although curbside pickup has been great.

Get In Touch

Need help thinking this through? Access to more data? Help getting your technology in order to handle what’s here and what’s coming? Contact us today.

[1] The COVID Tracking Project stopped giving new deaths by day as a data column; we are presently unable to show this as a graph.


Thanks to those that have shared kind words or liked these posts. We’re doing out best to put out data-driven analysis, each one of these takes about 2 hours. It’s helpful to know that they are being read.

If you want copies of the Excel sheet and PowerBI Reports we use to put these together email us, Right now, our PowerBI combines data from NYT, COVID Tracking Project, and the TN Department of Health. Most sets are updated daily