Ep059: Rich Habits for Success with Randall Bell

Rich habits for success with Randall Bell on the TalentGrow Show podcast with Halelly Azulay

In this fascinating and fun-filled episode of the TalentGrow Show, economist, sociologist, and disaster expert Randall Bell, PhD, shares some of his most fascinating statistics and insights relating to success and happiness from his book, Me-We-Do-Be: The Four Cornerstones of Success. He shares how to define success and become more successful by using his ‘Me-We-Do-Be’ framework, what is the biggest mistake leaders make (he says it’s the lowest form of leadership), the one habit that can help you DOMINATE in every aspect of life, and why making your bed in the morning will make you 206% more likely to become a millionaire! Randall distills his extensive research into bite-size ‘rich habits’ that can support your success. Listen to find out what they are!

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What you’ll learn:

  • What does Randall say is the first step of building authentic success? (6:57)

  • Randall explains what compelled him to share his experiences and journey in his book (8:33)

  • Me, We, Do, Be: Randall explains the four cornerstones of his framework for achieving success (10:07)
  • Randall explains the statistically robust research behind his “rich habits” findings (11:51)
  • What activity makes a person 92% more likely to earn an advanced college degree? (12:48)
  • What activity makes a person 122% more likely to become a millionaire? (12:55)
  • Randall replies to Halelly’s question about causation vs. correlation (13:07)
  • What “we” habit makes you 63% more likely to become a millionaire? (13:49)
  • What makes you half as likely to become a millionaire? (14:51)
  • Randall explains the “why” behind the statistical finding that “If you make your bed in the morning, you’re 206% more likely to become a millionaire” (16:00)
  • What activity has a significantly negative effect on one’s likelihood of becoming successful? According to the research, NOT doing it makes you 258% more likely to become a millionaire (16:36)
  • What critically important activity does Randall say has been shown statistically to help you “dominate in every single category of success?” (16:51)
  • Randall flatters Halelly (what a charming fellow haha!) (17:39)
  • Randall talks about the uniqueness of human beings as compared to the animal kingdom and how we should embrace this advantage to its fullest extent (18:01)
  • What simple practice makes someone 289% more likely to become a millionaire? (19:02)
  • What habit makes you 74% more likely to have a better romantic life? (19:10)
  • What activity makes people 73% more likely “to just be overall happy”? (19:19)
  • Halelly asks what category that activity falls under and Randall’s reply is genuinely funny (19:38)
  • What’s one single mistake leaders make that causes more crises, disasters and day-to-day problems than anything else? (hint: it’s contained in one word) (21:04)
  • How Leo Fender is a model of the kind of leader who builds iconic success (22:12)
  • What does Randall say is “really floating my boat these days”? (23:38)
  • What’s Randall’s actionable tip? (25:44)



Dr. Randall Bell, PhD, is a sociologist and economist who has been invited to consult on major disasters all over the world — from Hurricane Katrina to the World Trade Center to the Nuclear Testing Site on the Bikini Atoll. 

During his 25-year career, he estimates that he’s seen more disasters than any other person in history. However, he believes his most important lessons have come from the people behind the disaster—the survivors.

Dr. Bell has spent innumerable hours with people who have gone through the harshest disasters and calamities—re-settlers in Chernobyl, victims of Hurricane Katrina, survivors of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, and parents who had their homes showered with radioactive fallout from the nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll. His recent book, Me We Do Be addresses why some merely survive disaster and why others thrive in the face of disaster. He discusses what human traits differentiate the two – and how those who thrive have the traits that define some of the most successful people of our time.


Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there Talent Growers. Welcome back. How often do you get to talk to someone who is both an economist and a sociologist? Not that often. And one who has studied disasters and found some common lessons in the survivors who thrive? That’s me. I was lucky enough to catch Dr. Randall Bell on his way back from an explosion and a fire and on his way to India for some other disaster to get the low down on some of his insights that he described in his book Me, We, Do, Be. And he talks about how to define success and how to become successful, using his me, we, do, be framework. So he’s distilled a lot of success habits and really interesting statistical tidbits via his extensive research, and he covers it in his book. Of course we don’t get to all of the findings, but we do talk about some of those, what he calls, rich habits, that can support success. Habits like those that can make you 122 percent more likely to be a millionaire, and those that can make you half as likely to be a millionaire. Ways in which making your bed in the morning can be related to being rich, and what can make you dominate in every aspect of life. He shares the one big, horrible mistake that leaders make that has caused more disasters than any other mistake, and also the kind of leaders who build iconic success. Finally, Randall explains why he’s now preferring to do work with prisoners and homeless kids on skid row than some of those Wall Street hot shots that are asking for his help. So I hope that you enjoy this episode. Check it out. Here we go.

Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. I am excited today to bring to you sociologist and economist Dr. Randall Bell, who has been invited to consult on major disasters all over from the world from Hurricane Katrina to the World Trade Center to the nuclear testing sight on the Bikini Atoll. And he has a 25-year career where he says he’s seen more disasters than any other person in history. That’s kind of a cool claim to fame, but what he believes is the most important thing for us to learn is not so much about the disaster, but about the survivors and what he brings out in his research is how the successful survivors thrive and what we can learn from that. So he has written a book called Me, We, Do, Be. He addresses a lot of interesting topics in that book that we are going to cover today. Dr. Bell, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.

Randall: It’s great to be here, thanks.

Halelly: It’s great to have you, and we always start with a little journey down memory lane, just so that people can get a sense of your professional journey. Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?

Randall: Basically, I’d been in the real estate business. That’s the kind of dimension I come from, and I was doing bank work and they got, frankly, it got a little routine. So I thought, “What if, instead of looking at what creates value, I look at what blows value, and I take my skillset and turn it upside down and just look at disasters and problems, landslides, that kind of thing. It might be more interesting.” So I did that. I called all of my clients, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and everyone and I said, “I only want cases that involve disasters or calamities.” Frankly, it was just kind of luck because we had a time in southern California where I happen to live with the Malibu fires and the Northridge earthquake and the L.A. riots where there were lots and lots of damaged properties, and I’ve been very, very busy, ever since. In the days that I thought of this, I never thought of terrorism and these more extreme things that have come along. O.J. Simpson hadn’t happened either. Those are cases that came along later. But that’s how it all kind of happened. So for decades, I’ve been studying disasters all over the world.

Halelly: That’s really interesting. So you just sort of got the idea one day that that’s how you could create an interesting niche for yourself?

Randall: Yeah, basically, I think I suffer from adult ADD, and so I like a lot of variety, and I thought, some days I’m in the field looking at disasters. I happen to be in Utah right now. I was looking at wildfires. I’m going to Florida in a couple of days to look at a property that blew up in an explosion. Some days I’m in the office. I happen to like the variety of what my career looks like.

Halelly: Sounds like you’re in a really wide variety of environments. Interesting that you chose to write a book about the four cornerstones of success, as you deem them – me, we, do, be. And I’m interested in talking a little bit more about how you think we should define success, before we get into the tactics. Because you’re saying success is not so much about the accumulation of wealth or fame or accolades, but that it’s more about becoming what you say Albert Einstein suggested, a person of value. So tell us more about that. What do you mean?

Randall: Exactly. I respect the reader of the book – it took me 25 years to write this book, and it’s basically, I interweave sociological behavior as well as the cases I worked on and research I’ve done. In terms of a person of value, I let the reader defines what successful is to them. I just spoke at a wealth management conference in Beverley Hills and those people there were there to talk about accumulating wealth. I get that and I understand that. But, the reader really needs to define what success looks like to them. It may be, I’ve got a friend and his idea of success is to beat cancer. I’ve got someone else I know, their idea of success right now is to just learn how to play the guitar. It doesn’t matter how you define success, there’s these fundamental building blocks that apply to everyone. They apply to me, to you, everyone. And so it’s just essential that we have this kind of fundamental background to go from and that’s what the book is all about. You kind of take a break and look at the foundational issues to build our success, however we want to define it.

Halelly: Do you suggest that people sit down and first make sure that they define success for themselves before they start thinking about changing habits?

Randall: The me, we, do, be framework starts with me, and it starts with our mindset, our attitudes and so forth. What I think has happened in society and it’s obvious is there’s so much technology, so much noise, there’s so many competing interests for our attention. Advertisements bombard us and I think it’s time, I think people need to take time, including me, to have some quiet time every morning or frequently to meditate, pray, take a nature walk, however you want to do it, but kind of clear your head, think about what’s an authentic, genuine and important to you. How you define your success. That’s really the first step of building authentic success is having quiet, reflective time, because there’s so much distraction, if we just jump right into distraction everyday, we’re really eliminating that critical point of defining what life should look like to us.

Halelly: And then you just sort of go through life like on autopilot or a really reactive mode and you just deal with things as they come without any kind of a compass that guides you to choose. This is more important, this is less important, this is right, this is wrong.

Randall: Very well said, and I’ve met a lot of people in the aftermath of disasters. I’m an economist, I’m a sociologist, and I’ve met a lot of people in the aftermath of disasters that that disaster really changed their whole attitude, their whole thinking. We sit at kitchen tables and sit on a log, talking about it, that their life up until that point had been very distracted and now they’re much more reflective and they’ve really had a shift in their whole sense of priority.

Halelly: Is that what prompted you to share that in this book?

Randall: You know, basically, yeah. I’ve been to 50 states studying disaster, seven continents, even down in Antarctica, looking at global warming issues at a British outpost down there, so seven continents and you know what? I’m 58-years-old, I’m kind of coming up on the retirement phase of life and I thought this experience has been too profound, too meaningful to just simply go play golf. By the way, I’m a lousy golfer, so I really documented this journey, as I say, for 25 years. Because there’s these important lessons that I’ve had access to these situations, everything from the World Trade Center to Jon Benet Ramsey and O.J. and the BP oil spill. I’ve just talked to the people behind the statistics and learned so much from them. This has to be relayed to whoever wants to learn from it, and I’ve really felt very, very compelled to do that.

Halelly: Great. And thank you for that and I will link to your book in the show notes so that people can grab a copy of it because obviously you have lots and lots of stories in your book and also a lot of actionable ideas. So, in this podcast we only have a short time. I’d like to give people things that they can use right away, even without reading your book. I think it’ll be maybe helpful for us to describe the four cornerstones very briefly in an overview, and then I’d love to hear you describe that there are these rich habits, and they come from you studying the survivors of these disasters, but also you did a very broad survey of more than 5,000 people about their rituals and habits, and correlated them to success. So, I want to hear about some of those, maybe the juiciest, or biggest bang for the buck or most surprising. Let’s just choose a couple of habits to focus on. But let’s start with the framework.

Randall: Great question. The framework is, again, very simple. Me, we, do, be. So, me is our mindset. It’s everything we believe, think and feel. It’s everything going up upstairs in our mind, and so it’s what we know intellectually, it’s what we believe philosophically, it’s what we feel spiritually. And that is, as we kind of already talked about, that’s the reflective time where we really think about what’s of importance to us. The we cornerstone is our connection with other people. So that’s sociological. That’s teamwork. That’s how we related to other people in our organizations and our family and our friends. Staying away from toxic people, conflict resolution, all these skillsets that leaders and managers need, in terms of working as a productive team.

And then the do cornerstone is getting the work done. That’s economics. That’s land, labor and capital, but the terminology that I use is taking care of our money and finances, taking care of our products and services, taking care of our health, taking care of our environment, our workspace, our home space and all of that. So it really has its basis in economics – land, labor and capital – but I use different terminology so that it relates to non-economists. But the do is productivity.

And then the last cornerstone is be. That’s what we’re going to become. So there, we talk about setting goals, having action plans, having strategies, incorporating time management, as leaders, as managers, and really going somewhere with the organization with what we’re doing.

Halelly: So you’re covering a lot of ground. What are these rich habits, and how do they support success?

Randall: Sure, going back to the “me” cornerstone, we did, I mean, there are dozens of habits. What we did, statistically, is we listed numerous daily habits and then we also had demographics of the people we were surveying. We knew how much they earned, we knew their level of education, but we also asked them how happy are you, how satisfying is your romantic life, we asked all kinds of things. Then what we did is we statistically correlated the two things together. By the way, we surveyed 5,000 people in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, so it was a very statistically robust study. It was intense. And, in the “me” cornerstone, what we learned is that if you’re going to pick one me habit, it would be both … it would really be two. One would be meditation or taking quiet time. Those who meditate are 92-percent more likely to earn an advanced college degree. And reading is really important. Those who read basically are 122-percent more likely to become millionaires. That’s what really stood out in the “me” cornerstone.

Halelly: Are these causal relationships? One leads to the other, or they just co-occur?

Randall: That’s a great question, because that’s a classic statistical debate, causation versus correlation. I could tell you factually, that they mathematically correlate. Causation is more speculation, because we really don’t know, but I think reading is obvious that we’re really developing our mind, we can sit down flying from L.A. to Dallas as I did earlier this week, you can read an entire book and get years and years of experience in a very short time. So reading, it just obviously is a very powerful, rich habit.

Halelly: So those are a couple of really good me habits. Meditation or a reflection/quiet time, and reading. What about “we” habits?

Randall: You know, there are a lot of fun ones there. One of them is just being friendly. A lot of this stuff is not complicated. In fact, I have really great reviews on Amazon, and I have one guy that just says “This is too basic, too simple,” and I love that guy, because he’s the kind of guy that causes the disaster that keeps our firm so busy. A lot of times, people think that complex problems require complex solutions, so I want to say this stuff really is simple. That’s the whole point. But just being friendly, waving at your neighbors. If you simply are friendly and saying hello to people, you’re 63-percent more likely to become a millionaire. And that’s the statistics, the correlation. The causation I think is if you’re just cool and nice to people and kind to people, you’re going to gravitate toward healthier people and you’re going to just have that teamwork, that synergy, that’s important to success. Also, I’ve found that if you yell, if you have road rage and if you’re yelling at people, you’re half as likely to become a millionaire. So just kind of keeping your emotions in check, being conscientious of our emotional IQ, and controlling those moments of rage and so forth is really an important step in overall success.

Halelly: My goodness, I wish we had more time, because do you get into, in the book, do you get into how to do it?

Randall: Well, the book has these little sidebars with all this 50 or so different statistically important daily habits, and it’s intermixed with a dialogue. It’s interwoven with the dialogue of the disasters and the sociological studies that I’m talking about. What I’m really trying to do is just create this discussion about these four cornerstones and let people fill in the blanks for themselves. Give them plenty of good material to have intelligent conversations on these points. So kind of moving onto the “do” cornerstone, this one is kind of funny. A lot of people hear you should make your bed in the morning. I’m the one that actually did this statistical research behind that statement. If you make your bed in the morning, you’re 206-percent more likely to becoming a millionaire, and that really cracks a lot of people up. And people ask, “Why is that?” I think it’s because it’s first thing in the morning and it’s a chore that a lot of people want to blow off because they want to get to be more productive, but by making your bed is showing on some level of self-respect. It’s also putting your head into a productive mindset and when you come back at the end of the day, you have a nice, clean environment. I think that makes you feel better and the cycle just continues toward productivity.

We found that smoking is a health related issue under that “do” cornerstone. If you don’t smoke, you’re 258-percent more likely to become a millionaire. And exercise. If you exercise, statistically, you dominate in every single category of success. Not just money, not just wealth accumulation, but also in terms of advanced education, in terms of romantic life, in every category. Those who exercise dominate. And that can’t be overstressed. But it doesn’t have to be becoming Charles Atlas and going to the gym for three and a half hours a day. It can be simply a 20-minute walk, but just taking those 20-minute walks or however you want to do your own exercise program, it’s really critically important.

Halelly: I love it. Great. That’s very doable, I love that you broke it down. A 20-minute walk is something that anyone can do and you can probably combine that walk with the quiet meditation, you can get two for one!

Randall: You’re absolutely right, or listen to one of your great podcasts. I mean, there’s all kinds of productive things we can do as we walk. Just getting out there and taking that 20-minute walk at a minimum really has profound benefits. So we kind of covered “me” and “we” and “do” and just to kind of follow-up and answer the rest of your question, the “be” cornerstone is really unique, because it’s what makes us uniquely human. The animal kingdom has “me,” “we” and “do” cornerstones, but humans think toward the future. And what we’re going to become. In just 66 years between the first flight of the Wright Brothers and the lunar landing, the Apollo landing on the moon, this is just a 66-year period. Human beings have this capability of really advancing. We see that with technology. Obviously, whereas the animal kingdom is essentially doing the same things they were doing when I was a 5-year-old at the San Diego Zoo. So that cornerstone is setting goals, setting written goals rather than just having some kind of ideas floating around in our heads. Some daydreaming. We’ve got to take those dreams and land them right down on paper and write them down. All good confident managers and leaders have clear, set, written goals.

Also, calendars and to-do lists. Those who maintain a calendar and a to-do list are 289-percent more likely to become millionaires. Those who have written goals have a 74-percent better romantic life. And one other one, I’ve got to throw in there, is just to go dancing. Those who go dancing and learn how to dance are 73-percent more likely to just be overall happy. So there’s all these kind of fun facts and statistics that reconcile with me, we, do, be, and those are some of the fun rich habits that bring it all to life.

Halelly: Wow. And dancing, what category does that fall under?

Randall: I had it under “be” but it could go under “do.” The thing is, you don’t go to me, we, do, be jail if you get them in the wrong category. The important thing is just having some fun with it, look at the four cornerstones, talk about how “me,” I define my set in that and that gets me with the right set of people and then with the right group of people I get to work and then we get to work and we get productive, and then we really become something. As an organization, we have goals for the future. It’s just that kind of flow and discussion I find really, really productive.

Halelly: And all of this, of course, applies to yourself, but also to those you lead, right? So you can get your own house in order and really make sure that you have good habits, but also help support the people that follow you and help to teach them about this. So, is there some kind of a mistake that you notice leaders are making that you know you could fix or you could help them avoid? Is there something you can share with listeners that maybe they’re making that mistake and they could either sidestep it, overcome it or fix it?

Randall: Yeah, that’s a great question, because I lead a practice, a national practice, at Price Waterhouse Cooper, which I don’t know what it is now, but at the time it was the world’s biggest consulting firm, and also, working on these various disasters around the world, I noticed this at Chernobyl and with a lot of the cases I saw, if you’re going to pick one absolute horrible mistake that leaders make, leaders and managers, that cause more crises and disasters and just day-to-day problems, that one single word would be arrogance. Really solid leaders and managers are very teachable. They’re very observant. They’re very open to doing things better. They’re very respectful of other people and they don’t think that because, “Hey, I’ve got this new title, I have this new position, I’m better than others,” and they absolutely reject the whole notion of being a dictator and dictatorship, and “you’ve got to do this because I say so and I’m in charge.” That’s the lowest form of leadership. The really successful leaders are really also the very coolest. They don’t have to tell you who they are, or they don’t have to tell you their position or they don’t demand that they be called by some title. You know who they are, because they have this certain air about them, and that certain air happens to be very, very cool, very teachable, very engaged.

I happened to be working on a project with Mrs. Leo Fender. Of course, Leo Fender invented the electric guitar, built a household name, and also accumulated a fortune, and he was very down to earth. He dressed like every plant worker in the building. If a machine broke down, he was the first to climb under it and fix it. That’s the kind of leader that builds iconic success. Someone who is not above it all and thinks that they’re better than everyone else in the organization.

Halelly: Excellent advice. I love it. I know that you are going all around the world, looking, surveying different disasters and also speaking to people about these ideas. What’s new and exciting for you? Do you have some kind of a new project or something on your horizon that’s got your attention?

Randall: Well, I mentioned the Leo Fender project, because I’m really exploring him. There are certain people, iconic people in history, that really we should pay attention to. From my own list, it’s Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, my dad – that’s obviously a personal thing – Leo Fender. My dad happened to work for Leo Fender, so he’s very interesting to me. And next week, in fact a week from today, I take off and I go to India to study disasters over there. So I’m always up to stuff. The “be” cornerstone is very important to me. I’ve enjoyed some level of success, but I also want to do more. I want to explore more. But what is really floating my boat these days is volunteer work. Business is staying good, so I’m kind of over the, “Hey, I’ve got to grab all the money I can,” kind of phase of life, and I’m really moving into volunteering. I just got back from St. Quentin prison where I taught me, we, do, be principles to prisoners in St. Quentin, guys that had life sentences for some very serious crimes. Believe it or not, even in prison, they’re trying to put their lives back together. One guy said, “You know, I may spend the rest of my life in prison, but I'm absolutely committed to living a clean and moral life for the rest of my life,” and that was very impressive to me.

I’m volunteering, in fact, when I was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, talking about the book Me, We, Do, Be, I insisted not to go on camera. I checked my emails and I got an invitation to talk to homeless kids on Skid Row in L.A. and I thought, wow, that’s cool. So, I went there, spoke to them, had it recorded, so that they can play that for other groups of kids that come through. So I love volunteer work. I do work with the homeless, at-risk teenagers, the prisoners. I think it’s really important that leaders and managers find areas where they can help society, help others. Tutor a kid, go volunteer at a soup kitchen, get out there and help people that are less fortunate. That is really a very cool buzz.

Halelly: You use that word “buzz” when you talk in your book. I know people will need to go read it, because we’re out of time almost, but the idea that good habits create buzzes. Good habits – and bad habits – create buzzes, which is what your term is for that, sort of the feeling that creates a craving where you want to do it more. I like that. Of course, it’s a great example of how every single one of us can make a really big difference for a lot of people absolutely directly through our efforts. Thank you for being a role model and for sharing that with us. What’s one specific action that leaders listening, those who are already in leadership positions or preparing themselves for future leadership positions, what is something that they can do right away, today, this week, that you think will really help them ratchet up their own effectiveness as a leader?

Randall: I think being teachable. Go to the people that you are leading, and ask them point blank, “What can I do to do a better job?” I think that is the very simple but very powerful question. The other thing I would add is also, when you’re a manager, often times – or a leader even – you have other people above you. And go to them. You can’t be a good leader without being a good follower. There’s a whole discussion on that. Go to the people that you report to and say, “You know what? What can I do to do better?” Just having that curiosity about how to make yourself better, making the organization better, is really, it creates when I talk about the positive buzzes, that’s a good buzz to have.

Halelly: That meshes well with your suggestion to not be arrogant. That means that you’re open and you’re teachable, because you’re seeking inputs to improve yourself, because we are all on a journey. None of us is ever done learning, growing, improving. So, great suggestions. We’re almost out of time. How can people learn more about you, stay in touch with you, follow what you’re doing and learn from you?

Randall: I appreciate you asking. I try to stay very accessible and I get emails all the time. Just go to DrBell.com. Of course the book is on Amazon, Me, We, Do, Be is on Amazon.

Halelly: We’ll link to it.

Randall: But DrBell.com and I have stuff that I’m always adding to the website that’s free and accessible that I want to share with others. So just check in there anytime.

Halelly: And you have your Ted talk, which we’ll link to, and some of your other content that you share lots and lots of content on your website. Are you active on social media at all?

Randall: Yeah, I’ve got Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s all RandallBellPhD and you can link it on DrBell.com. Come visit me any way that makes sense for you.

Halelly: Excellent. Thank you for sharing your insights and your time with the listeners of the TalentGrow Show. We call it the Talent Growers community and I hope that you enjoy the rest of your visit in Utah and in India and wherever else your trips will take you!

Randall: I appreciate it. Thank you.

Halelly: Thank you very much. Make today great. So many statistics and ideas, right? I hope you enjoyed this episode, Talent Growers. All the links to everything we discussed on are on the show notes page, over at talentgrow.com/podcast/episode59, so check it out. As you know, we are now part of the C-Suite Radio Network of top business podcasts, so also be sure to check that out at C-SuiteRadio.com. And, that’s it for this episode of the TalentGrow Show, but I do have some bonus points – virtual bonus points – for those of you who go over to our Facebook group, Talent Growers community. You can join it if you’re a listener. Or, if you prefer, you can go to the show notes page and go into the comments and leave me a comment about what was one takeaway you got from this episode? I would love to hear. What are you walking away with? What did you really enjoy about it? Let me know. Thank you for listening. I appreciate you. And until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.