Category Archives: Passion

Feathers in the cereal: from a comforter with love

Do you use a quilted parka to stay warm in the winter?  99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer created the down ski parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him for his move to America from Germany in 1947. “I thought it would be nice to have something you could put on and ski in. So I cut up the down comforter that my mom made me take,” Obermeyer said. “For three weeks I had feathers in my cereal.” What will you create today from the love you’ve been given? “And what is it to work with love? It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth. Work is love made visible.”  – Kahlil Gibran

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John Steinbeck on why you don’t need a plan?

In 1941 at the beginning of American involvement in WWII, John Steinbeck reflected on the Nazi regime in a letter. He wrote: “It is interesting to watch the German efficiency, which, from the logic of the machine is efficient but which (I suspect) from the mechanics of the human species is suicidal. Certainly man thrives best (or has at least) in a state of semi-anarchy. Then he has been strong, inventive, reliant, moving. But cage him with rules, feed him and make him healthy and I think he will die as surely as a caged wolf dies. I should not be surprised to see a cared for, thought for, planned for nation disintegrate, while a ragged, hungry, lustful nation survived. Surely no great all-encompassing plan has ever succeeded.” Thankfully, he was right and four years later the Nazi regime was over. Companies are obsessed with efficiency. Six Sigma, lean, these are efforts to be more efficient. The factory system of productivity that ruled the last century adored the machine model. We’re still trying to fit that old square peg in the new round hole of the chaotic, ever-changing modern world. Emotional intelligence will get a leader worlds further than eradicating some small inefficiency in a system.  No moment is created equal. We manage our energy, not our time. Maybe you don’t need a better plan.  Maybe you just need to let out a little more of your passion.

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Arrive alive

A peer asked me before a meeting the following week what goal I wanted to achieve between now and then. First thought, best thought: “arrive alive.” It’s a busy time. Lots going on, lots of traveling. Just showing up to things can be a triumph. And breathing is an amazingly wonderful thing I want to keep doing as long as they’ll let me. But it also means metaphorically “alive”. This is deeper. Real life takes so much out of us it’s easier to deaden and put away our vitality. Nope. I want to arrive alive. To whatever I show up for, let me be fully alive. In a world of going through the motions, if you want to be the difference-maker, arrive alive. It may freak some people out. And it will also light up someone who needs to be reminded of what it means to truly be alive.

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Selfish or selfless or self-filled?

People who have a passion to help others are often known as selfless. People who narcissistically focus on themselves are often known as selfish. If you’re a selfless person, that help you automatically want to provide may leave you burned out and off-center. You give so much that there’s nothing left inside. The temptation is to go 100% in the opposite direction and say, “I’m just going to take care of me now. I deserve it.” It’s not going to work. It’s not going to help you and it’s not going to allow you to contribute the best of you. In between good and bad, right and wrong, black and white, 100%/100% thinking there is a middle way. Instead of selfish, instead of selfless, try self-filled. Fill yourself up with what you need to recharge well. That can be seen as selfish of course. But this time do it with the intent to fill yourself up so well that more naturally bubbles over the upper lip of the container. Fill yourself with the intent to help others with this goodness. Depletion is no longer a problem. “self-less” might mean: no sense of self, only of the other. Self-filled might mean: start with you and move out from there into the world, helping with your unique passion.

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40 days of coming home

“So, what have you gotten so far?” Mike asked me halfway into this year’s 40 Days to Change For Good. (How’s yours going? Tell me about it.) I’ve been reviewing my first fifty years alive and pondering what is most important for me to aim myself for my (hopeful) last fifty. The first intuitive words that came to me are “coming home.” I’ve notice core threads of what I love running through my childhood into this moment. And I’ve noticed how I’ve strayed from those ‘golden threads’, how I’ve put away parts of me, covered them up with the dust of everyday life. And how I’ve been pulled from my passion core by cul-de-sacs that seemed like highways at the time or listened to fear’s bad advice. This noticing is helping me make bolder, wiser choices for the second half, helping me to ‘come home’ to who I am meant to be. What is there to lose? It’s these pauses that make us smarter and wiser. This is what happens for teams in the locker room at halftime. It’s a chance to see a bigger picture, notice what is true to our identity – ‘who we are’, and reorient back to that. In short, the locker room pause is the best chance for us to come home. Let’s be honest about Decembers. No work is really expected of anyone the last two weeks. There’s a two-week last push and then the foot comes off the gas pedal until after New Years. You have a two-week window to get the locker room wisdom of the pause. Review this year. What choices made are aligned with your core passion? And what pulled you away from home? What reorienting is needed to follow William Blake’s ‘golden thread’ to who you are meant to be, for you to come home for the holidays, and come home for 2019? I give you the end of a golden string; Only wind it into a ball, It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate, Built in Jerusalem’s wall -William Blake PS: the photos are my wood shed – this year’s and last – one way I come home…and keep that home warm.

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What’s better than producing?

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi   I wrote recently that if you want to produce, stop consuming as much – information, news, Facebook, stuff, drama. Even better than producing? Simply…being. Just simple enjoyment of this moment. Awake. Alive. At ease. Engaged in NOW. Here’s our order of priority: Fully alive Producing Consuming Where are you giving your time and your attention? Where do you want to instead? What needs to change?   “If you have time to chatter, Read books.   If you have time to read, Walk into mountain, desert and ocean.   If you have time to walk, Sing songs and dance.   If you have time to dance, Sit quietly, you happy, lucky idiot.” – Nanao Sakaki

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Why large group team building?

Clients ask me why I lead large group team building activities. Here’s my story. After performing at Woodstock ’94 I was at a crossroads. A hand injury stopped my professional guitar-playing career cold. I had traveled the world, studied psychology, music, business finance. I wrote music instructional books like Blues Harmonica For Beginners. I loved the passion, play and mutual fun of bringing people together and lifting them up. I wanted to create meaning in people’s lives. I wanted to go deep, not just to make a living, I wanted to make a difference. But I didn’t know how to combine play and purpose. Then team building found me. I began guiding large groups of underserved kids from NYC, building teams where it’s needed so badly. Then classes of New England’s top universities, setting a collaborative tone. By the end of the nineties, I was on stage in Las Vegas, leading a group of 500 corporate salespeople, building Pipelines, guiding them to collaborate as one team through the shear raw power of fun. That was it for me! I knew I had found a calling. Fast-forward 25 years. My company Quixote Consulting, named after the famous knight Don Quixote, continues the quest to change lives with play and purpose. We use large group team building activities to jumpstart the journey to ‘one team and one goal’. We believe every team is a hero team, and every team of heroes needs a guide. A large group team building game is a powerful story, one that everyone remembers. We hook the story with the company message, sinking it deeper into long-term memory, cutting through the complexities and frustrations of daily work. Leading large group team building activities takes a special talent. The logistics are seemingly endless. There’s an intense amount of pressure for a two-hour activity to not just succeed but to be both fun and profound, a game-changer for hundreds of people. It’s a crazy thing to love doing, but we do. We’re not for everyone, but if our story resonates with you, we might be the right fit. Tell us about your quest and we’ll help you make it come alive. (Check out to learn more.)

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Is your world changing? Use your strengths

I walked over the bridge and looked out on the river. The water was low and flowing fast. The tree leaves on the riverbank had been green just a week ago. Now they were orange and gold. I climbed onto the rocks, put on my wet suit, took a deep breath and jumped in. Involuntary gasp as the shock of the cold hit me. I swam upstream, trying to get used to it, thrilled and miserable in the same moment. My body adjusted eventually and the misery melted away, leaving just a weird delight. The original change guru Heraclitus (born in 535 BC) essentially stated that you can’t step in the same river twice. Apparently you can’t even swim in the same river twice! It’s always changing. A few short weeks ago that water was lazily warm. And the demands of work are always changing. Just like the cold water of the river those demands are getting harder to handle, not easier. In a cold, changing world, use your strengths. They are a refuge that will never change and are always there for you. You were born with them. Your passion (strength + what you love) is as unique to you as your fingerprints and your signature. Then help your people use their strengths. If your team is faced with changing, increasing demands, as always I’m here to help you find and use your changeless strengths to do your best work together.

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The strengths Interview four-step process from ‘First, Break All the Rules’

Here’s ‘The Art of Interviewing for Talent’ four-step process from First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Make sure the talent interview stands alone. The purpose is to see if the candidate’s recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior match the job. Ask a few open-ended questions and then keep quiet. Let him reveal himself by the choices he makes. What does he enjoy most about selling? How closely does he think people should be supervised? Listen for specifics. Ask him to tell you about the time when he closed a major deal. If the behavior is recurring, he can answer specifically off the top of his head. Clues to talent. There may be an inclination towards certain activities. Two things to notice: – Rapid learning. Does she take to public speaking like a born leader? – Satisfaction. Does he get his kicks from balancing the balance sheet? Know what to listen for. “I love it when…” Take note of what the employee says and after hiring, return to see if that person performed consistently with their original statements. Learn more: StrengthsFinder – Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action.

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The three best ways to use the StrengthsFinder assessment for hiring

Q: If I were recruiting for sales, could I use StrengthsFinder as a source to be sure a possible candidate would be a good fit? A: Yes. I do recommend using the StrengthsFinder strengths as part of the hiring process. Here’s how: 1. First in the job description Pick the strengths you’d like to add to the team. Look at the definitions of them and pick descriptive parts of the strength that are ideal. Don’t use the StrengthsFinder words; use the words in the description. For example, if you want WOO, don’t use that word. Use ‘loves the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over.’ People have no idea what the word ‘woo’ means in the StrengthsFinder context. 2. Second in the interview Don’t trust the planned. Trust the spontaneous. The strengths part of recruiting and hiring is best done in the interview when you can see how they spontaneously answer questions. Imagine taking an assessment trying to second-guess what you imagine a potential employer is looking for and tweaking your answers so you get the results you hope. However, in the interview process, you can see what the poet Alan Ginsburg called, ‘first thought best thought’ come into play. If you’re looking for someone with WOO ask them for an example of when they were able to win a skeptical person or a group over even though they didn’t know them. If you’re looking for someone with RELATOR to develop deep-ties to select long-standing clients, ask them for an example of them doing just that. They will either have an example easily come to mind that is vivid, specific and true. Or they’ll fumble and genericize. Either way you’ll get your answer. 3. Once the person is hired Have them take the StrengthsFinder assessment once they’ve been hired, making sure you tell them so you can best help them be their best sales self. They’ll self-assess more honestly now that a job isn’t on the line. Then have a discussion with them about how they can best use their top 5 strengths in the sales role they were hired for.

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