Category Archives: Purpose

Large Group Team Building

I’m starting off with some news I’m extremely excited about. Our large group team building site is finally up and live! Check it out at www.largegroupteambuilding.com. Working with large teams is one of my callings. It’ll help us tremendously if you’d take a moment to share this newsletter or the link to the site to someone leading a company or a large team (40- 2,000 people) that has hopes for something better, to start a story that will make change happen. I don’t usually do asks like this – giving is more comfortable to me than asking for something. Hopefully giving you a chance to help people come together and do good work together is a gift in its own way. It’s the right time for giving. The maple leaves are still holding on, a warm color. And the oak and beech leaves are still green. It’s a classic early November in New England. It’s also the beginning of the season where we gather together into our tribes – team, family, friends, the people that matter. Boundaries of division get a little less strict. There is an impulse to connect. Thank you for helping me connect, and allowing me to connect with you here in this blog every week. Here’s to you connecting with what you are most passionate about and with everyone you care about.

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The next 50: My 40 Days to Change For Good 2018

I’m turning 50 in 2019. When I was a kid I always imagined I’d live to be 100. It was my number I kept in mind when I made big decisions like: do something you love doing, make sure you have enough money for the life you want to live, be active, eat right, listen to the heart instead of the worried mind. I may be rounding up by a few years. The average life expectancy of the US male is 76.9 years. “Dead by 77”, that’s our manly motto! If you’re a US female add five years to that number. (If you’re curious, we’re 31st on the list, just below Costa Rica and just above Cuba – full list here.) However, since I consider myself –and you dear reader – decidedly above average, I’m sticking with the 100-year number. And I’m banking on good genes – my 87-year-old father was out on the tractor last time I visited. That means this year is (hopefully) my halfway mark. It’s the perfect time to dedicate some focused time and ask some big questions about what I want the next/last 50 to look like. Questions like: What do I carry with me across this threshold? What do I leave behind, no matter how enticing or safe feeling? What essential parts of me do I reclaim that I’ve lost track of over the years? I can think of no better way to spend my 40 days to change for good this year. I’m inspired! Also alternately scared, calm, enthusiastic – that’s a good mix of feelings for another powerful 40 days challenge. Won’t you join me? As always Day 40 begins November 11, Veterans Day and Day 0 ends on December 21, Winter Solstice, the day the sun begins to return. What’s your 40 Days to Change for Good? Let’s inspire each other to be the people we were meant to be.

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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 www.largegroupteambuilding.com to learn more.)

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The skunk under the bridge

Another 90 degree summer day, another work day done, another evening summer swim in the books. I left the water at the base of the bridge of the Millers River and started up the bank when a movement behind me caught my eye. I turned and saw an adolescent skunk huddled on the concrete ledge about four feet off the ground. It peered at me for a moment then tucked its head back into its body, flattening itself against the wall and shaking lightly. A list of swear words had been spray painted sometime earlier in the summer above where it lay – a neat juxtaposition of the priorities of importance of animal and human realm. I called Laura. Laura volunteers at a wildlife rehabilitation place locally and is studying to get her license – she’d know what to do, how to help. Then I sat on the bank looking at the skunk while waiting for Laura to arrive. It was beautiful. A white crown and broad white striping on its young back. It was quiet down there, just sitting and being near this scared, stressed, uncomplaining little animal. Something settled in me that moment. Laura arrived with a pet carrier, a broom, a blanket and a can of cat food. It took a while, cat food in carrier, open door, blanket over the carrier to create a safe, dark cave, and Laura quietly, calmly, patiently sweeping near the skunk until it finally backed into the cage. Laura carried it upstream and found a quiet spot in the woods near the water’s edge. She opened the carrier door but the skunk didn’t want to leave. She had to tilt it until it finally came out. As soon as it realized where it was it shuffled into the underbrush, vanishing to the human eye back into nature. Laura thought that it may have been stuck up there a while. Skunks can climb a little bit, and it probably scrambled up to escape something attacking it. But the smooth surface of the concrete, surrounded almost entirely by water, probably made it too difficult to climb down. It was probably hungry and dehydrated, and definitely very stressed. I was proud of Laura – her first successful rescue mission. I had had a good day of work previously – lots got accomplished. But nothing felt like the skunk experience. The work had me at one level, then the skunk helped me sink way down. Its quiet vulnerability released an internal wall and I felt such a deep tenderness. And to help, to be of use, felt so powerful. I could see why Laura is attracted to this kind of work. And I was reminded again of the deep power of purpose – of aligning our actions with helping something beyond ourselves. Seeing vulnerability makes it easier to do. It unlocks that tenderness we’re all capable of. How can we be of use? How can we notice vulnerability around us? How can we let down our guards to show our vulnerability? Vulnerability is the cornerstone of trust, of connection. There is some part of each person we meet today that is huddled into itself, scared and shaking. After all, we are all animals.   Click here to watch Laura’s video of young skunks at mealtime.

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Do what helps

We love to do lots of things. We’re full of passion. When discerning which type of passion to follow, look at what will help the most beings. Do you care about your family, your friends, poor people, nature, animals, autistic kids, seniors, the environment, your community? Whatever you care about outside of ‘singular you’, pick your passion that will most help that group. Don’t just pick what you love. Do what helps.

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A New Way to Assemble Mr. Potato Head

“The arm goes on the second hole up on the left side! No, one hole lower. Turn the arm around!” And so it goes in the ‘Assemble Mr. Potato Head’ collaborative team building activity. One person is blindfolded, the other team members look at a picture and tell the blindfolded person what piece to pick up and where to put it to replicate what’s on the picture. It’s a fun activity, and great for honing team communication. The attempts and results that teams experience in collaborative team building activitiesare often predictable for me – I’ve seen it all (almost). Yet part of what I love about this work is unexpected innovation. Kaiser Permanente did it differently. In all the years I’ve seen groups assemble the venerable plastic spud, they always verbally tell the blindfolded person where a certain piece is and then where it goes. This time, they let the blindfolded person pick any piece at random, then told them where it went. Every piece was ‘the right one to pick up’. The person without sight is given a 100 on the test. The most vulnerable person is in charge, is ‘right’. This is a simple tweak of genius. If we want to influence someone to do what you want them to do, if we want to change the world, we start where the other person is, not where they should be. We visit them in their “home”, their most comfortable way of doing things. We tolerate our discomfort in the service of change. Brain science tells us this is true for the brain as well. If we want to help an emotionally hijacked person out of it, the first step is to meet them, without fear, in the hell they have entered. Then we can show them the way out.

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Quest Story: A Passion for Radio – Phil D and WIZZ

In an era of radio stations owned and tightly controlled by a few large corporations, Phil D and his WIZZ radio station provide something rare and wonderful. This independently owned radio station decides what to play by listener request and Phil’s unerring feel for what his listeners love.  It’s radio the way you remember it was. And if you wish it were still happening, there’s good news – it is! WIZZ radio is a dynamic AM radio station that features “The Greatest Music Memories” of all time with music from the 40′s, 50′s, 60′s through today. WIZZ serves four states and also reaches avid listeners worldwide online from Greenfield, Massachusetts at 1520 on the AM dial. Every weekday at sunrise, Phil D is at the controls of WIZZ, waking the towns and telling the people what they want to hear…News, Weather, Sports, Lottery Results, Phil D has it all…even his own special humor and a touch of “friendly sarcasm”. His daily all-request show plays the great songs and artists of the past seven decades. Phil has been involved with radio all his life, starting in high school and continuing on up to today. He’s had lots of adventures along the way, and in our interview with him told us about introducing the Beach Boys at a show, hanging out with Roy Orbison, and even conducting Lawrence Welk’s orchestra. Phil’s passion for radio, music and his listeners shines through and it’s heartening to have his station be the soundtrack of our day here in the Quixote Consulting office. There’s nothing quite like it. As Phil said during our interview with him, “We’re performing a service that fills a void in some people’s lives, especially for older folks that don’t have much going for them. The music brings back great memories.” Click here to enjoy WIZZ right now!

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“That’s not me”

“That’s not me. That’s not who I am.” “That’s not us. That’s not who we are.” This is an element of a very common public apology. I guarantee you’ll hear it sometime in the news in the next few weeks. Someone famous does something stupid, or not as well as they would like and that sentence gets inserted. It’s also what we tell ourselves when we do something stupid, something we regret, something that is less than wonderful. It also often shows up when failure does. If not you, then who? Actually, that IS you. And that is that public person that did something they don’t recognize once the smoke has cleared. That is the team that froze in the spotlight. And that realization can hit to the core – a real self-identity quake. That is a sign of a full-blown amygdala hijack. The fight/flight/fear part of the brain decided it was in danger and took over the driver’s seat, shoving the frontal cortex into the backseat. Or it’s a sign that your brain isn’t yet fully formed. Our brains don’t get to full maturity until our mid-twenties, which is why so many kids do so many amazingly stupid things, like tweeting racist tweets if you’re going to be a top-five NFL draft pick. But if you’re an adult and you do something, it’s you. It’s really you. It happens inside your brain. It’s your lower impulses trying to keep you safe. It doesn’t care about damages incurred. So you can either deny it’s you. Or you can get humble and fully own it. Owning it is the only place where learning can happen. You get to learn what you do when the amygdala hijacks your smarts. You learn what triggers the amygdala. You learn the effect the amygdala aftermath has on what you care about. And you learn what’s important long-term that you can recommit to. These are very, very important pieces of knowledge. If you’re brave enough to be humble, that IS you. That IS me. That IS us. It’s okay, it’s going to happen and keep happening. And never forget that even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment we always have a choice. We can tear what we love apart or listen to the better angels of our nature. I vote for the angels. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln (part of his 1861 Inaugural Address)

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Do you suffer from progression obsession?

“Life, to be worthy of a rational being, must be always in progression; we must always purpose to do more or better than in time past.” – Samuel Johnson   I used to live by this quote. Throughout High School and into college it was always somewhere inside influencing decisions. It didn’t end well. There’s nothing wrong with progression. The promise of progression helps us through many hard times. And when we progress, we get a jolt of positive energy that helps us persist. That’s why I counsel teams to break big projects into small gulps and to start with the easiest part. But how much allowance is made for the shadow of progression? The opposite of ‘more and better’ – less and worse? These are scary words for companies, teams, stock markets. But not for the seasons. Not for night where there’s less daylight and worse ability to see things. In fact animals prefer the night – 90% of animal activity happens at night. The tides are also fine with less, so are moon phases. And ‘less and worse’ is not scary for people relaxed enough to see the big picture, the larger purpose. We will get sick, we will age (if we’re lucky), we will die. Others will be born after us and they will live this cycle again. More of our projects won’t be completed than will be. The moon wobbles. We will only progress – today and always – to the extent that we become friendly with failure.   “Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings.” -Rainer Maria Rilke   Learn more: Emotional Intelligence Works - EQ is twice as important in contributing to excellence as IQ and expertise combined. Learn how to effectively manage your emotions and those around you for sustained success.

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Mark Hamill vs Rian Johnson on who to focus on when you want to influence

At times, I’d say to Rian, “We gotta think of what the audience wants.” And he’d say, “No, we’ve gotta think of what wewant.” – Mark Hamill Who’s right, Luke Skywalker or the new Star Wars director Rian Johnson? They both are. When we’re making a change, when we’re influencing, we do it with empathy. We travel to where the other person lives, where they are most comfortable. We unearth their unstated wants, desires, hopes and fears and try to address them. But it doesn’t stop there. People need to help getting to their best selves. If we just cater to their lowest selves, that’s accommodation, not empathy. We’d be best served to do the double emotional duty – bravely look at what’s underneath for the people we want to help and bravely look at what change we hope to do, what we know to be true, to stand for something. True empathy, true influence, true connection, true change, true teams are built where “what the audience wants” and “what we want” meet. And it all starts with what happens today. “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” – the Rolling Stones  

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