Category Archives: Purpose

The 250 hours you steal from your self every year

One hour a day, Monday to Friday, is five hours. Fifty weeks a year times five hours is two hundred fifty hours. What work-hour am I referring to? Lunch hour. Most workers I talk to say that they skip it. They grab some food and eat it at their desk in five minutes, never stopping from the fire hose of work aimed at them. Even if there’s no fire to put out that day, habit has formed and ‘that’s what you do’…that’s ‘what we alldo’. If you’re a salaried employee (hourly employees of course live by different rules) and this is your habit, I’m going to nudge you on this. Take your lunch hour. Use it to go for a walk, go for a run, ride your bicycle, use the company’s gym. Lay in the grass staring at the clouds rolling by. Return refreshed, re-energized and healthier. We need a minimum of one hour of physical activity to live longer, healthier lives. This hour is sitting there, ripe for the taking. How would you feel if you had exercised 250 more hours last year?  And what would the difference in your body and mind be if you did that your entire working life? Imagine you start work at twenty and work until you’re seventy – a likely scenario for many people. 250 hours x 50 years = 12,500 hours! You’d certainly be a master at exercising – that’s well over the 10,000-hour principle. And there’s tons of research on how much smarter we are at something when we’ve paused, taken a break and returned to it. It’s in your company’s best interest for you to take that time to replenish. Exercise is also the magic pill – making us happier, more energized, better looking and of course stronger and healthier. Many people today are living like they won’t live past retirement, reflected both in their diet and exercise habits. But you’re smarter than that, aren’t you?

Also posted in Play | Comments closed

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

Also posted in Passion | Comments closed

Happy from here to a hundred

What if you live to be one hundred years old?  What kind of life would you lead between this moment and then?  What will the quality of those years be like for your? Advertisers would prefer we don’t think those dangerous thoughts. They play on our ‘immediate gratification bias’ – it’s how we’re genetically wired after all. When faced with an uncertain future, take what you can get now.  My 40 Days to Change for Good retreat in 2018 marked my approaching fiftieth year on earth, my hopeful halfway mark alive. We’ll live as long as we live, regardless of our intent. But let’s say that one hundred years old is a possibility for you. The next question we might ask ourselves is, “what do I want the quality of those years ahead to be?” We can ‘just survive’ or we can ‘arrive alive’. One phrase that may help is ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Happiness is a good characteristic to aim for. A deeper happiness perhaps than ‘jumping up and down and yelling out loud how insanely happy I am’ kind of happiness. Perhaps a more quiet happiness, a contentment, a peace with yourself, your choices and your imperfect life.  Persistence needs joy to really activate. And a long life lived with purpose repeatedly redirects and enlivens that life. Here’s to you, and me, and everyone we care about – happy, from here to a hundred.”If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.” – 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer

Also posted in Persistence, 40 Days Change | Comments closed

“We receive by nature a gift” 99-year old Klaus Obermeyer on exercise and the body

Will Durant, in summing up Aristotle, said, “we are what we repeatedly do.” Everything adds up, for better and definitely for worse. What we eat repeatedly, think repeatedly, how we move our body repeatedly, all of it combines to create who we are now and how we are now…and how we will meet the future.  Klaus Obermeyer is the most vital and energetic 99-year-old I’ve ever come across. Exercise is one of a few core repeated acts that sustain him. He likens the body to a gift given to us.  “I think we receive by nature a gift by having a body. If we don’t use it, it goes to hell, so it’s really important to keep using it. Do pushups and whatever you can to keep it going.” “I live healthily and work out every day in order to keep my body as strong as possible.” Use it every day and it’ll be there for us, still giving. Don’t use it and we’ll lose it.  “Your body is like a car. It needs maintenance and care. If you don’t work out, your body will slowly deteriorate.”  “What is really important in everybody’s life is to work out. Keep using your muscles and put your bones under pressure. If you don’t put your bones under pressure, nature thinks you don’t need them any more, and slowly they become brittle.” He feels that what exercise we do is less important than that we repeatedly do it. “I really do anything and everything—exercise is exercise. I try to use all of my muscles regularly. The muscles you don’t use eventually disappear, because nature thinks if you’re not using them you don’t need them. “You must work out; if not you slowly degenerate. Exercising keeps your bones and muscles strong.” Today, like every other day, you have a choice. What will you do with your gift? I stumbled across 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer during my 40 Days to Change for Good‘first 50 years alive transitioning into last 50 years alive’ retreat. Born in 1919 in Germany, he moved to Aspen, Colorado in 1947. He formed the company that he still oversees today(!), Sport Obermeyer, in 1950.  Over the last seventy years, he has changed how we humans play outside in the winter. Here’s a partial list of his innovations: the first down parka from a goose down comforter his mother gave him before he moved to America, the first waterproof-breathable fabrics, high alpine sunscreen, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses, double-lensed goggles, two pronged ski brakes, lined ski boots, turtlenecks with elasticized collars.  He’s also an inspiring guy – enthusiastic, energetic, cheerful, healthy, strong, fully alive. I began collecting what he had to say about how he has managed to enjoy ninety-nine years alive. Let Klaus inspire and guide you to be ‘happy from here to a hundred’. Note: Most of Klaus’s quotes are from his 99thbirthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

Also posted in Persistence | Comments closed

What’s so special about It Happened One Night?

How did the 1934 depression-era movie It Happened One Night go from unwanted orphan movie to Oscar juggernaut? It’s a thin plot – a spoiled heiress runs away and gets mixed up with a down-and-out reporter. They fall in love. That could be the general synopsis for a dozen other movies churned out of the studio mills that year. What captured the public’s hearts and wallets? I’m putting my money on the word vulnerability. Each of the two leads cycle through being prickly or entitled and then vulnerable. These are two people that in some way off-putting and even unpleasant. Then the façade drops. But never at the same time. They take turns – one is vulnerable and the other hardens and then the next setting the roles are reversed.  There is an ache and a desire for resolution as we watch the movie. And those vulnerable moments for each of them win our hearts and want the best for them. We start out being amused and end up rooting for them both. We go from entertained to caring. The flaws become the keys that open hearts. Vulnerability is the charm. Attachment theory first found out that this vulnerability is what makes for a positive bond between child and mother. And now we know that it’s mutual vulnerability that allows us to positively attach to each other as adults. Vulnerability is how we create a successful marriage. And a successful team. And a successful friendship. We’re each flawed and probably annoying to lots of people in our own ways. And then if we’re brave enough, we let ourselves be vulnerable. There are moments where we make the leap into the unknown and drop the armor. Those intensely scary spots are when the connection we’ve longed for takes place.

Also posted in Team Building | Comments closed

Fight present-bias

The Internet is present-biased. Search engines prioritize the most recent, not the most valuable.  What if you headed left when everyone else lemmings it (yes I just made up that verb) right?  What if you do any of the following (and make up your own): read old books, do old things, use hand tools, listen to records, make your own music, tend a plant, grow your food, hang out with an elder, play with a child, heat your house with wood, walk or bike somewhere instead of in your car…who knows what change you might catalyze?

Also posted in Play | Comments closed

What five things should we teach kids to prepare them for 2050?

I wrote recently that the future of education may lie in the “four Cs”: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. In his book 21 Lessons for the 21stCentury, Yuval Noah Harari summarizes futurist educator beliefs around these four. If we want kids to succeed when they’re adults, teach them five things: 1. How to deal with change 2. How to learn new things 3. How to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations Also 4. Downplay technical skills 5. Emphasize general-purpose life skills If you’re skeptical, I can tell you first-hand this is what corporate work teams hire me to help them with. We’re titling these skills change management and emotional intelligence. They’re not going to wait until 2050. These skills are going to be needed even more than today, but they’re already highly sought-after.

Posted in Purpose | Comments closed

What are the four Cs and are they the future of education?

“Reading and writing and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick.” – School Days (song from 1907) The three Rs were the focus of education for a long, long time. The most recent generations – millenial and whatever comes after millenial – have been focused on massive information gathering, with a side helping of a strong need for safety. That was certainly the trend in the ‘90s when I was leading team building and outdoor education with kids from New York City. That massive educational experiment is now being played out in the workforce. Much of the generational conflict I see comes from friction between Gen X managers and their millennial team members. What about the future? Forget 2020. What about 2040? 2050? The futurist Yuval Noah Harari thinks that will be the era of the algorithm. ‘King algorithm’ will do everything we traditionally have been trained to do but better. Our educational focus on stuffing kids until they look like informational Thanksgiving turkeys is already outdated. Information is no longer hard to come by. There’s this new-fangled thing called the ‘internet’ that some people find helpful to harvest information from when desired. We already thoroughly rely on algorithms – Google, Alexa, Siri are there for us. Educators are now arguing we should switch to teaching “the four Cs” – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. These “four Cs” chose me early on and have given me an entire career. I didn’t pick them. They picked me. My first steps in the world of team building were in the woods of the Hudson highlands in New York with underserved kids from NYC, exploring the “four Cs”. We didn’t call them that then, but that’s what we were doing. A few forward-thinking schools gave their kids a head start with team building activities that taught the “four Cs”. And now, over twenty years later I’m the Pied Piper of the “four Cs” in corporate America. Or perhaps the Johnny Appleseed of the “four Cs”. If you have kids, “teach your children well” as Crosby Stills and Nash sang. Don’t teach them obsolete information memorization, or how to be afraid, or be rigid or consume without producing. That’s past. Teach your children critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. And if you don’t feel qualified, teach yourself first.

Also posted in Team Building | Comments closed

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.

Also posted in Passion | Comments closed

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.

Also posted in Passion, Persistence, Put It Together, 40 Days Change | Comments closed