Category Archives: Purpose

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.

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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 Our educational focus on stuffing kids until they look like informational Thanksgiving turkeys is already outdated.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.

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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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“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” – Rock time for rock work

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Roy Scheider in the movie Jaws Producing a big work is rock work. It needs a different approach to time. We humans have about 2 billion heartbeats in a lifetime. So do chickens. They can live around 15 years, our average is around the mid-70s. It’s not the amount of heartbeats, it’s the speed they occur. When Francis Weller became a licensed psychotherapist at 27 he found a Jungian mentor. “I contacted the Jung Institute in San Francisco, and I met a man named Clarke Berry who was in his mid-sixties at the time, and one of the most generous souls I’ve ever met”, Weller said. “And I always remember the first thing he taught me, when we sat face to face. He reached over and patted a big rock he had at his side and said, ‘This is my clock. I operate at geologic speed. And if you’re going to work with the soul, you need to learn this rhythm. Because this is how the soul moves.’” Rock work, the deep work we were put onto this earth to contribute, is soul work. It’s going to move more slowly than we wish. And it’s more likely to stick around. Think the lifetime of a classic book compared to the lifetime of a controversial tweet. They have very different heartbeat speeds. Unlike in Jaws, you don’t need a bigger boat. You need a bigger clock.

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Can’t take a retreat right now? Do the big work first

Here’s a way to reschedule your workday to get the bigger work, the rock production done. Do the big work first in your day. Rocks and river stones first, then fill in with pebbles when your energy has peaked. Or better yet go for a walk. My most productive days within the confines of a normal workday are rock or river stone work in the morning, pebble work in the afternoon. My happiest days are rock work in the morning and nature and movement in the afternoon. We each have our own highs and lows of energy. Match peak energy with rock work, medium energy for stone work, low energy with pebble work. Better yet, ignore the pebble work and recharge for more rock work.

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Pebbles or rocks? How to produce a big work

Pebble production is the quick hit of the ball over the net. Short gulps. Tweets, emails, texts, Facebook updates. None of these take much time at all. Then there is slightly larger production: blog posts for example. We can call these river stones. River stone production takes a little more time but still can be snuck in all kinds of spots in a busy day. I know this to be true – it’s how I’m writing this. Neither add up to a big work – a book, an album, a screenplay, a speech, a house built, touching someone’s life, raising a child, your life lived fully alive. The big work, the deep work, can be thought of as rock production. Rocks are big. Rocks take a lot of space. They have more lasting value and will do more good (or damage) than a pebble. I’ve written five books. I’ve recorded three albums. Each of those ‘rock productions’ required me to sink below the busy surface world and dive down for extended, uninterrupted time. It meant more time all in one block, more energy reserved for that time, and less consumption of the external world. Deep work and deep production need deep space, deep time and deep energy. Book a block of days this year for something big you’re meant to give the world.

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My Favorite Large Group Team Building Memory

A favorite memory from leading a large group team building activity? On stage leading a Charity Bike Build team building for New Balance, looking out over a sea of people that I had just whipped into a frenzy roaring with excitement. 800 New Balance employees – a global group from Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America – were there at Boston University’s arena to build bicycles for kids. The planning and logistics took months and months. We customized the Bike Build to implement their ‘move the world’ theme in every aspect, right down to the soundtrack and the challenges. They built and donated 130 bicycles in 90 minutes, which was a new record for us. And having over 50 Quixote Consulting staff members was like its own team building activity! The New Balance activity is something I’m still very proud of and love those numbers: 800 people, 90 minutes, 130 bicycles donated. (Make your own favorite memories. Start here:

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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 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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