Category Archives: Quest Stories

Ready, Fire, Aim

They decided not to use their planning time and leaped into Better Get Better. The first results were not good. “That’s our score? That’s it?”  Subsequent rounds weren’t much better. It wasn’t until the debriefing at the end of the activity that a quiet man who had hung back during the exercise said, “I was really frustrated. We didn’t have a plan. We need a plan for success. It’s just like the way we dive in at work without looking.”  Every team has one of two blind spots. Some take too much time planning and never get around to action in time.  But most teams are itching for action and don’t want to do the hard work of ‘nothing apparently getting done’ at the beginning to come up with a plan of attack. The tension is too much for them. I call it, “ready, fire, aim.”  The same team, when forced to take their full planning time in the next activity aced it. The same gentleman simply said, “See?” to a few sheepish but exhilarated faces. They had seen. The next activity, no forcing was needed. The team took their planning time and came up with a plan to ace it. It was a good one. It needed tweaking on the fly – all plans do – but the results were incredible. Today, like every day, gives our teams a choice. Will it be ready-fire-aim? Or will we be brave and aim first?

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Seinfeld tries to help Kramer one more time with the power of purpose

Comedian Michael Richards blew up his career one night in 2006 when he lashed out with a racist tirade in response to hecklers at his comedy act. There are small moments of emotional hijack – where the amygdala overrides the thinking part of the brain and strikes out – and there are big moments. This was a BIG moment, caught on camera, immediately ending any post-Seinfeld career for Richards. And taking a man from beloved Kramer to despised and reviled racist. A decade later, his old friend Jerry Seinfeld had him on his show Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, in hopes of helping him out. It was sad to see how damaged Richards is from his self-inflicted hijack. He had a wig and sunglasses to disguise himself in public. He must have gotten a lot of abuse returned to him in public over the years, and you could see both the shame and the armor he puts up to protect himself. At one point, Jerry said something meaningful and it broke through the armor.  Michael: “You know those performers who just love it? It was always a struggle with me.” Jerry: “No, no, no. I don’t accept the judging of process. We’re all trying to get to the same island. Whether you swim, fly, surf, or sky-dive in, it doesn’t matter. What matters is when the red light comes on.” Michael: “Sometimes I look back on the show and think I should have enjoyed myself more.”  Jerry: “I could say that myself. But that was not our job. Our job is not for us to enjoy. Our job is to make sure they enjoy it. And that’s what we do.” Michael: “Oh, that’s beautiful. Because I think I work selfishly and not selflessly. It’s not about me, it’s about them. Now that’s a lesson I learned when I blew it in the comedy club. I lost my temper because somebody interrupted my act and said some things that hurt me and I lashed out in anger. I busted up. It broke me down. I should have been working selflessly that evening. It was a selfish response.  I took it too personally and I should have just said: ‘Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I’m not funny. I think I’ll go home and work on my material and I’ll see you tomorrow night. But – you know – it was just one of those nights. And thanks for sticking by me. It meant a lot to me. But inside it still kicks me around.” Jerry: “That’s up to you. That’s up to you to say, ‘I’ve been carrying this bag long enough. I’m going to put it down.’” Michael: “Yeah…yeah.” This is the cost of a deficit of emotional intelligence. The darkness that Richards made public lives in all of our brains hoping to assert itself in its own way. The cost of not being able to manage your emotions is steep – everything we’ve worked for can be taken away in a moment of emotional heat. We’ve all done and said things we regretted. And the news gleefully points out public meltdowns daily. And that one moment can lead to a lifetime of regret. There are many paths to avoid this trap. I outline many in emotional intelligence team development trainings. But Jerry and ‘Kramer’ show us one to try today. Selfless or selfish, who are we working for? What’s the purpose to all this? Everything we do in some way either helps or hinders others, and we either notice this or not. Start with small moments to escape your very own ‘career-ending emotional hijack’. And use those small moments by reorienting the focus from you to them.  Get clear about the job as defined by Jerry. Make sure they enjoy it. Make sure they are served. Make sure we’re helping, not hurting, all day, all life.

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“We meet life on life’s terms” David Milch on Alzheimers and the return of Deadwood

Peak TV fans know Deadwood as one of the greatest shows of the beginning of the current golden era. For three seasons writer and show-runner David Milch wrote ornately intricate beautiful dialogue and emotionally resonant stories. Then HBO canceled it.  Improbably, thirteen years later, HBO decided to bring everyone back for a Deadwood movie. And poignantly, at age 71 Milch now has Alzheimers. “As best I understand it, which is minimally, I have a deterioration in the organization of my brain,” he says. “And it’s progressive. And in some ways discouraging. In more than some ways — in every way I can think of.” He’s less of a fire-brand presence on set now, and does his writing in spurts when he’s at his best. For someone with such an incredibly brilliant mind, I would imagine this worsening condition is particularly cruelly devastating for him. How does David Milch look at his Alzheimers? “Certain complications were present throughout, and compounded as time progressed. I’m thankful to report my writing process has remained largely as it was. Each day is as it comes. We endeavor to meet life on life’s terms — not impose our ambitions on it, to be useful within the present moment.”  Wherever we are on our life’s journey a pause for each one of those last statements may help calm and re-orient us to what is most important, not just today’s demands. “Each day is as it comes.” “We endeavor to meet life on life’s terms — not impose our ambitions on it.” “To be useful within the present moment.” PS Emotional Intelligence Works is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research. Click here to start transforming your team.

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What sport does Peter Gabriel play?

When Peter Gabriel decided to record his fourth album, he rented out the Aschcombe House in rural England. The building was less than ideal.  “It was a typical sort of landlord situation because there was never any money spent on it; there was rain coming through, rats and dry rot. We had a serious outbreak. It’s a fascinating fungus actually, because once it catches and the temperature and the moisture are right, it reproduces at extraordinary speed and you get the spores almost like a mist, then these amazing mushroom shapes growing out of all parts of the house.”  This was a particularly intense album, with a heavy emphasis on rhythm, percussion and drums. Cymbals were once again banned from the album, creating a heavier sound. Shock the Monkey was the lone hit.  Any recording is extremely difficult. Doing so in these situations must have been doubly so. How did they recharge? They played. What did Peter and his bandmates play?  “The game – the obsession of that time – was croquet. There was a lawn at Ashcombe, which was pretty flat, and we’d set up either car lights or some vague attempt at nightlights so we could play at night as well as in the daytime. Whenever there was a break we’d get out there and this stayed with us on tour. We travelled with a mobile croquet set. I remember we set up in Newcastle on one foggy, winter night on a roundabout outside the hotel… it was quite a big roundabout and had a good game because it was floodlit.”   And true to Gabriel’s playful spirit, he ended the story with a joke.   “What’s great about croquet is that it’s a really vicious game and you can do horrible things to your opponents’ balls, if you’ll forgive the expression. So that would keep us very entertained.”  As Joni Mitchell once sang, “heart and humor and humility will help you bear your heavy load.”   What game could you play to help your difficult life?   And where can your sense of humor help you get through what’s hard? 

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Fun Facts Q & A with Rob Fletcher – Part 2

If you missed it, you can catch Part 1 here! What is a great memory from a program?  There is a specific recurring moment that often – but not always – happens when I’m leading corporate trainings. I can feel lifted up inside somehow and speak what I feel are some deep truths without pre-thinking or analyzing what I’m saying, just letting it through. It’s especially powerful for me when I look around and see different people nodding in unconscious agreement – connection! What fun activities make you happy? Playing guitar, singing, listening to music, being outside in nature, exercise (especially skating, swimming, bushwhacking, paddle boarding), yoga, working on my wood pile, living from and listening to my heart’s desire. What movies had the greatest impact on you? Mary Poppins, Quadrophenia, Adventures of Baron Munchauson, Brazil, Highlander – in that order. What was your favorite childhood meal? Chicken breast with corn and apples What historical time period would you like to visit?  Why? The 70s. I grew up in the 70s and I always wished I could be an adult, or at least a teenager. The 70s had my favorite pop music, the best clothes and hair styles for men, and what appears in hindsight to be the last pure freedom before the Reagan era. And no email! When you were young what did you want to be when you grew up? In approximate order from very young to college age: a banker, someone rich and retired, a wanderer and lover of life, a musician, a poet. I did get to be a bank teller while I was in college! What is one of your proudest accomplishments? Every time I’ve listened to my heart instead of what my worried mind warned. Which of your teachers had the greatest impact on you? Professor Jim Carse at NYU. He taught my Hinduism, Buddhism and Taosim class. He inspired both me and my best friend Jerry to drop out of college and backpack around the South Pacific for half a year. A great decision!  My life is still guided by what he taught. Two decades later I had the opportunity to thank him personally while we were both at a poetry workshop that Robert Bly was leading. For what in your life do you feel the most grateful? For having met Laura, the love of my life.

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One man, one hundred years of joy

“If I live to be 103, then I will have skied 100 years.” – Klaus Obermeyer “My sentence was a thousand years of joy.” – Robert Bly How do we persist? What helps what we care about stick? It’s a question that I’ve lived with for it years now. Some observations: We persist at what we love.We find something special in the act of persisting, something that feeds us like no other.We don’t let the rest of life fill in and obscure a passion. Life is not often what you would call “easy”. We find our inspiration where we can. Klaus Obermeyer is a font of inspiration for us. For example, he’s turning 100 years old at the end of 2019 and is still skiing. And he’s smiling while he’s doing it.  Don’t ski? No problem, me neither after tearing ligaments in my leg (while skiing). Let these quotes wash over you and provide a foundation for you to play your particular passion. And to lay the groundwork of delight that will enable you to persist at what uniquely feeds you. (all italics mine)  “You apply the extension of energy in skiing… You love the mountain. You’re the center of your own universe. You’re given all these choices and opportunities—where to turn, how fast to go, how to enjoy it. You have a positive energy; you cannot fear or have negative energy.”  “It doesn’t matter which mountain it is or which run or what conditions there are. I do not discriminate between them. Some are longer; some are shorter… but they’re all fun! I just love skiing.” “I ski whenever it’s nice and you can see where you’re going,”  “The days you don’t ski, they don’t come back.” “I used to ski my age — 82 mph when I was 82 years old. Now I still enjoy skiing but don’t try to go that fast.” “At this point of my age, it’s easier to ski than it is to walk.”  “The beauty of nature in winter, it’s like a fairy tale. The other part is that you are connecting back with speed and zero-G and weightlessness. It gives you a natural high somehow. And to be able to enjoy that speed coming down after climbing the mountain is absolutely marvelous.” “Skiing has been my life. Everything that happened was because of skiing somehow.” 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 99th birthday interview. (He was born Dec 2, 1919.) A few quotes are from his 98thand 96thbirthday interviews, among other sources.

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Three keys to planning a successful large group team building activity

By Jayne Hannah There is nothing like walking past a ballroom and hearing cheering and laughter. You might think it’s a group of children having fun and if you peek in you would see 12 newly constructed contraptions with marbles speeding through them and 250 adults jumping with anticipation that they are the winning team. And winning what exactly? Nothing but the bragging rights of boasting to fellow work mates that they won the morning teambuilding challenge. What you wouldn’t realize in just walking past is that the teams are also learning key components in how to work more effectively together. Product Pipeline is an ideal program to choose if you are a large group also needing your participants to come away with a learning tool. Recently with 250 people, we were able to provide them with a key moment of learning where the action was stopped in order for team leaders to redirect the activity for a better working structure and an effective method of getting the task achieved. With large groups, the immediate problem is that there will be too many people wanting to take over, and rather than feel this is the reason not to do a training module, it is the perfect opportunity to present solutions for something that happens in a regular working day. Quite often the challenge for large groups, is that a client wants a competitive, energetic program while providing their participants with a learning opportunity. For them to come away with new ideas while still having the wow factor from a lively program that is not a sit down lecture on a new way to work. It is possible to present this but your teambuilding provider needs to fully understand and have experience of programs of this nature for them to be successful. Gimmicks cannot just be relayed on a larger scale. There are programs that will work and those that cannot. Quixote Consulting knows the difference. First, simplify your needs. You will never keep everyone’s attention with too much information. So go for one or two direct points and demonstrate them in an experiential way. Set up and planning is key and this is basic, but allowing time for participants to get from one location to another, including time to check phones and go to the bathroom. Once your group is all together and the program is underway you do not want them to be thinking about something that could have been solved by including a fifteen minute break before the teambuilding session. Breaking a session half way through is not a good idea.Trust your provider to know their set up requirements, time and space are key for the implementation of large group trainings. Recently for a large Product Pipeline the venue space was measured and divided using every inch available. The organization took three weeks of planning and was worth it to allow each individual an empowering experience.   For this particular client, who wanted both training and a burst of high energy to ignite their three day retreat, their success was in trusting us with the planning and delivery. By asking relevant questions we had a clear understanding on their objectives and also the limitations of the venue. Realistic expectations were set and the freedom to design a program that we knew from our experience would work best, and it did, with three placing teams, an ultimate winning team and people congratulating one another and us – it was three hours of focused learning and therefore winning.  PS – Thanks to all who expressed your enthusiasm about our newest baby www.largegroupteambuilding.com – and an offer to anyone who’s on a team, give us a call and we’ll help you change your culture to ‘one team, one goal’.

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“If you can breathe you can play harmonica”

Lou and I combined have led over a hundred Play the Blues harmonica team building activities for corporate groups. In 2017 and 2018 we tried something different. We’ve been teaching open classes at our local libraries. It’s been great – a win/win. We give something back both to our communities we live in and the libraries we both love so much. And being with really young kids, their Moms and Dads, seniors and everyone in-between really fills the heart. It puts a spotlight on how hard it is in the corporate world for everyone involved. In contrast general anxiety, overwhelm, suspicion, and entitlement is magically erased with kids and adults together. Shared, genuine appreciation feeds a deep spring inside. Scott Calzolaio from the Milford Daily News stopped by and wrote a story about it. Here it is below (or you can read it at their site here): Blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll, and others, the harmonica is found most everywhere in the music spectrum. With a few breaths of air, musician Lou Manzi pushed some twangy blues out of his harmonica at the Medway Library on Wednesday afternoon. He was showing off techniques like bending notes, and using his hand to make what he called a “wah-wah” sound, during their bi-weekly lesson. Manzi led this lesson, filling in for regular teacher Rob Fletcher. Manzi recapped the basics before getting into the blues and rock ‘n’ roll techniques that create a great harmonica player. He has been a musician since the 1970s, playing in bands, teaching guitar, and doing other projects. Now retired, he plays with a swing and blues band called The Howling Hound Dogs, and teaches lessons. He said the best way to improve while learning the harmonica, like anything else, is practice. “It’s kind of a wacky instrument because in some ways it’s very easy just to make a sound. If you can breathe, you can play the harmonica,” he laughed. “But can you really play the harmonica really good? Probably not.” The challenge, he said, is getting to know the instrument more intimately by practicing each note one at a time, and mastering it. He said it isn’t as easy as it looks, but he can make a good harmonica player out of anyone. After about 40 years of playing, Manzi said he’s still not the harmonica master he wants to be, but there’s always room for improvement with any instrument, and he’s still learning. “I like Little Walter the most,” he said. “I like the early players the most, like Sonny Boy Williamson.” A group of budding blues players of all ages on Wednesday learned songs such as Billy Joel’s Piano Man to Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. “We’re very interested in music, and I just love exploring new options,” said Holliston resident Nicole McWilliams, explaining why she joined the class. Her son Andrew McWilliams, 11, took the lesson with her. Andrew brought along his own harmonica collection to flaunt during hour–long session. “We’re just a musical family, I’ve been into music for awhile,” he said, explaining that he plays guitar and trumpet. “I already play harmonica, but I wanted to get more involved.” Some had more personal reasons for wanting to learn. Medway resident Pat Mailman said she’s following the legacy of her father. “In fact, my dad was pretty good at it,” she said. “I lost him about a year ago, so I figured I’d give it a shot.” When it comes to the instrument, Manzi said there is a lot that sets it apart from others. Being able to manipulate one sound in a variety of ways is what makes the harmonica so versatile among music genres. “There’s a lot unique about harmonica. For one, you can put it in your shirt pocket,” he said. “It’s very expressive in the fact that you can imitate a singer or a human voice with it.”

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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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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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