What do the 2018 Family Separation Policy and the 1940 London Bombing Blitz have in common?

How do you get a politician known for doubling down in the face of all opposition to change his policy of separating toddlers and infants from their mothers? This policy had separated over 2,300 children from their parents from May to June 2018. But widespread public outrage peaked at the end of June.

What changed? Why the sudden outrage almost 8 weeks in?


Rewind almost 80 years. Before the U.S. entered WW II, the Nazis bombed London almost daily for eight months, killing more civilians there than British soldiers previously had been killed in actual fighting. All of Europe had fallen to Hitler. England was the only country left standing against the Nazis.

The U.S. had a strong isolationist movement in 1940. This is when the phrase ‘America First’ first reared its head. More people wanted the U.S. to stay out of the war than enter it. Roosevelt was re-elected for a third term on the promise that he would keep the U.S. out of the war. He stated, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again; your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

The message was clear: England was going to have to go it alone against Hitler.

Then just a few months later, the U.S. was at war with Germany and Japan.

What changed?

Simply – a stronger story. And specifically, a story with visuals and audio.

In the case of the horrifying 2018 family separation policy it was this audio and the photos by John Moore, particularly this one below. You can see more of his amazing photos and his story here. If there’s a family separation story in the news it’s accompanied by one of his photos.


In 1940 it was Edward R. Murrow reporting live from London (once even reporting from a rooftop in London during a bombingthat changed public opinion in the U.S. What was once theoretical and remote became real and immediate. You can hear what the broadcasts sounded like here. The final tipping point came when images of Pearl Harbor hit the newspapers.

Words work – after all you’re reading these.

But images and sound are infinitely more compelling. They engage the brain more strongly and with more immediacy. Hearing or seeing children sobbing is very different from reading the words, “children were sobbing.” Hearing air raid sirens live is different from reading “sirens were blaring”.

If you want to influence changes to make a better world, if you’re serious about making a difference, add visuals and audio to sink your story in deeper.

Make the world be better, by telling a better story.

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U.S. Agents Patrol Mexico Texas Border

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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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Tight boundaries are time boundaries too


Playing with tight boundaries helps with overwhelm. “I’m just going to do this one thing, that’s it.”

This works with time boundaries too. “I’m just going to give this 6 minutes/30 minutes/3 seconds/fill in your own blank of my time, that’s it, no more.”

And you can gather excitement by shortening the time boundary. If a team looks like they’ll be easily successful in a team building activity, I’ll tell them I’m reducing their time. There’s a jolt of energy. People tune into the end of televised games. That’s when it matters most – it’s either most exciting then or the outcome is clearly decided.

Play with ‘bringing in the cones’ with time so the playing field is smaller and more full of energy.

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Tighten Up


Overhwelmed? No motivation? As Archie Bell and the Drells sang, “it’s time to tighten up.” When you tighten up a boundary, the playing field gets smaller and there’s a jolt of energy.

Today, try tightening up the time frame you work in. What can be done in 30 minutes? What can be done in 3 minutes? What can be done in 30 seconds?

And what if you play the game in that tight time frame as if your life depended on it? What if this game was the last game you were going to play ever?

And at the end of the game, you put it down, take a break, walk away.

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Tell Stories If You Want to Influence Effectively


Stories can be as short as a sentence or as long as an epic. Effective stories are the next best thing to an actual experience (a powerful influencer). They place the listener into the action in an empathic connection. If your pulse speeds up while watching an action movie, or you have ever cried over a scene in a movie, you know the power of empathy at work. The best television shows (such as The Wire) build powerful empathy for all of their characters.

Stories build trust. Research shows that a story all by itself is more effective at building trust than a story followed by a statistic.  Kouzes and Posner’s book The Leadership Challenge lists ‘honesty’ as the #1 characteristic that people look for in a leader. This was true over time (more than 20 years of research) and throughout all countries. Trust and empathy are two major drivers for increased resonance.

Why not try telling some simple stories the next time you are attempting to influence in a low-stakes outcome? By starting small, you’ll have something to build on. If you like the results, you may want to collect a few stories that seem particularly effective for your influence moments.

Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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A Direct Connection With Purpose: John Sorenson Takes the Next Step (Quest Story)

John Sorenson talked about his experience with micro loans in a past blog post. Click here to read that quest story.

After you’ve retired, what do you do next? John Sorenson chose to connect more deeply with purpose, uniting his vocation and service. His story continues here.

“The exploration is exciting. My wife and I are continuing to do stuff in Southeast Asia. We’re going to monitor how the families we’re helping with our microloans are doing. We’re taking over as presidents of the local “green club.” And the third element is helping a few companies start up by acting as technical advisors. One of them has to do with thermal and solar energy electricity generation. It’s not only a way of generating electricity from sunlight in a way that’s more efficient than what’s out there but it promises to be low cost. This could be is a real boon to third world countries, especially those that are near the equator. They have a lot of sunlight to work with. I’m also helping with the Hero’s Journey Foundation.

Click here to listen to listen to my interview with John Sorenson.

I am trying to apply the skills that I’ve developed in my career and my resources to make the world a better place. So I think of this as my vocation and my service. Where this goes I don’t know. I know that I’m excited about what I’m doing, I know that there’s mystery involved, but that’s okay. I know what I’m doing is enjoyable.

When I ponder, “What is it that I’m to do?”, I also ask myself:

  1. Is it something that I connect with or the people involved?
  2. Do I believe in the cause?
  3. Is this something I feel I can make a contribution to?
  4. Will I enjoy doing this?

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Your Boss: Thinker or Feeler?


In leadership and management, the MBTI preferences of thinking and judging are over-represented. (That’s statistically over-represented, not a value judgment.)

So even though more people in the general population prefer feeling over thinking when making decisions, your manager is statistically more likely to prefer thinking than feeling.

What’s your boss’s preference? Are you addressing it?

Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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Deadline vs Game Over vs Finish Line

What’s your energy right now? Enthusiasm? Excitement?

Or is panic?

Be careful with slinging the word ‘deadlines’ around if it’s panic. Using the word ‘dead’ rarely helps relax and liven things up.

Try the more playful term, “Game over.”

Or if that’s too stressful? Try, “finish line.”

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Are You Leading a Feeling Team?


In leadership and management, the MBTI preferences of thinking and judging are over-represented. (That’s statistically over-represented, not a value judgment.)

Leaders who take the time to look at the ‘people consequences’ of their decisions and address those concerns when communicating with their team or organization are way more successful than those who don’t.

My observation with change failures? The biggest misses in getting employee buy-in with new organizational initiatives stems from leaders ignoring of the MBTI feeling function.

Here are thirteen words that are music to a person with the feeling preference:

  1. Heart
  2. Subjective
  3. Relative worth
  4. Connections
  5. Warmth
  6. Affirming
  7. Appreciate
  8. Empathize
  9. Harmony
  10. Tactful
  11. Compassionate
  12. Values
  13. Caring

Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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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’ 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 in many team building activities are often fairly predictable for me. But part of what I love about this work is the innovation that shows up unexpectedly.

I worked with Kaiser Permanente recently and they 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 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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