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

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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

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“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.

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John Steinbeck on why you don’t need a plan

In 1941 at the beginning of American involvement in WWII, John Steinbeck reflected on the Nazi regime in a letter. He wrote:

“It is interesting to watch the German efficiency, which, from the logic of the machine is efficient but which (I suspect) from the mechanics of the human species is suicidal. Certainly man thrives best (or has at least) in a state of semi-anarchy. Then he has been strong, inventive, reliant, moving. But cage him with rules, feed him and make him healthy and I think he will die as surely as a caged wolf dies. I should not be surprised to see a cared for, thought for, planned for nation disintegrate, while a ragged, hungry, lustful nation survived. Surely no great all-encompassing plan has ever succeeded.”

Thankfully, he was right and four years later the Nazi regime was over.

Companies are obsessed with efficiency. Six Sigma, lean, these are efforts to be more efficient. The factory system of productivity that ruled the last century adored the machine model. We’re still trying to fit that old square peg in the new round hole of the chaotic, ever-changing modern world. Emotional intelligence will get a leader worlds further than eradicating some small inefficiency in a system. 

No moment is created equal. We manage our energy, not our time.

Maybe you don’t need a better plan. 

Maybe you just need to let out a little more of your passion.

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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.

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How It Happened One Night took four weeks to win five Oscars

The 1934 movie It Happened One Night didn’t have the smoothest of starts. Director Frank Capra got rejected by seven leading actresses of the day before Claudette Colbert agreed – on the condition that she get paid double her normal salary and it wrap in four weeks in time for her ski vacation at Sun Valley, Idaho. Her co-star Clark Gable showed up drunk and surly to the first preproduction meeting, calling the second-rate Columbia studio (he had been loaned from MGM as punishment), “Siberia” and yelling at studio workers, “Why ain’t you wearing parkas?”

Four weeks to film! The average time for preproduction for a movie is 146 days. Then the actual shoot takes 106 days. This was a very tight boundary the director had to play in.

Capra had a ball. They started filming the day after Claudette Colbert agreed to do it. Most shots were done on location outside because there wasn’t enough time to build many sets. Watching the movie now we see the outside shots are a big part of the charm. There is an authenticity to those scenes that is missing on set pieces. Everything was kept simple. Colbert had two dresses she wore the whole movie. Motel scenes in different states used the same set. Capra was flying fast and free. And eventually Gable came round to it and thoroughly enjoyed playing against type, reveling in being a carefree, prickly drunk of a newspaperman.

The romantic comedy wrapped in time. It was released in the big theaters…and promptly sank out of sight a week later. But the movie hung around in smaller theaters. It generated word of mouth, and people returned again and again to re-watch it. The groundswell became a flood and carried it right into Oscar nomination-land, something unheard of for bargain basement Columbia pictures. The movie was nominated in all the major categories – best actor, best actress, best picture, best director, best screenplay. That year they won…with a clean sweep of all the five big categories. “The people discovered that movie,” Capra later said.

If there’s no time for perfection, the spirit of play has room. The tighter the boundary (as I’ve learned from playing team building games with kids) the greater the chance for fun. This is the wisdom found in recognizing and smiling at limits. 

And we intuitively recognize when we’re interacting with something and someone that’s alive. Meticulous perfection squashes that quixotic playfulness so essential to real vitality. 

If you do what you do perfectly, people will admire you. If you do it imperfectly, people just might adore you instead.

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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?

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Charge or recharge?

You have a very important meeting to drive to. It’s about an hour drive and you just left late – behind already. You drive faster than you usually would, trying to make up some time. As you get nearer your destination, your car splutters, coughs and stops. You forgot to look at how much gas you had. You’re out of gas. You abandon your car and start running on foot to the appointment. Or you get behind your car and start pushing it towards your destination (let’s say you’ve got two members of the high school football team with you that stopped to help you).

That’s what I often see on stressed teams. And most teams are stressed. And most team members are stressed. It’s all charge and no recharge. We’re behind on endless deadlines. We hurtle from one thing to the next trying to go faster. We hit the wall somewhere along the way. Distance athletes also call this ‘the bonk’. And we keep trying to go on, keep pushing past our limits. We forget about working smart. We just work harder. It’s our habit. The car is out of gas and we’re running. Or we’re pushing the team car.

The ‘charge’ is the only part this culture values. The ever-upward line on the graph. If you’re sick of that game, play the ignored game. Head down instead. Recharge.

“When water gets caught in habitual whirlpools,

dig a way out through the bottom

to the ocean.”


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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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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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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


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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