Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Day-Message

Matt Brannagan, who maintains our blog and newsletter, advised me it would be smart to leave a Thanksgiving time message. There’s a lot that would be cliché to include in a T-day blog. My friend Richard says, “Hey, cliché is important!” And yet, perhaps we ought consider and be thankful for … well, the challenges that we face.

I have a friend who is having major surgery this coming Monday. She’s known about the situation for quite some time and shared with me about it a few weeks ago. It’s something that can be, at the least, quite unnerving and overwhelming for her. She’s a single mom raising two teenage sons. She’s a small business owner. There’s a lot at stake right now.

The last few weeks I’ve witnessed her move and act with dignity and grace and integrity, attending to her life and those she cares about. I’ve yet to see her despondent, angry, spiteful, resentful, scattered or remorseful. Rather, she walks right into the challenges she faces. Oh, it’s possible that she’s felt those emotions in her quiet times alone at home. But she hasn’t made them part of her daily presentation of self that I’ve been able to see. What courage!

Over the weeks that her news has been part of my life, I’ve been invited into her world in the form of discussions over meals about things large and small that truly matter. How the kids are. How her product line is being accepted. How extended family may respond to her situation. What’s happening in our little community, our quaint town, our country and our world. And she’s listened with an ear sans judgment to the challenges I face. These are intimate everyday discussions that make a friendship … well … a friendship.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. I’m in Sacramento with my young sons, one a high school senior, the other a college sophomore … still asleep they are, one on the floor and the other in his bedroom, though it is almost nine o’clock. And as I look at them I think, “still asleep probably in some other ways that don’t involve late night teen age or early twenty’s lifestyles.” We’re headed in two hours for a traditional meal with one of these young guy’s godfather and his family. My friend, who’s having surgery, is elsewhere with other friends and family and most likely bringing her strong spirit to that gathering.

Challenges – we ought be thankful for them. They bring life to us … and us to life.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

An Interview With Richard Strozzi-Heckler

Most Wednesdays and Thursdays I have the opportunity to attend some very unique classes conducted under the direction of Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Ph.D. Ours is an interesting and multifaceted relationship. It began with a chance encounter over twenty years ago while I was an executive with a training company and responsible for leading a series of powerful public leadership courses. One day Richard showed up to review the work of an organization responsible for providing adventure-based exercises for the company I was with. I remember our shaking hands for a few moments while we stood on the side of a cliff. That was about it. About five years later our paths crossed again ... only this time in a much more intense way to begin what would become long and meaningful journey. (For that story visit and go to the “Archive Page” to download "A Ronin Reflects on the Samurai Game".)

Richard Stozzi-Heckler is the Founder of Strozzi Institute. He has authored many books; his most popular being In Search or the Warrior Spirit now in its fourth publishing release. His newest book The Leadership Dojo is available at and at He is an incredible teacher, advisor and consultant having brought somatics around the world. He is listed as one of the top 50 executive coaches in the US. Senior executives, public servants and officials of many governments have sought his advice, including some at the highest levels of the US Government. His work at transforming the US Marine Corps was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. He is a friend, an associate ... one of the "Allies" of Allied Ronin. Additionally, now for over seven years he has been my sensei (teacher) at Two Rock Aikido in Petaluma, California.

Recently I asked Richard if he would be interviewed for the monthly Allied Ronin newsletter. He agreed. Enjoy what he says. But most importantly ... and as always ... put into action and practice what you find of value here!

AR: Richard, how would you describe Strozzi Institute, why you created it and what it provides to the world?

Richard: I created Strozzi Institute as a way to bring somatics—the living body and its embodied practices-- to the training and teaching of leaders. Our mission is to create leaders who embody pragmatic wisdom, grounded compassion, and skillful action. We teach emerging leaders how to build trust, repair trust when its broken, act from a centered presence, cultivate their intuition, move confidently from their values and principles, and be authentic and respectful in all their relationships. The world more than ever needs leaders who are not simply head smart, but can embody life affirming, generative values.

When we come into the life of our bodies we will also be in a more intimate relationship with Spirit. Spirit adds great depth and scope to our leadership potential.

AR: What do you feel are the biggest and most important challenges facing leaders (both organizational and individual) today? What about teachers ... do you feel the same is true for them, and why or why not?

Richard: The challenge for all, whether you’re leading a family, a Fortune 50 company, the First Marine Division, or a classroom of children is to bring people to their senses.

This not simply a metaphor but literally we need to re-learn how to feel. I don’t mean this in a touchy-feely way or the hallmark card version of a romantic walk down the beach, but tapping into the 3.5 billion year wisdom of our bodies. We have become overly analytical and this has separated us from life, the environment, and others. Once we begin to feel ourselves, we can more readily feel and empathize with others, and we can learn how to better take care of the natural world. Leaders of all stripes, whether you are leading your life or you have followers, need the capacity to feel and sense. When we feel we expand our awareness and therefore have more choices. When we come to our senses we’re more able to face conflict with a generative force and not a destructive one; we can act out of love and not fear; we can co-habit respectfully with our Mother Earth. These are all issues of leadership.

AR: In your 1990 book, In Search of the Warrior Spirit, you wrote: "The urge to confront personal ghosts and uncover our full potential is ignited only by an inner need. This arises from a discontent about who we have become. When the need becomes strong enough to challenge the status quo we summon the commitment and courage to attempt the unknown. " [p 18-19] What advice do you have for the individual who seeks to summon that kind of commitment and courage and step out on his or her own? What pitfalls do you see they need to attend to as they initiate this action and then decide to continue to move forward?

Richard: A good teacher, mentor, guide, coach is immeasurable in helping us move forward in our evolution. Because we are a self-referring organism, that is we live in our own stories and in our own worldview, it is difficult to see outside of ourselves. To have a trained coach or teacher is indispensable in assisting us to see our strengths and liabilities and the best way forward. It is also critical to take on the practices that will help us embody our new future. Without practices we may have good ideas and insights, but we’re unable to take new actions. A proper coach can help you create new practices for your new life.

The courage and commitment to move forward is usually driven by one of two things. Our suffering motivates us to new practices. That is, we’ve lost enough blood and we’re motivated to take a risk. Or, we see a new possibility, a new way of being and living, and this increases our yearning to transform and evolve to a different consciousness. By living in our body, by being in our living-ness we can be alert to these two paths and take action from them.

AR: Since writing In Search of the Warrior Spirit your work has, among other things, constructively impacted the military, particularly and most recently the US Marine Corps. How would you answer that same "biggest challenges" question with respect to the men and women in uniform who serve our nation and perhaps their families?

Richard: My recent work with the U.S. Military has taken me to the Middle East and Afghanistan where I’ve been very impressed with the men and women in uniform who are deployed to these hostile areas. Their commitment, selflessness, and honor are a positive reflection on our armed forces and our country. I’m assisting these services to bring leadership training throughout the chain of command.

My other focus is on policy makers. Without our policies changing we won’t be able to meet the challenges in the 21st century in an intelligent way. For example, in my work in the counter insurgency field I emphasize building trust and relationships. The god father of counter insurgency, General Lansdale, said that it should be 70 percent creating relationships and a better quality of life for people through building wells, schools, medical assistance, hygiene, etc; and 30 per cent kicking down doors. This percentage is now reversed and we’re making more enemies because of it. The global war on terrorism is a conflict of ideas and beliefs and not bullets and bombs. The civil affairs and psychological operations need to be trained in how to build sustainable relationships. This is not a soft approach, but something that is time tested and critical for world peace.

AR: You are an accomplished martial artist and aikido sensei (teacher) and your known around the world for integrating the principles of aikido into your consulting work and program offerings. In 2005 you and a number of prominent aikido teachers brought together 100 people from Israel, Palestine and other Mid-Eastern countries to Cyprus for a fascinating program - Training Across Borders. Can you shed light on that program, why you did it, what happened, what you learned as a result, how this experience has shaped you ... plus the potential you see for others as a result?

Richard: The Training Across Borders (TAB) program brought together 100 people from the war torn countries of the Mediterranean Basin to train aikido together for four days. The idea was to form relationships between these centuries old adversaries through the practice of aikido. It was very very successful with many follow-up programs and many of these participants are now engaged in businesses together and starting cross-cultural dojos. Once again I learned that people engaged in shared practices together within a context of positive ki, a commitment to life and not destruction, can change hearts and minds. We now have new dojos in Ethiopia, three new dojos in the West Bank where Palestinians and Israeli children and adults train together, a dojo in Iraq and some follow-up mini-TABs.

AR: You and I first worked together seventeen years ago. The topic then was leadership, and to some degree "warriorship". How do you define the modern "warrior" today? Who are some of history's constructive "warriors" - not necessarily military - and what do you feel we can learn from their lives?

Richard: The warrior is the individual who is inwardly peaceful with an open heart, and outwardly prepared to take action for those who are unable to take care of themselves. The obvious “well-known” leaders are Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa but if we open our eyes, our communities are filled with people who are acting selflessly for others. From them we can learn to follow our hearts and do what is best.

AR: If the average person has it within him or herself to be a "warrior" what must he or she do to get on and stay on that path?

Richard: A warrior is not a glamorous or romantic figure. The warrior ideal is an ancient path of self-realization. A warrior lives by a set of values and participates wholeheartedly in supporting their community. This takes rigor and it is highly fulfilling to practice with others in making a better world. My teachers always encouraged me on the path by pointing back to the practices. Take on a practice that keeps you moving on your path. Let this practice have a qualified guide or teacher, a group of people you can practice with, and that it builds both skills for acting, and principles that guide those skills. And ... have fun doing it!

AR: What about organizations ... how can an organization go about constructively distinguishing itself on such a path?

Richard: Again, examine the practices you’re involved in as a group and do these practices take you to where you want to go and are they aligned with your principles. My book In Search of the Warrior Spirit outlines many of the distinctions of the modern day warrior and how this path can be lived with mastery. Many of the organizations we’ve worked at Strozzi Institute now have a dojo on their sites where people can practice self-cultivation, the skills of leadership, and developing teams.

AR: You have a new book now available to the public, The Leadership Dojo Why did you write the book? What is your vision for what its lessons can do for individuals, teams, leaders and organizations?

The Leadership Dojo illustrates the necessity of embodied leadership in our times and how individuals and organizations can train to embody and live their highest values and principles. It’s proven that when individuals and teams live their values it brings more fulfillment and it’s good for the bottom line. Everyone thinks leadership is a good idea and everyone basically agrees about what are the values a leader should have, but there is nothing about how to embody these values. We can train leaders. I have shown this time and time again over the past twenty-five years. Our current fiascos in government and business clearly show how necessary it is that leaders exemplify what they declare. Leaders need to be the values not just proclaim them. The Leadership Dojo and our programs at Strozzi Institute show how this can be done.

AR: If you were limited to one central idea, one most important thought or lesson ... as if it were the first, last or only thing you could ever communicate to anyone ... what would it be and why?

Richard: Love is the final medicine. Connect with Spirit and let love and compassion and wisdom flow through you.

AR: Thank you very much, Richard, for taking this time to serve those who will read this interview. I encourage all our readers to purchase and read your new book and make its lessons available to their friends and organizations.

For further information about Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Ph.D., Founder & CEO, Strozzi Institute and programs/services that he and his organization makes available in the world visit To contact Richard directly call 707-778-6505 and reference this newsletter. His new book, The Leadership Dojo, is available through Strozzi Institute and from

Monday, October 15, 2007

October 12th

I began this entry today at Lombardi's Downtown Deli #2 in Petaluma lunching on one of their house specialties, hot salmon with "the works" on a warm soft roll. Fall's been with us only twenty-one days, but today feels to be the first of winter: rainy, windy and cold -- well cold for here, anyway. Where's the heat? Where's the sun? Where’s the blue sky? Supposedly it'll all reappear tomorrow. Fall is the time when the earth sheds its coverings to reveal what's underneath and for a while reminds and asks us to attend to what's inside ... being as important or more important than what we show.

Seems that education and the "college connection" portion of my work is in the air the past few days. Maybe it's the Fall-Of-The-Year? I don't know. Why is it that some things happen in bunches?

Two weeks ago Dennis, a colleague and professor from a college in New York state, asked for a letter of reference to submit to the "Rank and Tenure Committee" in support of his application for promotion to Full Professor. I've known Dennis through my membership in and work with the Organizational Behavior Teacher Society - in conference simulations where he's been my "student" and in sessions where we’ve been dyad partners. I went through my less-than stuff when he asked me for the letter because he actually is "way smarter" than me. My recommendation he sought. My recommendation he got. Glad he asked. Glad I gave. The chair of his committee called today and acknowledged receipt of my letter. Dennis is one of those rare teachers who goes beyond the books. He teaches through physical action and tone, and asks his students to engage similarly using their own creativity. A few years ago I glimpsed his skill and substance when I observed him spontaneously and masterfully communicate lessons of leadership and follower-ship. In the midst of 200 plus other college profs all talking amongst themselves … he picked up a fiddle, struck a bow, and without uttering a word brought a surprised assemblage of highly intellectual types to complete silence and within moments had them moving in unison as one body - this before anyone knew what had happened. I hope Dennis achieves what he's going for and is granted full professorship ... he certainly deserves it. The college, his fellow professors, the students and those they encounter during their lifetimes will all be the benefactors.

This past Wednesday I spent the evening at the University of San Francisco (USF) with twenty-eight MBA Candidates in midst of their core (i.e. required) leadership course. Wednesday was my day to monitor the class in preparation for next week's class (Oct 17th), mine to teach while their regular professor has other duties. These twenty-eight are an interesting multinational mix. A relatively quiet group, with conversation mostly dominated by five. My initial sense was that not many of them are yet ready or eager to make mistakes. I hope this changes, because a lot of what’s important to learn happens by and through mistakes. Only a third of the twenty-eight are women. I wish it were a more balanced gender mix. But it’s not, and my personal mantra for this year is “to accept what is.” [Though I have to say again, I wish it were more balanced, particularly in light of the research reported these past few weeks showing that companies with women on their boards of directors are more apt to succeed in the long haul than companies without or with less.] Going to class this past Wednesday was an effort to reconnoiter.

Ever since my army days it's been an important practice to reconnoiter a situation before I walk in alone. "Better do your homework," my old army buddy, John Gorrell, used to say. He still telephones now and then with that admonishment, 'tho these days he's addressing human relationships rather than terrain, weather, targets of opportunity, weapons systems, potential ambush sites and all that other stuff that was so important to us back then as young soldiers. Interesting guy, John Gorrell; spent a few tours in Viet Nam, then went back to school to get his master's degree, studied and practiced yoga, now he’s approaching his 70's and is almost totally blind. This past month he called to say he’s decided to be a student again and take up learning how to play flute. Blind he may be ... without vision and zest for life he is not. I doubt the eyes within his eyes will ever dim.

Tomorrow I'll head for Sacramento State University where one of my kids is enrolled as an English major and plays a myriad of instruments in about every musical group that Sac State has to offer. My day there will begin at the Sac State/Montana football game (he plays in marching band), and then I'll stick around for women's volleyball Sac State against Eastern Washington at 7pm (he's play in pep band). Sac State’s football team is this season, like seasons past, learning lessons that accompany an awesome amount of bottom-of-the-league-ness. On the other hand, Sac State’s women's volleyball team is this season, like seasons past, learning lessons that come with what it means to be division champs. Both ends of the winner/loser spectrum have their risks and rewards and lessons to be learned. The Wide World of Sports slogan used to remind us (does it still?) of The Thrill of Victory and The Agony of Defeat. WWII General George Patton reportedly once told his aide to remember that the ancient Roman warrior generals would, as they rode their chariots through cities after victorious battle, have servants standing aside them whispering constantly in their ears the words, "All Victory Is Fleeting."

My son let me know today that I am welcome to stay overnight tomorrow after the football game and volleyball match, and sleep on the apartment floor while he and his college friends head off to a live performance of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." I'll take him up on his offer to sleep on the floor, but no need for me to see the performance. I did both – sleep on his floor and go with him to see RHPS - a couple of weeks ago. Both were very different scenes than my college days at West Point. Just use your imagination! And, I have to admit ... both were cool!

This Monday (Oct 15) responding to another USF request I'm to deliver an experiential two-hour opening session to a weeklong program for their part-time MBA Candidates, i.e. full-time in the work force plus going after their MBA in the evenings. USF's formal request stated: "We envision [your] session offering guidance to students on how they can begin to apply the personal insight gained in exercises earlier that day (in addition to other work they've done in these areas). These exercises are part of sessions helping students to identify their values/passions and set goals. The [day] immediately following [you] invites students to identify companies where they might wish to work (intern). Later sessions cover self-marketing, networking, informational interviewing, and resume development." My response ... "OK, let's do it ... and get them in touch with what makes them tick, who they are, what really matters to them as human beings ... after all isn't that what Ignatius Loyola - soldier, priest, saint, and founder of the Jesuit Order from which USF receives its moral compass - was all about?" Among other things I plan to have them examine (as my aikido sensei does with me and others on the mat, i.e. using the physical body) the purpose for which they seek advancement, what "grabs" them, how they engage when faced with multiple pressures, how they blend, listen, communicate, and maintain integrity (or not) ... plus four questions that have been favorites of mine for many years: (1) Who are you? (2) Where are you going? (3) What difference does your life make? (4) What does it matter that you are alive today? Sounds like fun, no?

Dr. Tim Peterson, head of the Fellows Program at Texas A&M, called today. Our topic: the Samurai Game at next year's Organizational Behavior Teacher Conference, training & certifying other professors to run the simulation at their colleges ... and (of course) this weekend's football game – A&M’s Aggies vs. Texas Tech’s Red Raiders. Both (Samurai Game and this weekend’s football game) will have winners and losers ... and life-long lessons that could matter provided someone remembers.

I'm ending today's entry sitting at my office window overlooking Prospect Street. Three little kids ... probably each 9 or 10 years old ... just walked up onto my porch and rang the doorbell. I opened the door. All grins, they asked, "Hi, wanna buy some lollipops?" I responded, "How much?" They answered, "Fifty cents each!" I said, "How many you got?" They looked in a bag and replied, "Three!" To which I said, "OK, I'll buy 'em all ... and then you'll probably be back here on Halloween trick-or-treating and get 'em all back. Not a bad business." Their eyes and grins got bigger. Nobody knows where these three pint-sized entrepreneurs will be or what they'll be dreaming of when college days come their way. But from the transaction that just happened they'll probably do just fine. Imagine: selling something for a buck and a half that you'll receive back for nothing in just 19 days. Not because the product is bad ... but because the customer/client enjoyed the transaction so much that he or she wants to share product value back with you. That's a business, a marketing strategy and an investment concept worth any MBA candidate's attention.

Oh ... one last thing. At Lombardi's Downtown Deli #2 today the background music (behind my house specialty salmon sandwich) was the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit song "Teach Your Children". In case you don't recall the lyrics or you never really paid attention or you have never heard them ... here you go. Quite a message.


You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Review Of and Lessons From Deep Survival

It's not often a book comes across my desk that I rave about. I'm frequently recommending good books because there actually is a lot of good stuff (old and new) out there that supports constructive personal and professional growth, leadership, team effectiveness and awareness: e.g. The Silent Pulse (George Leonard), Coming To Our Senses (Jon Kabat-zinn), The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes & Posner); and past stalwarts like In Search of the Warrior Spirit (Richard Strozzi-Heckler) and Mastery (again ... George Leonard), plus some that get you thinking with an aesthetic touch - Zen Guitar (Philip Sudo) and Illusions (Richard Bach ... remember him?). To recommend is common. To rave is rare.

Not to take anything from the above-mentioned authors and their listed works, here’s a rave about Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why (Laurence Gonzales). You must, should, ought to get this book. In a recent email to selected clients I advised them "if you don't own it, buy it; if you own it, read it; if you've read it, read it again ... and then recommend it to others."

Background. Last month Chuck Root, Managing Director of Double-Eagle Financial, attended the Allied Ronin Summer Retreat and gave all attendees a copy as a gift. A few days later on a flight to Phoenix I cracked open my copy. Last week I finished it. No, it's not a difficult read; that's not what took the time. In fact, it hits straight and hard and is well researched and documented, combining philosophy with current understanding of brain functioning, and it’s a fun and quick read. I just really wanted to absorb and take it in what was there, make margin notes, highlight and cross reference to other readings and life experiences ... and jam as many personal scribbles inside the front cover as possible.

While reading I recalled that a friend and classmate from the Academy recently told me he was reading it too. He's not a "touchy-feely" kind of guy. Rather, he's an avowed get-to-the-point-make-a-profit-run-it-hard-turn-and-burn businessman. But he has depth of spirit, a sense of feeling and a great heart and he firmly believes in people - particularly his family, friends, clients and those who work for him. He knows compassion and empathy to his bones – I know this because I know some of his history. So his endorsement made my reading even more poignant.

Here's my endorsement. I've just finished reading Deep Survival and today I am starting to read it again. That’s right, front cover to back cover – every word. This time even more slowly. It's that good. The messages and research are that important. Here are three reasons (though there are more) why I’m recommending you do the same.

Number 1. The lessons from my own could-have-been-a-near-death event of January 1997. While taking a leisurely walk on Capitola Beach (Santa Cruz, CA) with my friend John Gallagher I had a serious accident. This was walk for which I was ill-prepared and throughout which (until the moment of the accident) I disregarded my internal voice which was saying quite loudly, "What are you doing hiking over these slime covered boulders wearing smooth soled shoes and dress jacket? Sure it's beautiful out here ... but right now you are in the wrong place with the wrong equipment!" About 30 minutes into the walk in a very remote section I fell off a large rock and severely severed my left femur - a complete split 10" in length starting at the ball joint and spiraling down the shaft.

My first reaction were words of denial, "Uh, John, I think I've dislocated my hip." In fact, I had heard the bone snap ... and so had John. That denial plus the events that happened between that moment and the next morning’s surgery is another story for a different, though related chapter. But for this newsletter and this book review/endorsement let's just say that the accident gave rise to two months of rehab during which I questioned a lot of what my life was about and what I felt was important. My days of reflection informed me that if I could just communicate a singularly important message regarding the need to BE HERE NOW then this could be one of the greatest services I might provide others - individuals, businesses, students, teachers – in my life.

Archimedes said, "Give me a place to stand with a lever and I will move the whole world." Question: What determines the effectiveness of a lever? Answer: The focal point. To Be Here Now is, in my opinion, the focal point for many of life’s levers. Laurence Gonzales hits the need to BE HERE NOW over and over again in Deep Survival. Yes, he uses those exact words. From jet jockeys to mountain climber to corporate executives to snow mobile experts to river rafters to moms and dads, to artists ... it doesn't matter the profession, occupation or avocation … BE HERE NOW is THE KEY.

I have a sign taped to the wall at home ... a saying I came up with recently: "The NOW has NO COMPARISON." The message: each time you try to compare what is happening in the now to something else you in fact miss the moment that is now. As a result you lose ground. You move out-of-touch with reality. You are most likely trapped by the past and, sadly, you probably don’t know it. You are not living! You are reacting. I suggest that comparing the now to something else is a wide spread phenomena and habit; and that it’s become normal and is the cause for why we humans tend to repeat so much of our past – especially the parts of the past that we swear we don’t want anymore.

On a flight last month from London to Los Angeles I watched a documentary about the nomadic sea gypsies living in the waters off Thailand. Of interest to documentarian was how these people are so in touch with the natural world around them (i.e. being here now) that they were able to sense the massive tsunami of December 26, 2004, as it was happening and take actions that allowed an inordinate number of them to survive when compared with other people of the region who perished. Researching these survivors the film maker interviewed an expert on their culture and found that these nomads have no word, no language construct, no concept for what we call “yesterday” or “tomorrow”. Ask one of these people, “How old are you?”, and they look at you like you are from Mars. “What are you talking about?” they would ask, because they have no concept called “age”. They sometime spend years (that’s our measurement) not seeing other family members and then decide to paddle over by for a visit. They have no “hello” or “goodbye” in their language. As a result when these family gatherings come about they do so without the extreme emotions present in most other cultures. It’s as if they went next door for a moment (our calendar might measure that moment as being 1825 days) and then came right back over. No big deal, they live in the now. The documentary ended with an equally profound observation about another word missing from their vocabulary. While they do have a natural sense of fear, they have no concept of, nor word for worry. Interesting!

Benjamin Disraeli once said, “Everyday, man crucifies himself between two thieves: the regrets of yesterday, and the fears of tomorrow.” Think about it. How much of what you want or once had (or you had the opportunity to have had) has been robbed from you by your regrets of yesterday and your worries about the future? I suggest that our culture, our society, individually and collectively, lives in regret and worry to an extreme. For evidence: take a good look at a newspaper; OR watch a popular TV sitcom or drama; OR listen five minutes of network radio news; OR watch a commercial; or listen to today’s political rhetoric. Then ask yourself, “was regret or worry used in what I just saw, read or heard?”

Number 2. Historical perspectives. Reportedly Charles Duell, head of the U.S. Patent Office in the late 1800’s was once quoted as saying, “Everything that can be invented, has been invented.” If he did say this … then was he ever wrong. I’ve often thought it would be great if we could exhume his body, load it onto the space shuttle, put an iPod on his chest and outfit him with earbuds, leave a copy of USA Today addressing the development cruise missile weaponry that uses scramjets to reach speeds on the order of 16,000 mph, leave a laptop computer on a table with instructions how to download and use Google-Earth®, put a blender and a microwave on the floor just for fun with instructions on how to make smoothies and bake a potato in a couple of minute. And then, wake him up and watch him freak out. Everything that can be invented … hasn’t. We (today) live in a reality that someone (past) would call impossible. BUT if we think in terms of the imagination, perhaps Duell had it right, assuming he actually said those words. Everything that can be invented lives in the imagination (Einstein believed this) … and therefore has already been invented at some level. Sound far-fetched? Read Steven Hawking’s work A Brief History of Time – another highly recommended book.

What’s this all got to do with Laurence Gonzales and Deep Survival? It has to do with our perceptions of reality and how we act upon perspectives with (or without) cognitive awareness. Gonzales asserts that people (including you and I) are run daily by our emotional/physical bodies and we don’t know it. We need to enhance our cognitive abilities.

Deep Survival builds upon itself. I recommend you start at the beginning and read progressively forward. Sure you can skip around if you want, but the author (a contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure magazine and winner of numerous awards) is a serious student of life and a professional. He writes what he does, in the order that he does, for a purpose. Don’t miss this!!! That being said, if you were to skip forward to page 31 would find the following, “The oldest medical and philosophical model, going back to the Greeks, was of a unified organism (here he’s speaking of the human being) in which mind was part of and integral to the body. Plato, on the other hand, thought of mind and body as separate, with the soul going on after death. Aristotle brought them back together again. But it seems that people have been struggling with the spit for a very long time, indeed, probably because they innately feel as if they have minds that are somehow distinct from their bodies.”

As you continue to read you will find soundly researched and scientifically based arguments for the notion of one-ness … within individuals, between systems, across borders, etc.; indeed a connectedness (if you will) that has been proposed by some of the greatest thinkers and researchers old and new, e.g. Carl Jung and Meg Wheatley. Gonzales’ selected bibliography lists in excess of eighty well-accepted texts and authors, none of them lightweight or “fu-fu” or “woo-woo”. His homework runs from Marcus Aurelius (Meditations) to Maurice and Maralyn Bailey (117 Days Adrift) to Clausewitz (On Strategy: Inspiration and Insight from a Master Strategist) to Epictetus (Enchiridion) to Jim Collins (Good to Great) to R.F. Haines (A Breakdown in Simultaneous Information Processing) to Paul Fussell (Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War) to Daniel Goleman (Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence) to Tao-tzu (Tao Te Ching) to Al Siebert (The Survivor Personality) to Shane O’Mara (Spatially Selective Firing Properties of Hippocampal Formation Neurons in Rodents and Primates) to J. O’Keefe and L. Nadel (The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map) to R. M. Yerkes and J. B. Dodson (“The Relation of Strength to Stimulus to Rapidity of Habit-Formation,” Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology) … and on and on.

Number 3. This book relates to every aspect of daily life. When Chuck Root passed out copies last month my first impression was this would be a series of vignettes about mountain climbers and thrill seekers. I was wrong. I literally judged a book by its cover. Something many of us do with people and organizations and companies and philosophies. We judge by what we first observe (their covers) … then we shove our thinking into a box called the past … and it gets us into trouble.

Gonzales takes us through current research and understanding of brain chemistry and functioning. From this you will get a clear and basic knowledge of what each of us walks with every day that impacts our every moment whether you or not you want to believe it … the amygdala, functioning of the left and right brain hemispheres, pattern-recognition, nerve synapses, the hippocampus, etc. These are at work, even without our understanding or awareness; yes, even in this moment as you now read these words. They are at work right now, and will affect you today as you study for a test (if you are a student); or ask a girl or guy out on a date or you are wanting to break up or (if you are “looking around” or doing the opposite); or take your kids to school or change a diaper (if you are a parent); or go surfing or skinny dipping or water skiing or swimming (if you are on vacation); or run into a burning building or a forest fire or a bar fight or a domestic dispute (if you are a fireman or police officer); or buy or sell stocks or bonds or real estate (if you have money to invest or otherwise “play with”) … in short, no matter what you are up to today.

My own reflection. I found Deep Survival giving me a clearer understanding of myself, particularly in relationships – what I seek and avoid and why, what I am attracted to, what I’m blind to, what I am averse to, what I rush towards against all better judgment, what I attend to and (alas) what I disregard or want to pretend just isn’t so. Deep Survival also allowed me to better understand patterns of attitude and action that exist outside of myself, i.e. in other people, most importantly in those people I am or have been very close to or intimate with, and how I can make sense of these patterns. I found my first reading to be, in a word, unsettling. This is good, because being unsettled allows me (perhaps you too?) the opportunity to look anew and take fresh courses of action.

Deep Survival now becomes a highly suggested book for my friends and loved ones, and of course for those who have been and will be touched by the work of Allied Ronin. Get it. Read it. Take notes. Dog-ear it. Think about it … and then think about it some more. Read it again. Recommend it to others. And if you will --- Take Bold, Yet Mindful Action!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Blogging from Poland

Two days visiting Warsaw prior to heading off to CentrumKongresowo-Szkoleniose Magellan in Wolborz, Poland the forest hotel venue where on Wednesday we (Pawel Olesiak, Pawel Bernas and I) lead the Samurai Game for Pierre Fabre Medicament(pharmaceutical) company.

Monday I decided to really walk the city - Warsaw - to rid the jet lag(which, by the way, this trip didn't work). Out the door at 10am and on and on and on for 4 and 1/2 hours into and throughout Centrum Warsaw.

Ninety-four percent of the city was totally flattened in Sept '44 by German forces while Stalin's armies stood across the Vistula River and watched 200,000 die in a 62 day assault on the city. Who was is that said war is an extension of politics? I don't remember, but I do remember that the great war in Europe which began in 1939 did so as Germany and the Soviets made a political pact to carve up Poland for their own mutual benefit. Here, in this city, five years later their war machines came face to face. One watched while the other wipe out the city. "Politics," Dr. Jeff McCausland (CBS Radio) reminds us, "is often a matter of kicking a can down the street for the next guy to deal with." Russian and Germany kicked the can down a street, and left nothing much for anyone else. Russia ultimately got the can ...well at least until seventeen years ago when the Polish people rose up and took it back ... which history shows is exactly what the Polish people have always done, i.e. taken their country (the can) back from all invaders. From an outsiders view, they've been doing very well since. Sure there are problems; what nation doesn't have problems. But here this country appears to be growing and very vibrant. Strikingly a head of Slovakia and Hungary.

There's literally nothing left of old (like 400 years ago) Warsaw.But, the rebuild is impressive, with a definite flair of Dutch influence mixed in. Why the Dutch, I thought? Don't know, but given what I've seen elsewhere in Poland, Holland's thumbprint is very much part of this country's lineage.

Inside Warsaw ... tucked away here and there ... you'll find half a brick building or half a wall. Testaments to a past of just 63 years ago reminding the youth that what once was done (rather undone) can happen again. But, are the young people listening? Do they care?

In June during my first visit to Warsaw a man in his early forties spoke to me about the problem facing his country today: the youth have no comprehension of what it was like even 17 years ago. His story(which he lived as a teenager): "Back then there were lines to get bread; buying chocolate was out of the question; having to wait months to purchase a refrigerator was common, and after the wait father and mother settled for whatever became available and were grateful. Kids today have no idea. They don't know. They've heard about it. But it's so un-real to what you see. It's as if it never happened. It certainly didn't happen to them. They don't believe it could happen again. But it can."

This week as I walked around I'd have to agree. I thought if such a story were to be suggested to an outsider walking with me the listener may reply, "Impossible ... here?" There is not much un-modern,un-appointed, un-fashionable, un-drivable, un-electrified, un-marketable or un-marketed, un-advertised, un-sexy, un-anything around. As I was leaving on this trip I told someone I was headed for Warsaw and their response was , "Well you'll see a lot of old Soviet style buildings."Hmmmmmm ... not really.

I walked the tunnels under the streets ... how you get across big streets in Warsaw ... and what did I see? Shops. Everywhere. What can you buy? What do you want ... that's what you can buy ... and it's pretty good quality, too.

On Tuesday my partners, Pawel Olesiak and Pawel Bernas, took me by car on a tour for "something special" before leaving for the countryside for the Pierre Fabre conference. The something special was WinalowPalace. Built in the mid 1600's it became the home to Poland monarch's. How it survived the onslaught of Warsaw I don't know but it did. Today's it's interior walls are covered with fine oil paintings,mostly portraits. Hundreds ... maybe thousands of paintings. The upper reaches of the palace are noticeably low ceilinged. The doors were made for short people. The floors are oak planks. It is aone-of-a-kind treasure. Too bad we only had an hour. To view for yourself go to then click on the British Flag in the upper right hand corner of that website (unless you want to wade through the Polish version). Quite detailed.

I have to say, though, that it was on the way off the palace grounds that I had one of my two most moving moments of this whole week. Therein midst the manicured gardens of Winalow, just having left the old palace. Looking down the path could see a woman standing. On a bench was a man sitting, hunched over. She singing. He playing an accordian. Two gypsies making music and ... making money. I was a ways off and didn't want to disturb them or somehow dishonor them, but wanted their picture. See attached.

My second most moving moment? Two hours later. Driving down the highway. Flat, green Polish countryside. Corn stalks. Forests. Blue sky. Hugh white clouds. Off in the distance black thunderheads and lightning. Two story brick and stone farm houses skattered across fields. A guy leading two cows by rope. A couple of young women pushing bikes up a path. And as we're zipping down the road ... there next to the road ... sitting on a wood bench ... her back flat,straight against the brick and stone side of what must be her home on her feet ... long dress to her ankles ... a sweater ... a scarf covering her head ... sits a woman, maybe in her 80's. And I wonder, "What has she seen?"

I couldn't get to my camera fast enough. But I'll never lose the picture.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blogging from China

Wenzhou – August 4, 2007

This is China.

Yes, so are the other cities I’ve been to over the past few months –
Beijing, Shanghai, Haining, etc. … but this IS China. Large, urban
constantly moving, not “getting ready for the Olympics”, gritty city
China. Right now the sun is a large hot smog-screened ball burning
through the haze scorching the skin. I don’t know it, the scorch, but I
feel it.

WHAT DO I NOTICE? The grit and grime. In the air. On the sidewalks. On
my skin. On the cars. On the bicycles.

What do I notice? The traffic flow, sometimes dangerously making no
sense – like other things in life – slipping past itself scarcely
missing death and injury in a disorderly form of order. The people get
by … don’t we all.

What do I notice? Along side the street where I walk adjacent to the
outdoor fruit market the stench of rot, yet the fruit is OK, it’s
edible, it’s nutritious. I guess the smell is yesterday’s discards or
juices mixed in with the dirt and the spit and the wash water left by
those who want to keep things clean.

What do I notice? The young woman riding past me on her bike who turns
and stares at me (the white guy in cargo shorts), and laughs and grins
and keeps looking like I’m from some of alien … and, of course, I am.

What do I notice? The puppy, maybe less than a week old still in its
world of wobbliness. The one year old kid sitting in diapers on the
sidewalk playing with a bowl full of small bolts and screws ( I
remember doing the same thing when I was a boy at grandma’s house –
‘cept I wasn’t that young). The city roadside shop keeper, legs propped
on a chair … no one else in the shop.

What do I notice? Old men and women … maybe not as old as they look ..
walking underneath the freeway (I don’t think it’s called “freeway”
here) scavenging wood into pots and bowls, and I wonder what will
become of the wood … and what will become of them – probably the same

What do I notice? A man peddling a three wheeled awning covered taxi
cab (they’re everywhere) and placing his right foot on a break attached
to the frame above the front tire. The motor scooters. I saw a Harley

What do I notice? Lexus, Buick, Audi, Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan,
Honda. (Some of this is really curious given the anti-Japanese
sentiment here. Kind of like, “I hate you, but I’ll drive your car.
Thank you very much.”)

What do I notice? People love it if you smile at them… well most people
do. One guy looked at me like I was just plain stupid.

What do I notice? The trees and grasses are green. The buildings and
streets are brown. There are no clouds, but I can’t see the sun right
now. Funny it was here a while ago … but not the sky… it’s gone …
haven’t seen blue up there at all. It’s either gray or grayer.

What do I notice? The fumes of diesel, tobacco, coal, gasoline and who
knows what else.

What do I notice? People – walking, biking, working, physically active
everywhere. They’re all thin – regardless of age – well most are. Oh
sure there’s a fat one now and then. But over ninety percent (my guess)
are in surprisingly good shape. Hmmm.

What do I notice? I haven’t seen a 24-Hour Fitness Gym anywhere.

I begin to think – these are hearty people. And then I think that maybe
a hostile environment makes for being in-shape. If they had to they
could take care of themselves … because they already are. They seem to
move in peace, but don’t (screw) with them.

Then I think .. there are signs … billboards … now and then advertising
the military.
Then I think of my country where similar signs exist – in magazines and
on TV (I guess, because I don’t watch TV at home). And I think “citizen
And I think … I remember … an “ism” from my days when I was in the Army
and was instructed that the regular army was meant to be a ready force
that would exist to absorb the initial shock of war (in other words
“die”) so as to give time for the average citizens time to gear up and
sustain the fight themselves.
And I think, “That’s alive here.”
And then I think, “That’s not alive back home.”


These people live in peace. Lots of ‘em. Getting around each other and
all the (stuff) that’s around – iron bars, scraps of paper, bricks and
concrete blocks, a pan of water I see some guy washing his shirt in.
The people are constantly moving through and around each other. I don’t
see anyone running into anyone and I haven’t seen an angry person yet.
Maybe somebody is and I haven’t noticed ‘cuz I’m just too overwhelmed
looking at all this stuff, I don’t know, I just haven’t seen one
though. But then again – they’re all kind of straight faced people and
who knows what anyone’s really feeling anyway. Feelings change all the
time. I’m sure that there’s crime, problems and all that here … it’s
planet Earth for God’s sake (yep God’s here too … maybe no religion
here … but that doesn’t mean the people don’t believe in prayer or a
Higher Power … don’t you bet on it … the woman I sat across from last
night sure looked like she was saying a blessing over her food). Yet
even though they seem to live in peace, I get the sense that … they
could be ready for … anything. And … they could probably handle it. No
questions asked.

August 6 ... following up. I saw the blue sky yesterday and mountains
and a river about three miles away that I didn't know were there. And
last night I saw something spectacularly strange. A star! Actually, it
was a planet - probably Saturn ... I guess that's the brightest one up
there right now, and the ONLY "star" in the China sky. Thinking back
from here to Shanghai to Jinan to Shenzhen and Beijing a bunch of other
place ... I guess ... yep, that's right ... it's the first "star" in
the China sky in that I've seen in probalby two years. Hostile
environment, but at least I'm having a good time star gazing.

After "star gazing" I went to a tea house ... taken there by two of the
students from the Samurai (Warrior) Game ... both are business owners.
Wenzhou is a business/manufacturing center in China. The tea house was
a magnificent and quiet place (and very un-Chinese) filled with
valuable artifacts from all over Tibet --- all for sale, and some
priced as high as US$12,000. Place is owned by a woman and a guy -
he's a devout Buddhist. See comment above about "Higher Power".

We talked about peace.
I see what I get to see, when I get to see it ... and enjoyed the

An interesting trip. Too bad it had to end so soon.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


In early July I was invited to present two very experiential programs for The Leadership Group (TLG) Santa Barbara. Then on July 14th – 18th I had the great pleasure to host the sixth Allied Ronin Leaders’ Retreat. Both TLG presentations and the Leaders’ Retreat at times featured exercises influenced by the martial art of aikido. Attendees at both – many of them CEO’s, business owners or senior executives - received a brief article attending to pressures faced in a world where technology is increasing at an almost exponential rate, while the opportunity to slow down and live a balanced daily life seems to slip away if not diligently. In an effort to serve you that article is reproduced for this month’s e-newsletter. Consider the fact that in some fashion you are proficient at something enough to be ready for big-time challenges – signifying sincere and rigorous practice in your art, craft, skill or ability. In a sense you are ready for black belt level testing. If that is the case they you will face something know as Randori. What is this? Let’s look through the lens of aikido … and then you make the translation.

Our article begins with a series of thoughts from the man who created the art of aikido. Then we glimpse three simple principles foundational to all the techniques of that art (and perhaps foundational to skills that are important to you). Next you imagine being on a mat in a learning situation and facing “your test” – and you translate that scene into the real “mat” and daily “learning opportunities” that make up your life. And finally we take note four key principles from David Baum, Ph.D. and Jim Hassinger as presented in their book, The Randori Principles.

First – Thoughts from Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido

“The Way of a Warrior cannot be encompassed by words or in letters – grasp the essence…. Instructors can impart only a fraction of the teaching. It is through your own devoted practice that the mysteries of the Art are brought to life. The techniques of the Way… change constantly; every encounter is unique, and the appropriate response should emerge naturally. Today’s techniques will be different tomorrow. Do not get caught up with the form and appearance of a challenge. Fiddling with this and that technique is of no avail. Simply act decisively without reserve. The Art … has no form – it is the study of the spirit. In your training, do not be in a hurry, for it takes ten years to master the basics and advance to the first rung. Never think of yourself as an all-knowing, perfected master, you must continue to train daily with your friends and students and progress together in the Art…. ”

Second – Three foundational principles to all techniques in this martial art (with some translation for you to consider)

• Aiki – blend with your opponent (listen, understand and move with what you encounter)

• Kuzushi – break your opponent’s balance (speak and act in the appropriate moment)

• Shisei – retain upright posture (maintain integrity)

Third – Your Test … and Your Randori – As you read … you translate this supposed situation into the real tests, grabs and hits of your daily life.

Imagine - you have been training ten years. It is time for the test – black belt. You are alone on a mat in a room (soon to become hot) surrounded by thirty potential opponents, some you know, others you may not. For the next hour of your life you will have to respond immediately to your test director (teacher – sensei). A series of foreign words with which you should be familiar will be called rapid fire - a language for action learned through the body in response to a series of strikes and grabs aimed at your head, your face, your throat, your temple, your chest, your shoulder, your wrist, your stomach, your back, your knee … in short, where ever and whenever and for as long as the teacher decides whether or not you have learned what is expected of you. Your peers, your seniors and your juniors will all be watching.

The attacks will come - open hand blade and closed fist strikes, single hand and two hand grabs, perhaps kicks, plus attacks by weapons - tanto (training knives), bokken (wooden swords) and jo (wooden staffs). Sometimes your opponents will be allowed to stand and rush you from above while you remain kneeling. Sometimes they will stand behind you with a knife to your throat or against the back of your neck. You will have to move and disarm them in ways that if the knife were real you would not be cut, and somehow the knife would end up in your hand. Through a blend of your action with the energy of their aggression, and finding the risks reversed, your attackers will submit and yield … provided you give them no room to re-engage.

During five preceding tests over the past decade your opponents gave you some “slack”, appropriate for those stages of your development. But at this level they will seek and will take every opportunity given them to keep coming at you and increase the pressure. Your pins must be true or you will falter. Your throws must work, or your opponents will not fall; they will turn on you and be in your face, they will take your center and you will be upended.

At times the test sensei will direct the opponents to deliver particular attacks. At times permission will be given for jiuwaza (free form) and an opponent (you won’t know who until it happens) will attack anyway he or she wants and will change the attack forms at whim, coming again and again and again, as fast or slow, direct or sneaky, until they are called off.

Throughout the test you must continue – like it or not. If you are granted a rest, it won’t last longer than fifteen seconds … and getting more than one respite probably won’t happen. However, your opponents will be continually rotated on and off the mat. In this way they will remain fresh and relaxed, being always prepared fully able to move against you. You won’t know in what order they will be called. You must be ready … all the time. Is this randori? No, not yet. Randori happens at the worst possible time … at the end of the test.

It has been fifty-some minutes. You are tired. The test sensei directs you to sit seiza (on your knees, your butt resting on your heels) in the center of mat. He picks three or four opponents to similarly sit around you, each about fifteen feet away. He waits and then with his hand … he strikes the mat. The attackers simultaneously stand and rush you. This is randori. What do you do? Who knows, but you’d better do it. The time for figuring out what to do no longer exists: no time for scheming or making excuses; no one is going to let up, no one and nothing is going to rescue you, and if you don’t empty your mind of everything except for the fact that you are right here right now, you will be in trouble. Everything about you – your body, your thoughts, your emotions - must surrender into the notion of flexibility. You have to move yourself again and again and again without predictability or pattern, and you must live AIKI, KUZUSHI, SHISEI. As this occurs those who attack will hopefully miss or glance off you, falling to the mat or stumbling into each other as they attempt to grab and/or strike your side, your arms, front and back, in a line or from different angles, alone or in pairs. But know this: however it unfolds and for as long as it unfolds, your attackers will rise again. They will not give up. What the sensei is waiting for – looking for - is a moment when surrounded you are caught, with all attackers pressing in on you, because in that moment something crucial must happen. You must give up what you think will work to free yourself, and yet continue moving. You have to remain present, no matter how fatigued, you have to relax and blend, and you have to enter into every minute opportunity presented by your attackers and your environment. You will not be able to “out do” your opponents to survive. Rather, you will have to meet the person inside yourself and come alive with him or her. The Japanese kanji for this is a union of dagger and heart, and it means “to persevere”. The Japanese word KiKi, meaning crisis, becomes a reality. KiKi - every crisis is composed of two things: (1) Danger/Risk; and (2) Opportunity.

When your randori is complete this test is over – but if you are growing there will most likely be other tests in your future. Randori – facing multiple attack, you (individual, team, organization) must put yourself in the right place, with the right action, at the right time, and with the right amount of power. For 3,650 days (give or take some) you were a beginner. If you pass the test you can wear a black belt and are now considered … a new student.

And Finally … The Four Randori Principles” (from David Baum’s & Jim Hassinger’s book “The Randori Principles”)

    1. FULL POWER PRESENCE - Leadership Worth Following (You must at all times practice and refine your ability to Be Here Now)
    2. TENKAN – Turning Resistance Into Collaboration (You must be willing to Turn and Look at every situation from new perspectives including from a perspective that is completely opposite to your current stand)
    3. IRIMI – The Single Sword Strike (You must be willing to Enter Into A Crisis – as would a fireman or a police officer or a mother lifting a car off of her trapped child)
    4. GET OFF THE MAT – The Skill of Disengagement (You must study human interaction … individual and group … and from that study increase your ability to Know What’s Too Much, What’s Too Little … and most importantly … When To Stop What You Have Been Doing)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

July 11, 2007 – Santa Barbara.

Yesterday here was cloudy, cool and so very pleasant. It’s been thirty-five years since my last visit to this beautiful California bay city, surrounded by mountains. Then it was for a high school friend’s wedding, following our mutual college graduations June of ’72… he from UC SB and me from a, let us say “more structured place” (info on that school is found at

This week’s trip, though, was to assist The Leadership Group – currently serving CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s and company owners in the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles area, though I doubt they limit their selection to people from only these areas. Two days were dedicated to two separate groups – one for senior managers, the other for company owners. Each day’s discussion began with the individuals checking in with each other regarding how their past month has unfolded re: personal and professional goals. Nice … accountability from the get-go. Then it was time for presentation – my offer. Topics presented were: Be Here Now, the Five Step Leadership Process, The Randori Principles (see Baum & Hassinger’s book by same name); and the fundamental concepts underpinning aikido, namely “aiki”, “kuzushi” and “shisei”. All of this was interactive and a lot of fun.

Participants were put into action pairs. They tugged and pushed on each other (quite literally), discussed meaningful issues about the challenges they now face, translated the exercises we did (all founded on aikido practices) into solutions – business and personal. It was very heartening to witness the willingness displayed by each person and the value they created for each other regarding issues that matter to them.

A big THANK YOU to Dan Waldman, CEO of Forester Communications ( . Dan and I were introduced to each other by Bob Dunham( ) two years ago when I led a Samurai Game for Bob’s organization. Both have attended the Allied Ronin Leaders’ Retreat.

Should you or someone you know be interested in what The Leadership Group has to offer I highly suggest you contact Kim Johnson at 805-968-2344 or send email . Even if you have to fly to Santa Barbara on a periodic basis to participate … from what I can see, it is well worth the effort, scheduling and financial costs to engage with such top-notch people.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Taking Five Steps

© Lance Giroux, 2007

Working with organization all over the world on human effectiveness, especially with respect to topic of leadership, has afforded me opportunities to see how well organizational principles translate into those needed for healthy personal relationships in general, and for those we could have with our youth and children, in particular.

In his best selling book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter Senge says, “Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs.” What more fundamental an organization could there be for the study, application and development of healthy human effectiveness than what we call family? My past thirty-two years observing human interaction, communication and miscommunication have shown me that many of our problems - business to geopolitics -are rooted by influences affecting the fundamental beliefs and behaviors established during one’s adolescent years. This observation is reflected by scholars and some well-know authors, e.g. M. Scott Peck and The Road Less Traveled. We can invent mobile telephones and HDTV’s; satellite navigation systems used by private pilots, soldiers, car rental companies, and large trucking fleets; and iPods more powerful than the largest computers available when I was a cadet at West Point in the early 1970’s. But when it comes right down to it, it’s people and what’s going on in their minds and hearts, that in the long run always matters and makes a difference. When a mechanical system fails, when the electricity goes out, when your car is out of gas, the train derails, when the computer crashes … who is going to take action? The answer is, and always has been, one human being willing to roll up his or her sleeves, take a risk and attract others to join in the effort.

In an effort to help organizations get things accomplished with excellence Stephen Covey points out in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that we ought consider the distinction between what is important and what is urgent and orient our thoughts and actions toward the former. He argues that managers fall into traps of failure when between these two - importance and urgency – the lines have become blurred. One has a long-term orientation and the other is short-term in consequences and thus conveniently occupies (probably unfortunately) our daily living. We opt for the short-term bustle of the urgent, Covey asserts, rather than take on the taxing and more challenging task of attending to what should be important. Translated into a family situation – how much time do we truly communicate with our children and youth about what matters in our hearts and minds versus how much time do we spend telling them what to do or not to do next (at best) or telling them what we haven’t the time to talk about (at worst)?

In 1994 I developed a five-step method designed to assist organizational executives with the important challenge of developing leaders within organizations. These five steps were influenced by lessons I learned at West Point and then in the Army, and later in business. As I began to use these five steps I saw a need for exposing them to moms and dads and teachers – so that their lives could be more fruitful with kids. You know, the people who will eventually (probably more sooner than later) be parents and teachers themselves, and run organizations and states and nations.

Rule number one to applying this methodology, and perhaps the most important thing to remember from this reading today is: Be Here Now. This means, get present and stay present with what’s happening all around you and inside you moment to moment. Get conscious and tend to what your senses, emotions and intuition is informing you about. A current and excellent source for how to do this is the book Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn).

The five steps then are:

Recognize the individual strength or uniqueness of the persons you are attempting to develop. (This means you have to really pay attention to them.)

Encourage and inspire these persons to develop, practice and unleash their own (not your) strengths and uniqueness. (These words were carefully chosen.)

Give these people a sense of direction … but make absolutely certain that in doing this you and they are grounded in shared principles and values. (Direction not grounded in shared values leads to conflict and revolution.)

As often as possible, get out of their way as they go about developing their strengths, talents and uniqueness. (In other words … let them think, struggle, create and own their results!)

Learn sincerely from them. Apply what they can teach you to your daily living… and acknowledge them for having contributed to you. (The most motivational thing you can do.)

Think for a minute … what if we could use these five steps more often at home and in school? What if we truly saw our children for who they are and could be rather that what we think they should be? What if we allowed our children to be OK with their fears (encouragement) and if we could breath life into their world by healthy actions of our own (inspiration) and then made sincere efforts to repeat this kind of an allowance on daily basis (practice)? What if we showed our kids healthy options through our own actions rather than “do as I say … not as I do”… i.e. what if we walked our own talk? What if we allowed for failure (theirs and ours) and talked with them about it and the accountable and responsible learning that can grow from failure rather than press for the stiffness of perfectionism? What if the younger ones could through direct action see how their efforts inspire changes in our “adult” lives? How much of a contribution could we collectively make to future generations?

To paraphrase Peter Senge: Families and schools learn only through parents, children, teachers and students who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee that families will be healthy and schools will be good. But without individual learning, healthy families, schools and communities simply will not occur. Ours is a dynamic world … not a static vacuum.

Monday, June 18, 2007

China – June 18, 2007

Here for the last week of a two week tour: Warsaw, Poland to Malibu, California to Beijing .. and finally expected home on June 14. In Poland had the great fortune to work again with Aiki-Management’s founders, Pawel Bernas and Pawle Olesiak, this time for a full-day program serving 140 members of the Roche Corporation. A very energetic group, I think they were beyond surprised at what they could accomplish in such a short time, though I wish we could have taken a full two days. The impact of being in Warsaw was surreal for me. This is a city many hundreds of years old, but everything visible dates from 63 years ago. Ninety-four percent of the city was completely flattened in September, 1944 during a 62-day long battle. Most if not all of the old-city’s generations were wiped out or fled and never returned. Though the King’s Square (central area) has been rebuilt to reflect the old (albeit with Dutch influence) the current inhabitants live in constant remembrance in an eerie and ultra modern way.

From Warsaw I arrive into Malibu on June 13th for the 2007 Organizational Behavior Teachers Conference, held this year at Pepperdine University with hundred sixty of the top leadership and organizational behavior professors and practitioners from the US and the world. What did I hear loud and clear? That theses teachers are concerned that unless things change, environmentally and politically – and rapidly so – that we are set for dire times. Where once only heard in small discussions around the dining room table at OBTC, this weeks’ voices sounding an alarm were quite loud and from the plenary floor. They see an overwhelming need for strong ethical leaders who will take on the hard problems for the long term rather than looking for quick fixes and fasts profits. And they see it throughout our nation – organizations large and small and including on their own campuses.

A side note: I purchased a copy of Bill George’s new book, “Finding True North.” Bill George is the former CEO of Medtronics and now a professor of management at the Harvard Business School. No he was not at this year’s OBTC (though Pepperdine was my first opportunity to see his book in print). He was at the Gallup Leadership Institute conference that Dr. Tim Peterson (Texas A&M) and I attended last year in Washington, D.C. I strongly suggest you buy Bill Georges’ book. I have yet to hear someone of his caliber so strongly state the need for servant leadership and public stewardship.

One of the good things about the OBTC is that the sessions are designed for attendees to take back to their classrooms and implement. And … I will … beginning with July at the sixth Allied Ronin Leaders’ Retreat.

From Malibu I arrived into Beijing yesterday. Here to serve one of three training organizations that has been using the Samurai Game®. I’ll be here five days and am just settling in. But, here’s today’s report. Visibility is three quarters of a mile … max. No it’s not overcast or fog. You can see the sun, in fact you can look directly at it today, staring for a long time no strain or pain to the eye. Smog. Heavy. Wet. Pungent. Skin tingling. Breath-cutting. Normal. Making a bad-day-in-LA look crystal clear. More later.