Monday, February 26, 2007

February 25th- From Egypt

Today is Sunday, February 25. Tomorrow I leave for home after almost a week in Egypt. It will be a two hour early morning drive to Cairo from Palmera Beach Resort, Ain El Sukhna on the Gulf of Suez. This conference, the 2007 International President's Meeting, is the most important annual gathering AIESEC International. It brings together each current country president and each newly elected country president from ninety countries.

For nine days two hundred plus people examine and account for how they are doing with respect to a strategic vision which must be accomplished by 2010. They are also here to create, discuss and legislate new policy, choose their new International President, six new international Directors and six functional Vice Presidents. They are here to have a good time. And ... they are here to examine themselves as leaders on an individual and personal level.

In this regard, leadership - individual and personal, the new elects are mine all day on day three - Thursday - for twelve hours of experiential leadership developmental training. This is my second year to assume and deliver this portion of the conference.

These are some of the brightest and most energetic young people in the world. College juniors, seniors and master's degree candidates - each fluent in many languages. They thrive on getting things accomplished within international communities and frameworks, working long hours at fast pace with short deadlines and limited resources, playing hard and reflecting deeply.

We begin. I ask what they've heard about the event we're going to create, and request that each establish and clarify for him/herself a personal purpose for the day, and move around the room to share with other new elects what this individual purpose is. Five minutes later we reconvene and listen as some begin to dialogue what has been discussed. They know today is the Samurai Game®. They have all ideas about this. But nobody knows exactly what will happen; only that the stakes are high - one's life - metaphorically speaking. Every purpose mentioned is significant. They have already have to understand that today is a one shot deal. Live it as if it's the only one you'll ever have - first day/last day; or as a samurai might explain, ichigo ichie.

Then someone asks me, "Why do you come here?"; Most of them know about my involvement a year ago in the Netherlands at the 2006 International President's Meeting, and the country conferences involving the Game that followed in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. My response is, "To serve." This is the oldest and largest international student run organization. It has 20,000 active members committed to constructive leadership, global conflict resolution and a sustainable living
environment. It's only natural to accept the invitation again knowing our involvement with each other will, by ripple effect, touch approximately 2,000,000 people worldwide over the next four to six weeks. Most of the delegates will be highly sought after by companies, NGO's, and government organizations that know the value of having AIESECers on their teams as future leaders. Some of the scouts and
recruiters are already here.

The day was fantastic. They came from Senegal, Latvia, Russia, Japan, China, France, Romania, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Canada, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Bosnia, Brazil, Australia, Peru, Portugal, Iceland, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Taiwan, Mexico, South Africa ... and on, and on, and on. They laughed and got serious and played hard and died (sort of) and came back and challenged each other - wholehearted and generous in everything. It was a day filled with choices, chaos, crisis, disappointment, victory, testing of honor, loss, courage, positive "grabs" and negative "grabs," unfairness and beauty and grace and how to look at each day of life through a vivid lens. Were they satisfied? No. More like - blown away in a positive sense.

A young Kenyan approached me when our day was complete, placed a small booklet between my palms, caught my gaze with his, somewhat reddened, and offered seven short words, "I have something for you, a gift." He stepped back, caught my gaze again and walked away. I opened it and saw he had written inside the cover, "Thank you for helping me discover myself. Thank you for helping me open my heart. Domo Arigato, Kevin." I brought The Little Blue Book Kenya by Kevin Chege, back to my room to save and read on the plane ride home.

Friday, the day following our event, I played tourist ... heading into Cairo and Giza to the Pyramids and Sphinx, and on to the Egyptian National Museum. All overpoweringly magnificent. How else can you explain ten thousand years of history staring you in the face? Returning to the resort, that evening was dedicated to the annual international awards banquet and the announcement of next six International Directors selected from twenty candidates. It was an evening of emotions that ran the complete spectrum for candidates and delegates alike.

Saturday was to be my day of rest, yet with a promise to be available to every new elect at his/her convenience for individual debrief of their leadership/Game experience and lessons learned, loosely translated: "campus office hours 8am until 8pm." At 8pm I decided to call it a night and head for bed, when one of the African contingent invited me to "The African Party" to start at 10pm. "OK." So off to my room and wait. What to do until the party? Read Kevin Chege's Little Blue Book Kenya. That's when I found a new answer and insightto the inquiry asked of me so many days before by one of the delegates, "Why do you come here?"

To be continued ....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

George Leonard- The Silent Pulse

George Leonard will speak about his newly-released book: The Silent Pulse — A Search for the Perfect Rhythm That Exists in Each of Us.

This startlingly transformational book reveals our kinship with the entire universe and all its wonders. To read it is to meet ordinary and extraordinary people who have uncovered remarkable human capacities. The Silent Pulse captures a poetic beauty within a true adventure story.

WHEN: Wednesday, February 21, 2007, 7:00 PM
WHERE: The Book Depot, Throckmorton & Miller Avenues, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Game IS Preparation and Practice

It's a Monday morning. Gray, drizzly and wet here in Petaluma, California. A parade of kids, moms and dads are making their morning march - umbrellas bobbing like so many flowers down Walnut Street past my front office bay window to Saint Vincent's School just down the street. They (the umbrellas) relate the fact that, yes it is winter. Yet they herald news that Spring is just around the corner ... and like buds and blossoms beginning to appear on the trees the umbrellas bring their cheery hues - yellows, reds, purples. Life goes on. People are learning. Things are changing.

This week is a prep week, as many weeks are. But this one is bigger than usual. Thursday, February 15th, is departure day for College Station, Texas where, on Friday and Saturday, will be the second annual delivery of a leadership program for the Texas A&M University Fellow. My host will be Fellow's Director, Dr. Tim Peterson. Readers of past Allied Ronin newsletters will recall that he and I presented at the Gallup Leadership Institute Summit a few months ago. Tim brought me and Samurai Game® to Oklahoma State University (where he was a faculty member three years ago) after participating in the Game at the Organizational Behavior Teachers Conference. He left OK State in 2005 for bigger challenges at Texas A&M. I've been kidding him that if he's not careful somebody will draft him to join Robert Gates (past President of TAMU) at the Department of Defense. Tim just cringes and says, "No way!". Anyhow ... we will co-facilitate the Game for about fifty (50) TAMU Fellows this coming weekend.

Sunday I depart TAMU for Kansas City, MO, and meetings with my client and friend George Hersh, CEO of GMJ and owner of the Sports Associated Companies. Sports Associated exclusively handles all North American expositions of motorcycles and small watercraft for Suzuki, Yamaha and Ducati. George is the individual most responsible for the creation of the Allied Ronin Leadership Retreat. The next Leader's Retreat will be July 14-18.

Monday will depart Kansas City and head east through Chicago and London to arrive in Cairo, Egypt on February 21. There I’ll attend the AIESEC International President's Meeting (IPM). The IPM is a 10-day long event. My involvement will be the delivery of a full day leadership program which will include the Samurai Game® for approximately eighty (80) newly elected AIESEC Country Presidents.

AIESEC, the world's largest student organization, is the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential so as to have a positive impact on society. In addition to providing over 5,000 leadership positions and delivering over 350 conferences to a membership of over 22,000 students, AIESEC also runs an exchange program that enables over 4,000 students and recent graduates the opportunity to live and work in countries other than their own. February 2006 was my first involvement with AIESEC when I traveled to the Netherlands to present the Game. As a result I toured Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in November delivering the Game for hundreds of "AIESECers" in their own countries.

So this is a prep week ... and a big one. It, along with the moms and dads and kids and umbrellas, got me thinking this morning about how just important preparation really is. When I was a kid I participated in Boy Scouts. We had a motto then; it was "Be Prepared." Years later I met Jack Cirie, a highly decorated combat veteran and former lieutenant colonel, in a brief encounter that changed the direction of my life. I recall his voice admonishing me and others to - Stay Alert! - a motto frequently echoed these days by George Leonard, president emeritus of Esalen Institute, and author of a dozen books including: Mastery, The Silent Pulse, Education and Ecstasy, Walking on the Edge of the World, and The Ultimate Athlete. My friend, Richard Strozzi-Heckler similarly reminds me of this as we part company especially when I am about to travel internationally. With him it's, "Watch your six o'clock”. Maybe you’d have to have served in the military or on a police force to understand the importance of that one.

Here's what's on my mind. I'm going off in a few days to facilitate a Game, a leadership simulation. One hundred thirty people on two continents will participate in these Games. They will represent almost 100 nations from around the globe. During the fourteen days that follow my involvement, those 130 individuals will directly impact the lives of and bring their learning to over 15,000 people. By day 28 following my involvement the energy of those fifteen thousand will then ripple out to touch over 1.5 million people. Sound like a bit of an exaggeration? Not really. This is a realistic, calculated, statistically sound and even conservative estimate. So given this, how important should my preparation be? With what kind of attitude should I live the next few days knowing what the potential impact could be?

One of the bigger lessons that I try to impart with college level students ... and this is who I'll mostly interface with over the next two weeks ... is that any game (football, basketball, soccer, etc.) does not just occur on the playing field between the referee's beginning and ending whistles. A track and field athlete's race does not just occur between the moment the starter's pistol fires and the instant the runner hits the tape. The Tour d'France does not just occur for only a few weeks in France ... just ask Lance Armstrong. Attaining a certain level in a martial art – especially for black belt - does not happen on the night of the test. It happens during warm up, it happens when one is training with partners you really don’t like, and it happens when you leave the dojo and walk out on the street or into your home and live the lessons of the art that remain in your muscle memory. The "real game" is what happens off the court, off the field, off the track, off the mat … away from the stadium … as one prepares. The Master's Tournament does NOT happen in Augusta, Georgia! That’s where it ends. The Master’s Tournament happens every time the golfer takes a swing … and every time the golfer thinks about taking a swing. Good leaders understand this concept.

A good executive knows that the most important part of any negotiation happens long before she or he arrives in a conference room for the "important meeting." A good attorney knows that the trial will probably be won or lost long before the courtroom bailiff proclaims, "All Rise!" A good pilot knows his or her safety can depend on the important, yet mundane practice of frequent touch & go landings. A good soldier or police officer knows that how she or he is being with squad mates and potential squad mates during off hours can dramatically shape reality under fire. How he or she is being in the classroom or off duty, can be a matter of life or death later, not only for themselves but for members of the public they sworn to serve.

The "real game" is what happens during practice and preparation.

What's your practice? What do you put into your preparation?

When it comes to your attitude, when it comes to people and how you treat them, when it comes to your family, when it comes to your profession, when it comes to your mission, and …

When you think that no one is watching you …

What's your game?

©2007, Lance Giroux

Monday, February 05, 2007

In Charge. But In Control?

Have you ever piloted an airplane, actually been at the controls and flown it?

My mentor used aircraft as tools so me and others could deepen our understanding of certain principles and concepts for more effective living. Planes were our training platforms. The first lessons were designed to illustrate how conditioned we were to transferring past circumstances onto present situations. Here’s one of those initial lessons that we used to do live inside real planes. Reading this will be different because you’re limited to using only your ability to visualize. You can heighten your internalization by involving your body in the process while you visualize. Getting the body involved in any mental process dramatically increases understanding, application and the probability for desired results.

Imagine you are sitting in the cockpit of a small two-seater aircraft like a 1967 Cessna 150. Put yourself in the left had seat – where the pilot-in-command sits. The co-pilot or instructor (in this case, me) sits just to your right. There are a number of instruments on a panel in front of us, and we each have something similar to a steering wheel forward of our chairs. Put your left hand on the one in front of you. At our feet we each have two peddles - left and right. Rest your feet yours. In the space between our seats you’ll find a lever coming out of the floor and atop it is a button that either of us can depress allowing us to raise or lower the lever. Reach down with your right hand, depress the button and click the lever up through a couple of notches to it highest position. There it stops and will go no further.

Assuming you’ve never piloted before, what do you think the wheel you are holding is used for? Turn it left and then right. Interesting thing about it – if you push on it, will move forward into the panel… and if you pull on it, it will come back almost to your chest. With your right foot push down on the right peddle. What’s its purpose? What about the one your left foot is resting on … what is it for? Push on it. What happens in your imagination? If you are a pilot, of course you already know the answers to these questions in reality; but do you recall when you first sat in a cockpit and began to make sense of these things?

Almost always the first response from someone brand new to flying is: “Turning the wheel is – hmmmm, well it turns the plane.” And once they see that the wheel can be pushed and pulled, they say something like – “I guess this is what makes the plane go up and down. Pull back and the plane goes up; push forward and it descends… or … maybe if you pull back it will slow things down, and if you push forward we go faster?” As for the feet, often heard is, “Well, the right one’s must be for the gas – that’s our accelerator - then the left one’s gotta be the brake… and because we have no gears (or this thing has an automatic transmission) there’s no need for a third peddle which, of course would be the clutch.” What’s happening? Assumptions and transference, that’s what.

We are sitting in an environment with an arrangement and display familiar to us because we are used to driving cars. Most student pilots begin their journey into pilot-hood through an introductory process that allows them to see how quickly they act on old assumptions and begin to transfer past experiences into what they are viewing in now time. They are challenged to confront a past that has very little relevance to what is actually in front of them. If you were to try to taxi or fly the airplane and use that wheel to turn with, or the right peddle for pouring on the gas, or the left peddle to slow down and stop, or the lever between our seats as a parking break the results would be silly (at best) or deadly (at worst).

I remember my first experience taxiing the Cessna 150 that I would eventually own. I hopped into the cockpit thinking “finally I get to be in charge of an airplane.” For the next few moments I was told exactly what the peddles were for (and they’re not for gas or breaking) and exactly what the wheel is for (actually it’s called a yoke and it has nothing to do with turning right or left on the ground), and what that lever is for … and I was instructed on exactly how to taxi in good fashion to the end of the runway. My instructor then started the plane. All I had to do was execute a ninety-degree left turn, head straight for the end of the runway and then keep us going that direction. Yet, once I was put in charge my feet and hands seemed to have a mind of their own. They did exactly what they had been conditioned to do by past experience … not what I was supposed to do to succeed at this task. My hands turned hard left, but the plane kept going straight. So my left foot “hit the brake”… and we executed a fast turn to the left that went well past ninety degrees. Off course my hands tried to steer back to the right, but the plane kept going in a circle. I even pulled on the yoke as if the plane was a horse. I could hear myself saying “whoa, whoa, whoa!!” Soon I was zigzagging all over the grass, into some weeds and almost ran into a fence. Because my course corrections were based on an old set of beliefs and patterns imbedded my mind/body system nothing was going the way I wanted. I got scared and frustrated; and the more I slipped into those two mental/emotional states the more obsessed I became at trying to make my unproductive action work. (It was kind of like talking to someone who doesn’t speak your language … so you talk slower and raise your voice. Ever do something like that?) My past mental models took over and things got worse. Soon my instructor took over and brought us to a stop. I was sweating. He was laughing. Yep, finally I was in charge ... but in control – hardly.

In Meditations (CE167) Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote: “Very little is needed to have a happy life. It’s all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” That’s a very positive and uplifting notion to put forth, and one that has been stated by many other great minds – before and after the day that Aurelius wrote those words. But he could have just as easily worded his idea as an admonition for the reader to guard against counterproductive ways of being. He could have said, “Very little is needed to have a frustrated life. It’s all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

If our thinking orients towards the now, how we communicate and how we attempt to understand and learn from what is happening in the present in order to constructively move forward we are more apt to succeed than if our thinking orients to the past in an effort to maintain control by looking through lenses constructed of what we already know (or think we know). Not that the past should be discounted or ignored… not at all. Use the past, but use it with a sense of balance - wisdom and discretion - for what it is … past.

The pilot-in-command of an airplane is a decision maker; he or she is in charge. But that doesn’t mean they have control over everything. There’s a big difference between being in charge and being in control. You have a lot of authority if you’re a PIC sitting in that left seat. Real pilots-in-command have the authority to override all decisions and desires made by any and all other human beings. Most of the time, though, a PIC follows set procedures and responds to the requests or orders of others in authority – the control tower personnel, the aircraft owner, a chief of operations or the president of the airline. Why? It’s a matter of trust and because most of the time things happen as a matter of routine. But at any moment, should the PIC determine that a situation warrants something other than what’s been instructed by an authority outside of the cockpit then he or she can do anything he or she wants to ensure safe flight of that craft because the PIC has enormous life/death responsibility at his or her fingertips. But authority to override others does not come without a price. When the aircraft finally comes back to earth the PIC must account for, face the consequences of, and if need be pay the prices for all the actions he or she took.

Think about it. When was the last time you felt out of control in a new situation – a new job, a budding relationship, a fresh approach to company governance, whatever - and you got excited because you thought you were finally going to have a little more control in your life and the freedom that you thought might accompany this control. But soon after jumping into the cockpit (if you will) of this new job, relationship for form of governance, you got frustrated or scared or thought things wouldn’t work out and maybe you threw up your hands and wanted to quit. What old data was your mind/body system automatically applying to your new situation? What old thoughts were you bringing forward from your past into the now? There’s nothing wrong with using the past to help the future – it’s part of the genius of being human. But, more often than not, people reach into the past in an attempt to control the now before they truly understand what is really in front of them and what the now actually needs.

How do you know if you’re applying past mental models to a new situation? Listen to your mental chatter, that’s one way. Are you making silent comparisons, seeing someone else’s face in place of the person who’s actually in front of you … or who you’re actually talking with. Are you hearing an old voice? Do you find yourself saying, “Just like son-and-so.” Looking at the results is another way. Do you see old, undesired results creeping into the new scenario? If you do, then it’s time to slow down, stop, and step aside from yourself and ask yourself about what is really going on. Sit quietly. See what comes up for you as you look for patterns. Ask a trusted friend or professional to be your “co-pilot” for a moment or a while – someone who will have no agenda about winning your favor if they say something you like, or losing your favor if they say something you don’t like. Yes, you may be in charge. But in control … this can be an illusion.