My wife Christine and I took last week off to play with our kids because it was their Spring Break. Oh my goodness – that was really fun and really tiring!! Whatever you are up to this spring, I hope this finds you well and thriving.
Guess what I have playing on my itunes on repeat right now? “What the World Needs Now is Love” from Broadway for Orlando. This was made by a bunch of broadway artists who came together after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub. They wanted to bring a little love and light to us all back in 2016. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve belted out this song while I’m driving in our red station wagon to pick up our kids from pre-school. Please tell me I’m not the only one…and feel free to play the song and sing-along as you read along here.
We launched our Unleashing 101 workshop two weeks ago and we had 24 folks spend two days exploring the overlap between what the world needs and what they’re uniquely here to do. The photo up top is from the training: one stickie per person of what they discovered when they leaned into that question. It’s worth a closer look. This photo gives me hope for our future!
In the workshop we explored areas of genius, excellence, competence, and incompetence, using the Hendricks Institute’s framework around Genius largely captured in The Big Leap. Whenever I work with folks on this topic, I have to confess I am mostly concerned with genius. What’s the thing that lights you up – that doesn’t feel like work – that you’re really awesome at? Do more of THAT!
One of the people I was thrilled to meet at that workshop was Susan X Jane. Something she said profoundly impacted me and I wanted to share it with you. As we sat in a circle and de-briefed our discoveries, Susan said, “I realized my areas of incompetence are where I need community.”
**ding ding ding ding** OMG Yes!!
I had never thought about it that way. In fact, generally I try NOT to think about my zones of incompetence and mostly I just wish they’d go away. There’s a humility to saying, “this is what I can do, and this is where I need other people.” And my goodness do we need one another.
As a result of Susan’s question, I got curious about the places where I’m over my head and realized that I would like some more help in getting really good at seeing and interrupting oppression in any of the spaces where I show up. So I reached out for help to some folks who I know and trust in this area (including Susan). My life is richer already for having faced into my own limitations and reached out to my community and I intend to continue doing so. I am feeling humble and grateful for the gifts that others bring into my life and the power of community.
So my question for you is where could you benefit from the wisdom of others? Where do you need community? Where could you be a little more humble? Are you willing to ask for help?
p.s. What the world…needs now…is love…sweet love…
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I have this persistent nagging sense that I’m not doing enough to make the world a better place. Is it just me? Or do you feel that way too, sometimes?
I feel that way a lot.
I go into a spiral worried about of all the things that are happening with global warming and then I think when you add a history of systemic violence and racism on top of that, sheesh – things are bad and they’re gonna get worse! And I want to do so much but I don’t know where to start.
It’s not particularly helpful for me to be in this state of mind. I mean, I know better. I know that this is just a “flee-forward” taking me out the present moment.
And yet…I do this all. the. time.
Last Sunday I was unusually despondent and my wife, Christine, said, “You know…maybe what you’re doing that is most helpful is through the Billions Institute – the things you love to do the most?….Maybe?”
Me: Nah. That’s not enough…it’s just not. (continues complaining about the future).
Christine (wisely) goes about doing something else around the house while I wallow in my doom and gloom.
This week a dear friend from my 100,000 Homes Campaign days, Linda Kaufman, was our house guest. Linda is an Episcopalian Priest and she told us about a time when she, too, felt despair. Her mentor told her, “Linda, as a Christian, you don’t have the luxury of despair.” Basically her mentor told her this: get your butt back to work.
You don’t have the luxury of despair.
Today I visited my acupuncturist and told her about my concerns and how I want to do something but I don’t know what. I said I’m especially worried about refugees and building my “welcoming muscles.”
Oh, she says, a friend of mine has helped settle five Syrian refugee families into Claremont over the past couple of years. Want me to put you in touch with her?
Sometimes it’s not about large-scale change. Sometimes it’s about blooming where you’re planted. That’s true for me at least.
I’ll get to my point now! This afternoon I received an email from Willemijn Keizer at the Southern Poverty Law Center. She came through our Skid Row School over a year ago. They’ve been working around the clock to help immigrants know their rights especially given the increase in ICE arrests and raids. They came up with this brilliant, creative, dare I say subversive idea: why not embed their rights into a song? And why not have a Latin Grammy award winning band, Flor de Toloache, sing that song? And maybe we should pump that song into communities where there are a lot of improper and illegal arrests being made.
How awesome is that?
Southern Poverty Law Center tells the story best here. The song is El Corrido de David y Gloiat and available on spotify and itunes. Please spread it far and wide. And great big salute to Willemijn and her colleagues at SPLC for being so stinkin’ creative!!
We like to say at the Skid Row School that when it comes to large-scale change, there are “many ways to many.” Willemijn just dropped the mic on that one. And she wrote me a note to appreciate us for our (very small) role in provoking her and her friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center to think out of the box.
Which reminds me of the purpose of this letter: it’s never enough…but sometimes you get a high five. Willemijn – thank you for that high five! I needed that this week! Now that my heart is full with that high five (and tapping to the beat of El Corrido de David y Goliat) I want to offer to everyone who gets this newsletter this provocation: reach out to somebody who has encouraged or inspired you along the way and give them a high five before the day is done. Ready, go!
A couple years ago my wife, Christine and I went on a weekend getaway double-date with our good friends, Bob & Jane. I was so excited to see everyone and probably ate too much sugar that afternoon and Friday night I basically talked my face off to the three of them. Later that evening I realized that I had taken up more than my fair share of the air and I resolved to apologize to the group the next morning.
So there I was, sitting in the back of Bob and Jane’s mini-van, on our way to some fun destination, and I sheepishly said, “Hey there, I realize that I was talking a lot last night and I’m sorry.” I figured that’d be it. End of story. Folks would appreciate me for being so enlightened and apologizing.
Without even a hint of anger in his voice, Bob said, “When people tell me they’re sorry, I usually interpret that to mean that they’re going to do it again. I don’t want to hear that you’re sorry, I want to hear what you’re committing to going forward.”
Oh. ok. I wasn’t expecting that. felt my cheeks get hot and a wave of embarrassment come over me. And by the way, the whole situation was even more awkward because there I was sitting in the back of the mini-van, like I was a kid or something.
Then I realized Bob was right. The challenge he issued was an incredible gift for me.
So I took a minute and thought about it and came up with this, “I commit to creating space for everyone to share what’s on their minds and to listening deeply to what you all have to say.”
That seemed to satisfy my friends and we went on to enjoy a lovely weekend together.
That was about 6 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. The power of commitment and the emptiness of an apology. Fast forward to this past week and I had the tremendous privilege of spending three days with our Billions Institute Fellows in Atlanta. Our time together included a day-trip to the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. (The picture below is from the Memorial). First, let me just say this museum and memorial is a MUST VISIT for everyone who lives in the United States to begin to more fully grasp the terrorism inflicted on black people in this country that continues to this day. Especially for people who work to advance social change and/or social justice.
Second, I want to share one of my biggest learnings from my experience and the subsequent dialogues that we had in the fellowship. It builds upon the lesson I learned from my friend Bob all those years ago. Here’s my best understanding of what happens for me. When I as a person who identifies as white encounter the pain and suffering and trauma of Indigenous people or people of color, every instinct I have is to say, “I’m sorry” and obviously that is as deeply insufficient here as it was in the back of Bob’s mini-van. Then I want to leap to commitment – to action – to doing something – anything – to fix it and make it better. And absolutely yes, that is called for and appropriate. And yet – there’s something in the leaping to commitment and action in this case -for me- that represents a skipping over and a hurrying up and an “I don’t want to stay in this discomfort for another minute!!” that helps me know this is actually more about me relieving my discomfort than it is about anything else in that moment.
And this week one thing dialed in for me – that one thing I can do – one thing I can commit to, is to be with. To be fully with. To be fully present. To sit side-by-side and breathe with people I love and to acknowledge the pain and suffering and trauma. That this being with is doing something and whoo boy is it uncomfortable.
Kelsey Blackwell in her wonderful essay, “Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People” summarizes this well with this: “The only thing I want to hear from white people about race is, I’m sorry. I didn’t see. I didn’t listen. I’m working to see and listen now.
Listening deeply and being with are two of the most powerful transformation moves I can make. Period. That’s my biggest takeaway from last week and I re-commit to listening deeply and being with the people in my life.
One of my favorite things to do is speak with alumni of our Skid Row School a few months after they’ve graduated. The phone calls often go something like this:
Exchange of pleasantries.
So, Becky…the Skid Row School was great and all but…we’re kind of stuck.
Tell me more….
Having fielded dozens of these calls now I want to share with you the most common ways folks get stuck while leading large-scale change (and what you can do about them):
4. Your aim is off. Too big or too small. We recommend something in between a 5 to 10x expansion over a similar time-period from your last wave of expansion. So if it took you 3 years to get your intervention to 100 schools, in the next 3 years you could aim for being in 500 to 1,000 schools.
If this is you, you may want to proactively change your shared agreements about how much, by when. One thing that often helps is to ask for one more year. Kind of how you can buy a vowel on Wheel of Fortune. You can usually buy a year if that’s what you need.
3. Theory lock has set in. We see this all too often. You’ve chosen which “all teach, all learn” structure from our “Many Ways to Many” tool and it’s not getting you the results you’d like. Instead of getting curious that maybe there’s a better way, some people double-down on tactics that just aren’t working. Remember, the whole point to there being many ways to many is that there are…many ways to many. Not just one. For a refresher on this, check out this SSIR piece by the same name. And feel free to poke around the Many Ways to Many tool and see what it recommends for you!
2. A commitment is missing. Having a bold, quantifiable aim is one thing. Committing (and re-committing) to that aim is a whole other. It is in the committing that the aim comes to life. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way more times than I want to share. When things ain’t right, it’s at least work asking if somewhere a commitment is missing. While you cannot control objective reality, you can definitely control your decisions and actions. My mentor Katie Hendricks likes to say, “you know what you’re committed to by the results you’re getting.” Look at the results you are getting, and that will tell you what you’re committed to. If you don’t like it, time to make a new commitment. The sooner the better!
1. There’s a subconscious sabotage effort going on. This is the #1 most common challenge that I find when I’m working with our graduates and this is why we’re insistent on combining skills for personal transformation with skills for planetary transformation in all our workshops. It’s so easy to imagine that the problem is technical or “out there” but all too often it’s personal and “in here.” There’s a lot more to say about this but I’ll sum it up with four questions:
(1) what have you not faced?
(2) what have you not felt or acknowledged?
(3) What are you holding back from saying? and
(4) What are you holding back from doing?
Believe it or not, most of the time the answer that gets someone unstuck is in one of those four questions.
I hope this is helpful. Zip me a note and let me know if this struck a nerve. I wish you all the very best in your work to make this world a better place to live.
I hope that your year is off to a terrific start. I had a terrible cold starting Christmas Eve but you know what? It was kind of wonderful to lay low and get a lot of rest. In between the sniffles and the coughs, I enjoyed copious amounts of laid back quality time with my family, so for that I am truly grateful. Plus antibiotics when you need them. Grateful for them, too. 😉
We hit the ground running last week with 52 folks flying in from as far away as the UK for our Skid Row School for Unleashing Large-Scale Change. This was our most thorough weaving together of the skills for personal transformation with the strategies/tactics for large-scale change to date. We also rolled out some new tools to help teams more clearly pinpoint some of the organizational dilemmas they’ll need to sort out on the way to scale. They were quite useful if I do say so myself.
We’ve also landed on a beautiful new location for our trainings, the Kellogg West Conference Center on the Cal-Poly campus in Pomona, CA. Check out the view above! There’s nothing like Southern California in the winter with 70 degree weather and snow-capped mountains! AND the hotel/meals package is about $100/night LESS than our previous location. We think it’s a keeper.
One of the questions that participants leaned into last week was “what are you morally obligated to get to everyone who can possibly benefit, regardless of their ability to pay for it?”
It’s a question we ask ourselves, too.
We’ve heard from some of you that you’d love to come to the Skid Row School but you don’t have enough time (4 days) or money ($3,000). Message received.
We will still continue to offer the Skid Row School twice a year (each January and June), we will also be creating these new ways for folks to benefit from our approach for designing and leading large-scale change even if you cannot afford to come to the Skid Row School. Coming soon in 2019:
The podcast. Candid conversations with our alumni about the thrill of victory and agony of defeat when it comes to leading large-scale change.
The book. I’m finally going to do it! I’m gonna write a book along the lines of “How to Save the World without Losing Yourself” that captures my best thinking on how to do just that.
Dig Deep/Dream Big: Introduction to Unleashing Workshop. This workshop is a high level overview of our approach (the Model for Unleashing) that we cover more in-depth at the Skid Row School. There is an emphasis on the first two parts of the model: Dig Deep and Dream Big. Participants will explore the overlap between what the world needs most and what you were put on this planet to do. Expect to leave with a clear vision for the change you seek and actionable next steps. At $795 for two days, we’re hoping this enables more people to benefit from our approach to designing and leading large-scale change. We’ll be running this for the first time March 27th – 28th at the Kellogg West Conference Center on the Cal-Poly campus in Pomona, CA. Learn more here.
Next week we’ll get back to more regular musings on designing and leading large-scale change.
Meanwhile, I look forward to being alongside you on your journey to make the world a better place and wish you the very best for a successful and joyful 2019!