Commencement

Lain Hensley delivered the alumni address at the commencement exercises for his alma mater this past week. He received a standing ovation, and we have to agree, its one of the best we’ve ever seen. Take a look for yourself!

 

One question to start. Am I in the presence of greatness? Let me ask you again. Am I in the presence of greatness?  (There will be more times for audience participation …Stay alert!)

Wow … my Mom and Dad would be proud if they could see this. They didn’t think I would even graduate. And now this …YES! I am sure your loved ones are feeling the same as they look for you in the crowd of graduates.  I am humbled and privileged to speak to you on this most important day in your life.

Thank you faculty and staff for inviting me to be here. I am a proud Resort and Lodging Management graduate of the class of 1993, I am the son of a Chico State graduate of the Class of 1961. I met my wife in that gym right there in my ballroom dancing class and we have made Chico our home for the past 25 years, raising three kids as Chicoans. I love this place, this town, and this University.  I hope to convey a few lessons l have learned from the tests I have faced, to prepare you for what lies ahead.

From enjoying a successful 21 year marriage, running my business for 25 years, and facing and beating stage 3 cancer almost two years ago – I have learned that the game changes as of today for you, as it did for me.  You see, in school they teach you the lesson and then you get the test. In life – you get the test and then you learn the lesson. And if you do not learn the lesson the first time, you will keep encountering the test over and over and over again until you do.

Be humble and curious – and know that you will not pass all of the tests the first time.  The question will be – what you do after the failures, after you come up short, after you risk it all and discover that you made the wrong choice.  Will you make progress or excuses?  Take responsibility or place blame?  Will you become a victim or a survivor?  Will you bring less of you or more of you to the next test?

Do me a favor. Raise your hand if you have a little voice that talks to you?  Many of you are not raising your hand. Your little voice is saying, “What voice … what is he talking about? I don’t think I have one of those.” THAT IS THE VOICE I’M TALKING ABOUT.  This voice is trying to protect you. Trying to guide you through the day without humiliation or injury.  That voice can lead you to the path of least resistance and then justify why you should take it and not feel regret for living below your potential. Or it can compel you to days like today.

Remember when you walked into your first grade classroom?  You started your formal education experience with your hand held high and a willingness to play full-out!  (Example of kindergartener hand up.) Get it right or wrong something good happened next.  But sooner or later you got it wrong and they made fun of you and embarrassed you.  Your emotional memory begged you to take less and less risk, wanting to predict the results and have the guaranteed success before allowing you to take the next overly calculated risk.

The new reflex is to wait. To hold back. Eventually you are forced to lower the bar more and more until you find yourself as a senior in high school sitting in the back of the class with your arms crossed just trying to survive. You could become afraid to express your goals and face possible discouragement from others who have already given up on theirs.

The most recent numbers say that 7,000 high school students drop out each day … in the USA alone. What happened?  What happened to their hopes and dreams?  Today – you have separated yourself from the majority and answered that call to greatness. You have put the voice of security and safety in the back seat behind your goals and aspirations.  Life’s endless possibilities called to you and you made a choice to answer, to grow, to stretch, and to succeed.

I need your help to make a point right now. When I say go! I want you to point at anyone around you and say, “YOU GO FIRST!” Three times to three different people, until you see me raise my hand – then STOP! Each time you say it, add more energy and more persuasiveness – without hitting or spitting on each other. Get your finger up and be ready. If you are ready say, “I am ready.” Ready … GO!!!!  YOU GO FIRST!  YOU GO FIRST!  YOU GO FIRST! (Hand UP!)

How does this “you go first” game show up? How has this game started wars, destroyed lives, families, and companies? You go first!  How often do we play “you go first” in our own lives.  We are the one who should have the courage to take action – make the first step, take the risk?

Our reflexive safe voice says…
You go first to say I love you and then I will say I love you.
You go first to say you are sorry and then I will say I am sorry.
You go first to pay me more and then I will work harder.
You go first to work harder and then I will pay you more.
You go first to trust me and then I will be trust worthy.
You go first to be trust worthy and then I will trust you.
You go first to be a great teacher and then I will be a great student.
You go fist to be a great student and then I will be a great teacher.
And on … And on …

To gain it all you must be willing to risk it all. To love with all of your heart you need to be willing to risk having all of your heart broken.  To trust fully you must be willing to have your trust completely broken. There is no discount at the counter of success – it must be paid in full … in advance.

Many have gone first for you. First to believe that you could graduate. That you could get this done. Today, I encourage you to go first to thank them. To recognize the endless support they have given you to make this day possible.

The great leaders whom we all know, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr., have many things in common. They did the work that was right in front of them and they went first.  First to see hope in poverty, first to see peace in a war torn world and first to dream of a humanity without color and division.  It is time for you to go first!

These great leaders have something else in common …… They are all dead …. I look around and it is just us now – and although one person can change the world,  we all must try. We all must be willing to go first in our lives in some small way and believe it matters.  I hope you have discovered something while at Chico State, that is so meaningful to you, so powerful, that you are willing to go first!

Do not judge the impact or importance of the work in front of you.  Who is to say that me standing here and talking with all of you today is more important than spending a few quiet minutes with my 9 year old son – teaching him how to read or how to ask forgiveness from his mother or big sisters. We will never fully know the impact he might, or might not have, on the world.

It is said, “Anyone can count the number of seeds in one apple, but only a God can count the number of apples in one seed.”  Many seeds have been planted in you while at Chico State and my deepest hope today is that you enjoy the fruits of your labor and plant seeds for us and for future generations.

(Five closing comments)

1. Pick a good partner. Be a good partner – You cannot do this alone.

2. Find someone who sees in you what you don’t see in yourself. And be someone who can see in others what they don’t see in themselves.

3. Build on your strengths, but question your reflexes.  If you follow your reflexes you will be defensive when getting feedback, you will see your flaws before your strengths, and you will quit your relationships when they get hard and most likely just before they get to the best parts. Deep love and Deep commitment can only be reached after working and struggling together – put in the work.

4. Never sacrifice what you want most for what you want in the moment.  The moment will pass and what you want most will elude you like a butterfly in the wind.

And finally – be ready to work harder than you have ever worked before. Be more scared than you have ever been AND to feel MORE PRIDE than you can imagine – at what YOU can accomplish when you lead with your heart and trust yourself more than your mind tells you not to.

The ANSWER to my question… YES INDEED… TODAY I AM… IN THE PRESENCE OF GREATNESS!

Congratulations and thank you!

 

-Lain Hensley

Q + A with Lain Hensley

How does Odyssey incorporate meaningful activities prior to the build in particular? I struggle with people just wanting to build a bike for hours and then are underwhelmed by donation numbers.

Do not let them know anything about the building element going into the event. The philanthropic impact should be a surprise and the cherry on top. If the session is only seen as a CSR give back program, then the focus is on giving, and they will measure the value based on how much they gave. That seems normal to me. If the session is focused on learning outcomes and value to the participants, then they will be looking for the value to themselves and their team. The value that is given to the greater community is only a wonderful addition to an already valuable training session.

We start with the intellectual part of the session, incorporating simple activities or interactions simply to build on the concepts. The focus is not on activity. The activities build in complexity, and the concepts also build.  We make EVERY action have a purpose to help the participants see how the entire program is connected and relevant to their everyday life. The culmination with a CSR element or climactic activity should be when the participants are fully engaged in the learning and understand the connections between the two.  They should be seeing the learnings for themselves, and need very little spoon-feeding of the lessons at this point.

-Lain Hensley

imagejpeg_0

The Barn Raising

When I was around 8 years old, my father purchased 644 acres of California land from my great uncle. It was located an hour drive from our house, and we made the trip every weekend. The land has since become a lifelong passion for my father—and rightly so, for it truly is an incredible piece of acreage. But as a kid, it looked a lot more like a ton of work. The parcel was utterly unfinished. With only a jeep road running through it, we had nothing but a blank canvas and some real family teambuilding ahead.

Over the course of the next 5 years, my father developed ten miles of roads with his D9 tractor as we spent countless hours following him with a chainsaw. My brother and I stacked brush to burn in the winter as he cut the fence line or developed and manicured cleared areas. One summer, my father decided that we needed a barn to store materials and protect the tractor. I can recall my mother, sister, big brother, and I pulling on a rope as we lifted the beams into position and stood the timbers that would act as the primary supports. To this day, I still do not understand how we managed it. The barn still stands after 40 years, and I remain amazed.

I was reminiscing with my father about all the things I learned through the work. I recalled the way that we came together as a family, a team, and a work crew to bring his vision to reality. I learned so many things as we raised that barn. As I hugged my father goodbye today, I realized that the biggest thing I learned from that barn was that I could do anything I put my mind to.  My father was a great leader and he firmly believed that we could do anything if we were willing to work hard and believed in ourselves. As we raised our barn, I could feel myself being raised right alongside.

We spent many years fishing in the pond that we constructed, innumerable hours working in the barn, and I even asked my wife of 20 years to marry me on the exact place where my parents’ house now stands. I have grown to love that land, that barn, the work. My kids are now fishing in the pond and extending the boundaries of their potential as they explore. Thanks Dad for making me work, for helping me face my childhood with a healthy balance of responsibility and play. But most of all, thanks for building that barn with only your wife and three small children. You showed me I can do anything and that the possibilities are endless with great leadership and enough trust, teamwork, and confidence.

-Lain Hensley

Community

Many Odyssey Teams programs culminate in a closing that involves Tipping Points. Participants are instructed to author an original quote to be dispersed to their team over the course of the coming weeks as a vehicle of continued learning from one another. Here at Odyssey, we have the privilege of reading each submission as they are entered into a database. And some of them are too good not to share.

“How amazing is to be part of a team that’s getting so much larger, yet we’re feeling closer to one another.”

Community within the workplace is an often-discussed buzzword, as organizations attempt to create a foundation of cooperation, communication, and friendship between cubicles and across pay grades. Faltering community is often a logical growing pain of expansion, but here at Odyssey Teams, we firmly believe that does not have to be the case. Key elements of community are shared vision, common values, and collaboration. During an Odyssey Teams philanthropic teambuilding event, these characteristics are expounded upon, practiced, and celebrated. Your team leaves at the end of the event with a powerful memory of a shared experience, and with the tools and resources to effectively build upon that foundation – even as your organization grows and expands.

Hamster Wheel

Many Odyssey Teams programs culminate in a closing that involves Tipping Points. Participants are instructed to author an original quote to be dispersed to their team over the course of the coming weeks as a vehicle of continued learning from one another. Here at Odyssey, we have the privilege of reading each submission as they are entered into a database. And some of them are too good not to share.

“Maintain perspective on what is really important – the working together, the mistakes, the learning, the growing. Every step does not need to be forward.”

We live in a world that expects and demands forward motion. And not just any kind of forward motion – but rapid, far-reaching, and immediate progress. In the pursuit of bigger, faster, and better, other values can fall to the wayside and lesser priorities be sidelined until a later date. But full throttle can create a bit of a hamster wheel effect – lots of energy expended with no forward movement. Sometimes the more productive option is to take a step back. To set aside time as a team to rethink and regroup and make necessary adjustments. To work together to find a better solution, learn from mistakes made and their implications, and grow as an organization as the matter at hand is readdressed. It may seem counter productive to opt for a momentary retreat, but in the long run it is far more beneficial. If your team is in need of a back step – to revision, refuel, or escape the wheel – don’t be afraid to make the move.

What Good Looks Like

Many Odyssey Teams programs culminate in a closing that involves Tipping Points. Participants are instructed to author an original quote to be dispersed to their team over the course of the coming weeks as a vehicle of continued learning from one another. Here at Odyssey, we have the privilege of reading each submission as they are entered into a database. And some of them are too good not to share.

“The excitement of our youth customer will last a lifetime and be a constant reminder of ‘this is what good looks like.’”

Odyssey Teams’ – The Business of Giving™ programs accomplish a lot of good. As a result of the Life Cycles program, children who have grown up in scarcity receive the unexpected gift of a brand new bicycle. Never before ridden, built especially for them, with no strings attached. The smiles and joy that result are unmatched, and the memory of that day lasts far beyond the shininess of the frame. Because of the Helping Hands project, a Philippine man who lost his left hand while operating a rice-milling machine is given a prosthetic hand free of charge. In that moment, he is handed freedom, accessibility, and improved prospects for work and provision for himself and his family. The gift of the prosthetic extends far beyond just the individual’s life – rippling out to impact his family and community.

These programs allow participants to access the potential of their heads, hands, and hearts to build a better team, a better organization, and a better world. When participants return to actual life and arrive at the office Monday morning they know what ‘good’ looks like. As they interact with coworkers, converse with clients, and add their piece to the puzzle of an end product, they are cognizant of ‘good.’ They have experienced good, felt good, and participated in good – and they are not likely to forget it.

Impressions

Many Odyssey Teams programs culminate in a closing that involves Tipping Points. Participants are instructed to author an original quote to be dispersed to their team over the course of the coming weeks as a vehicle of continued learning from one another. Here at Odyssey, we have the privilege of reading each submission as they are entered into a database. And some of them are too good not to share.

“You may get only one chance at a first impression, but you have multiple opportunities for a lasting impression.”

We’ve all been there. An awkward handshake introduction followed by stilted small talk during cocktail hour. The botched sales call with one too many lengthy pauses. That very first email contact with a poorly placed typo. This quote written by a participant at a recent Life Cycles event allows us all to shake off those sticky and less than ideal first moments and move forward. Hallelujah.

At Odyssey Teams, we firmly believe in the power of relationships. During the course of a Life Cycles events, participant teams have the opportunity to build a bike for a customer, and then at the end of the session, a name and face is assigned to the customer when a crush of kids come streaming in from the back of the room. Teams have the opportunity to meet their customer, talk about their favorite color and sports team and ice cream flavor, hear about how they dislike math but love recess. Relationships are forged, and the child’s life is marked by the memory of that afternoon and the lasting impression of that conversation – awkward out of the gate or not

A focus on relationships can transform work. Remembering the end recipient puts a face and name to the daily tasks. Seeking to build relationships creates further meaning and purpose. And aiming to forge a relationship allows for ample opportunities to impress, leaving that typo long forgotten and the weak handshake a thing of the past.

 

Listen Up

Many Odyssey Teams programs culminate in a closing that involves Tipping Points. Participants are instructed to author an original quote to be dispersed to their team over the course of the coming weeks as a vehicle of continued learning from one another. Here at Odyssey, we have the privilege of reading each submission as they are entered into a database. And some of them are too good not to share.

“Listen.”

Consider the following situation. Walk into your neighborhood coffee shop. Order the usual. Barista hands the drink across the counter, and says, “Enjoy your latte!” Your response – “You too!”

How often do we speak without out hearing? Give responses before even processing the question posed, or offer an opinion without registering the initial statement? We make assumptions based on our own experiences and habits, and reflexively speak without taking the time to truly listen and process. Which is mildly embarrassing, but totally fine in the case of wishing your waitress a good meal. But not so ideal when the stakes are higher, the relationships more established, and the subject matter a lot more volatile.

Just as problematic is the opposite – speaking after thinking a bit too much. In conversation, our attention is split between what is being said and thinking about how we will respond – and often disproportionately towards the latter. I’m so busy listening to the little voice in my head as it figures my insightful, witty, or definitive next statement that I forget that I’m supposed to be listening to you. Equally dangerous as not thinking at all.

Headed into the next week, may we take notice of our communication patterns, and seek to improve the ways that we listen and speak. May we seek not just to be heard, but also to listen to those with whom we work, play, and live.

Untitled

The Human Herd

With ever increasing access to technology, we have become more and more independent, especially in the way that we work. We are no longer required to punch in and out of a brick and mortar building in order to collaborate with co-workers. Gone are the days of productivity occurring behind a desk alone. Email, cloud based databases, and a multitude of other telecommunication systems have redefined workspace. As barriers and confines continue to disappear, a mobile and independent workforce emerges. Connected to laptops and mobile phones, we are no longer restrained by physical meeting space, and can operate efficiently without dependence on regular contact with others. And we’re better for it. Or are we?

At Odyssey, we are constantly asked about the value of an “all hands meeting” when the business information could just as easily be shared remotely. Likewise, we regularly field the question of whether including a “team building” element in the schedule is important when the impact of team building is impossible to measure. The answer is clear to us – the “information” is important, but it is not the most significant part of the face-to-face meeting. However, bean counters and executives cram three-day meetings with a surplus of informational presentations and ceaseless PowerPoints. Meanwhile, participants send text messages, catch-up on email, post to Facebook, and even pass notes to each other to pass the time. They suffer the meeting and hold out for the evening entertainment like a kid in church who has been promised a doughnut after the service.

Taking the time and money to put people in a room together feeds a part of us that cannot be rationalized by simply looking at costs and efficiency charts. It requires a closer look into the sociology of the human being. The evidence leads to the conclusion that the most important reason to put people in a room together is to connect them as a team and as people, and create a positive emotional memory of the company, team, or leadership. It might not be cost or time efficient, because frankly, relationships are never going to be efficient. But it is immeasurably valuable. The power of Facebook is built on our need to connect, or at least have the feeling of connection, but it will never completely satisfy us.

We can watch any movie we want in the comfort of our own home with blue ray, surround sound, and all the snacks we could want. Yet, while on a business trip in Boston a few weeks ago, I went on an evening stroll and came upon close to 3,000 people watching The Lego Movie in the park. Sitting on the ground, not on a couch, and with less than top of the line video and sound quality. We have a need to be a part of a community, and a deep desire for connection that requires old fashion human contact. No matter how well Skype, FaceTime, GoToMeeting and other technology solutions are able to connect us remotely, we will only be at our very best when our mind, heart and gut feel connected and engaged to the community, and we are reminded that we are a valuable part of it all.

– Lain Hensley

luck

1 in 10,000 – the occurrence of a single four leaf clover for every regular three-leaved one. Given that degree of scarcity, favorable luck is not looking very probable for any of us. Fortunately, not all believe that good luck is dependent on a charm or external source. It is often said that luck is the result of opportunity meeting preparation. The luck of a buzzer beating shot for your favorite college basketball team is the marriage of the opportunity of possession and the preparation of hours of drills and repeated practice shots. Regrettably, we have no control over the development of such opportunities. Lucrative lunch dates, fortuitous trends in the market, and providential offers cannot be manufactured by sheer will. Those are the moments that luck in its truest sense does seemingly come into play.

While we have no way of influencing opportunity, we have total control over preparation. Preparation is the difference between a seized opportunity and a missed one – the title-clinching basket or a bounce off of the rim. Without the proper knowledge, skills, relationships, and resources, lucky opportunities will slip past. And here at Odyssey, we strongly believe that a crucial element of preparation is the formation and maintenance of your team. A team that is cohesively striving towards the same goals, holding shared values, and working together to accomplish tasks, will have the wherewithal to capitalize on the lucky circumstances, conversations, and situations that arise.

Whether it’s due to a long sought after four leaf clover, an extra bowl of that marshmallow dotted cereal, or a time tested ritual, we hope this is a year marked by the best kind of luck for you and your team. And if you prefer to make your own luck – and are looking for some preparation in anticipation of a golden opportunity – give us a call. That’s what we’re all about.