Category Archives: News

Perspective for the Mundane

As we leave the freewheeling days of summer and begin to settle back into the routine, life can begin to feel suffocating in its predictability. Get up, work out, meeting, deadline, conference call, traffic, eat, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

Here at Odyssey Teams, we participate in this loop alongside you. Our scuffed suitcases are evidence of the many hours spent in airports, taxis, and hotels. The boxes of prosthetic hands donated are the result of thousands of quality checks performed at our office. Retired ropes are proof of the many participants that we have harnessed and belayed as they balance on wires and jump from platforms.

But rarely do we feel the strain of the repetition. For us, the distinguishing characteristic is the people. Each time we deliver a program, we have the incredible opportunity of connecting with new faces. Event planners, participants, ten year-olds receiving bikes, the grandma seated in seat A on the plane. The people we have the privilege of interacting with, learning from, and building up, serve to differentiate one program from the next, and make each day spent on the road more than worth the repetition. We so hope to be the break from the norm for you and your team this year. If you’re finding yourself bogged down by the redundancy, give us a call. We’d love to be the exception to the rule that provides perspective to the mundane.

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Facing My Worst Fear

It is said that more people are afraid of public speaking than dying. Probably because you only die once. But public speaking is something you must face any time you are in public. More accurately, it is not the “public” that drives you nuts, it is the private time you spend with your little voice — those minutes, hours or months prior to ‘public’ speaking. It can be terrifying or flat-out life limiting. It was for me.

In my five and a half years of college, I knew I would have to face speech class. It was a requirement for my degree. When I learned this, all hell broke loose in my mind and I began the art of denial-avoidance. I avoided signing up for speech class for the first, second, third, and fourth years of college. I met with an adviser to review my needs for graduation and she pointed out the missing class just prior to my final year. I was at a crossroads. I went back to my apartment and tried to figure out how I could possibly get around this and I thought, “perhaps graduation is not actually that important.” But I had too many years already invested, and decided that IF I were to take speech, I would take it during summer school, 400 miles away from the college I attended to be sure that I would not know a soul.

And so I went — with pounding heart. The first speech in class was to describe something…anything. I spent hours practicing, trying to memorize what I was going to say. And I did. All five minutes of it. It was my turn and my throat felt like I was being choked and I was on the verge of a heart attack. After starting, my lack of presence created a gap of consciousness where I forgot all memorization. I stood there for what felt like thirty minutes of being naked with nothing to say. But I stayed standing and I was somehow still alive.

So I started talking in this out-of-body moment and then began to re-enter my body as I heard myself saying things that actually made some sense. I did not know quite where it was coming from and I felt as if I was listening to myself. I kept at it and realized I wasn’t dying and that people weren’t laughing at my nakedness. By the time I finished my five minutes, I felt like I had recovered at least a loincloth. I got an “A” on that presentation and it was the last time I relied on a script or memorization. A lot happened for me during that class, but I NEVER overcame any fear. I can’t say that it got one bit easier. But I realized that even as ridiculously nervous as I was, it was possible to be nervous and good at the same time.

Don’t let ‘em see you sweat

If you are old enough, you might remember a commercial by Ban Extra Dry antiperspirant, which said with an imposing voice: “NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, DON’T LET ‘EM SEE YOU SWEAT.” This slogan fits beautifully into the cultural illusion that not sweating is the key to success. But going outside the comfort zone, risking anything, riding a bike for the first time, investing, confronting a work situation or person, being honest, or giving a public speech requires a venture into the territory of sweat. Our bodies are designed to respond to this territory with increased heartbeat, quicker breathing and of course the lovely secretion of sweat in our armpits.

So what does this powerful advertisement-command mean? One: Do not go outside of your comfort zone. Or, two: if you do, don’t let ‘em see you sweat. It is an easy cultural myth that proclaims that nervousness is a sign of weakness.

Much of my job today involves being on stage, presenting team and leadership development programs to high-level executives. Most of them come in with a cynical eye waiting to validate their doubts that the program is relevant or worth their time. So I take another deliberate step outside of my comfort zone. I know the sweaty armpits are a natural part of the process but I hear that Ban Extra Dry mantra screaming in my ears, and as I try to stop sweating it creates more sweat and what feels like the Nile River pours down my sides. Ban’s slogan was brilliant. They were creating the sweat they wanted people to try to cover up with their deodorant.

When I realized this, I decided to test the hypothesis by doing the exact opposite of their slogan, the opposite of this macho illusion of NO FEAR. If the pressure to not let them see me sweat created more sweat, then why not let them see me sweat and see if I produced less sweat? Because this theory applied to successful risk-taking, creating a supportive team, and producing results, I used this theory with the audience. I would get to the point of telling them that I was all-in, sweaty-armpits-and-all, to bring them my best. Then I’d raise both hands up revealing my sweaty, wet, armpits. Most of the crowd was shocked, some got dumb chills for me, others applauded the authentic possibility of it actually working. But for me, it would be THE moment the sweating would begin to stop. My shirt would dry out and I had the audience because in that moment I had myself.

Fight or Flight

What you resist persists. Antiresistance is 100 times more effective than antiperspirant.

The worst nervousness NOW comes when I am not nervous. There have been a few programs I have delivered where I was not nervous and I can tell you that they were emphatically not my best. My best seems to come from that feeling that feels like nervousness. Or, when there is a lot at stake. Like when a client flies me to Timbuktu and spends a fortune to have all of their people in one room, giving up so many other things at the possibility that I might bring them something more valuable than all the other things they could be doing. Nerves are our primordial fight of flight mechanism, and if you don’t flee – run off stage – then you’ll fight for the best result you can produce. The audience loves that.

The illusion is that it requires a fight or flight response to survive but it is not your life that is at stake; it’s your ego. All you need to do is separate the two and you quickly realize that it requires no fight at all. The easiest way through for you is the hardest way out for your ego. I am still not a master of this but I can say for certain that my very best results in speaking to large groups all over the world and several benchmark moments in Odyssey success have come at those times of surrendering to the absolute truth of the moment. Nothing to hide. Sweat or no sweat.

- Bill John

 

A Commitment to Community

We ardently seek moments that allow us to engage in something bigger than ourselves. Surrounded by people working towards one common goal, there is a certain amount of awe and belonging that emerges from the tangible sense of community. We experienced a bit of that a few weeks ago. In late July, Odyssey Teams spent several days in humid Florida, delivering one of our largest annual Life Cycles programs – 1,100 participants building 183 bikes for children in the surrounding area. The resulting impact was impressive – as kids flooded the room in expectant anticipation and participants met their recipient face to face. But the community that had formed and flourished in the hours prior was of equal note and celebration.

Community within the workplace is an oft-discussed buzzword, as organizations attempt to create a foundation of cooperation, communication, and friendship between cubicles and across pay grades. Regrettably, faltered community is often seen as the expected growing pain of expansion, or the unfortunate opportunity cost of an increasingly technological world. But here at Odyssey Teams, we keenly believe that does not have to be the case.

We stand firm that it is of utmost importance to put people in a room together and connect them as a team and as people – leading to the creation of 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 primarily economic in their formation. But it is of immeasurable value. We will only be at our very best when our hands and hearts are connected and engaged with our community, and we are reminded that we are a valuable part of it all. Our programs are designed to foster that community – addressing both the individual and the greater team that they represent. Teams consistently leave from an Odyssey Teams event with a powerful memory of a shared experience, and with the tools and resources to effectively build upon that foundation.

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Team Meetings – the Do’s and Don’ts

We have a few meetings weekly, and so far none are really productive, resulting in a huge emotional response from several folks. How can we change the emotional memory so that these meetings become productive?

Research has shown that physiology is critical to our state of mind and that the complexity of the human condition requires us to address the physical self in addition to the mental state. Some suggestions and things to try — these are very simple and they will work. I have seen this work for 23 years EVERY TIME.

> Do not let people sit in the same seat for each meeting or for more than 30 minutes at one meeting.  They become territorial of their seat and their ideas. Standing is preferred when brainstorming or when you would like to have open dialogue.  Be sure ALL seats feel like they are just as important as the next, and that each person can see and be heard.  If you are going to allow sitting, then every 15 minutes have people move to a new seat. I am not joking… this will work, and they will smile, move, engage, and feel better without you even trying. They might resist this the first time, but then they will begin to prepare for the switch and move past the resistance.

> Never promise to have the meeting over in “X” amount of time so that we can all get back to work. WHAT?! I have seen so many meetings start this way. Start each meeting with a STAND. Make a strong stand for what you expect the value from the meeting will be and why you need them engaged.  Example: “Thanks for being here team. I am thrilled we have this time together and hope we have enough time to fully understand the value of this presentation to our success. We will be going over the financial today and you all know how important this information is to our ability to project the next business move and make our life easier. I value each of your input and perspective and I invited you to be here because I am convinced we can grow our business if each of us fully understand this data.” You get the idea.  Make it sound good to be at the meeting and make a big promise and then deliver. If the leader is not passionate about the meeting then the team will follow.

> Listen very carefully to the “Beliefs of your team.”  When you hear a negative belief, you need to identify the belief in a non-threatening way and then go to work to change it.  Example: I am… People are… Life is… This meeting is…  This team is…  My boss is… This project is… and so on. Beliefs influence focus, and that creates reality for people. If people say, “My boss is great,” then they will see things that support that belief.  If I love the rain, then when I hear it raining in the morning, I am already happy and my mood is up. If people believe this meeting is a waste of time, then they will be very slow to see anything else.

> The huge emotional response is actually a good thing. Change your belief about it. They have emotion because they still care and they want it to be better. If you get to a point that you no longer see emotion, then people are becoming apathetic and they will not work to improve the situation.

-Lain Hensley

Announcements

Odyssey Teams Inc. has been on quite the journey throughout the last few decades. Our programs have evolved, our team has shifted, our workspace has adapted, and our expertise has grown. We’ve experienced a number of notable occurrences on our way – and we are thrilled to announce the latest developments!

At the start of the year, we created Odyssey for Youth – a division of Odyssey Teams dedicated fully to the development of the students, athletes, teachers, and administrators of our communities. In the past few months alone, we have had the privilege of coaching, training, and encouraging hundreds of teenagers – before sending them home to have an impact on their neighborhoods.

June heralded the launch of Give Back Activities. This offshoot of Odyssey Teams is devoted fully to our programs that provide teams the opportunity to give their best back into their organization, community, and world. They create space for collaboration on a project that gives back – not just to deserving recipients and communities in need of support, but also to the cohesion and productivity of teams and workplaces. Give Back Activities combine training and philanthropy, world-class facilitation and now, DIY Give Back experiences in a box.

Our goal is for these new divisions to provide any and every team the opportunity to grow, learn, and give their best. Odyssey Teams Inc. will continue in the work we are so passionate about – equipping organizations to be their strongest, most productive, best version of themselves. We look forward to meeting your team at the intersection of real life and real work, and giving you and your organization the tools, patterns, and renewed vision for living and working at your best. We hope to be the next notable occurrence on your journey.

Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July!

1776 was a rather notable occurrence for our country, and it rightly deserves our attention and celebration. It was a new start and a chance to create something better – something more intentional. And it was not easy.

Nietschze said: ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’

Our forefathers and mothers had such a strong WHY that they bore great difficulties – and prevailed. We prevailed. We are happy to celebrate them – and each of us who sacrifice and fight hard for something better. In many ways, this last year has been Odyssey’s 1776. We have worked very hard to make ourselves better. We have created new programs, hired new people, and launched a new website! All of this to give you more notable occurrences on your journey. Odyssey is now 24 years old. Our country is 239. We raise a toast to you, to us. We hope you’ll join us in a fantastic Fourth of July.

Philanthropic Team Building: Good for Your Head, Hands, and Heart

There is a new paradigm in the concept of team building, and it’s called philanthropic team building. In days gone by, it was sufficient to be selfish, even decadent, about getting to know each other outside the work setting. When it was done well, it involved heads and hands in experiential exercises and simulations. Now it’s about incorporating the heart through philanthropic team building – give back events. The response from participants has been overwhelmingly positive – all over the world.

Events like Life Cycles – the original bike building workshop, Helping Hands – the building of prosthetic hands for amputees in developing countries, the Playhouse Challenge, and the Board Meeting have revolutionized the team building industry. And it’s good for more than just your team. It’s good for your heads, hands, and hearts. And that means it’s good for the world.

– Bill John

Disruption

Three Ways to Foster a Disruptive Mindset That Breeds Innovation

I recently hosted a TEDx talk in my hometown of Chico, Calif. on the topic of disruption — a subject I hold close to my heart. Disruption is the key to success in many aspects of our lives. Sometimes our best business decisions, insights and innovations comes when we are thrown out of our normal routine, forced to question the status quo or dealt nearly insurmountable challenges. When confronted with the right mindset, these disruptions are not roadblocks, they are the catalyst for creativity and a pathway for growth.

By embracing disruption, we are able to live up to our full potential and materialize our dreams. Here are three takeaways from my TEDx talk on the matter…

1. Put Your Hand in the Air
In kindergarten, we’re wide-eyed and excited to learn. With that also comes a young, fresh energy that encourages us to participate — to shoot our hand in the air and be part of the discussion. To share our thoughts and show-off our knowledge, right or wrong, because we have the support of our peers who are just as eager and uncritical. To be supported by our teachers that just want to see us grow.

But as we get older, a funny thing happens. Next time we raise our hand and get the answer wrong we get laughed at, we get criticized and our courage diminishes. The next time the opportunity to disrupt arises, an alarm goes off and says don’t do that — a past result has been auto saved. The opportunity for disruption came and we put it in the wrong category, as something negative. But really it’s a gift and as we get older that gift is offering an escape from the status quo. Embrace it — put your hand back up in the air and reclaim your confidence, replace the alarm with excitement. This is the chance to change your life!

2. Everything You Do Matters
Don’t mistake a chance for life changing disruption because on the surface it’s not grand enough. Small changes can pave the way for major changes in your future. So don’t ever settle.

Having a positive outlook on a disruptive situation that initially seems like a black abyss can also make all difference. It’s in the most difficult events and struggles that we live to our greatest potential. We can come back from them and be better than we were before. It’s not about being comfortable — it’s about being terrified and being ok with it.

3. Tomorrow, We Are all Beginners
It’s exciting if you stop to think about it. Everyday is a new day we are approaching for the first time, so we should wake-up with fresh eyes open to new perspectives.

Expectations and past experiences can predict what will happen, but pause in the moment and dream of what could be, who you want to be. Don’t be afraid to disrupt your routine because something can happen tomorrow that can change the world — yours or mine.

 

-Lain Hensley

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