Category Archives: News


Bad Day

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 to not share.

“Millions of people in the world would love the opportunity to experience your bad days.”

This quote originated from an accountant that had just completed a Helping Hands program, in which participants receive a glimpse of what life is like for an amputee living in a developing country. It offers a perspective oft forgotten – that the challenges and hardships that we face pale in comparison to those lived daily by countless around the world. An anxiety laced deadline, an emotionally charged conversation, an unexpectedly poor performance review, an ill-timed empty gas tank are trivial when placed on a scale opposite the poverty, corruption, disease, and conflict faced by so many in our world. At the end of the bad day, we drive a car home, walk into a temperature controlled home, and open a refrigerator stocked with multiple meal options. A few minutes of the news ticker and all of a sudden a dropped account seems fairly trivial and TGIF becomes TGI Have A Job in light of staggering statistics of poverty. Bad days can be exactly that – really bad. But sometimes a littler perspective is the ideal antidote for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.



Labor Day

For well over one hundred years, the first Monday of September has been recognized and celebrated as Labor Day. Nowadays, this holiday is synonymous with cookouts, pick-up softball games, and one last summer fling before the seasons change. However, as its name indicates, the original intent had far more to do with recognizing the blue collar “working class.” But as the American workforce has diversified far beyond that original demographic, the celebration of work grows from recognizing the people building the skyscraper to include those seated around a conference table within its walls.

And though the majority of the workforce no longer falls under the designation of manual labor, Americans have not ceased to work hard. Hours spent at the office are often extended beyond the desk to the dining room table, as email accounts are only as far as the cell phone in a back pocket. Labor Day is a celebration of the contributions of all workers. A round of applause for the teachers in the classrooms, and the individuals that clean the campus after hours. A hats off to the hospital workers, stock brokers, bus drivers, and the coffee baristas that keep them all moving. A nod to the CEOs and the minimum wage workers, the entrepreneurs, researchers, administrators, bureaucrats, and everyone in between.

We are so thankful that our work allows us to intersect your labor. We get to see Americans in every sector of the workforce, and help you connect to the why of your work. Thank you for allowing us to partner with you in your industry. We hope that you have an amazing Labor Day. Enjoy the BBQ, the baseball, and all things summer. And maybe, just maybe, let that email inbox wait until Tuesday morning.

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.


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.

team-meeting (1)

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


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


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