Category Archives: News

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a boy named Nobody

I was leading a ropes course program for a youth-at-risk high school group. One of the first things I asked kids to do was put on a nametag. Partway through the morning, I noticed a kid dressed in all black, looking disinterested and detached from the rest of the group. I walked over to greet him and noticed that instead of a name, his nametag said ‘Nobody.’ It was a perfect name to describe what he must have felt like in his life. I asked him a few questions about it, but mostly encouraged him to take a few steps beyond himself during the day.

I kept my eye on him throughout the morning and he remained around the perimeter. Not in, but not really out. As we progressed through the process of building conversations, increasing the level of heights and trust, Nobody kept choosing out. We applauded his choice not to climb or fall, and kept right on going with the next activity. In the afternoon, we got to the High V’s.

The High V’s event is built 30 feet up in the trees – strung between massive, beautiful, California redwood trees. There is a cable that wraps around one tree and runs horizontally to two other trees – forming a giant V-shape parallel to the ground. Attached to two separate belay systems, two participants climb side-by-side up the tree that stands at the apex of the V. Each climber steps out onto their respective cable – each of which heads off to a separate tree. As they move onto the cables, facing each other, they are only about two feet apart. The next step is to put their hands across onto each other’s shoulders, letting go of the tree that they just climbed. A tree that at one point looked intimidating now seems incredibly sturdy compared to the cables that they are currently balancing on.

Leaning against, and looking at one another, the two take their next step out onto the diverging cables. With each step, their feet get further and further apart, requiring one of two things: (1) they lean against each other – accomplished by standing up tall, not bending over the waist, and ‘falling’ inward towards each other – like an A-frame house where the base keeps getting wider. This inward lean gives the other person something to lean against – a source of stability in an otherwise, stable-less situation. It is the physical embodiment of synergy. Or, (2) they let their more self-protective instinct take-over and instead of leaning, they bend over at the waist. This begins the unraveling of relationship – entropy. Instead of standing straight and bringing the center of their own gravity out and toward their partner, they try to protect the little balance they have on their own cable by bringing the center of their gravity backward. With each successive step in this manner it gets worse. In order to maintain contact with their partner’s shoulders as they step, the only option in this ‘holding back’ position is to bend over at the waist, thus bringing their center of gravity further apart from each other which begs for more bending over at the waist which now restricts the ability to even look in each others eyes for strength.

Communication is lost. The only way to stay up, or take another step, is to pull against the other person. In relationships, and on the V’s, this is a mess that inevitably ends in falling. Not that the opposite keeps them up there forever, but it certainly enables them to go farther along the cables and in relationship. The energy is fueled by connection – synergy vs. separateness and entropy. We can choose either, whenever we want. However, the further apart we get on the V’s and in life, the more risk it takes to lean in.

As kids went up the V’s with their partners, Nobody made his way to the belay lines to join the seven others holding the climber above them on the cables. It was a small step towards others. We sent pair after pair up the V’s and were nearing the end. All of the kids had gone or were in harnesses getting ready to go. I kept my eye on Nobody, wondering how he would play this out. Nobody had declined requests from partners to do the High V’s, and every one had already partnered up.

A few years prior to this group, I was delivering a program to another group of youth-at-risk and was really burnt out at the end of the day. I felt like it did not matter – any of the work, all of my energy, all of my desire. I saw ‘trout faces’ everywhere – where ‘lips move, but I can’t hear what you say,’ where eyes don’t blink to let you know life is present – just dull, disinterested affect from all these kids. An extraordinary opportunity – not taken by them – yet again, I presumed.

There was a probation officer at the program and I let my frustration known to him and he said, “Remember the law of 82: These kids need to hear the lesson 82 times before they decide to make a change. For some, today is the 1st time they’ve really heard it. For one, or perhaps a few, if we are lucky, it’s the 82nd.  Too many people give up on them because they don’t know if 82 will ever come. Don’t be one of those people that gives up on them because you never know if your message, your caring is the 82nd.”

Number 82 arrived. He was a boy that was really afraid to do the High V’s with his partner – and then did it. He came down from the event with so much energy and approached Nobody, knowing that he had declined others requests, but he asked again. Nobody said ‘okay’ – a genuinely reluctant okay. It was an ‘okay’ that included his guarded nature and his curiosity. Kids gathered around to help him get the harness on and soon Nobody was on his way.

As the last team on the last event of the day, these two boys embodied what it was all about. It was not about getting to a place of having ‘no fear’ or even getting over fear. Fear is just part of the landscape of greatness. It is impossible to have a life without it and this day was about creating energy for what is more important than fear.

They got to the High V’s and stepped out. And they just kept stepping. Kids on the ground went wild. With every step they leaned further against each other – one holding the other up only by the act of being willing to be held by the other. The V’s are built so that there is no finish line, no place to get to, no other side. Every pair eventually falls. Nobody and his partner kept going and the energy on the ground was converted into yet another step until they were practically horizontal, flat-out, pushing for each other. Their feet could not get any further apart, and they slipped from the cables on the next step and the belayers lowered them to the ground, holding onto each other. When they got to the ground, the others were all over them with every kind of high five and hand-shake and fist pump – genuine congratulations.

 

Tom Lutes, one of the people who taught me so much of this work, explained a simple circular model. Around the circle were the words vulnerability, inspiration, support and trust. You could start with any word in the circle and it would began to spin like a wheel with the energy you put onto that word – presumably moving in the direction of “success”. If you jumped in to embody/demonstrate any one of these words, it would have an impact on the next word. Vulnerability therefore would lead to inspiration, inspiration would lead to support, support would lead to trust and trust would lead to more vulnerability.

Some people need to have more trust before they are willing to be vulnerable (again). I say ‘again’ because we are all born this way – vulnerable. And ALL of us have been dropped, let down, cheated, ripped off – and some far too many times for one life. Nobody was among them. The boy who asked Nobody to do the V’s with him was number 82 and was the embodiment of support on the wheel that began to spin in Nobody’s favor. Nobody decided to risk again – to be vulnerable, to bring all of himself. Those of us on the ground were genuinely inspired, which led us to ceaselessly support Nobody and his partner. As a result, trust grew throughout, and in turn Nobody allowed himself to be increasingly vulnerable, and finally he saw that he could do this. And it was working out for him.

As we debriefed the day, each of the kids talked about their experience – what happened for them, how they made it happen, how would they make it happen again. As we got around to Nobody, he got up, walked over to the bag that held the nametags and sharpies and simply changed his name to Somebody. He patted it over his heart and onto his t-shirt, threw his old nametag away and simply sat down. He smiled cautiously. We all smiled back and moved to the next person.

-Bill John

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In Memoriam

We are sad to report that Margie Meadows passed away this past week. She is the wife of Ernie Meadow, the creator of the LN-4 prosthetic hand we build in our Helping Hands program.


If the Helping Hands program and the LN-4 hand has touched your life, please leave a comment here and we will pass your words along to Ernie during his grieving process.


She has been reunited with Ellen Meadows in that great beyond. Ellen was killed many years ago in an automobile accident and inspired her parents Ernie and Margie to create service projects in her honor. The LN-4 is a result of that inspiration. We at Odyssey share in that call to action and will be working double hard to put hands on people around the world in their honor. After more than 50 years of marriage, we pause today to remember a great person, an amazing wife and mother, and a friend to people across the globe. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ernie and their children as they process their loss.


Our gratitude to all of you and our clients who have supported the Helping Hands program and the work of this quiet and humble man and his wife.

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Proud to be at the Mall

Updates from your favorite Leadership, CSR, Teambuilding company that offers Life Cycles (bike building), Helping Hands (Build-a-Hand), Playhouse Challenge, and so much more.

Typical road/air warrior mode – arrive at the hotel in the darkness of 8pm. Upon check-in, ask for the location of the workout room (mentally prepared to get on a machine to make up for a 12 hour commute). WAIT. A new opportunity is presented by the concierge – a night tour of the town. The description of which creates an entirely new possibility.

Ten minutes later I was on the streets, running past the White House and then the dimly lit paths and majestically lit monuments of the National Mall. I ran the entire loop, which felt like a private tour. Humility, pride, and respect, with a large dose of gratitude, were compass points of my feelings and emotions.

I ran by/under/around the Washington Monument, WWII / Korea / Vietnam memorials and monuments of Lincoln, Jefferson, MLK, FDR, as well as the Smithsonian Institute, Holocaust Museum, the Capitol, and much more.

My mind was flooded with all I’ve seen and learned that has happened at the National Mall – speeches, walks, protests – and the amazing deeds, courage, and outcomes by those memorialized.

This work has taken me all around the world (20 countries) and I have met thousands of people from all around this little blue ball going around the sun. It is with this perspective that I report there is nothing else on the planet like the United States of America. And as crazy and off-track it is at times – I’m so grateful for so many reasons to call it home.

FYI – I was in DC for a Life Cycles program. It was a huge success at many levels for all of those involved.

-Todd Demorest

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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

 

Out-of-Office

Rejuvenation

Updates from your favorite Leadership, CSR, Teambuilding company that offers Life Cycles (bike building), Helping Hands (Build-a-Hand), Playhouse Challenge and so much more.

I read in a recent study that the average employee at a USA based firm leaves 5.5 unused vacation and/or PTO days per year. Not me.

I was able to get a holiday this summer; complete with family and tropical breezes and such. Before going, I updated my email auto-response to stating I was going to be ‘unplugged,’ and that if support was needed, to contact a fellow colleague. I did similarly with my phone. The results were terrific. I did not turn on my computer for a week and my phone was set on airplane mode for the duration.

 

The results in short:

– extended family, work, and life in general continued on just fine without me (much to my ego’s chagrin)

– no pavlov dog responses to things dinging or vibrating

– more time to read, converse, reflect, and connect with where I was and who I was with in the moment

– more time to play. That youthful gift of playfulness. Well beyond exercise, games, competing etc. Just PLAY!:)

– upon return I had more energy and a fresh perspective.

 

We hear it again and again from participants and client partners that Odyssey’s programs provide similar results to the above (and other benefits too).

Now that it’s October, I could use some more rejuvenation. Maybe your team could too!

-Todd Demorest

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Bikes, Tires, and Metaphors

Life Cycles, the original bike building program, allows participants to create something valuable and pass it on to the end user. As they build a bike and pass it along to a child, the result is a firsthand experience of the value of collaboration, customer-centricity, and teamwork. Metaphors like these are rich and relevant to teams and leaders. However, there are less obvious metaphors that also emerge during the course of the program:

Tires need air. Everyone knows how to use a bicycle pump, right? Simple. You secure the nozzle over the tire valve and inflate. But in the past twenty years, the way to secure the pump to the valve has done a complete 180-degree change.

It is amazing to see people IGNORE the detailed description and pictures of HOW TO USE THE TIRE PUMP. The result is frustration, rework, and often a broken piece of equipment. Not good if you are building bikes for kids. Not good if you are aiming to build your team and be a world-class business.

For me, breaking the tube for a child’s bike was a lesson in humility. I learned that the next time – even if I think “I KNOW” – I must be humble enough (and not so much in a hurry) to pause and check to see if the ‘game’ has changed.

As fast as the world and business are changing, can you afford not to pause, confirm what is truly needed, and THEN act? So in business, when building a bike…bikes for kids…at least look at the pictures carefully.

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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

No Really.

Earlier in my career I spent 5 years consulting with one of the fastest most successful credit card companies in our country. Growth was staggering. They went from 1,800 employees to 20,000 in just over 5 years. Their stock had the same type of growth. Even though all this was going on there was and continues to be a large amount of suffering in their corporate structure. They are not alone.

One of the best leadership, managerial, employee tools to pull out of the toolbox is the ability (and we believe necessity) to say ‘no’. To decline is a powerful move that is often over looked while trying to navigate through a given day or to the next level. What we’ve found is that more often than not people create much of the stress and pressure they are living/working with each day. They do this by saying ‘yes’, ‘sure I can’, ‘I’d be happy to’, ‘you bet, ‘no problem’, and many other forms of…. YES – I will do it just as you asked and in the time you asked…and maybe hint or promise to have it done earlier.

Too often the YES is given out of fear. You see everyone around saying yes. If you’re the first/only one to say no then your job could be in jeopardy, you could lose the promotion, or be thought less than by the person making the request etc. etc. So you say YES and your 45-hour workweek turns to 60 and the stress/pressure shows up in areas only you may know.

If it was safe enough… you’d say No, Decline, Make a Counter Offer, Negotiate etc. but it’s not deemed safe enough by you and you say YES. While consulting with the credit card company I kept lobbying for the CEO to say “Ok everyone, starting on Monday you are all requested to say ‘no’ to at least one request each day. If not, it will be noted on your performance review.” Their business culture, quality, trust level, mood, and results would improve immensely. So would yours.

Too often when we say YES and then don’t fulfill on the promise, one or more of the following happen.
1. The work is done on time but not to the standards of the company – result = rework, injury, etc.
2. The work isn’t done by the time you promised (because you were in overwhelm from all of the other ‘YES’s” you agreed to) – result= you’re deemed unreliable, trust is lowered
3. The work is done to satisfaction – result= resentment from you towards the other person for them making such an ‘uninformed request’-don’t they know what your world is like?
4. The work is done to satisfaction – result= your mood, health, wellbeing is at risk, again.
5. You have perpetuated and ingrained saying ‘yes’ in your culture.
To say No, Decline, Make a Counter Offer, or Negotiate can be viewed as powerful.
• It shows that you are considering your other commitments to the company in your decision.
• It may highlight your commitment to safety and quality.
• Internal/external customers will be grateful that you are fulfilling your current promises to them.
• It will model for others a more accountable way of operating in the workplace.

Say yes to possibilities, opportunities, etc…and step outside your comfort zone and say ‘no’ …when you know you should.

Todd Demorest,
Lead Trainer, Odyssey Teams, Inc.

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Pop your ears lately?

We lived down on the beach – sea level. The closest town (Waimea – of Parker Ranch fame) was a 15-20 minute drive up the slopes of the Kohala mountains at 2,500 feet above sea level. My wife, family, and I made this drive frequently. One morning as I was driving up the hill with the sun rising over Mauna Kea for a meeting with leaders from the community, I noticed the need to pop/clear my ears. This was not new, though this time I realized something…I shouldn’t be popping my ears. Why? Because I’m not supposed to be ascending the hill so fast. I’m supposed to be walking, or maybe on a horse or mule at best. Going up the hill more SLOWLY. That is how my body (this gift) was designed to go up hills. At a pace that is gradual enough that my body can adapt to the pressure changes in a smooth efficient manner.

Where else am I moving/ascending unnaturally too fast that it is causing enough stress that I have to intervene? How do I intervene and deal with the stress? Sure, I can do it, survive, crunch down and ‘Git ‘er done’ and maybe instead of popping my ears I…
• Take ibprofen everyday for my 1pm headache
• See a chiropractor 3 times a week
• Wear a tooth guard at night
• Take something to help me sleep
• Get edgy towards my internal/external customers and/or the people I say I care most about.
• or… you fill in the blank

Regardless, I have to do something to cope with the velocity and capacity that I am attempting to deal with. Some choices…
1. Reduce the speed – Speed kills.
2. Reduce the capacity- I don’t have to/ nor can I do it all.
3. Pause for 30 seconds, take a breath, notice my shoulders are raised to my ears or that my jaw is tense or that I’m excessively gripping the steering wheel, etc. etc. and then release the noticeable tension with an exhale.

Grammy award winner James Taylor says…
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it….”

Slow down. Pause. You and the people you live and work with are worth it.

PS… Step #3 above works best. Do it first, at least 3 times a day.

Todd Demorest,
Lead Trainer, Odyssey Teams, Inc.

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Q + A with Lain Hensley – Part III

How do you advocate for one of these types of programs where we’re receiving feedback from attendees that they are already over-programmed during the meeting, and that what they would really like is free time?

They want free time because they do not see the value of the team building session over the other sessions. We need to do an amazing job of aligning our program with the entire meeting so that it does not feel like a disconnected session that is unrelated to business. It should feel like an interactive session that complements the existing message and builds on the overall dialogue. I do not believe that the solution is to cut the “team building” or “connection time” from the meeting.

NOTE – I am currently conducting a survey to determine the top 10 desired outcomes from company meetings. My assumption lines up with the early data, which shows that people attend meetings with the goals of connecting with co-workers, getting a personal sense of the leadership, and developing their network. Most of the presenters talking about financial stuff, company strategy, future products, and other nuts and bolts items, end up just reading from their PowerPoint. These elements can be delivered in an informational email or webinar previous to the face-to-face time. The biggest value of the face-to-face meetings is not the sharing of data and details, but making an emotional connection to the data and one another.

-Lain Hensley