In This Edition...
In 2004, Lain Hensley, co-owner of Odyssey Teams, and I were discussing the notion of blowing out our paradigm of what was possible for us in terms of business success, which included the balance of family, wealth and health. We were playing around with a new training concept that would challenge others to be more "unrealistic" in their pursuits. We called the program/process Unrealistic Leadership.
I decided that if we were going to espouse such ideas that I must be willing to try our medicine. If we can't produce "unrealistic" results ourselves, how can we claim to know anything about it and/or teach others?
So, I committed to train for and complete an Ironman triathlon. I had been a runner before, but never a swimmer or cyclist. I had also been discouraged by doctors who said that due to chondromalacia (a knee disorder), my knees would progressively weaken, and my running days were over.
In addition, there was the question of balance in my life, and how I could find the energy to train for this when I barely had time for everything else in my life during that period: Two boys, ages 4 and 6, needing much father time. My wife, ever supportive of my pursuits though a bit worried about this one. The work vacuum pulling me in without enough hours in the day for what we needed to do as a business. Travel to various countries and time zones to deliver Odyssey programs. How could I find the time? And could my knees become stronger and more re-generative?
I spent the next two years fitting my training into my crazy schedule, carving out hours and finding creative spaces to train in. Getting stronger and fitter over that time eased my mind a little bit, but it never erased the fear I had of not being able to accomplish my goal.
It seemed so unlikely - even all the way up to the day of my Ironman - that I could get off my bike after riding 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles and begin a marathon. Nothing in my training even came close to providing evidence of the possibility of making it to the finish line.
The only thing that I kept hearing from other Ironman finishers was: You will be able to tap into something without ever knowing whether you'll be able to tap into it. Hmmmm? How does that work? At the same time of committing to my Ironman, Lain and I had also committed to much bigger financial goals within Odyssey. This multi-pronged "unrealistic pursuit" meant that Odyssey's global impact needed to have more impact. So while I rode, I thought. While I ran, I thought. While I swam, I thought. And there was plenty of time to think, with peak training weeks reaching 18 hours.
I was learning that some of my greatest breakthroughs for Odyssey came during some of my earliest runs, longest bike rides or hardest training moments. Sometimes really tough trainings were the only way to get out of my head and NOT think about Odyssey. These quiet times for my brain and busy times for my body were invaluable in freeing up space for something new to arrive in my thinking... later.
The toll of my training time impacted the Odyssey team, who compensated enormously for my crazy schedule, covering me at different times and events so I could squeeze in more training. Notable training moments on Odyssey trips included: Falling off the treadmill in Singapore when I was too focused on looking at myself in the mirror and didn't see that I was running slower than the treadmill. Oops! Falling off an elliptical trainer in Zurich when the handle caught the sleeve of my t-shirt and launched me over the front. Navigating through dozens of kids playing Marco Polo in an indoor pool in Dublin. Swimming in a rooftop pool in Madrid the night the bombs went off in Spain (Al-Qaeda). Long runs in Germany with my Odyssey crew after too much Munich the night before.
May 22 - the date of my Ironman - finally arrived. Friends and families of hundreds of wannabe Ironman finishers cheered with bagpipes blazing as a gunshot started the final phase of our Ironman journey and my "unrealistic" pursuit. Eleven and a half hours later I finished.
Many obstacles came up during that time as I covered this last 140 miles of my journey. Perhaps all the fear, trepidation, nervousness and anxiety prepared me to have it be "not as bad as I thought." Trusting in myself instead of the nagging voice of self-doubt; believing in possibilities beyond what the current body of evidence would suggest; relying on my team of family, co-workers and others... These are just some of the take-aways. These lessons still resonate, though I often find myself sliding down the slippery path of more "realistic" thinking - what the media, economy, doctors and other influences would have me believe - into a perspective that is safer, more "real" and ultimately, less powerful.
Odyssey doubled its revenues over the course of my Ironman pursuit. My knees are actually stronger than before (thanks to cross-training, religious intake of Glucosamine and the belief in regeneration of these miracle joints). My kids were fine with Dad training so much, and will hopefully remember me crossing the finish line with one of them under each arm. My wife, ever supportive, worries about a sequel, though I've committed that IronDad is more important to me now than another Ironman.
Bill John, President & CEO, Odyssey Teams, Inc.
Diga me. Spanish for "Tell me." DIGA is also a process we use to improve the application of learning - a framework to build both awareness and improvement.
The ‘D' stands for Describe - Describe what the experience was like, what happened?
The ‘I' stands for Interpret - Why was it like that? Why did it happen this way?
The ‘G' stands for Generalize - Where else does this happen? In the workplace? On your teams? In your industry?
The ‘A' stands for Apply - How can you apply the lessons of this experience/simulation into your work/life?
Tell me! Diga me!
LN-4 Hands in action, Bikes on the road
Bikes on the road:11,607
Hands in action:1,686
Andreas Pfluger (in red), President and CEO of Ghirardelli Chocolates, with colleagues and kids during Life Cycles.
On February 23, even though the skies were grey and the rain was pouring down, the weather could not dampen the excitement of 31 boys and girls from the San Leandro Boys & Girls Club that boarded a bus bound for the Stanford Court Renaissance Hotel in San Francisco. The kids had been hand selected to go on the trip, but had no idea why they were going.
That same day, a group of national sales managers from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company were participating in a leadership development workshop in the same hotel. They would eventually be required to work in teams to assemble bicycles. Why? They had no idea.
The kids, ages 6 to 12, arrived at the hotel and were escorted into a special room. As they walked through the lavish, upscale hotel, one little boy asked if this was a castle or a palace. Clearly, he had never been in a place such as this before. Once inside the special room, the kids enjoyed a snack and were told that in a few minutes they were going to meet some new friends from the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.
Meanwhile, the Ghirardelli professionals - still unaware that this project was anything more than just a team building exercise - were working feverishly to put the final pieces of the bikes together before their 4 p.m. deadline.Finally, the doors to the ballroom were opened and the kids, all dressed in their colorful Boys & Girls Club T-shirts, entered in two single-file lines. Upon seeing them, the Ghirardelli adults now fully understood the impact of their project and greeted the kids warmly with thunderous applause. The kids, on the other-hand, still had no idea what was happening until they reached the stage and were told that each of them would be going home with a new bike as well as a helmet and lock. At that point there were smiles, cheers, hugs and a few tears all around.
A few of the kids were still not convinced that something this extraordinary was really happening. For them, random acts of kindness don't happen that often. Some had never been to San Francisco. Most had never been in a hotel. Why were these strangers being so nice? For all of them, this was a unique experience and a dream come true. As the kids were getting back on the bus to return home, one little girl tugged on the sleeve of a Club staff member, and with tears in her eyes said, "This is the best day of my life."
This was the fourth time that Odyssey had included the San Leandro Boys & Girls Club as participants in their events. The Club looks forward to working with them again because as Bob Glotch, San Leandro Boys & Girls Club Executive Director put it, "This just never gets old."
Unrealistic Leadership - Changing the paradigm of what is possible.
We've all seen what leaders can do. But it's the unrealistic leaders who make the headlines. Think of Roger Banister. When, for hundreds of years, everyone said it was impossible to break the four-minute mile, he said, "I can." And he did. Within three years 16 other runners had. Nothing dramatic changed for these 16 others prior to their sub-four events except within the space between their ears.
Our Unrealistic Leadership program will show your team the magic of thinking big. Banister big. Beyond the current evidence. Basing your goals, philosophy or business model on out-dated paradigms is so twentieth century. It's a new world, baby. And you can either get on board or get left on the beach.
It's time to expand your team's vision, unleash its creativity and step into the future. Unrealistic Leadership is a rock-your-world blend of intellectual and emotional experiences, discussions, assessments and exercises. Buckle up. It's going to be a wild ride.
In the words of our clients...
Bill, there are not enough words to express my gratitude. Our group can't stop talking about what a wonderful time they had and how touched they were by the activity.
I look forward to keeping in touch as we plan our 2010 event, which will occur in early 2011. We want to work with you and Odyssey again for that event.
Best,Jennifer SavicaVice President, Events Management, TD Bank and Director, TD Executive Conference CenterTD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank
Tipping Point of the month
"The very thought of doing something that makes such a huge difference to someone's life is a wonderful feeling. These couple of hours are definitely among the best time I have ever spent in my life."Partha Chakraborty, Cisco
Helping Hands program participant
In the media
There has been a lot of love for Odyssey Teams and its clients from the media lately, from television to print. Check out our ongoing list of expert columns and advice.
Print media: http://issuu.com/odysseyteams
Television/News media: http://www.youtube.com/user/OdysseyTeams
Word of mouth gives a hand!