1041 Chapters
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Medium 9781523094189

3 Purpose

Whitman, Gordon Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Why dedicate our lives to social change? Surely there’s an easier path to a good life?

People get involved in social change for many reasons. We see problems in our community that need to be addressed. We care about an issue that affects our life. We want to help others. We want to feel a connection to people. But deciding to get more deeply involved, take on leadership, or make a lifetime commitment to fighting for justice takes a different level of motivation. This choice is more about emotion than logic. The payoff for deepening our commitment is less about a specific issue than the opportunity to feel included and respected, to know that we matter and that our lives have meaning. It’s less about helping other people than about our own freedom.

The first conversation that helps us clarify our purpose is important because it makes it possible for us to join others to take on the most entrenched forces of injustice. If we know that this is how we’re meant to be living our lives, then we can persist against opposition. We can motivate those around us. We can build the deep, trusting relationships people need to go into a fight together. That’s why the first conversation in social change needs to be with ourselves about the purpose of our lives. One of the biggest mistakes people make when working for justice is to skip over their own internal revolution. Personal commitment is what helps us work through the obstacles that beset even the best organizing strategies, campaigns, and tactics.

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Medium 9781576754399

Chapter 9 Generosity and Giving

Castle, Victoria Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Awise woman was traveling in the mountains, when she came upon a beautiful, clear stream. Thirsty, she cupped her hand, reached in, and brought the water to her mouth. After she had drunk, she noticed a precious stone in the palm of her hand. She held it high and it glittered in the sun. Delighted, she tucked the treasure into her bag. The next day the wise woman met a hungry fellow traveler, and without hesitating she opened her bag to share what food she had. Immediately, the traveler caught sight of the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without the slightest hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. This stone was surely worth enough money to provide a lifetime of security. But only a few days later, he came back, his brow furrowed, and returned the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “I know how valuable this stone must surely be, but I’ve brought it back to trade for something even more precious. Please give me what you have within you that enabled you to freely give me the stone.”

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Medium 9781605098869

15 Find Your Own Voice

Muchnick, Mark Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

SOCIAL PRESSURE IS an inescapable reality for all of us, regardless of whether we are teenagers or adults. It’s the reason why we may feel compelled to wear a particular brand of clothing, use the latest buzzwords, or act a certain way to fit in. It also may be why we think it’s important to live in a particular neighborhood, drive a specific kind of car, or be politically correct. Left unchecked, our efforts to conform can consume our lives and leave us with regrets.

What makes us so obsessed with blending in? What is the allure of being just like everyone else? When our goal in life is simply to gain the approval of others, we lose clarity on what we bring to the table as individuals. That was me in the seventh grade. I was young, impressionable, and lost. Everything that mattered to me had to do with hanging with the “in” crowd and trying to win their acceptance. I did what they did, said what they said, and adopted their interests as my own. The last thing I wanted to be seen as was different.

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Medium 9781609948917

10 Mind Mechanics

Hawkins, Terry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We have talked a lot about the way we perceive the world and how it influences our reality. In order for us to take control of our life and the results we produce, it might be important to first look at the mechanics of how this actually happens.

Let’s begin by having a look at the three parts of this process — the conscious mind, the unconscious (or subconscious) mind, and our physiology. I have often heard the conscious mind described as the captain of our brain. It gives directions and tells the unconscious mind what to do. The unconscious mind becomes the crew. The crew doesn’t think for itself — it just does what it’s told. Our physiology is thus profoundly shaped by our conscious and unconscious mind.

Captain: We make a perception or interpret an experience.

Crew: The unconscious mind accepts this interpretation.

Outcome: The body then aligns itself with this input.

Let’s go into a bit more detail.

The first stage is about how we perceive the world. We chat inside our head all the time. Chat, chat, and more chat. Most of us are completely oblivious to the conversations, interpretations, and perceptions that go on between our ears. If we are to take control of how we react and behave, we must listen to this internal voice.

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Medium 9781576755846

17 Marching Bootless

The Arbiner Institute Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

“No, seriously, what did it accomplish?” Lou persisted. “What good did this do—taking off their shoes?”

“It isn’t so much what good it did,” Yusuf responded, “as what good it invited.”

“Okay, then, what good did it invite?”

Yusuf looked at Mei Li and Mike. “Do you want to speak to that?”

“Sure,” Mei Li said. She looked at Lou. “I’m not sure what good it invited, Mr. Herbert,” she began.

How does she know who I am? Lou wondered.

“But I know what happened—to Jenny,” she continued. “She decided on her own to enroll in the program. And I bet you wouldn’t have predicted that.”

“No,” Lou agreed, his eyebrows rising in surprise, “I can’t say that I would have.” Then he added, “How did that happen?”

“Well, after a few hours, we finally ended up at a mall. And Jenny ran into one of her friends. She started telling her what her parents had done to her and about this program they had tried to take her to. She mentioned that we worked for that program as well and that we had been following her for most of the day.

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Medium 9781626567719

5 Reframing from Anxiety to Taking Control

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You are a professional glove hitter. Hit the glove!


There are many things about pressure situations which cause our anxiety levels to rise. The reasons include, but aren’t limited to, these:

We focus on goals or factors outside of our control.

We focus on outcomes rather than the process to achieve those outcomes.

We get overwhelmed by the perceived difficulty of the task.

We commit to doing too much.

Our expectations are too high because we use the wrong measuring stick.

We exaggerate the importance of the situation.

In this chapter, we share a number of antidotes to pressure that will lower your anxiety levels and put you back in control.

At the beginning of spring training every year, Rick asks his pitchers, “What’s your goal?” Most of the answers given center around outcomes like winning a certain number of games, or pitching a certain number of innings. Rick takes these answers as an opportunity to teach a lesson in goal setting. While many of us have been taught to set lofty, long-term-outcome goals, the type that show up on the back of a baseball card or a company financial statement, these goals are overrated in comparison to lesser-appreciated, short-term, bite-sized process goals.

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Medium 9781605098203

PART 1 Here Is a River

Wheatley, Margaret J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Here is a river flowing now very fast.

It is so great and swift that there are those
who will be afraid, who will try
to hold on to the shore.

They are being torn apart and
will suffer greatly.

Im making my shoulders strong
for the young to stand upon,
stepping lightly on the backs of those
who hold me up.

Its a chain of life unending,
ever new and ever bending,
grateful is the heart for the chance to be alive.

Susan Osborn

We have never been here before in terms of the global nature of our predicament. For the first time in human history (at least that we know of), we have endangered our home planet. And for the first time, we know whats happening to just about all 7 billion of us humans, the challenges and terrors we endure and the occasional, reaffirming triumphs. Never before have humans been so aware of one anothers struggles, pain and perseverance. Never before have we known so many of the consequences of what we do—our thoughtless, violent, heroic and loving actions.

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Medium 9781626563018

Chapter 11 When Money Doesn’t Matter

Neuwirth, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


One of the challenges that I got from friends and colleagues as I was starting to write this book was that, to many, Present Value seemed like a very limited concept that can only be utilized when the decision being faced is a financial one. The question they posed was, if you can’t translate the value of the thing you are considering to a dollar amount, how will you ever be able to use Present Value mathematics to conclude anything useful? I believe that many of the examples that I’ve discussed in the last few chapters show that nonmonetary values can be looked at through the lens of Present Value, but in most of those examples money was still the most important component of the choice. But what if money is not the main consideration? In fact, what about situations where money doesn’t matter at all? In this chapter we will look at a few of those cases.

“I’d rather be eaten by the Bear than hide in my cave waiting to starve.”

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Medium 9781626567771

10 The Courage to Choose Wisely

, The Center for Courage & Renewal; Francis, Shelly L. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life—about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them.

—Parker J. Palmer

Greg Eaton, whom we met in chapter 8, faced a difficult time as a business owner in the years following the 2008 recession. “I was constantly stretched by the reality of living through ’08, ’09, ’10, when the economy was so tough. Wanting to keep the company healthy and profitable and also care for the workforce I care so deeply about, as so many things are shifting . . . Talk about tension.”

In his business organizing corporate meetings and incentive trips, Greg wanted his employees to be as productive as possible and to enjoy what they did—because when they did, it showed. “We clearly are in business to assist clients at a high level of excellence. But what do we do internally for the people here who give the best hours of their day, year after year, to this work so that they feel engaged and know that they’re cared about? That’s what kept me awake during those lean years.”

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Medium 9781609948917

1 There Are Only Two Times in Life: Now and Too Late!

Hawkins, Terry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We all have a story. The basic premise of living provides us with a smorgasbord of possible opportunities to add to our story. We gather stories within our story, and the longer we live, the more “scenes” we add; thus by the end of our life we have built a story that is long, rich, and completely unique to us. No one else ever has or ever will have our story — this is one of the most amazing miracles of life.

As much as our stories may differ, they also unite us in one common element that no human being can ever avoid — our ability to feel. Our stories trigger a variety of feelings that can either propel us forward or keep us stifled and paralyzed in the past.

We often hear people say that it is the events and experiences of our lives that shape us into who we are, but is that really the case? Why is it that two people can experience the same event and yet each be affected in a completely different way? Is it the story of our life that determines our happiness, or is it the position from which we view our story — the story we tell ourselves about our story? Is it this interpretation that affects the decisions we make, how we feel about our life, and how we feel about those in it?

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Medium 9781576754757

chapter four the second secret: leave no regrets

Izzo, John Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

—Bertrand Russell

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

—Harriet Beecher Stowe

What is the one thing we will NOT regret at the end of our lives? I am not sure how I would have answered this question before having these conversations, but I am certain that now I would answer differently.

Regret is possibly the one thing we all fear the most; that we might look back on our lives and wish we had done things differently. In my experience from the last 30 years, validated in these interviews, death is not what we fear the most. When we have lived life fully and done what we hoped to do, we can accept death with grace. What we fear most is not having lived to the fullest extent possible, to come to the end of our life with our final words being “I wish I had.”

So, if we want to find true happiness and purpose in life we must embrace the second secret: leave no regrets. To leave no regrets we must live with courage, moving toward what we want rather than away from what we fear. To leave no regrets we must overcome the inevitable disappointments that life hands us.

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Medium 9781609948252

Five: Celebrating a Birthday with Nothing but a Bollywood Song

Miglani, Bob Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You already have the important things in life.

Many of us struggle to balance tasks that make us happy with tasks that provide financial support for our family. Some even argue that we have to do this or that so that we may have things that provide comfort, which in turn will likely provide us with happiness. It’s a challenge I have struggled with myself, especially during our recent economic uncertainty.

However, I learned a valuable lesson while my wife, three-year-old daughter, and I were visiting my cousin and his family a few years ago. While we were celebrating a birthday with a Bollywood song and cake in a tiny apartment on the outskirts of India’s most congested city, I realized that happiness is not expensive. We struggle to find things that make us happy and keep us going, but sometimes these things are not found at the mall or on some far-off tropical island. Instead, they are right in front of us.

Friday evening rush hour in New Delhi is one of the worst times to travel, given the sheer number of cars, scooters, motorcycles, and whatever else is escorting passengers to the most popular destination in the world: home. Thick smog, fog, and plain old fumes descended upon us as, one Friday at dusk, we began our journey from one end of New Delhi to the other to visit my cousin’s family.

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Medium 9781609940041

Love Your Friends and Your Enemies

Manz, Charles C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? (Matt. 5: 43–47)

Once again, Jesus’ teaching poses a tremendous challenge. In addressing the centerpiece of his entire message—love—he teaches that we should offer this precious gift to everyone, even those we cannot imagine loving. Here Jesus is preaching a serious lesson about love that is in stark contrast to the frivolous way that love is frequently treated in our culture. Too often, love is viewed as an everyday commodity that can be bartered and consumed in our pursuit of wants and pleasures.

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Medium 9781626563018

Chapter 7 Step 3—Evaluate the Possibilities

Neuwirth, Peter Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


The evaluation of the relative likelihood of different future scenarios is something we all do almost every day, and many of us have to do it in our jobs. However, most of the time we are not aware that we are doing it, or we do it based on our seemingly incurable hardwired tendency pointed out by many researchers (like Kahneman and Tversky) that makes us seek out patterns and see intentionality in the occurrence of events, most often on the basis of statistically insignificant or highly biased “samples” of past experience.19 What is important about this step in the Present Value process is that you try and free yourself from that inclination and think hard about what is measurable, what is not, and what really will give you a clue as to what might happen next. To see what I mean, let’s go back to my friend Bob and another favorite subject of conversation—baseball.

You see, in addition to his expertise at bridge, Bob is also a serious baseball fan. Growing up rooting for the old Brooklyn Dodgers, he learned to hate the Yankees at an early age (apparently the two go hand in hand). Being a rabid Boston Red Sox fan myself, we bonded immediately over our common hatred for the Yankees and shared many a beer commiserating with each other over the unfairness of their continued dominance of the sport. In the course of those discussions, I came to appreciate what a student of the game Bob was with his eye for the subtle nuances that abound in both strategy and play. This, combined with his encyclopedic memory and intuition for probability and statistics (as well as his Jesuit training in rhetoric), made him truly formidable in the numerous barroom debates in which he and many of his colleagues engaged. In some ways, baseball is a perfect environment to see the operation of probability and statistics in real time and to experience the perils of projection and prediction when probability theory is misapplied and those statistics are abused. From discussions of “hot streaks” and “clutch hitters”—two concepts that Bob and I were both highly skeptical of—to making predictions (and sometimes wagers) on future player or team performance, the significance of data on past performance as a predictor of future events is as relevant in baseball as in any other field where knowing the relative likelihood of future events is important. In this area (as well as many others), Bob was a master at honing in on what was relevant, measurable, and significant in ascertaining “true” ability (hitting, pitching, etc.) and likely future outcomes.

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Medium 9781576752807

Chapter One: Follow a Compass, Not a Map

Donahue, Steve Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I had spent the night studying my map— but uselessly, since I did not know my position.
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry, “Prisoner of the
Sand,” Wind, Sand and Stars

I met Tallis in October of 1976. I had hitchhiked from my home in Toledo to Montreal to board the M/S Aleksandr Pushkin, a Soviet passenger liner, for its last transatlantic I crossing of the season. I was 20; he was 26. Our friendship was sealed on the third night at sea in the ship’s cabaret. We found ourselves screaming into a microphone our rendition of the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.” It was the only rock-and-roll number the Russian band could play, and a much-anticipated break from the dreary Slavic folk songs that made up its repertoire. But the band didn’t know the lyrics, so Tallis and I became a nightly version of Lennon and McCartney— which quickly lost its appeal for the rest of the passengers.

When we arrived in Europe, we rented a dingy, unheated apartment in Paris with another young Canadian a few blocks from the Bastille. Soon the weather turned cold, wet, and gray, much to Tallis’s dismay, for he hated winter—February, to be exact. He absolutely loathed every one of those 28 days. He was the only person I’d ever met whose sworn enemy was a page on the calendar. His goal was to spend an entire February on a tropical beach and escape the sting of the Canadian winters he’d suffered on the shores of Lake Ontario.

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