Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Free Hugs

In early July, Central Michigan University LeaderShaper Vincent Thurman shared with us the start of his "Free Hugs" campaign. Now he is back from a multi-state tour with an update and some lessons learned...

Hello again LeaderShape,

My journey of free hugs was amazing. I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of reaction I was going to receive. With nerves and excitement, I travelled to Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and a few other states along the way. My largest response to Free Hugs came in downtown Houston.

Along the way, I learned a few lessons: 1) Regardless of where you are, people are willing to give hugs, 2) something simple and genuine can make anyone happy, 3) when you give you also receive.

I’d like to highlight the second and third lesson for a moment. When the actions you take are genuine, they are received openly and are deeply appreciated. I was asked, “Why are you doing this?” from many people and I replied, “Sometimes people just need hugs.” After replying with those simple words, people seemed happier and more willing to give hugs. Simplicity and genuineness are two qualities that I continue to strive for and they have paid off along the journey.

The third lesson, when you give you also receive, is a lesson I’ve known for quite sometime. However, this journey has helped me gain an entirely new appreciation for such a simple phrase. When you give a hug, you receive a hug in return. It is an experience where what you give is immediately given back to you. When we give, we don’t always receive the return we expect right away, but the initial return is the satisfaction felt after you give something away freely. It is invaluable to give to someone who can never give back to you in the way that you have given to them. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Double Take: Personal Vision

Whatever our experience with the LeaderShape Institute was, we take away information which holds personal meaning for us.  It’s been eight years since I last facilitated a session but experiencing the power of creating and involving others in a personal vision still makes me as if I just left an Institute. 

When I was and undergraduate I took a class called “Great Speeches.”  We dissected words, discovered metaphors, and examined the powerful elements of various famous speeches.  I have to honestly say that as a sophomore, the King speech was “just an assignment.”  It was just another speech to examine over the course of a semester. 

Many, many years later in 1996 I co-led an Institute with Christopher Adkins-Lamb and I felt the power of that King speech for the first time.  Yep, in front of a roomful of collegiate participants I choked up and my voice became an unintelligible squeak.  Then I had to whisper to my partner that he had to step in and lead the discussion as I started an “ugly cry” in the Allerton foyer.  Not very professional… but that has stuck with me ever since. 

We can all empathize with the participants and facilitators who, after seeing that powerful videotape of King’s speech, are a bit overwhelmed.  It’s no wonder they have a difficult time developing their own vision statement or even closing their eyes and imagining something compelling enough for them to act on.  Some immediately come up with very short-sighted, organization specific, and yet very attainable visions.  They quickly create vision statements for their student organization and can picture a very different organization with a greater sense of purpose.  Others draft vision statements which are very compelling yet so unattainable (i.e. world peace) that it’s hard to coach them to develop tangible stretch goals. It’s like a roomful of Goldilocks searching for the “just right” vision.

The important take-away of this work is knowing that the process of vision development is what’s most important.  Less important is the product, the printed vision statement.

So, on to the double take.

We can use that same process for creating and/or recommitting to a personal vision as alumni of the LeaderShape experience.  In these summer months I’ve been surprised during dinner parties and casual get-togethers by conversations about the work my neighbors and friends doing.  Almost every single person I’ve talked with has their dream job in their heads.  However, no one has that dream job.  In fact, it’s sad how many people are completely unfulfilled in their current jobs.  It’s dramatic when they say, “If I could do anything I would _____________.”  They are transformed.  Their faces light up, they become much more animated, they smile broadly, and their descriptions of these dream jobs are so vivid, you can easily write their job description for them.

Because of those conversations I’ve become reacquainted with a favorite book, The Power of Purpose, by Richard J. Leider.  The author uses the analogy of a nautilus shell for one’s life.  Out of the shell’s basic center of orientation is a coherent pattern of growth.  As it keeps growing, the nautilus keeps adding new chambers throughout its life as it needs more space to grow.  The questions Leider provides gets us to think of our lives in stages.   He gets us to think about a central question as we move from the center (youngest part of the nautilus) to the outermost (oldest).  Here are his questions:

·       Childhood:  What do I want to be when I grow up?
·       Adolescence:  Where do I fit?
·       Young Adulthood:  What is my calling?
·       Middlessence:  Who have I become as a person?
·       Young Older Adulthood:  How do I measure my success as a person?
·       Elderhood:  What value-legacy have I added to people’s lives?

In the process of vision development we’re asked to think big.  To think of one’s impact on the world.  To consider one’s personal passion and signature strengths.   Here are some examples of friends thinking big:  An HR director discovers she is more passionate about rescue dogs than her current work.  A stay-at-home mom is devoted to her child, and deeply passionate about helping others work toward financial freedom and empowerment.  A software salesman would rather spend his time teaching youth good sportsmanship and officiating games so they can pay their way through college.

Leider asks us to have our mid-life “crisis” on purpose.  Be proactive and recreate yourself or your work so you can find deeper meaning and life satisfaction. 

As we say in LeaderShape speak, “Now go marinate on Leider’s questions and let us know your thoughts…”

Leider, R.J. (2010). The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer.  Berrett Koehler:  San Francisco, CA.

Thanks so much to Karyn Nishimura Sneath for this post and for these meaningful questions to consider. Karyn has been connected to LeaderShape since 1991 and currently serves as the CEO of NPOWER

Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012 Palmer Award Recipients

Drum roll please as we announce this year's recipients of the Palmer Award!

The Stats
Name: Jordan Edelheit
Session: The Ohio State University 2011
Institution: The Ohio State University

The Vision
To create an event that would help share new perspectives while strengthening the Buckeye community  at The Ohio State University.

The Passion
After participating in an empowering TEDx event while on Semester at Sea, Jordan decided she wanted to host OSU's first ever TEDx event. It was an event Jordan hoped would "bring together thinkers and doers from a wide spectrum of departments and backgrounds around campus and put them in a room with hundreds of attentive students and see where inspiration could lead our new TEDx community." Jordan noted in her application that she feels as though she is on a life journey that she would not have imagined without her experience at LeaderShape and the family she gained there. She writes that although she may not be able to pay back all that she has been given, she can certainly pay it forward. 

The Impact
TEDxOhioStateUniversity was a success! Jordan and her team welcomed over 300 attendees, 10 speakers, and 3 performance groups and included livestream viewers from West Virginia to China. The momentum generated from the event has led to the planning of a second TEDxOhioStateUniversity as well as an effort of bringing the first TEDx event to a prison in North America.

The Stats
Name: Patrick Oathout
Session: The LeaderShape Institute in Boston 2011
Institution: Duke University

The Vision
To create a free mobile application that allows users to communicate with refugees and aid workers by submitting reports via SMS text messaging, email, a mobile application, a website, and Twitter hashtags.

The Passion
Patrick's desire to address the needs of refugees and aid workers around the world is what led to the development of a free mobile application called Uhuru. According to Patrick's application, "Uhuru allows resettled refugees to connect with one another using crowd mapping to advertise ventures in their local communities. U.S. domestic resettlement policy encourages entrepreneurship among refugee communities, and this application facilitates the way individuals market their activities."

In order to develop Uhuru, it was necessary for Patrick to do more research on the needs of refugees and how to create a mobile application. He traveled to Washington DC to learn more about USAID, researched the web on creating an app, and traveled to Amman, Jordan to beta-test the application with Iraqi, Syrian, and Palestinian refugees.

The Impact
Patrick share's that "Uhuru has expanded the capacity for social entrepreneurship into crowd sourcing.  Refugees can now advertise their entrepreneurial activity in a free, easy-to-use, interface that’s received many accolades." Additionally, through this work, Patrick has become more committed to supporting refugees and is teaching English to them while in Jordan. You can learn more about his teaching experience here.

Thanks to all of those who took the time to apply for the Palmer Award. It was a pleasure to read about all of the really generous and bold efforts you are all making. Each LeaderShape graduate working towards his or her goals helps us to get closer and closer to a just, caring, thriving world. Please don't stop!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


The 2012 Summer Olympics! I love them. Love. Them. Like many, I am so inspired and moved watching these athletes focus, compete, and work to reach their dreams. BIG dreams. Olympic sized dreams, right?

In addition to the amazing feats of athleticism we witness during the Games, we also see the faces of those who love, support, and cheer on the competitors. Parents, siblings, partners, friends, coaches, and entire home towns all rooting for their Olympian. And there is nothing commonplace about this support. It is filled with undeniable passion. Passion that, at times, brings me to tears or cheers myself and I don't even know the athletes!

These folks are true cheerleaders. And they have me thinking about who I'm cheering for. What am I cheering for. What about you? What and who is so important that you would stand up, scream, shout, cry, and travel across the world for?

Life after the Institute - Day 7 - can be filled with wins and losses. We all need support to accomplish our dreams. So let's take a minute to offer that support, to cheer someone along who is going after their own Olympic-sized dreams.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

of Dreams and Deeds

Those of us who work in the LeaderShape office have the great joy of hearing from participants and facilitators of The LeaderShape Institute as they share their experiences, insights, and memories. This week I received an email from Ayokunle Falomo from the University of Houston that I'd like to share it with you. You can also learn more about Ayokunle's Day 7 efforts by visiting his blog, of Dreams and Deeds.

I am a student at the University of Houston, TX, and was opportune to be at Leadershape for the Spring semester of this year with a couple of students. Leadershape for me was life changing, it transformed me to become more optimistic about life (the video of Benjamin Zander especially so - I couldn't wait to get his book, which I have now, and have read. Documented here:http://ofdreamsanddeeds.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/possibility-its-an-art/), to believe in the beauty of my dreams, having an healthy disregard for the impossible, etc. We were able to work on our individual visions, and each day after LeaderShape for me has been Day 7 trying to stay in action), which is why I created this blog: http://ofdreamsanddeeds.wordpress.com/ to document my journey towards my vision (I mentioned it in the About Section) and also to share and show how practical the lessons and experiences I've gained at LeaderShape have been. Life would be great if every person on earth had the opportunity to attend LeaderShape! Until then, I believe those of us who have attended have the responsibility to share with others the experience, which is what I'm attempting to do. Again, thanks for the opportunity, and I'm beyond grateful!