Friday, December 5, 2008

Our new book is published!!

Okay, I'm pretty excited about this. We launched our new book after 8 years of study on greatness. The reviews are just coming out and everyone loves the book. Not that I live by reviews, but it's good to hear. What is also happening is that people are talking about the book. It strikes a chord in them. They challenge themselves to develop and are heartened to read about others who have also struggled with unleashing their greatness.

What is also gratifying is that the academic community and psychology community are looking seriously at the book. A review is forthcoming on positive psychology news daily and they found the research and studies we cite to be compelling as well as readable.

More than anything I am excited about the dialogue. Focusing on greatness and how to develop it in ourselves and others creates a totally different dynamic for academic, corporate, religious and political groups. Greatness shifts our focus to possibilities we had neither previously considered, nor thought possible.

If we move the global dialogue just slightly toward unleashing the capacity for greatness in all people the impact will be enormous. Now is a perfect opportunity to begin the dialogue. That's why I'm so excited about the book.

Our New BookPathways To Greatness: 77 Inspirational Essays from The Greatness Project is published. Go to to order a copy today!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Opportunity Galore

Prior to the Presidential election, Barack Obama appeared via satellite on John Stewart's comedy show, The Daily Show. One of the most important questions John asked of Barack Obama was "why do you want this job?" But he went further and clarified what he meant. He compared America to a car. "It is like getting a car" Stewart said. "When you were looking at it at first it was brand new. Now it's looking pretty dinged up and bad. Why would you want to be president with all of the difficulties facing you? Why not just walk away?" Obama laughed and replied that it is in difficult times that a president can really make a difference. So many people need someone to help them right now. Now presidential decisions really impact people's lives.

Earlier today, I was in a room full of middle management leaders of non-profit organizations. They listed all of the challenges facing them in this economic crisis. Some were content to stay mired in the difficulty of it all, bemoaning the fact that they could not do anything. Yet, all of a sudden some other managers spoke up and said that there was opportunity here. One saw the opportunity to offer a lower cost, high quality option for parents desiring good education for their children and stated that now they are being taken more seriously. Still another manager acknowledged that this downturn gave permission for some people to admit they needed help and her agency could now step in to offer help to so many more people.

Same situation, yet some people see barriers where others see bridges. Some leaders stop and wait for the difficulty to go away while others stop momentarily to roll up their sleeves and then dive in to see what they can do. Some complain that the circumstances inhibit them from proceeding, while others embrace the circumstances and proceed anyway. Greatness resides in the latter responses.

Difficulties always arise. Yet difficulties are only an indication that the path is not straight or level. It simply means that we have to steer a little differently.

The current situation in the world is challenging. It requires new ways of thinking and acting. Most of all, it requires great individuals to step up and lead. This time is ripe for great women and men to come forward. Historically, it is in the times of turmoil that great individuals rise and are recognized.

How are you responding? Are you searching for bridges, rolling up your sleeves and embracing the circumstances?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Missed Opportunity

Sadly both Obama and McCain missed an opportunity to move this country toward greatness Even now they could do it, but it will take a strong leader. At the second debate, they were questioned when they would ask the citizens of this country to sacrifice. We are in the midst of two wars, tumultuous upheaval in the financial markets, and a deepening reliance on foreign oil. Yet in all of the talk, there has been no request for us, as citizens, to do anything. We are just supposed to go on about our business and not be a part of the future of our nation. That cannot happen.

Individuals, organizations, and nations that achieve greatness do so through sacrifice and struggle. They put aside individual comforts for the greater good. They realize that even small actions, combined, have tremendous impact. There is no person, organization, or nation that achieved greatness without sacrifice. Our nation was built on that notion, but recently we've seemed to have lost our concept of personal responsibility. Once we elect our leaders (which only a small percentage of us do) we then leave it to them to make everything right. It gives us great comfort that when things do not go our way we can blame them and not have to look in the mirror.

Whether they do it now or when one of them gets in the White House, either Obama or McCain has to call on all of us to help fix the problem. Though both of them have promised to end the Iraq war one way or the other, we still have to deal with the return of our troops and treating them well. We have a tremendous dependence on foreign oil and we could curb our use of it daily, move toward more energy efficiency and assist companies to find alternative fuel sources. We could even assist in repairing our international relations. All of us know people in countries around the world. A focused effort of contact with friends, asking for their assistance and getting a strong message out about our global concern, could begin to turn the tide, rather than wait for diplomats to do it.

I'm sure there are other ideas you have to change the world. But there are few of us who have the impact of a Bill Gates. Together, however, we can make a difference.

We need to be challenged by a leader who tells us what we can do and doesn't take it all on him or her self. We need to know we are part of the remedy. That struggle unites a people. That struggle unites a nation. That struggle makes a nation great.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Father Abraham

If you haven't read Abraham Maslow recently (and who of us have) you might want to pick up a copy of his book The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. It is an exploration into the concept of greatness, though Maslow refers to it as self-actualization. Heck, if you don't want to read the entire book, just read chapter 3. Maslow identifies eight behaviors that lead to self-actualization. It is a "how-to" chapter on greatness.

Most of us are familiar with Abraham Maslow from our psych 101 classes in college. We learned about his "hierarchy of needs" culminating in self-actualization. It seemed from that brief perusal that Maslow focused only on the stages of development that life pushed us through. If we don't fulfill the needs in one stage, we don't progress to the next. It seemed very punitive and negative.

However, rereading Maslow recently for a paper I'm writing, I realized that he was much more than a needs-driven psychologist. Maslow explores the positive dimensions of psychology, especially the upper limits. Writing about self-actualization, peak experiences, and transcendence, he explores human possibilities with a rich lexicon that is part psychology, part philosophy and part poetry.

If you are interested in greatness then perhaps Maslow's description of how he began his study of self-actualization will seem familiar. "My investigations on self-actualization were not planned to be research and did not start out as research. They started out as the effort of a young intellectual to try to understand two of his teachers whom he loved, adored, and admired and who were very, very wonderful people. It was a kind of high-IQ devotion. I could not be content simply to adore, but sought to understand why these two people were so different from the run-of-the-mill people in the world." (emphasis mine). I found myself nodding in agreement as I thought about these words. Maslow read my mind and my desire to understand greatness.

If you wish to understand greatness, for yourself or others, pick up Abraham Maslow again. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Getting in the way of greatness

The current political race presents a powerful indictment of our country. Rather than focus on issues of policy we seemingly succumb to the maelstrom of our subtle (and no so subtle) prejudices. We analyze Clinton's sex, McCain's age, and Obama's race with aplomb. In corporate America, if someone raised these questions at an employee's performance appraisal he or she would be fired immediately. There are corporate laws protecting the rights of employees from this prejudicial nonsense. Reviewing job performance is about past, present and planned, future actions. Anything else is not pertinent to a job performance and is illegal. Not so in American politics. Thus we are pummeled by inane, inaccurate, and inappropriate information that should have nothing to do with our choice for a leader.

Perhaps we should vote blind. If all we saw was the record of the candidates' accomplishments and their ideas and policy suggestions without all the extraneous b.s. we could select a leader more on what they offered rather than vote against them because we were prejudice.

Years ago it was believed that women did not have the ability to play in the great orchestras. Though talented women auditioned for these positions the selection committees always found them lacking in some way. Only a few women successfully negotiated the gauntlet of auditioning. Finally it was suggested that all the musicians auditioning for a spot in an orchestra submit their resume without a name on it and audition behind a screen so the committee could not see them. The number of women selected to be on orchestras rose instantly.

How can individuals rise to greatness when their accomplishments and ideas are seen behind a veil of prejudice? If our primary concerns in a political year promote sexism, ageism, and racism the issues will be obscured and individuals who could be great will never be given a chance simply because they are different.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Where Are You?

Okay, have you seen what the social entrepreneurs are doing? They are simply remaking the planet. They are not waiting until the government, or somebody else takes care of the poor, fixes the environment, or offers empowerment to the underpriviledged. By the power of passion and some really incredible ideas, they are choosing to do something about this planet before it is too late.

If you are confused at this point and have no clue what I'm talking about, let me recommend a book. The Power of Unreasonable People by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. Though I thought I was up to date with reasonable solutions to the worlds problems, these people are turning things on their heads. What are they doing? Look up the Aravind Eye Care System in India, the Social Stock Exchange in Brazil, ParqueSoft in Colombia, The Marine Stewardship Council in theUnited Kingdom and the Institute for OneWorld Health and One Laptop Per Child, both in the US. I'm not going to describe them here, that what the internet is for. Believe me, you won't believe what you find.

However, I'm also embarrassed. I was a part of the generation that was going to save the world (a younger part, but a part nonetheless). We protested, wrote letters, marched and had sit-ins. I was proud of my generation when we stood up to the world, protested a war, ended most of the remaining discrimination based on race and gender, and looked toward a hopeful future. Now when I look around (and I count myself in this group too) our sit-ins are at Starbucks, or Barnes and Nobel, our last "march" wasn't a protest, but a month on a calendar, and any time we get really upset, we might place an electronic signature on a mass generated email.

I love that these individuals (okay, I'll call them "young people" because they are all a lot younger than me) are not waiting for permission to do it right. They are just doing it. They are recreating the way money gets to the poor, pushing for a realization of the global footprint of every industry and.... well, hopefully they are embarrassing us into action.

It causes me to stop and look at my life and I hope it does the same for you. Since when have we become so focused on protecting our square-footage that we've lost sight of the bigger picture. There are people starving, and they don't have to. We have the ability, means and distribution to end poverty and hunger now. Do we have the desire?

Look around. Once again young people are marching to change things. But they are not marching for their own rights, but for those of others. I've been through this before, and so have many of you. But the last time, we were the ones in the street. Where are you now?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A New Year. So What?

So, it is a new year. Big deal. Most of us probably forgot our resolutions by now or never even made any. Besides, what the heck, ruts and routine are comfortable. What is that old saying... "@#*# is warm." Yup. Better to just stay where we've always been and be able to complain about it rather than try something new and have no one but ourself responsible. And as for changing ourself, why bother? We'll just revert back to the same old, same old. Easier to save our energy rather than waste it on self-improvement. Besides, if we change, someone might expect more from us and we wouldn't want that.

Ever get these thoughts running through your head as you try living up to your New Year's resolutions? It is pretty normal because we are creatures of habit. Changing old habits to new ones requires time and effort. Sometimes we feel like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the mountain only to have it roll back down again. The difference is that unlike Sisyphus, the rock does not roll all the way back to the bottom. Every time we take control of a segment of our life, or try to enhance something of ourselves, we push that rock further up the mountain toward achieving our personal best. If it rolls back, it rarely rolls all the way back to the start.

Let's look at reality for a second. It is 2008. How old are you? How much time do you think you have left on this planet? Even if you are relatively young (I keep thinking I'm young) can you guarantee you will live to your life expectancy? Probably not. The reality is that we don't control how fast time moves. We only control how we spend our time. So, are you living the life you want? REALLY?

All a new year does is raise questions. Probably the most important question pokes its head up at this time of year: how do you want to live your life? Resolutions, for many of us, are the baby steps we need. If we need to radically change our life, these little resolutions can lead to revolutions. But, it all depends on us.

So, it is a New Year. How are you going to live this year?