For when you need a little extra push

Todays message comes from my son, who came home from preschool the other day, and couldn’t wait to sing me this song.  I love the first few seconds where he forgets the words.


So remember, you are very special.


The following is one of my favorite YouTube videos.

When you have a vision, when you really believe you can make a difference, do something great, or create something meaningful, then you’ve got to learn to ignore the critics, and ignore your failures.

Neither one will go away. Both can help you succeed.

Critics fuel your desire, failure is the playground of greatness.

(Here’s the text from the video)

Dismissed from drama school with a note that said “Wasting her time, she’s too shy to put her best foot forward”… Lucille Ball

Turned down by the Decco recording company who said “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on their way out”… The Beatles

Failed soldier, farmer, and real estate agent at 38 years old he went to work for his father as a handyman… Ulysses S. Grant

Cut from the high-school basketball team, he went home, locked himself in his room, and cried… Michael Jordan

A teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything, that he should go into a field where he might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality… Thomas Edison

Fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination and had no original ideas… Walt Disney

His fiance died, he failed in business twice, he had a nervous breakdown, and he was defeated in 8 elections… Abraham Lincoln

If you’ve never failed, you’ve never lived.

See also: It is not the critic who counts | Controlled failure | You should fail on a regular basis | Fault tolerance, managing shame and self-forgiveness



Today I went to YouTube to search for a video, and found that today was InvisiblePeople.TV day on YouTube.

InvisiblePeople.TV gives voices, faces, and names to the homeless. A social media effort to help America to meet these people, and hopefully, help them.

It hit me. I’ve been homeless. Not for long, but for long enough.

I lived out of a tent for a summer with my mom, my sister, our step dad, and his 4 kids (story here). They were slim times. Far easier forgotten than remembered.

Stumbling through the videos on the site, with an ache in my heart, I learned something.

I learned that in America, there are 3.5 million homeless people.

I learned that the average age of the homeless in America is 9.

There’s 1.35 million homeless children.

1.35 million.

As part of my effort to help, I want to perpetuate this cause, and urge you to as well. Share this page, or the website, with as many people as you can, so they too can be aware, and hopefully inspired to help.

The measure of any society is how it treats it’s weakest element.

Here is the video done for YouTube, explaining the effort.

Some of the touching stories you’ll find there are people like Jean (below), who used to have a house and cars, but lost it all over the course of the financial downturn. She now lives in a cheap, weekly rate hotel with her 5 kids and her fiance, riding her bike 5 miles a day to McDonalds, where she works.

Or this video of Candice, and her four kids, who had the courage to leave an abusive relationship, but is now without a home, and staying also in an inexpensive, weekly-rate hotel. All the shelters are full.

Cotton has been homeless for 16 years. “What’s my future? My future is throwing myself in front of one of these freight trains when I can’t handle it anymore, that’s my future.”

Drew lost his family to a drunk driver, lost track of his life. It happened all of a sudden. He’s been homeless for 4 months. Lost his job because of the economy. He’s educated, certified, and still homeless. Living out of dumpsters.

“It can happen to anybody, so you probably shouldn’t judge the next time you see somebody asking for just a little bit of help.”


Note:  Thank you for being here.  Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference.  Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.

In 2006 Sir Ken Robinson gave an unforgettable talk at TED about how to develop children’s natural capacity for creativity and imagination, and how the design of our current public school systems are working to kill that creativity.

Here is the video of the talk, with a text transcript of the main points below (in case you’re at work, or on a lower bandwidth connection). I highly recommend the video to get the full force of his presentation.

(Rough text transcript – or at least the main points)

1. There’s extraordinary evidence of human creativity.

2. We have no idea of what’s going to happen in the future.

We have a huge interest in education, partly because we’re relying on it to take us into a future that we cannot predict. Children starting school this year (2010), will be retiring around 2075. Nobody has a clue what the world will look like in 5 years time, let alone in 12 years, when these kids are graduating from high school, or 16 years if they go to college.

We have no idea what that future will bring, we have no clue, and yet we’re supposed to be preparing them for that.

Children have extraordinary capacities for innovation.

All kids have extensive creative capacity, and we squander it, quite ruthlessly.

Creativity now is as important in education, as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.

Tells a story of a little girl in class in a drawing lesson, who rarely paid attention, but she was really into this. So the teacher went over and asked, “what are you drawing?” And the little girl said “God”, and the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like”, and the little girl said “Well they will in a minute”.

Tells the story of his son in the Nativity play. He was playing Joseph. So there they were at this play, and at the part where the three kings come in to offer their gifts, they went out of order. And completely unintentionally (talking to the child afterward), the first child came forward and said “I bring you gold”. The second said “I bring you myrr”. Then the third child came forward and said “Frank sent this.”

The point is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong.

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.”

By the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. We run our companies like this, we stigmatize mistakes. We’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. The result is that we are educating people OUT of their creative capacities.

Picasso once said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.

We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.

Think of Shakespeare, he was in somebody’s english class at some point. How annoying would that be… “must try harder”. Think of being his dad… “now go to bed… and put that pencil down.. and stop speaking like that… it’s confusing everybody.”

Every education system on the earth has the same hierarchy of subjects, at the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and at the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on earth.

And in pretty much every instance, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music, then drama and dance.

As children grow up we begin to educate them from the waste up. And then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side.

If you looked at education as an alien, and simply looked at what the output was, who gets all the brownie points, you’d have to conclude that the whole purpose is to produce university professors (I used to be one).

There’s something curious about professors, they live in their heads, they live up there, and slightly to one side. They’re disembodied. They look at their bodies as a form of transport for their heads.

It’s the way they get their heads to meetings.

Our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. The whole system was invented after the 19th century. The whole thing came into being to accomodate the needs of industrialism. The whole thing is built upon two ideas.

1. The most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered away from things, as a kid, from things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job, doing that.

Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician, don’t do art, you’re not going to be an artist. Benign advice. Now, profoundly mistaken.

2. Academic Ability. which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence. Because the universities designed the system in their image.

If you think of it the whole system around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people, think they’re not. Because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.

I think we can’t afford to go on that way.

In the next 30 years, according to unesco, more people worldwide, will be graduating from education than since the beginning of history. It’s the combination of technology and its transformative effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion of population.

Suddenly, degrees aren’t worth anything. When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job, and if you didn’t have a job, you didn’t want one. But now kids are graduating and going back home to play video games. Because now you need an MA, whereas before you needed a BA, and soon you’ll need a PHD.

It’s a process of academic inflation. The whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feat.

we need to radically rethink our view of intelligence.

We know three things about intelligence.

1. It’s diverse – we think about the world in all the ways we experience. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.

2. It’s dynamic. If you look at the interaction of the human brain, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. Creativity, more often than not, comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.

Corpus Collosum – nerves that connect the two halves of the brain. It’s thicker in women. Perhaps why women are better at multitasking.

3. It’s distinct.

Gillian Lynn – a choreographer who did Cats, and Phantom. They had lunch and he asked “how’d you get to be a dancer?” She said when I was in school, in the 30’s I was really hopeless, and the school wrote to her parents and said she has a learning disorder.

Probably now they’d say she had ADHD. But this was the 30’s, and it hadn’t been invented, it wasn’t an available condition. People weren’t aware they could have that.

So she went to see this specialist, in this oak panelded room, and she sat on her hands while this woman talked to her mother about all the problemsGillian was having at school. And at the end of it, (she was 8), the doctor went and sat next to her, and said “, I’ve listened to all the things that your mother has told me, and I need to speak with her privately, we’ll be right back.”

As he went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. and when they got out of the room, he said, “just watch her”. Soon as they left, she was on her feet, moving to the music. He said to her mother “Mrs, Lynn,Gillian isn’t sick, she’s a dancer. take her to a dance school”.

She did. “I went to this room, and it was full of people like me. People who couldn’t sit still, people who had to move, to think. They did ballet, tap, jazz, everything.”

Then she got a wonderful career at the royal ballet, graduated, founded her own company, met Andrew Lloyd Weber, and has been responsible for some of the most amazing ballets in history, given pleasure to millions, and she’s a multi-millionaire.

Someone else might have put her on medication, and told her to calm down.

I think our only hope for the future is to adopt a new perception of human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our perception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds, in the way we strip mine the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future it won’t service. WE have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.

The only way we’ll do it, is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are, and our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future, which we may not even see. But they will, and our job is to help prepare them to make something of it.

I certainly think Ken makes a strong argument, and believe much of what he talks about is why (according to Gallup) some 50% of employees are not engaged in their work today, costing the nation around $300 billion in lost productivity, and why so many are unfulfilled with their career paths (more on this post).  It’s a decoupling of their pursuits from their passions.  They never found their sweet spot, and ended up pursuing something that they were assured could pay the bills, rather than something they were truly passionate about.

If this is you, click here for a series of posts that will help you learn how to get back on track, to find fulfillment in life and in work, and to chart a trajectory towards a career that you love.


P.S.  For more on this, see “Waiting for Superman – it’s time to fix our schools

See also Ken’s personal website to learn more about him and discover his books.

Note:  Thank you for being here.  Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference.  Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.

Today my son forwarded me an email with link to a movie that had been forwarded to him. I’ve gotten rather adept at ignoring email forwards, because they tend to generally not score well on my “signal to noise” radar.

But, he also doesn’t forward me many emails. I took a chance and watched the movie, and was touched. It’s a true story, told by Helice Bridges, who has been sharing it for more than 20 years.

So, I share it with you, with my recommendation that there’s more signal here, than noise, and with the reminder that you make a difference.

View the movie

Read the transcript:

A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made. Using a program developed by Helice Bridges of Del Mar, California, she called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First she told them how the student made a difference to her and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold “Who I Am Makes a Difference.”®

Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a community. She gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honored whom and report back to the class in about a week. One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honored him for helping him with his career planning.

He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons, and said, “We’re doing a class project on recognition, and we’d like you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what happened.”

Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, “Well, sure.”

The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss’s jacket above his heart. As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, “Would you do me a favor? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else? The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people.”

That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, “The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I’m a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says ‘Who I Am Makes A Difference’ on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this and I thought about you. I want to honor you.

“My days are really hectic and when I come home I don’t pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You’re a great kid and I love you!”

The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn’t stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, “I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn’t think you loved me. Now I don’t need to.”


Note:  Thank you for being here.  Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference.  Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.

Kung Fu Panda - a message about believing in yourself: self-confidence

Kung Fu Panda: Po gets the Dragon Scroll, the secret to limitless power

Perhaps one of my favorite all time movies is the brilliant animated film, Kung Fu Panda, by DreamWorks. It’s 91 minutes of pure awesomeness.

In it, the overweight, clumsy, and kung-fu-less panda bear, Po, is selected to be the chosen Dragon Warrior, who will bring peace to the Valley and defeat the dreaded tiger, Tai Long. The final step to becoming the Dragon Warrior, is reading the coveted Dragon Scroll, which is said to hold the secret to “limitless power”.

Po, like everyone else, never believed he was the Dragon Warrior. And when he finally opens the scroll, he finds nothing but a shiny surface, almost mockingly reflecting his own image.

Thinking the whole thing is a joke, Po leaves to help the villagers evacuate the valley, to avoid Tai Long, who has escaped from prison and now comes for the Dragon Scroll.

But in the village, Po meets his father who chooses that moment to share something remarkable. Here is the dialogue:

Po’s Father:

“Po, I think it’s time I told you something I should have told you a long time ago…

The secret engredient of my secret engridient soup…

The secret ingredient is…





“You heard me. Nothing!

There is no secret ingredient!”


“Wait, wait, it’s just plain old Noodle Soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?”


“Don’t have to, to make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”

At that moment, Po realizes the secret to the Dragon Scroll, the secret to limitless power.  Belief. Belief in yourself.

Think for a moment about what it is that makes us consider money as valuable. It’s not because there’s any worth intrinsic to the paper on which it is printed. The only reason it has transactional value is because as a society, we believe it’s valuable.

That’s why things that are rare, are considered valuable, because people believe they’re special. But consider diamonds. They’re really not rare at all. In fact, there are enough diamonds already found to give every man, woman and child in the United Sates a handful. They’re not even the most expensive gemstone. The value of a diamond is from a human-imposed restriction on access to the inventory of diamonds available. They’re only special because we believe they are.

Our whole market economy is based on belief. Look at what happens when people stop believing in the value of a company’s stock, or of the stock market itself. The nature of companies don’t change overnight, or in the course of an hour, but once we stop believing in a company, the stock, and therefore the value of the company plummets, or soars, as the case may be.

You are no different. You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?  After all, you are completely unique, which means inherently you are valuable, it means inherently you are special, and that realization gives you power, in a very real way.

Realizing this secret to limitless power, and energized by that realization, Po then returns to fight Tai Long.  Just before Po defeats him in battle, Tai Long reads the dragon scroll.

Tai Long:


Oh Yes, the power of the dragon scroll is mine!

…It’s nothing!”


“It’s okay, I didn’t get it the first time either…

There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you.”

The key to the Dragon Scroll, the key to accomplishing all that you ever wanted, the key to changing who you are, the key to reaching new heights, the key to limitless personal power… is just believing in yourself.


Abraham Lincoln encountered many failures, before becoming president

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States

In 1831, Abraham Lincoln failed in business.

In 1832, Abraham Lincoln was defeated for state legislator.

In 1833, Abraham Lincoln tried a new business, and failed.

In 1835, Abraham Lincoln’s fiancée died.

In 1836, Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown.

In 1843, Abraham Lincoln ran for congress and was defeated.

In 1848, Lincoln ran again, and was defeated. Again.

In 1855, Lincoln ran for the Senate, and lost.

In 1856, Lincoln ran for Vice President, and lost.

In 1859, Lincoln ran again for the Senate. He was defeated.

Then, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.

What matters most is not how many times you fail, but that you never stop trying.


Photo credit:
Alexander Gardner
Silver Gelatin Print
Color, James Nance
February 5, 1865
Washington D.C.
M-97, O-116
Copyright 2002 Nance

Unrestricted copyright usage from:

A microcosm is just a small version of something much larger. It’s usually very similar in the most important regards, but much simpler.

Kindergarten, for instance, is a microcosm of college (the macrocosm).

You couldn’t drop off a kid in college and expect them to do well. They must first survive a number of preparatory microcosms, each one progressively more difficult, before they’re ready for the largest educational institute we have to offer.

Superbowl champions don’t start with Superbowl games. They start with practice (usually at a very young age).

To do something big, try working up to it by degrees.

Find or manufacture microcosms of your larger challenge. Smaller challenges that are similar in key ways. Look at your larger goal and deconstruct the strengths, skills, and abilities you know you’ll need to succeed, and then take on those components individually, in smaller, more manageable, less risky settings. Make them harder and harder as you progress.

As you begin to win on small levels, you’ll become increasingly prepared to win on a much larger level.

With each microcosmic success you’ll build strength, you’ll build skills, you’ll build experience, and most importantly, you’ll build confidence.

The confidence you build by taking the microcosm approach will become the foundation for your life. Each success adds a brick to your ever-growing confidence foundation.

That confidence foundation will keep you motivated to achieve ever larger goals, and reach ever greater heights, and will help you persevere when times are tough.

If you want to win big, try winning small first.


Joannie Rochette - skating an emotional night

Joannie Rochette, a 24 year old from Quebec, was a 2009 World Silver medalist, and a five-time canadian champion who came to the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver as a top contender in women’s figure skating.

But only two days prior to the start of her event, she learned her mother had died of a heart attack. She had just arrived in Vancouver to watch Joannie skate.

But in spite of the heavy burden this placed on her emotions, and her mind, she kept on, eventually winning the Bronze medal.

To honor her, she was selected as Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

I was inspired and motivated by her mental and emotional toughness and her clear display of courage.

In an interview (here) she said “… the thing that I’m the most proud of is that I could step on that ice and be tough, because that’s what my mom taught me all of her life.”

It was this ability to stay focused, and to keep her mind on her task, when so many other thoughts were there to distract her that impressed me the most.

How often it is, as we set about to achieve our goals and pursue our dreams, that we are pulled and distracted. This ability to focus, when the pressure is on, and your mind wants to be elsewhere, is one of the truly inspirational highlights of a hero.

Hats off to you Joannie, and thank you for your example.


See her skate at the gala here.  See inspiring images of her emotional performance here.

Peaks and valleys. Life is full of them.

The important thing to remember when you’re in a valley, is that you won’t stay there forever. Valley’s are temporary, even when they seem to last an eternity.

Inevitably, you find yourself back on top again. Sometimes just remembering that can be the encouragement you need to endure.

And not all valleys are huge. Sometimes the valleys I face are daily, even hourly.

Sometimes I seem to have so much energy, direction, purpose, and momentum. And then, in a very short period of time, that all seems to get washed away somehow, and I feel tired, confused, or begin to doubt my former resolve and decisions.

When I start to feel that way, I consciously tell myself to shut up. I know it will pass; the clarity will come again, the resolve will return, the momentum will pick back up. And guess what. It does.

And so I think that one of the best ways to handle life’s little valleys is to just not take them to seriously.

Oh, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn our lessons (when the valleys were self-inflicted), but sometimes we just need a break, and it’s that simple.

So the next time you doubt yourself, the next time you question your journey, the next time you just feel tired and ready to give up. Just don’t. Tell yourself to shut up and chill. Forge ahead and soon you’ll find yourself back on the peak. And while you’re there, enjoy it, because it too, doesn’t last forever.