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Greener Pastures, an excerpt from Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work

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Empowerment
Greener Pastures, an excerpt from Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work

Once we saw a goat put out to graze in a lush field. The grass was high and feeding was plentiful. But the goat wasn’t satisfied. It made a funny picture as it strained toward the field next door. Its front legs were suspended midair, dangling over the fence as it vainly reached for a tempting bit of green just out of reach. Of course the grass wasn’t any richer or higher or more succulent in the next pasture, but try telling that to the goat.

What pastures are you straining after? Most people are strenuously reaching toward what they think will make them happy or satisfied, straining toward something more, better, or different. The problem with this is that there is always something else that needs to be bought or produced in order for you to be happy or satisfied. Truthfully, in this moment, you can only have what you have. Anything you yearn for robs you of the possibility of reveling in the richness of your life.

People get so driven by where they are going that they miss their lives. You may actually be rushing ahead to finish this book, trying to answer some question or fulfill some agenda. While you are trying so hard to get something from the writing, you are not actually there for the reading.

Many of us live our lives as if we are looking through a telephoto lens on a camera. A telephoto lens focuses in on an object in the distance and excludes everything peripheral to that object. So you miss everything happening around you. Instantaneous Transformation is more like a wide-angle lens. It holds everything in focus whether it is close up or far away, and there is three-dimensionality and depth to what you see. The telephoto lens, on the other hand, makes things much more two-dimensional or fl at; you lose the depth of fi eld. When people are lost in a change modality, they feel annoyed when things “intrude” and interrupt their flow toward where they are headed. In a transformational approach, life becomes a dance of noticing what is rather than a tense experience of trying to exclude everything that does not seem on track to producing the things we think we want in the future to make us happy or fulfilled.

Working on Yourself Doesn't Work by Ariel & Shya KaneIt could be said that life is an unfolding, moment to moment, and we have preferences that frequently disagree with how life unfolds, because we are trying to get somewhere rather than be where we are. We think something better is going to come along because this isn’t it, when in fact this moment is all there is. This moment IS it.

People are so busy worrying about what they don’t have or how it is going to turn out in the future, they rarely allow themselves to really relish and enjoy the way things are right now. Life becomes a worry about what isn’t, rather than a celebration of what is. For if we, like the goat, invest our energy only in wanting what we don’t have and lusting after tantalizing goals currently out of reach, satisfaction is set aside for a mythical someday that never comes.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, in the UKGermany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here radio show or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books.  Their newest book, Practical Enlightenment, is now available on Amazon.com.

3 Leadership Lessons from Hiking the Camino Trail Across Spain

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Business
3 Leadership Lessons from Hiking the Camino Trail Across Spain

This post is a guest post by Victor Prince.  The best way to become a better leader is to better yourself. Sometimes taking on a big adventure on your vacation is a great way to do that. Pilgrims from all over the world have walked the Camino de Santiago trails across Europe for centuries, making their way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, North-West of Spain. Today, more than a pilgrimage, the Camino is an unforgettable experience and unique journey. The pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased from the time of the discovery of St. James’s remains in 812 AD, though there have been years of fewer pilgrims, particularly during European wars. This post is the companion to Voice America interview between Maureen Metcalf and Victor – The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain.

Last month, I hiked 200 miles (320 kilometers) over two weeks on the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. It was my third Camino in five years. I go back because I have found the Camino to be more than just a fantastic trail. The Camino provides a unique social learning opportunity as I meet and share an intense experience with fellow hikers from around the world. It also provides me alone-time to reflect on my own life and career. After my first Camino, that combination inspired me to post a blog here on LinkedIn about the lessons I learned. That blog snowballed into a book deal with HarperCollins. This third Camino taught me three different, but equally powerful lessons.

1 – Find a Train to Jump On – During a stop on my book tour in June, I met a couple of readers who were interested in walking the Camino but had not yet made it happen. When they asked me if I was going again, I told them about my August trip, which was timed to celebrate the release of the Spanish-language version of my book. They were nice folks, and in the spirit of the Camino, I told them they would be welcome to join me. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but three weeks later I got an email. They had decided to do it and had gotten the time off work. About six weeks later, we all met for the second time on a morning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and climbed over the Pyrenees Mountains together into Spain (see picture). Many miles later, we parted at the end of the trail in Santiago de Compostela as fellow Camino pilgrims – and new friends.

Leadership Lesson – If you have a big, difficult goal and you find someone else with that same goal who has a plan to achieve it, jump on that train with them!

2 – Test Your Boundaries – Before Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, many Europeans believed that Cape Finesterre in Spain (pictured) was the western-most point in Europe, and thus represented the end of the world. After reaching the end of the Camino trail, many of these medieval pilgrims continued on for a few more days of walking to see for themselves. These pilgrims must have felt a surge of confidence after walking across Spain – something that may have seemed impossible to them before they did it. They wanted to see for themselves if other supposed limits were really true as well.

Leadership Lesson – When you have some belief that is limiting your potential, test it. Sometimes you will realize a big wall in front of you is just a bubble waiting to be burst if you just poke it.

3 – Seize Safe Moments to Try Crazy Things – After I walked to Finesterre, I was tired and not looking forward to retracing my steps on the 40 minute walk back to my hostel. I didn’t see many other options. Then I decided to try something I had never done before – hitch-hiking. While I never recommend getting into a car with complete strangers on the roadside, I knew this would be the safest place I would ever try it. Because the road went to the “end of the world,” everyone driving back were tourists like me headed back to town. It was a busy road in broad daylight and I had my phone on me, so I stuck out my thumb. Just before the five minutes I had given myself to try it ended, a nice couple of French women pulled over. We chatted a bit in English before I took up their offer to jump in their back seat. Five minutes later I was back in town with a couple of new friends – and a new story.

Leadership Lesson – Take advantage of very low risk situations to try out constructive new things. For example, on one solo business trip early in my career, I popped into a karaoke bar I walked by to sing a song. I hadn’t had many chances to do public speaking before, and that helped me fight stage fright in a low risk environment since I knew nobody in that town.

Sometimes a vacation can be a great way to do something that helps you in life after the vacation is over. If you are looking for an adventure that can help you long after the vacation is over, it is hard to beat the Camino – a trail people have been walking for over 1,000 years.

As a reader of this blog and listener to the interviews, please consider enrolling in one of the innovative leadership online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching through our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author: Victor Prince is a Corporate Trainer and Certified Executive Coach who teaches strategy, communication and leadership skills to clients around the world. His latest book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain (HarperCollins Leadership, 2017)has been a Top 100 Amazon bestseller in 8 categories and was listed as a top business book of 2017 by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Earlier in his career, Victor was a consultant at Bain & Company, a marketing executive at Capital One, and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has an MBA in Finance from Wharton. Learn more at www.victorprince.com.

Born to Be Wild

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Empowerment
Born to Be Wild

Cynthia-Glacier-solheimajokull, katla geopark.jpg

“All journeys have secret destinations 

of which the traveler is unaware.”

~Martin Buber

Volcanoes, glaciers, highlands, prairies, lava flows, fire, ice. Nature untouched and untamed.

Iceland.

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Resting on the boundary where the North American and Eurasian Tectonic plates meet, Iceland is a country of intense volcanic eruptions, boiling hot springs, rushing rivers, venting steam, spouting geysers, powerful waterfalls, ice caves, aqua blue lagoons, northern lights, and minimal sunshine. With a population of only 338,378 and a median age of 38, most people live in the capital of Reykjavik. Iceland, a country of fierce contrasts, is geared for the rugged and the youthful.

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I visited this wild, wild country recently during the season of “the midnight sun”” when darkness never comes and sleep is elusive. Twilight reigned supreme allowing for plenty of exploring and hiking adventures. Summer in Iceland was freezing cold with unpredictable blustery North Atlantic weather, gray skies, menacing clouds, bone-chilling rain, and gusty winds. Sunshine in any minimal amount was not on the agenda. My daily wardrobe included gloves, faux fur hat, layers of clothing, double mufflers, boots, and a warm raincoat. Naturally, a bathing suit was always packed in my bag for that daily dip in a “secret” hot springs lagoon where the natives and visitors come to warm up.

Cynthia-skogafoss waterfall, katla deopark, iceland.jpg

As a traveler who dives into the culture of a nation, I wanted to indulge in the Icelandic cuisine. To supply fresh vegetables, hothouses operate year round using geothermal energy providing tasty and nutritious veggies to augment a diet of fish and meat. Dining out is expensive. The average price for a green salad was thirty dollars. Everything I ordered at authentic local restaurants was unique and delicious with the exception of fermented shark which was the most disgusting, foul smelling, horrid tasting item I’ve ever experienced. I spent a full day sick to my stomach after just a few nauseating bites, yet this is considered an Icelandic winter staple.

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What interested me most was the ever-changing unique landscape on this small isle bordering the Arctic Circle. I was mesmerized by the plethora of wildflowers, grasses, and moss carpeting the island. Flowers sprouted in the cracks of lava flows, spilled down the sides of volcanoes, and grew on the edges of the glaciers. While riding Icelandic horses ( a small sturdy breed endemic to Iceland only) through the countryside, miles and miles of blue lupines filled the fields as far as the eye could see. In the 1950s seeds from Alaskan lupines were scattered in a few regions of Iceland to help with erosion and soil improvement. They have now naturalized, much to the delight of visitors and the chagrin of the populace who have denoted lupines as invasive weeds that crowd out indigenous plants and stunt the growth of hungry sheep. Acres of buttercups, wild perennial sweet pea, angelica, mustard, hawkweed, lady smock, Arctic sea rocket, meadowsweet, wild strawberry, gentian, Lady’s mantle, marsh marigold, cornflower, yarrow, violets, and Iceland poppy hugged the ground. The dandelions grew to almost two feet tall and are harvested as a nourishing edible. Lichen and moss covered the fields of lava. The treasured Icelandic moss is said to be so delicate that a single footprint will take a hundred years to regenerate. iceland moss.jpg

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Autumn is an auspicious time to sow wildflower seeds in America. What makes a flower a wildflower? Basically, wildflowers grow happily without any human cultivation. they live and thrive within an interactive plant community. Many wildflowers are native to a certain region and when they freely reproduce in another area, they have naturalized.

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If you’d like to introduce wildflowers into your landscape, decide on the species you want and buy seeds from a trusted company. Make sure the plants are not an invasive species. (You can always check the USDA plant database at https://plants.usda.gov/java/)

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Sow seeds directly into the ground or into containers. Make sure seeds are protected from winter chills and marauding birds.

Here’s my list of beautiful wildflowers that will easily domesticate:

Blackeyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Buttercups

California Poppy

Columbine (Aquilegia)

Coneflowers (Echinacea)

Coreopsis

Lupines

Mustard

Penstemons

Wild perennial sweet pea

Yarrow

If flowers can flourish in the extreme climate of Iceland, they will go wild in our temperate gardens. Create secret destinations that are born to be wild!

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“Wild thing.

You make my heart sing.

You make everything.

Groovy!

Wild Thing

I think I love you.” The Troggs

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Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1216/Cynthia-Brians-Gardening-Guide-for-October-Born-to-be-wild.html

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy a copy of her new books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store

Available for hire for projects and lectures.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Cynthia Brian'Growing with the Goddess Gardener book.jpg

More Love, More Intimacy and Less Conflict for Couples – With Jonathan Robinson

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Empowerment
More Love, More Intimacy and Less Conflict for Couples – With Jonathan Robinson

 

In a recent episode of my radio show, Uplift Your Life: Nourishment of the Spirit, Jonathan told us the key to having a happy marriage is in becoming a great communicator, not just a good one. He pointed out that we all want to be appreciated, loved and understood. The best way to get someone to hear you is to first make sure they feel heard and understood. Then they are open to listening to your perspective. He showed us that the word intimacy translates to “into me see.” In other words, be vulnerable, allow your partner to see into you. With 30% of couples being from different political parties, the techniques that Jonathan teaches are more needed now than ever. These techniques are also effective for social justice and communication, leadership and team building within businesses. They are so powerful that Jonathan visits jails and within 10 minutes he is able to change the minds of people who identify as Nazis and have killed because of it. He said it works every time. Jonathan learned some of his strategies by talking with people like the Dali Lama and Oprah. He generously shared with us some techniques that he uses every day with his wife to keep the love alive and prevent conflict. To listen to this show, I encourage you to click here.

Dr. Paula’s Tip of the Week

My Tip from my e-book, 33 Tips for Self-Empowerment is: Bring in Positive Energy: The color pink is emotionally healing and will lift your spirits. When you feel fear, you can shift your energy. Ask God/Goddess/The Universe to fill you with pink light. See pink light coming from the heavens, through the top of your head and moving through your whole body. Enjoy the feeling of peace. You can use pink in other ways as well. Pink flowers on the table, especially roses, create a positive mood. Use pink touches around your home, including the bedroom. Depending on your tastes, this can be subtle or more pronounced. Other possibilities are to burn pink candles or wear pink clothing or jewelry. Rose quartz attracts love and can be placed around the house, in your bedroom, worn as a piece of jewelry or put in your pocket or purse. If you don’t have access to a store carrying rose quartz in your area, it’s easy to purchase on the internet.

Dr. Paula’s Silver Lining Story

Relationships are far more complicated since the last presidential election. After some of the experiences I’ve had recently, I’m beginning to believe that online dating sites need to add the question: who did you vote for in the last presidential election and would you vote for them again given what you know today? I think it would save people a lot of time and unpleasant experiences. If this is the case with dating, what must it be like in a marriage that existed before 2016?

I know one woman who doesn’t ever voice her opinion to her husband or his family on topics like gun control or President Trump’s actions. She made that choice in order to avoid arguments or a divorce. But is the price too high? Have we forgotten how to disagree in a civil way? Can we even have a healthy, supportive relationship with someone who doesn’t share our values or would you want to be married to someone who doesn’t share your values? It’s true we can’t agree on everything, but on some matters the divide is too great to look the other way. Just like friendships and family relationships are being affected by our current administration, so are marriages and dating.

Recently I had two challenging experiences with men I met online. Both men were spiritual with shared interests and everything sounded great until the topic of guns came up. Suddenly men who had been talking about how we are all one and sharing deep spiritual experiences and beliefs became people who were totally out of sync with those beliefs. One man has three bird feeders and lives on the water so he can commune with nature. That same man told me how automatic weapons should be legal and they aren’t the reason so many people have been killed in recent mass shootings. I felt like he became a different person. My silver lining was in the way I handled the conversation. Since we were on the phone, I tried having a logical and respectful discussion. By the third attempt, it became clear to me that such a conversation with him was not possible. Since he was lecturing me and didn’t want to hear my opinion, I finally talked over him and said that I was going to hang up since we weren’t having a real conversation. I then wished him success in finding someone who shared his values. I was pleased that I didn’t allow myself to be drawn into a shouting match or to be intimidated. At one point, I remember asking myself if this was a deal breaker. After all, I do live in Texas and guns are a way of life for a lot of people. I needed to be conscious about where I draw the line. And yes, it was a deal breaker. So I don’t have to ask myself that question again. I can’t and won’t disregard my values for any reason, including, or maybe, especially for a relationship.

The second man also challenged me to examine my values and to understand more deeply the complexity of another human being. Again, all was going well until he started telling me how happy he is that our President is a bully because he can stand up to his North Korean counterpart. Again, my opinion was irrelevant. In fact, he was fully engaged in our conversation until I disagreed with him. He tried to change the topic. I said I had listened to his opinion and I would like him to listen to mine. At that point, he picked up his smart phone and  started reading email while I spoke. As with the previous man, I was getting clear signals that his opinion was the only one that mattered. I’m not willing to be in a relationship with that level of disrespect. As I was saying good-bye, he started talking about his mother who had died of cancer. He couldn’t finish the sentence because he was overcome with tears. I wasn’t able to bring closure in that moment because he left abruptly. To my surprise, he wanted to go out again and contacted me several times even after I said that our values were too different for a relationship to work. My silver lining was witnessing the complexity of a person who is steeped in spiritual learning, has a tenderness that led to sobbing over the death of his mother and also thinks that guns and President Trump are good for the USA. Again my values and boundaries were tested. I know who I am and where I draw the line and I also have more compassion for people whose own values are contradictory and they don’t even realize it.

After a lifetime of abuse, the main silver lining for me was that I consistently chose to end relationships with men who are not willing to listen to me. I have been saying that we must speak up and voice our opinions. That’s true in our personal relationships as well as in the public arena of social justice, the environment, civil rights, and respectful treatment of all living beings.

For Previous Shows Like This:

FREE CHAPTER, THE ULTIMATE CREATIVE PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS, FROM MY BEST-SELLING BOOK, NOTHING BUT NET

To learn more about my unique process that removes hidden blockages, helps you solve your most challenging problems, and achieve success with ease and speed, sign up for my newsletter and receive the chapter as my gift: sign up here

CONTACT DR. PAULA TO SCHEDULE YOUR COMPLEMENTARY 10 MINUTE PHONE CONSULTATION

Dr. Paula, The Life Doctor, has helped hundreds of thousands of people improve their health, wealth and relationships through her writing, coaching, and speaking. Contact her today to get started on your personal journey. Recently Dr. Paula Joyce, PhD was chosen by Expertise as one of the 16 Best Life Coaches in Dallas.

Cell: (214) 208-3533

Email:  paula@paulajoyce.com

To learn more about Dr. Paula, please visit her website at www.paulajoyce.com.

To hear more shows from Uplift Your Life: Nourishment of the Spirit, please click here.

 

Organizational Issues Have Developmental Levels

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Business
Organizational Issues Have Developmental Levels

 

This is a guest post written by Terri O’Fallon and Kim Barta. It is the companion to Voice America interview between Maureen Metcalf, Terri O’Fallon and Kim Barta – How Organizational Maturity Aligns with Developmental Maturity.

All collectives, including families, corporations, and businesses of all kinds have issues that need to be faced. Usually the way we work with this is to take a shotgun approach—that is, we try the intervention that seems most likely to work given our experience and understanding of the concern. However, there is a much more effective and efficient way to approach any troubling process that we encounter in our collectives.

All collectives have a center of gravity world view. This means that collectives have a structure that is built on a particular belief system, and this is concretized in the mission statement, the policies and procedures and norms of the organization, and the kind of systems that they use to organize their work together.

For example, a common belief system is what we call a 3.5 /Modern/Achiever perspective. The predominant basis of this kind of collective is looking to the future, with a creative imagination of what that future can hold for the collective. Goals and outcomes are set by a CEO with input from others, and a plan is put into place with timelines and data points and benchmarks along the way to achieve the goals of the organization. The organization has a hierarchical structure with the CEO at the top and a series of managers (of managers of managers, etc.) who supervise the part of the organization they are responsible for and who organize their areas to support the goal orientation and the outcomes of the organization as a whole.

Another belief system is the 4.0 Post-modern/Pluralist belief system.  An organization that is formed around this belief will be relatively flat, because the 4.0 belief system doesn’t include much hierarchy—everyone has a voice. Leaders may set a direction for the organization without a lot of specificity and steer the organization in the moment based on what comes up, being very responsive to the complex adaptation that may be needed.

Regardless of the belief system that an organization is based upon, any and all collectives run into struggles of some type. These struggles (issues) are also organized around a belief system. It is very helpful to know the belief system that these issues are organized around. There are three kinds of issues.

  1. An existential, or leading-edge issue. The organization or collective may be growing into a later level belief system. For example, a 3.5 Modern collective may begin pressing into the working with more complex adaptive systems (a 4.0 Post-Modern, Pluralist complex adaptive systems belief) while it is organized structurally around a 3.5 Modernist system. This can cause quite a bit of confusion! If you handle this from a breadth issue of 3.5, you will not solve the problem. The solution lies in moving the 3.5 culture to a 4.0 culture.

 

  1. There may be issues around robustness and breadth—that is, everyone is working well together at a 3.5 Modernist level, but some of, or the whole of the organization is missing some critical skills that will keep it intact. This often has to do with technological advances, and we see businesses lose their cutting edge because they aren’t on the cutting edge of the next level of technological skills. Their organizational belief structure may be the same, but they may have an issue of not being able to reformat their business related to these new discoveries. For example, the business of processing films into pictures (slides, negatives, etc.) has all but gone by the wayside because of the technologies of cameras on cell phones and immediate access to photos online. Failing to build skills around the new technology can cause problems in the business as a whole. Not all breadth issues are large. There are many smaller issues that fit in this category that may not be noticed. Even though failing to notice them won’t put you out of business, the effect of these kinds of issues are real and have an effect. These effects will materialize even if you remain faithful to your 3.5 mission, values, and structural beliefs organizationally. The solution does not require a new structure at 4.0 to adapt, but it does require you to utilize your 3.5 structure in a new, expanded way.

 

  1. The third area is related to the darker issues in a collective. Regardless of whether the structure you have is at the 3.5 Modern level or the 4.0 Post-modern level, these issues relate to the underlying hidden beliefs that cause harm in part of or all of the collective. For example, there may be a very negative story about the organization that the employees believe and impart into any new employee that comes into the organization. “We have a bad reputation here.” “The powers that be don’t care about us.” “This is not a good place to work.” If these rumors are true it is imperative that they are cleared up if an effective, efficient organization is to flourish. This is a positive thing. However, it is not uncommon for these kinds of beliefs about the collective to remain even if everything has been improved. Perhaps changes have been made, but the past, negative, belief systems and stories within the organization haven’t changed. This kind of issue is a ‘shadow’ issue and usually falls into the category of negative gossip which can be handed from participant to participant. The negative gossip issue often comes from an earlier developmental level (2.5 Traditional belief system). This requires us to go back into the history of our collective culture and address it overtly and create a new story of healing and robustness.

When an issue arises in your collective/business/organization, it can be very helpful to look to see what kind of issue has arisen. Each level of issue demands an entirely different intervention. If you apply the wrong type of intervention to the issue (i.e. a leading-edge issue when the issue is a breadth or robust issue) the intervention can actually make the problem worse and create a new unnecessary issue that you will have to contend with in addition to the original one you are trying to solve.

As a reader of this blog and listener to the interviews, please consider enrolling in one of the innovative leadership online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching through our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Authors

Terri O’Fallon’s Ph.D. has focused the last 13 years on “Learning and change in Human Systems” as an applied researcher. She has worked with hundreds of leaders studying the interventions that most effectively result in developing leaders who can effectively implement change. She has her PhD in Integral Studies California Institute of Integral Studies. She is the co-founder of two organizations. She and Kim Barta have created STAGES International, an organization that focuses on how the STAGES (developmental) model can support insights into our own growth as people, leaders, guides, coaches, and the kind of impact these insights can have on our influence in human collectives.

Kim Barta MA is an internationally recognized licensed professional psychotherapist, coach, spiritual guide, and speaker. His work and insights spring from grounded experiential practice with self and others in his cross cultural and lifelong experiences. Currently, Kim has teamed up with Dr Terri O’Fallon to present workshops and trainings internationally in a new model of human development designed and researched by Dr. O’Fallon.

Terri and Kim run Stages International’s mission is to offer programs and services to individuals and organizations based a unique developmental model. www.STAGESinternational.com

First Man: The Man Behind One Of The Most Famous Events In Human History

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Movie Reviews
First Man: The Man Behind One Of The Most Famous Events In Human History

On the heels of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie explores the sacrifices and the cost – on Armstrong and on the nation – of one of the most dangerous missions in history. Written by Academy Award® winner Josh Singer (Spotlight), the drama is produced by Wyck Godfrey & Marty Bowen (The Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars) through their Temple Hill Entertainment banner, alongside Chazelle and Gosling. Isaac Klausner (The Fault in Our Stars) executive produces. DreamWorks Pictures co-finances the film. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Along with its main focus on the intense, action-packed mission, First Man explores many avenues that include dramatic and intense moments which spawn from the heart-wrenching grief of losing a child to the intricate and beautiful romance with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy). Much of the movie has emotions that are quite far from being out of this world, specifically in its massive focus on the family.” See his full review below.

First Man

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

https://youtu.be/9Id3Jg4pdTU

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Easily one of the most famous events in human history is centered on a singular man, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling). Behind the Apollo Mission that landed the first human on the moon, Neil is a man with conflicts, a man with a history and a man with a mission.

Along with its main focus on the intense, action-packed mission, First Man explores many avenues that include dramatic and intense moments which spawn from the heart-wrenching grief of losing a child to the intricate and beautiful romance with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy). Much of the movie has emotions that are quite far from being out of this world, specifically in its massive focus on the family.

The film begins up close and personal seeing Armstrong in his daring mission on the rocket-propelled plane, the X-15. Immediately, the story shows just how dangerous space exploration can be and how close those who brave exploring the final frontier get to never returning home. It follows Neil and his story intimately from the X-15 mission to the loss of three astronauts (close friends of Neil’s) in Apollo 1, the near-lethal mission of Gemini 8 and, of course, the incredibly daring mission of Apollo 11, that landed the first people on the Moon. Throughout these milestones in space exploration, the story pauses to look at the relations and life of Neil, truly unveiling the blueprints showing who he was as a man.

While incredible in revealing a massive side of this well-known historical event, the film attempts to focus so much on a story that has little to tell. The length clocks in at just under two and a half hours, which feels very stretched after the adrenaline of the exciting opening scene wears off. Neil Armstrong is portrayed as a deep man with little visual emotions mixed with dramatic internal conflicts. While this decision allows for excellent character design, it makes him rather boring at times. It seems the writers wished to divide First Man into three stories – one, the story of Neil as a man; two, the story of Neil as a father and three, the story of Neil as an astronaut. All three have their pros and their cons, but mixed together, the film becomes daunting and stretched.

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The cinematography sadly could have been better. Only a handful of camera shots do not shake. In most shots, the camera moves constantly or jitters. In the beginning, with the X-15 mission, this effect adds to the entertainment of the film. The audience quickly becomes sucked into the important and lethal mission with dangers at every corner. After two hours of shaky camera shots, that excitement changes to annoyance. While a mix would be ideal, and in more intensive scenes a camera shake would be appropriate, having the entire runtime featuring shakiness as well as many blurry shots, looks amateur and comes off as poor execution of what should be an interesting and captivating story.

However, the film does go beyond the moon in many ways – predominantly, in the acting. Neil Armstrong has deep faults and that stands as a challenge to any actor. Ryan Gosling nails the role in what turns out as an Oscar©-worthy performance of the famous astronaut. Others, including Claire Foy, also deliver extraordinary performances bringing each character to life. Despite the fact that no one can hear you scream in space, the sound design really belongs out of the world due to the quality and complexity of the sound effects. Much of First Man contains loud, intricate sound effects that vary and cover a massive spectrum. Perhaps more powerful would have been the use of silence in the most dramatic moments, sending chills to the entire audience.

My favorite scene is one of these moments of eerie silence. In this scene, three members of the Apollo 1 mission do a test in the Apollo capsule. It goes horribly wrong and the interior of the capsule catches on fire, sadly, resulting in losing the lives of all three. Yet, the film takes this a step further, as the three fallen heroes are not new in this scene. The viewer gets time to like them, understand them and befriend them – just as Neil did in real life. This makes their sudden and dramatic loss nothing short of shocking and cold, replicating the real-life impact it had on Armstrong.

Although, First Man has a strong beginning, a strong ending and many high points throughout, it also has many mistakes and things that could be improved that simply negate the extraordinary story of this story. For that reason, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. The story is quite intensive and is best suited for older audiences that will understand the impact of the events so I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. This film opens nationwide in theaters on October 12, 2018 so, look for it. If you are a fan of space exploration, it is sure to make an impact, but even if you aren’t you will learn something new.

 

Photos: ©2018 Universal. All rights reserved.

The Rack Pack: Enjoyable watch for anyone looking for that nostalgic 80s goodness

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Movie Reviews
The Rack Pack: Enjoyable watch for anyone looking for that nostalgic 80s goodness

A children’s storybook author reminisces about his childhood adventures with his brothers and friends. In a time before kids spent hours watching television, on the computer, playing video games and texting, they went to the park to play with their friends. As military brats, these kids lived their own adventures. They lived a different sort of childhood that challenged their imaginations to soar to a different level. Following in their parents footsteps, they pretended to be soldiers as they played army in the woods. Life seemed simpler back then, until danger came to town. In our story, a cynical man comes across a Civil War General’s old map that may lead to long lost treasure buried deep in a mining tunnel. The kids come across the man and his team and learn about the treasure. Our heroes come up with a plan to try to find it first. Things take a serious turn when the kids are discovered. The thieves up their status and become kidnappers as they take one of the children’s fathers hostage. The kids, in full army gear, set out for a rescue mission. As they learn more about each other they form a bond of brotherhood and friendship called …THE RACK PACK. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “This is sure to be a enjoyable watch for anyone looking for that nostalgic 80s goodness.”  Elle S., KIDS FIRST! Juror adds, “The Rack Pack is a funny film that pays respect to our military, all while expressing independence for the youth. I appreciate the diversity and persistence of these school-aged children.” See their full reviews below.

The Rack Pack
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

https://youtu.be/cWsNf9eehjY

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The Rack Pack makes fun of its goofy 80s vibe, but ultimately falls a bit flat with its underdeveloped plot. However, the acting and cohesive script provide vibrant energy. This is sure to be a enjoyable watch for anyone looking for that nostalgic 80s goodness.

The story follows the adventures of military nerd brothers Darrell (Nico Ford), Gerald (Hunter Lee Manning), and Loren (Wyatt Walter). Their escapades take a dangerous turn when they come under the contact of a Civil War treasure map. To compete, the cynical duo Ted (C. Thomas Howell) and DJ (Nick Vernon) race to obtain the map and sell it to criminals. However, the boys slip themselves to the thieves leading to their own dad (David Schifter) getting involved and kidnapped. In a race against time, the boys must save both their dad and map all while earning the legendary name The Rack Pack.

Nico Ford, as Darrell, excels with his sharp, yet reckless thinking. His banter with Tammy also add one of the movie’s funniest dynamics as she continuously dupes him. Hunter Lee Manning, as Gerald, sells the eldest brother dynamic with his wise mentorship even if he can come across as disloyal. As well as Wyatt Walter, as Loren, who wonderfully presents his cute youngest brother self always following his elders into trouble. David Schfiter, as Mr. Rackley, excels with his fatherly presence as he holds the family together through tough times and is always willing to take risks to save lives.  C. Thomas Howell and Nick Vernon, as Ted and DJ, allow for a charismatic villainous presence, with DJ being my favorite character as his comedic timing was perfectly handled. Last but not least, Cece Kelly, as Tammy, accelerates a fun side-plot as her biting remarks never got old.

Thomas J. Churchill talentedly directs the movie with great 80s gags and adventure with the Goonies being a big influence. My favorite scene is when the boys attempt to stop the duo’s perilous plans which result in some truly hilarious scenes as they rely on outsmarting than violent means. However, my problems with this movie stem from the plot of the movie in general which feels devoid of any emotional appeal or development. At times, it feels like there is zero plot. Thankfully, the movie’s quirky characters are able to hold attention as their wise cracks always bring something new to the table.

The message of the movie to always trust in your team as the Rack Pack always powers through and fights for what is right. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 10 as some scenes can come across as intense. The movie is available on DVD, so check it out.

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The Rack Pack
By Elle S., KIDS FIRST! Juror

https://youtu.be/1wHG3ZCdTzU

 

The Rack Pack is a funny film that pays respect to our military, all while expressing independence for the youth. I appreciate the diversity and persistence of these school-aged children. Yes, some rules are broken, pranks occur and sometimes a skunk just needs to let one rip. But, overall this movie makes your inner child smile. One of the most appealing things is finding out who the pack includes and why they were given this name. I like that there’s a bit of rebellious behavior, taking charge of adults and how the humor is all kid-friendly.

The film flows well. I like seeing the diversity in both race and genders, when it comes to forming a team – on both the child and adult side. I was drawn in from the beginning to the end. There are various characters and scenes that involve bullying. Some of that goes unresolved or are dealt with retaliation. There are moments when kids get revenge on adult thieves, but it is handled in a more imaginary and comedic way.

As a viewer, I wanted to see how the kids would find the villain and recover the treasure. The way the kids handle the situation lines up with what a tween or young teen would do if they were trying to confront a thief. I found the production value of this film above average for a lower budget film. I watched an online screener which included bonus footage showing bloopers and behind the scenes content on which was enjoyable.

The message of this film is that children can join forces and fight for not only their community, but for being respectful human beings. Children of all types can be their own advocates and fight for what they believe in. I think those are compelling messages to learn.

I love action films. There’s something about being covered in dirt and playing outdoors or “members only” zone where you can just let loose and be yourself. Self evaluation, action and adventures are a big part of this film. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 14. I do suggest parental guidance since there are some mild examples of fighting and weapons. Reviewed by Elle S., KIDS FIRST! Juror.

 

 

Venom: Fans of Superhero Movies May Want to Check This Out

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Movie Reviews
Venom: Fans of Superhero Movies May Want to Check This Out

Journalist Eddie Brock is trying to take down Carlton Drake, the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Venom is a somewhat entertaining comic book-based movie watch… Fans of superhero movies may want to check it out.” See his complete review below.

Venom

By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

https://youtu.be/AXQVVuTaZDk

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Venom is a somewhat entertaining comic book-based movie watch. The acting and directing provide for serviceable entertainment amid some of the movie’s ill-fated attempts. Fans of superhero movies may want to check it out.

The story follows former investigative and maverick journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) after he attempts a comeback following a scandal that left him jobless, despite good intentions. Eddie’s life furthermore takes on more complications, after accidentally becoming the host of an alien symbiote, giving him the carnivorous alter ego, Venom.  Soon, he must rely on and master his newfound powers to protect the world from the shadowy organization he so sought to destroy, because of their involvement in experimenting with other symbiotes, before it’s too late.venom-dom-VCM2235_comp_v0054rV2.jpg

Tom Hardy, as Eddie Brock, is my favorite character and absolutely lives up to the hype surrounding his performance, even if a few of his deliveries come across as random,  due to an inconsistent script. Also, he further sells the voice of Venom, delivering numerous nuances underneath the carnivorous savage. Michelle Williams, as Anne Weying, does the best she can with an uninspired script, that doesn’t do her character justice, as Anne comes across as a stereotypical love interest. Despite this, she adds nuances to her characters’ emotions and occasional comedic remarks.  Once again, Riz Ahmed, as Carlton Drake, suffers from the same issue, but presents just enough threat to make his foe a formidable one. Still, his plotline involving the main lab corporation, remains one of the movie’s stalling points as it remains nothing more than a disinteresting evil lair. Jenny Slate, as Dora Skirth, fares better as the script provides more material to go around. Her vibrant expressions and remarks make her one of the movie’s most memorable assets.

 

Ruben Fleischer aptly directs the movie with an effective grasp on understanding the Venom character, which is the movie’s saving grace. The mix of horror, adrenaline-fueled action and black comedy provides for a unique experience, unlike any other superhero movie, despite not being as polished as most. My favorite scene is the SWAT action scene, as it is a great showcase of special effects and unique sound design. The choreography further sells the excellent pace towards Venom’s attacks. The other main flaw stems from the sub-par script, as it doesn’t compliment the all-star cast’s talents well. Aside from Eddie, every character is stereotypical and not as interesting to watch, with stilted dialogue further adding unintentional awkwardness to the characters’ relationships. At times, the movie’s plot progression becomes littered with holes and doesn’t match the brisk pace that the many action scenes provide. In fact, any of the movie’s plot, not involving the Venom symbiote, is met with a gruelingly slow pace, leaving us waiting for Venom to show up.

The message of this movie to always stand up for what’s right and be careful about it, in spite of anyone in your way. Eddie’s brutally honest responses to evil and the Venom alter-ego support this with a positive example. I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, because of intense action and language. The movie releases in theaters October 5, 2018, so check it out.

 

Smallfoot – A Heartfelt Animated Film With Clever Laughs and Interesting Ideas

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Movie Reviews
Smallfoot – A Heartfelt Animated Film With Clever Laughs and Interesting Ideas

A yeti named Migo is convinced that a human known only as “Small Foot” is real and has to prove to his tribe that it does exist with the help of Meechee and the S.E.S – Smallfoot Evidentiary Society. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Smallfoot is a heartfelt animated film with several clever laughs and some interesting ideas at play.” Izzy C. adds, “There are so many creative little things like that throughout the whole movie, which really held my attention. The music soundtrack is awesome! I’ve already downloaded it. The music is one of the best parts of the movie.” See their full reviews below.

 

Smallfoot

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

https://youtu.be/Iy4yP_dEpvQ

 

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Smallfoot is a heartfelt animated film with several clever laughs and some interesting ideas at play. This film follows Migo, a Yeti, who lives in a village full of them high atop a mountain amidst the snow. Migo is content with his village’s way of life and their beliefs that are scrawled in stone, until he makes a startling discovery. He encounters a being that proves the existence of the Smallfoot or, as we would call it, a human. This goes against the beliefs of his people and gets him banished from his home. From there, he consults a few Yetis who believe in the existence of the Smallfoot to help him prove to the rest of his village that he saw one.

 

I really like the character Migo, played by Channing Tatum, and Percy, played by James Corden, a TV host trying to influence a resurgence in his career and the Smallfoot whose existence Migo is trying to prove. These are members of two species who have to learn to communicate and get along because of the situation they’re in. The two characters have very different personalities and motivations that collide and the aftermath of their meeting is part of what makes this film so interesting. Even what you could call Smallfoot’s antagonist has relatable character motivations, as he is just trying to protect those close to him.

 

I do have problems with the flow of this film’s story. This film’s first act is largely uninspired with too much emphasis on slapstick humor and not enough on story. It feels like a series of comedic antics with some filler between them. The film really finds its Smallfooting in the second and third acts with some fun musical sequences and humorous encounters. Smallfoot also has a striking message about what we consider truth and why we believe what we do.

 

I recommend Smallfoot for ages 4 to 12 due to some mild bathroom humor and some images that could scare younger children. There is a scene with a bear that could be frightening, although it is played up for laughs. I think adults will also enjoy this film. I give the film 3 out of 5 stars. Go check this out because it’s a smart animated film that has lots of moving parts that all manage to come together to make something fun and adorable. Smallfoot comes out in theaters on September 28, 2018.

 

Smallfoot

By Izzy C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

https://youtu.be/zEGg8K6p_cI

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Smallfoot is a really good animated movie with really fun characters and some amazing songs. I might even call it a musical.

 

The story of Smallfoot is told by the many scenes and lots of songs. There’s a Yeti named Migo (Channing Tatum), who is sweet and nice, but he gets kicked out of his village by the leader, The Stonekeeper (Common). Migo is banished because he told the Yeti village that he saw a monster called a “Smallfoot.” As you might guess, a “Smallfoot” is just a human. Yetis believe that humans are fairytale creatures, but Migo saw one in real life. Nobody believes that Migo had a Smallfoot sighting.

 

Migo really did see a Smallfoot and the movie follows him trying to prove himself. At the same time, it shows the story of the Smallfoot, whose name is Percy (James Corden). Percy is a TV Host who needs a big story to save his show from being cancelled.

 

I love the scenery in this film, because it is all snowy. The story takes place in the Himalayas. I found the story interesting because it takes place way up in the mountains where old fables are told. I like the silly beliefs that the Yetis have such as believing the sun is a giant snail and that memories hold up mountains. There are so many creative little things like that throughout the whole movie, which really held my attention. The music soundtrack is awesome! I’ve already downloaded it. The music is one of the best parts of the movie.

 

This film is for everybody, especially kids like me who are really into adventure.  I recommend it for ages 5 to 18, as well as adults. I think parents will like it. It has some really funny humor and is like a musical comedy delight. Smallfoot opens in theaters September 28, 2018 so, look for it.

Photos: © Warner Bros Entertainment. All Rights Reserved

 

Kristen Harper’s interview on the Marc Struczewski’s Podcast #health #wellness #productivity

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Health & Wellness
Kristen Harper’s interview on the Marc Struczewski’s Podcast #health #wellness #productivity

Kristen Harper’s interview on the Marc Struczewski Podcast will be released on October 19th at 5am CT at https://markstruczewski.com/kristen or on any podcast player (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, etc.

 

Kristen Harper is a radio host on VoiceAmerica.com, Founder of Perfect Health Consulting Services, and a Health & Wellness Speaker.  Her radio show is called “Tips to Keep You Healthy, Happy, and Motivated, which is aired each Tuesday at 3pm Pacific Time on VoiceAmerica’s Health and Wellness Channel.

 

On this episode of the Marc Struczewski Podcast with Kristen Harper, learn about….

the incredible power of hair analysis, why you shouldn’t eat fruit or do vigorous exercise and ten seconds of silence…?

Kristen Harper’s websites:

Home

Home

Tips to Keep You Healthy, Happy, and Motivated radio show:  https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2687/tips-to-keep-you-healthy-happy-and-motivated

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