A “Collection of Opportunities”

Greetings. It’s the end of August and the start of a new school year. While I’m not sure where the summer went, I am very excited about the year ahead as our middle daughter Carly has started her freshman year at Beloit College in Wisconsin and our son Noah is starting 10th grade at a new high school that should be a better fit for his talents and approach to learning. And while I can think of many lessons from the first few days of school, I keep coming back to five words the President of Beloit said in welcoming the first-year students and their parents to campus a little more than a week ago…

Colleges are collections of opportunities.”

A simple and important notion about all of the possibilities that await students, faculty, staff, (and even families) in an environment filled with so many opportunities to explore, connect, learn, and grow. Some of those opportunities and possibilities are clear the moment you arrive on campus…a fun and engaging freshman seminar on a new and inspiring subject, a first meeting with your academic advisor, a poster in the atrium of the new science center announcing an awesome upcoming event, a chance to audition for the Fall musical, the prospect of making new friends from almost every corner of the U.S. and the world, work study postings that align with a possible major or a personal interest, a visit to the local farmer’s market, and the start to becoming a more independent person 800 miles away from constant guidance (or input) of well-intentioned parents.

There are also opportunities and possibilities that will become clearer as the semester and four years unfold…new and surprising relationships, favorite professors, the most awesome places to study or hang out, sparks generated by reading a new book or wrestling with a compelling question, a world of options for study abroad, and volunteer positions in the community that provide a chance to make a difference and even a bit of a reality check on an envisioned career.

beloit college-photo_17455.

Yes, colleges are “collections of opportunities,” and the young people who approach their time on and off campus with a sense of curiosity, wonder, openness, and humility are likely to be the beneficiaries of a remarkable gift.

But I would be remiss if I failed to suggest that colleges are not the only collections of opportunities we are fortunate enough to encounter. Or that our best chances to be inspired and stretch beyond our comfort zones can’t occur in our work and the rest of our lives. In fact, all of our companies and organizations would also be much more successful if they viewed their mission as providing a “collection of opportunities” for all of their customers and employees. Opportunities to explore, connect, learn, and grow. Opportunities to ask and answer important questions, take greater initiative, create and gain greater value, make more of a contribution, and even re-imagine what is possible. Opportunities to innovate and collaborate in new ways. Opportunities to be different and to make a compelling difference.

But in order to realize this mission we have to believe that, just like college students, all of us and all of our organizations are continually a work in progress in a world filled with opportunities. So why not think about how to bring the spirit and sense of possibilities of starting college into your workplace. It might be a great way to unlock the real genius in all of your colleagues.

We win in business and in life when we see the opportunities around us as a remarkable gift and college as simply one of the best starting points for capturing them.


The Most Important Strangers

Greetings. For some “strange” reason I’ve become preoccupied with the value of strangers in our work and personal lives. It might have something to do with my new book, but even more likely is the fact that strangers have played such an important role in my life. Strangers who helped to nurture my love of learning. Strangers who suggested that the world was filled with limitless possibilities. Strangers who saw my potential at moments when I was a bit uncertain. Strangers who took a chance on my brand new business twenty-five years ago. A very special stranger who used his remarkable skill and even greater humanity almost twenty years ago to rebuild a defect in my heart that threatened my life. And the kindest stranger I ever met, who fortunately became my wife. Don’t get me wrong, families and friends mean the world to me. But I have also been blessed to have several important strangers cross my path at exactly the right time…people I humbly acknowledge at the beginning of “The Necessity of Strangers.”

As a result, I am always interested in learning about connections that people have made with strangers that have changed their lives for the better. So in today’s post I’d like to ask a very simple question in the hope that some of you will share your own stories, and that together we can create a movement to make our organizations, communities, and the rest of our lives more open to strangers and people who are very different than us.

So here it is:

What strangers have made an important difference in your life?

It’s not a question most of us think about very often, but I’m betting that most of you will be surprised by your answer and more likely to appreciate the powerful role that strangers could have in your future success.

And maybe I can use another post to share some of your most compelling and meaningful experiences with other readers…while assuring your confidentiality.

We win in business and in life when we are open to new people and new ideas. It’s how we learn, grow, and create greater meaning and value.


The Brilliance of New Hires

Greetings.  It’s the start of a new week and, if you’re very lucky, you’ll be arriving at work to meet some brand new people.  Not “brand new” people in the sense that they just arrived on earth, but brand new to your company and organization.  And that is a great thing.  Because new hires are an amazing gift to any organization if we are open to the fresh ideas and possibilities they bring.

Unfortunately, we don’t always see it that way.  Instead, we often look at our new hires as projects, burdens, or even total weirdos.  Folks who happen to show up at our doorstep without understanding the way we do things and are likely to require tons of training, mentoring, hand-holding, and whatever else it takes to get them up to speed.  When we should be looking at them as new sources of information and insight who bring important perspectives from the world beyond our walls and imaginations.

So the next time you have the gift of a new colleague, whether it’s this week or a month from now, try to take the time to welcome them, get to know them, involve them, ask them questions, and find out what they know that really matters.  And try to discover how some of their genius can be used to make your company or organization more successful.

New Hires 

We win in business when we welcome new people and new ideas.  It’s one of the best ways for good companies and organizations to learn, innovate, and grow.



Finding Wisdom in Colors

Greetings.  While snow and winter continue along the east coast of the U.S., in India it's just about time for Holi.  This is the first Hindu festival of the year and a remarkable celebration of spring, fertility, the harvest, and the ancient legend of Prahalad and Holika–a story of the triumph of good over evil.  But the festival is best known for its sense of joy and unique ability to break down the barriers that often separate people.  And for the tradition of throwing and spraying brightly-colored paint at each other.  A dazzling array of colored powder and water directed at friends, relatives, acquaintances, and even total strangers that creates a wild swirl of blues, greens, yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, and other hues.  And in the process, makes everyone an integral part of a veritable rainbow of color.  Young and old.  Men and women.  Rich and poor.  People of all different faiths and ethnicities.

Colors that liberate us from other peoples' perceptions of who we are.  Colors that enable us to see everyone as a joyous equal–with an equal smile, an equal voice, and an equal ability to express our innate creativity.

Which challenged me to imagine what it would be like to celebrate this festival in all of our companies and organizations.  The ones with their own "caste" systems of rank, position, influence, longevity, bureaucracy, and politics.  The ones where we talk about the value and equality of ideas but rarely tap the genius in all of our people.  The ones where we too often struggle to innovate and grow but rarely bring our brightest and most diverse palette of thought to bear. 

A holiday from half-way around our ever-shrinking world that strikes at the heart of what it means to be human… 

Holi 2
We win in business and in life when we paint a new picture together in fresh colors that everyone can share.  And when we think of ourselves as the canvas–able to change, adapt, innovate, and grow.  Imagine the possibilities!


P.S.  To see more photos of Holi festivities, click here.