Follow your life–not a list!

concept of New Year resolution fading, being erased, forgotten or falling apart - white chalk handwriting on blackboard

At the gym here in Guadalajara this week, the crowds are thinning.

Heading into the second week of January I’ve noticed a predictable loss of enthusiasm among people who are beginning to find that working out isn’t as big a priority as they’d imagined.

We all know the feeling; and January 12 is actually “Stick to Your New Years Resolutions Day.”

Sticking to our resolutions is getting harder every day. So I stopped trying.

The universe and I have come instead to an agreement: it will keep providing memorable and marvelous experiences and projects ; I agree to feel overwhelmed and grateful by the stream of lessons and gifts.

A few people might actually stick to some carefully considered and hopeful list of what they think they need to do.

I travel light instead and just pack plenty of joy and gratitude; everything in my life takes care of itself without my questionable ability to make things happen.

The time you spent recently coming up with a resolution and thinking of ways you might achieve something would have been much better spent enjoying life instead.



Relationships Are Everything

Most things in life we either achieve…or we don’t.

Making more money, getting a better job or building a project may succeed or fail–if the latter, it’s just back to the drawing board.

A relationship is different. Even if we separate for a while or make a huge mistake and hurt someone …

as long as we both care about that relationship, there’s always a chance for it to be renewed or repaired–whatever damage we might have done.

Try not to confuse building and nurturing a relationship with building and maintaining something mechanical, coordinated or businesslike:

you could give up on somebody too soon and lose what might have been something wonderful for everyone.

Celebrate even relationship problems: both of you could still be looking in the same direction so there’s still hope.

This is worth it…because all we really have in life is each other; and we’re all in this together.

Seeing Six Moves Ahead

“You are thinking six moves ahead!”

In “The Queen of Katwe” a young Ugandan girl discovers her passion for chess and a natural ability to become really good at it.

Her coach realizes she could even become a chess master the day she demonstrates her ability to visualize exactly what moves her opponent will make and what her response to each move should be.

The youth in this true story was very lucky to have found her true calling and natural talents at such an early age. Eventually her skill enabled her to fulfill a lifelong dream and buy a nice house for her mom.

How many thousands of children in similar impoverished living conditions around the world have some talent that could save their family or community and bring important new solutions to a world in dire need of great new leaders?

And how many of them are already able to “think six moves ahead” and solve critical problems–but have never been given a chance to apply their talents where they might do the most good?

The new Avvene educational project is dedicated to helping children everywhere identify their natural skills and abilities so they can quickly become the kind of teachers, experts and project developers we all need.

For more information and to see some of the future leaders we’re already working with, please visit our project’s landing page:

Isn’t it time for you to think six moves ahead–and visualize a world in which every young person has a real opportunity to make every skill and interest count?

We’re all in this together;

So let’s act like we know it and do something about it.





Some people just know how to keep their cookie jar filled.

Namely, the folks with strong vision and connections.

Lacking these, all our potential is about as filling as flour blowin’ in the wind: it’s not doing anything or nourishing us because there’s nothing holding everything together.

A strong vision is like milk or shortening that binds all your potential together so it can accomplish something useful and creative.

Then strong connections and a reliable network are like the team of bakers who’ll process your mass of dough into the proper consistency and shape before putting the raw cookies into the oven.

So stop being carried here and there by every breeze. Develop a vision you can believe in and a network that will be there when you need it. Get baking today!

So when’s dessert?



Confidence – and How We Help Build it

In a recent Fast Company article, Leadership Consultant and author Angie Morgan noted the importance of dealing with dozens of everyday challenges that tend to shake our confidence. This matters! Feeling confident always increases our ability to achieve our goals.

“When you lack confidence you put a lid on your potential,” Morgan pointed out. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. And we don’t intend anyone we work with to have to deal with such a lack.

So what does this have to do with Avvene our new international project designed to help any child anywhere prepare for success and leadership? It’s simple: increasing everyone’s self-confidence has been a key program goal since day one.

The program is designed to give every participant–including adult mentors and helpers–a steady stream of increased confidence; and then help them nurture it in others.

Four confidence-building steps are mentioned in the Fast Company article; and all are built in to every Avvene interaction and activity. They include:

  1. Practice Positive Self-Talk:

Every adult currently involved in developing the program’s pilot project in Ladysmith, South Africa is actively building a steady diet of self-affirmation and comments that praise the children participants.

Associate Professor Sonia Kang is lead researcher of a study cited by Morgan. She is quoted:  “Any time you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations.”

Negative self-talk and low prsonal expectations will never have a place in Avvene.

  1. Bask in Your Successes

From the very first day, children will be invited to share and celebrate their personal strengths and skills by recounting what they’ve always done well and hope to improve on in the future.

The initial questionnaire used to gather information as the primary source for the “reader’s” personalized book focuses on successful behaviors and positive perspectives.

  1. Surround Yourself With Supportive People

Success never comes from simply repeating “happy talk” or inspirational cliches. Our supportive mentors or helpers will always be on the lookout for young “readers” to immediately begin achieving incremental or noteworthy success while growing new confidence that will last a lifetime.

  1.  Manage Confidence-Killing Thoughts

Everything our readers and their helpers do will carry them into unexplored psychological territory that’s outside their comfort zones and familiar environments. Their long-term success depends on a resourceful ability to embark on a personal growth adventure with good humor, mutual support and courage.

“Courage isn’t action in absence of fear,” says Morgan. “It’s action in spite of fear. ”

Our program’s unique culture reflects its founders’ lifelong eagerness to function and find ways to succeed even in unfamiliar circumstances. Each participant will discover a new world of supporters able to help him or her face and overcome their fear of the unknown and even– when necessary–faltering self-confidence.

  1. Use Body Language

In a program as completely decentralized and multi-cultural as ours in which key developers and coordinators have spent years living and working with people from countless countries and backgrounds the respectful productive use of body language (including possibly “power poses or at least good posture) in every interaction will be a key collaborative component.
So how about it? You should seriously consider becoming involved in Avvene’s programs and activities–it will be a real confidence booster!

Cutting Across Parking Lots

When walking around Dupont Circle with my supervisor–a former FBI agent–I would sometimes try to shorten the walking distance by cutting across a parking lot or patch of grass. But Lester would have none of that.

“Tsk tsk” he admonished me. “I didn’t know you were that kind of person.”

He clearly wasn’t. After decades in a huge bureaucracy even the thought of cutting corners was unacceptable to the point of being dangerous.

Part of the fun I got from learning the neighborhood was discovering where I might save a few steps–not out of laziness but from a desire to find a tiny way to deal with something that stood between me and my ultimate goal.

Even today I cross a room at night without turning on a light so I can test my memory and resourcefulness.

One of the most memorable sections in Alexander’s wonderful book A Pattern Language was his bit of advice for home builders to wait and put in the pathway linking the sidewalk and front door until after visitors had shown you how they preferred to get from one to the other.

This quirk may even be a personal characteristic of people who are most comfortable using and getting creative with internet apps. if I were a developer I might need to follow established rules and stick to the sidewalk I suppose; but not as a mere user.

Discovering how to get most directly to where I want to go is always my higher priority.

How about you? Do you walk around parking lots and driveways instead of through them or across them?

Think I’ll ask the next kid I interview too.




Internet-age communication = Constant improvement

How would people feel if they stopped getting your Facebook posts, or seeing your ads, or getting an email from you?

If people don’t contact you, that doesn’t mean they no longer care. It just means they’ve stopped finding enough value in what you’ve been communicating to expand on your relationship.

Nobody will miss getting your messages if you don’t make them rich with relevance, proof and value. Compete with yourself constantly; distinguish yourself by adding new value and vitality to every message or conversation.

Make raising the bar your trademark and you’ll achieve your goals more quickly.

News Flash About Ponds

Everyone would like to be a big fish in a little pond so they can dominate it.

Accomplishing that used to be simple: just work and study hard, network, improve your skills, and move up a corporate ladder.

But the hot winds of internet communication–especially anything business or consumer related–have changed all that.

You may have spent years preparing yourself to become a big shot, only to see a new industry fall into the hands of a brash imaginative nobody–and leave you gasping.

Face it: business and social ponds will come or go in the time it takes you to find GPS directions.

Every day we read news of big fish left flapping helplessly in the mud because their personal pond up and moved or dried up on them.

Getting big and meaty is no longer the secret of success. Work on your jumping skills and develop a nose for new ponds instead.

Life and Chocolate Pudding

I jumped out of the van to push it because the Kenyan hillside road we’d been navigating was turning into chocolate pudding and our van was skidding through it toward a cliff on the right and the possibility of an abrupt end to my group’s idyllic journey around the African countryside;

so I jumped over the knees of friends in the middle seat and through the van door behind our small Kenyan guide who now felt responsible for the absurd danger we found ourselves in;

and as I helped him push the van up the hill I realized I wasn’t really strong enough and neither was the scrawny guide but we did it anyway until he spotted a Caterpillar-yellow construction tractor passing us on the way home for the day and he shouted to the tractor driver in Swahili and the tractor pulled the van so for a couple of minutes I was walking against the van to catch my breath as its wheels slurped and spun up the hill;

and then the hillside road grew flatter as dusk settled over us for the day and the van was picking up speed;

and the guide yelled over his shoulder at me before leaping through the van’s open door toward my relieved friends;

“bad animals around here!” he shouted and slid the door shut behind him, and then the tractor and van and my friends were suddenly not there as the darkness became final;

and staggering toward a tall forested bend in the full throated darkness I could imagine a dozen pair of wild animal eyes studying me from the thick forest;

and then I was stumbling around the bend and the van was waiting, filled with the most beautiful lights I’ve ever seen and beckoning me to feel safe again.

This is how my life goes: always filled with surprise and danger and desertion yet eventually with people who care when I need them the most.

And I’ve never eaten another bowl of chocolate pudding.


Why You Need A Fun Lifestyle

In the early 60s our mother was a Village beatnik. Times changed; in my teen years our little family acted more like hippies or gypsies. Every three years or less we’d move and she’d change jobs.

Our unspoken rule was “As soon as what we’re doing and where we’re living stops being fun we hit the road.” So I soon became a master improviser addicted to unexpected and memorable experiences.

If something was normal we’d happily live without it.

It made sense for my brother John and me to attend a “college without walls” so we could travel around the world, doing whatever independent study appealed to us in faraway and fun places.

Then we graduated and I tried to get jobs and acceptance by mainstream society. Constantly failing at that wasn’t much fun, but at least I never got stuck in a rut. Instead I fully enjoyed being with my young daughters and constantly checking out new stuff whenever I felt like it.

My ideal lifestyle has always included learning and helping others without expecting a reward–because every effort was also my reward.

Many people seem to be getting uneasy with what they’ve got and envy my life of adventure and spontaneity. I’m happy to inspire anyone who feels that way to be different and follow their instincts.

So what about the dire threats we’re always getting? “To be happy you have to toe somebody’s line and conform?” Pure baloney; the benefits of traveling light and having lots of fun connecting with strangers will far outweigh any illusory costs.

Be bravely weird; then some day you too will be remembered for all your irreplaceable and fun memories.