Engage with the unexpected

September 1st, 2011

I had a uniquely challenging experience recently while teaching a weekend class at the University of Oregon entitled, Personalized Prevention. I assumed the students would be professionals from the field of prevention and was looking forward to two days of high-energy interaction.*

But on arrival the students didn’t quite match my expectations. I discovered that most of the class was comprised of incoming freshman baseball players, students who had been in high school a mere 10 weeks prior. And why were they there? They just needed the credit.

You would struggle to find a group of people less interested in this topic. I had to completely remodel my approach if I had any hope for making this topic relevant.

I realized that though these students were not prevention specialists, they were experts on the prevention message in two respects. First, they had all heard a variety of prevention messages since middle school. Second, the entire class agreed that these messages were not very compelling or engaging. So I challenged them to craft the prevention message they wished they would have heard, one that might have made a bigger difference in their lives.

Something incredible happens when we extend to people the permission to draw from their personal experience and expertise. They engage at a deeper level. They’re more open to considering new concepts. I discovered once again how truly effective this method can be.

At the beginning of class they were ready for something forgettable. Together we crafted something memorable.

We can’t make a topic relevant to others. We can’t make them engage. As I did with this class, we can present messages in a way that others are able to engage with ease should they choose to do so.

Try this in your next presentation or meeting. Refer to The Single Sheet exercise in Own It if you want additional guidance.

Allow me to share some quotes I received from students through email:

Thank you again for all you did. That was by far one of the most interesting classes I’ve taken. You brought up many points that allowed other students and I think in ways we do not normally do. Techniques I feel that will be valuable for future learning.

I really enjoyed the class. It was very refreshing to do something different than just be lectured.

Thank you for a great class. I really enjoyed it.

Thanks for the class, it really opened up my perspective.

Kindest regards,


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    Comfort Zones

    August 4th, 2011

    Comfort Zones

    “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

    Comfort zones are soupy wallows that yield predictable, mediocre, and ineffectual work. I have mine and so do you. They produce projects and programs that fail to engage people and contribute to their lives in any lasting sense. Too often we’ll remain there until something, usually a crisis, flushes us out.

    Comfort zones are different from sublime zones and it’s important that we don’t confuse the two. Sublime zones are places we go for rejuvenation: your garden, a concert, an art gallery, or the sea. Comfort zones are as rejuvenating as the DMV. Sublime zones help us grow and expand our gifts and perspectives. Comfort zones contract over time if we don’t challenge their boundaries.

    We feel more alive and connected to ourselves, others, and the world we live in when we express our unique creative and relational abilities. We do this most fully not from within our comfort zone, but from its outer edges. The people who have contributed most to my life have done so at the expense of their own comfort and convenience. This is probably true for you as well.

    Engaging with people to create lasting change requires that we enter new, unfamiliar waters. These waters are not wallows. They’re deep, fresh, and crystalline. Bobbing above the fathoms of our discomfort we’ll be astounded by the abilities and gifts we encounter.

    This is what motivated me to write and publish Own It.  I designed the activities and strategies in this short e-book to escort us to our boundary waters.

    Here’s what we’ll find when we get there:

    1. We will do our most engaging, brilliant, life-changing work.

    2. The zone will expand. What once caused us dread won’t be so terrifying the next time.

    If you were going to do one thing today that would take you closer to the edge of your comfort zone, what would it be? Will you do it? Imagine how this action could inspire the people around you.

    Thanks to all of you who have written me about Own It. (Writing it was like swinging my legs from the edge of my own comfort zone.) It’s heartening to know how this little book has helped individuals and organizations around the country.

    Copy this link to share the free version of Own It with friends and colleagues: http://bit.ly/own_it_e-book.

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      New e-book is here

      July 19th, 2011

      Own It is here! This is a short manifesto that can significantly amplify engagement with your message.

      Here’s how you can make the most of Own It:

      1. Share this book with others. Email the link to co-workers, friends, and family members.

      2. Gather a group of people from your team or organization to talk through the activities and strategies.

      3. Invite me to talk with your organization. Email me here.

      Click here to get the book. You can read it on a screen or download and print a paper version.

      I hope you find it helpful.



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