Archive for year: 2012

Olin Announces Distinguished Academic Partner

Franklin W. Olin College announced ThreeJoy Associates president, Dave Goldberg as a distinguished academic partner (here).

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with the creativity and passion of Dr. Goldberg working with us in our efforts to change engineering education,” said Vincent P. Manno, provost and dean of faculty at Olin College. “He believes, as we do, that student passion, courage, and initiative are the forces that will bring about the needed change, and we welcome him as an ally and colleague.”

Goldberg joins MIT’s Woodie Flowers in this role (here).

Silver Medal Universities and Unhappy Faculty

Medalists: Gold, Bronze & Silver

As the memory of the London Olympics fades into the rearview mirror, an interesting piece of psychological research gives us a clue to the origins of a certain kind of dysfunction in a number of universities.  Researchers have noticed that among medalists in the Olympics, gold medalists and bronze medalists tend to be happy campers, living happy post-Olympic lives, and that silver medalists tend to be dissatisfied wondering what might have been.

The problem according to one research study (here) is “what if” or counterfactual thinking and the idea is straightforward.  When gold medalists consider what might have been, the counterfactual thoughts that run through their minds are all negative (“I might not have won the gold medal!!”) and they are justifiably grateful for the result they achieved.  Similarly, bronze medalists when they consider what might have been, concentrate on the negative possibility of getting no medal at all, and they too are happy with their result.

Silver medalists, on the other hand, are different.  When considering what might have been, silver medalists consider the counterfactual possibility that if they had only tried a little harder that they would have won the gold medal.  This counterfactual opportunity causes them dissatisfaction at the time of the event and for periods of time thereafter.

Universities: Gold, Bronze & Silver

Similar reasoning applies to faculty happiness at what we might call gold, bronze & silver universities.  At the top of the heap, the very best universities have faculty who feel blessed to be where they are because counterfactually they would be at a less prestigious place.  At lesser institutions faculty are happy because counterfactually they might not have an academic position at all.

At silver medal universities, faculty members, like silver medal athletes, reason counterfactually how if only things had been a little different that MIT, Harvard, or Stanford would have hired them instead of the very good but not great institution that actually did.  At one university in my experience a commonplace would be to meet faculty members who would say the following:

When I first came here, I expected only to be here a few years, and I blinked and I’ve been here 25 years.  Of course, it’s a great place to raise kids.

The expectation to be in a silver medal university only a few years suggests that a gold medal university will come to its senses (and to the rescue) and hire the silver medalist faculty member away.  That this doesn’t happen is a source of deep career disappointment that often never heals.

Silver Medal Administrators

The dysfunction of a silver medal institution can be pervasive.  Faculty members have a heightened need to seek recognition in an environment unable to dole it out.  Silver medal administrators–due to their own counterfactual thinking–tend to act as if they were gold medalists, and doing so requires them to withhold honors from all but the very best faculty members.  Kudos are reserved for the Nobel Prize winners and National Medalists, and excellent faculty member has trouble getting a mention in a press release.  This cycle of seeking, not giving, and not getting recognition exacerbates individual silver medal feelings, creating a situation that sustains unhappiness and dissatisfaction among a substantial proportion of the faculty.

First Step: Awareness

Matters of status and recognition are difficult ones, but the start of a way out of the cycle of dissatisfaction is for faculty and leaders to become aware of this mechanism and to reflect on the validity of the underlying counterfactual thinking.

For Men Only: Stories from Our Fathers

I was watching the 1972 movie Young Winston with Robert Shaw, Anne Bancroft, and Simon Ward, and a number of the most powerful scenes were those when young Winston faced the criticism (and approval) of his father Lord Randolph Churchill, played by Robert Shaw.  Watching these scenes reminded me that when working with male clients, one key to progress is sometimes to listen to stories about the client’s relationship to his father.   Chapter 3, Live As If Your Father were Dead, in David Deida’s book The Way of the Superior Man succinctly captures why this is so:

A man must love his father and yet be free of his father’s expectations and criticisms in order to be a free man.

Imagine that your father has died, or remember when he did die. Are there any feelings of relief associated with his death? Now that he is dead, is any part of you happy that you need not live up to his expectations or suffer his criticisms?

How would you have lived your life differently if you had never tried to please your father? If you never tried to show your father that you were worthy? If you never felt burdened by your father’s critical eye?

For the next three days, do at least one activity a day that you have avoided or suppressed because of the influence of your father. In this way, practice being free of his subtle expectations, which may now reside within your own self-judgment. Practice being free in this way, once each day for three days, even if you still feel fearful, limited, unworthy, or burdened by your father’s expectations.

Rewriting and reframing stories is an important way to a more peaceful and productive life, and for men, some of the key stories that need revisiting, reframing, and/or rewriting are the stories from our fathers.

Need a Strategic Plan? Consider SOAR in Place of SWOT

In strategic thinking circles, the SWOT model is a commonly used framework for strategic planning and stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  The model is generative and has been helpful to many strategic planners over many years.

Having said this, there’s an alternative that is getting increasing attention called SOAR or strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results.  SOAR grows out of the movement toward appreciative inquiry in which emphasis is placed on considering positive opportunities and possibilities as opposed to problems.  While SWOT spends half of its distinctions on the what might go wrong, SOAR spends 100% of its categories on creating intention for future positive outcomes.

The shift from problem solving to opportunity finding is a subtle one, but results from positive psychology and innovation studies support the approach.   For more on SOAR consider the Thin Book of SOAR and for more on appreciative inquiry consider the Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. 

Brene Brown’s New Book: Daring Greatly

Readers of these posts may remember a brief discussion of Brene Brown’s work and video on the Power of Vulnerability here.  Today, her latest book was released, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and LeadIn the following promotional video she talks about the book and its title’s origins in a Teddy Roosevelt quotation.


Our work in iFoundry and the Big Beacon points to the importance of these habits, you can download the Kindle version of the book here.

A Letter to Mr. Churchill: “You Are Not So Kind as You Used to Be”

Garza Baldwin

Guest post by Garza Baldwin,

Below is a nugget that may interest students of leadership. It comes in the form of a letter to Winston Churchill written by his wife Clementine in June 1940, just after her husband became Prime Minister. Speaking truth to power, she makes some observations that we all might wish to preserve in our Emotional Intelligence files. I have excerpted portions of the original post and Mrs. Churchill’s letter, and those interested in the original post can read the full Churchill article here and other letters on the delightful blog called

Full Post Source:

It’s difficult to imagine the stress experienced by Winston Churchill in June of 1940, as WWII gathered pace just a couple of months after he first became Prime Minister. Behind the scenes, however, the weight on his shoulders was noticed and felt by all those around him , so much so that on the 27th of the month, his wife, Clementine, wrote him the following superb letter and essentially advised him to calm down and be kind to his staff.

(Source: Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills, via Mark Anderson)

One of the men in your entourage (a devoted friend) has been to me & told me that there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough sarcastic & overbearing manner ˜ It seems your Private Secretaries have agreed to behave like school boys & ‘take what’s coming to them’ & then escape out of your presence shrugging their shoulders ˜ Higher up, if an idea is suggested (say at a conference) you are supposed to be so contemptuous that presently no ideas, good or bad, will be forthcoming. I was astonished & upset because in all these years I have been accustomed to all those who have worked with & under you, loving you ˜ I said this & I was told ‘No doubt it’s the strain’ ˜

My Darling Winston ˜ I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not so kind as you used to be.

The letter goes on to remind Mr. Churchill of the need for what we now recognize as emotional intelligence, even in times of great organizational stress, and it is comforting to know that  a leader of Winston Churchill’s caliber needed the occasional reminder from loved ones to be mindful of such matters. Read the full post and letter here.

Enjoy, Garza Baldwin

Garza Baldwin is a principal of Baldwin Davis Group (, a coaching and leadership development firm in Charlotte, NC.  Garza specializes in providing such services to law firms and lawyers, other service professionals, and C-suite, senior management and middle management executives.

Calm and the 2nd Agreement

An earlier post (here) talked about understanding the nature of complaints and one royal road to feeling calmer through the speech act of making clearer requests.  This post discusses an important point made by Don Migel Ruiz in his bestseller, The Four Agreements, in particular, a point made in his 2nd agreement, “Don’t take anything personally,” but before getting to that point let me recount a short story of my introduction to the text.

I was introduced to this text by my coach Bev Jones (here), but I must confess that I was a reluctant reader of the book, resisting her suggestion for the better part of 9 or 10 months. When I originally looked at the book in early 2010, it seemed like a lot of soft-side hooey, and as an engineer, my strong left brain resisted the idea that it might contain anything useful for me.  Later, when I was taking training as a coach myself, I had been softened up sufficiently to open and read the book, and I must confess that the four agreements almost immediately blew my mind and changed my life.

The poster to the left reproduces the agreements with some elaboration.  The agreements are easy to state, and not so easy to apply, but if you do apply them, they can result in a calmer, easier existence.  Here they are:

    1. Be impeccable with your word.
    2. Don’t take anything personally.
    3. Don’t make assumptions.
    4. Always do your best.

This post is not the place to go into each of them, and for a fuller treatment, just read the book (here and don’t wait 9 or 10 months to overcome your hooey filter), but I do want to spend a bit of time on the 2nd agreement: “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”

A major source of lack of peace in our lives is the words that people say about us or the actions that they take with respect to us, and our interpretation of those words or actions and our resulting feelings. When someone says something that offends us, for example, there are three distinct parts to the chain of events:  (1) The thing said, (2) our interpretation of it, and (3) our emotional reaction to our interpretation.  Two of the three things are occurring in our minds, but oftentimes we experience the three collapsed into one.

This unity of experience is revealed in the way we talk about such events, words such as “He made me feel bad,” “She snubbed me at the party.” and the like, but the simple decomposition of the discrete events (speech or act by another, interpretation, and feeling) shows that there is a way to nip the bad feeling in the bud by refusing to interpret the words or deeds personally.  In other words, when you are about to feel bad as a result of something someone says or does (or doesn’t say or doesn’t do) with respect to you, invoke the 2nd agreement.

When I first discuss this with clients, they tend to resist, and say that it is impossible.  After all, how could you interpret the act any other way? It was intended, wasn’t it?  But even when harm or insult is intended, we have a choice, and recognizing that we are always in choice about our interpretations (and thus our feelings) is liberating in a way that is hard to fathom at first.  The trick to this is catching the reaction before it happens, and neuroscientist Dan Siegel says that we have a magic quarter of a second to invoke our awareness before a reaction takes place. If we use this quarter of a second, and invoke the 2nd agreement, we can have greater and longer lasting calm, even in the face of controversy or other external turmoil.

To get on the road to greater calm, read The Four Agreeements here or visit Don Migel Ruiz’s website here.


An Engineering Education Tops Disciplinary ROI

CNNMoney reports that of the 15 top college majors, ten are in disciplines of engineering or engineering technology.  Here’s the list and the associated salaries:

  1. Pre-med $100,000
  2. Computer systems engineering $85,000
  3. Pharmacy $84,000
  4. Chemical engineering $80,000
  5. Electrical and electronics engineering $75,000
  6. Mechanical engineering $75,000
  7. Aerospace and aeronautical engineering $74,000
  8. Computer science $73,000
  9. Industrial engineering $73,000
  10. Physics and astronomy $72,200
  11. Civil engineering $70,000
  12. Electrical and electronics engineering technology $65,000
  13. Economics $63,300
  14. Financial management $63,000
  15. Mechanical engineering technology $63,000

Even the non-engineering disciplines in the top 15 are quantitative in nature.  Read the full article here.

To Complain or Not to Complain

In coaching, one of the ways to help clients to achieve greater peace is to work to help them reduce the proportion of their day they are occupied with negative emotions, and one of the regular sources of negative emotion is complaining, especially complaining about particular others.

What is a Complaint?

What is a complaint? Merriam Webster gives the following definitions:

  1. expression of grief, pain, or dissatisfaction
  2. (a) something that is the cause or subject of protest or outcry (b) a bodily ailment or disease
  3.  a formal allegation against a party

The first sense of the term is the usual one in everyday usage, particularly the sense of expression of dissatisfaction.  To complain is to express dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and to lodge a complaint against a person is to express dissatisfaction with something they have done (or not done) or the way in which they have done it.

Are Complaints Like the Weather?

Now here’s the interesting part.  What is the usual source of complaining about others in our lives?  I hadn’t really thought deeply about this question and previously assumed that complaints were like the weather, something that just happens to us. In the same way that some days are sunny, and some days are rainy, I used to think that my complaining was a state of nature, and that some days just had more complaining built into them.  

I started to learn otherwise on the first day of my training as a coach at Georgetown (here).  Great coach Neil Stroul was our instructor that day, and he was talking to us about five types of speech acts (here): assertions, assessments, requests. commitments, and declarations, and that morning he was emphasizing the importance of clarity in request making as important in the coordination of human action.  In the middle of that seemingly abstract and fairly theoretical discourse, he asked us to think of a time when we had a complaint against another person.  He went around the room and debriefed a few individual examples, and then generalized the pattern as follows:

Complaints against others arise because you believe an agreement exists between you and another, but no request has ever been made. 

I thought about this and realized that, at least in my experience, Neil was right.  In thinking back over my own lifetime of complaining, I realized that most of the time my unhappiness was unjustified, because I had never made a request or my request was so fuzzy or unclear as to be extremely difficult to satisfy.  Of course, there were times when I had made requests clearly and well, and there were times were someone didn’t do what I had asked, but the frequency with which my complaining was completely unjustified surprised me, and from that moment forward, I resolved to (1) be more intentional about request making and (2) to make better requests.

Making Better Requests

To make better requests, first, signal you are making one by using a simple preamble: “I request….” or “May I request…?” Too much of the time we miss the mark oftentimes by being overly polite (“Would it conceivably be possible for you to….”) or indirect (“The trash hasn’t been taken out yet.”), and as a result, we risk that others will not recognize that a request has been made or our politeness suggests that it is OK to ignore the request without a response one way or another..

Second, make sure that you have the elements of a clear request in both the situation you are addressing and the words that you utter:

  • An engaged speaker.
  • An engaged listener.
  • A clear description of the thing requested.
  • A time of fulfillment of the request.
  • Conditions of satisfaction of the request.
  • A common context of the request.

These things and others are well described in the book, Language and the Pursuit of Happiness (here), but the main point here is to recognize that much of the unhappiness that arises from complaining can be eliminated by simply recognizing the need to make more and better requests.

Learning from Student Leaders and Junior Enterprise in Brazil

I was an academic for 27.5 years before I left to start ThreeJoy and the Big Beacon, and I’ve been to scores of conferences in a score of countries, but perhaps the coolest conference I ever attended was run by students last week (6-10 August 2012) for students, students who are immersed in giving themselves the educations their formal schooling refuses to provide.

Called JEWC or the Junior Enterprise World Congress (here), 2100 students from around the globe gathered at Paraty, Brazil in the State of Rio De Janeiro south of the city of the same name to celebrate their movement of students creating enterprises or consultorias to provide business services in their disciplines to local business as the royal road to giving themselves the practical education today’s theoretically dominated educational system refuses to provide.

I previously wrote about my interaction with Junior Enterprise at UFMG or Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (post here), and I was prepared to see very cool kids in action, but I wasn’t prepared for the size or scope of the event, the sheer organizational skill required to put on the event, or the professionalism of the student chapters that had gathered from around the world to learn, to be inspired, and to bathe in the collective enthusiasm of their movement.

Two  highlight of the visit for me were the opportunity to meet with student leaders of the movement (picture above) and share the Big Beacon with the students and point out how the Big Beacon is aligned with Junior Enterprise.  The presentation below suggests how Junior Enterprise has its campuses surrounded and now the time has come to move (a) around, (b) inward, and (c) inside to help transform higher education to be aligned with an era that values initiative and courageous action, not passivity and timid acquiescence to the status quo.

[slideshare id=13957903&doc=three-steps-8-2012-pptx-120813084339-phpapp02]

Junior Enterprise started in France in 1967 (see here) and it still has a big footprint in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, but Brasil Junior (here) is the largest Junior Enterprise presence on the planet, and I hope to go back and learn more about this important movement.  Those interested in a model for student-centered and student-run education could do worse than to go to Europe or Brazil and check out Junior Enterprise, today.