Tag Archives: Clinton School

Your History

I recently spoke at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AR. (Here’s the video if you’re interested.) A tradition of their speaker series is to have one of the Clinton School of Public Service graduate students introduce the speaker.

This was no dry recitation of my bio. Rather, this student, Kim Caldwell, delivered a colorful exposition on stories, including one aspect of story I rarely discuss in my speeches – our deep histories.

I usually talk about our interpretations in the moment and how they affect our thoughts, emotions, actions, and performance. But we also have memories from way back in our past that affect everything we do.

Next weekend I will deliver a commencement speech for the first time. I’ve been giving lots of thought to the events of my past that have made me who I am today.

And I have a question for you.

What is your earliest memory of some positive learning moment that has influenced you all the way to today?


Clinton School Blog 5

This week I gave a speech at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Here’s my fifth post on the experience.

During the Q and A after the speech someone asked me if I had any special advice for how to follow through on the lessons I had imparted. I believe he phrased it, “Is there any kind of special hero yoga or something?”

Well, I’d never really thought of it that way, but there are things I do to help me sustain the important lessons I’ve learned. Here’s my favorite.

On the last page of my book there is a special gift that I think should be included in every leadership or personal development book ever made. It is a wallet sized perforated card with the major lessons from the book. Readers can easily tear it out and carry it with them or place it somewhere they will see on a regular basis. I also give these cards away to all of my keynote audiences.

Unfortunately, out of sight out of mind. We finish a book and stick it on a shelf. We attend a lecture and dash off to the next meeting, meal, or whatever life has to offer. It takes me about 1.5 seconds to forget a person’s name when I meet them. It doesn’t take much longer for people to forget lessons they’ve read or heard.

So the card is a reminder to keep those ideas fresh. I’ve had speech participants bump into me years after the speech they attended and pull out the reminder card they received during the speech. They eagerly show off that they still carry it and pull it out to read when they need it most.

Of course, not every book and not every speaker provides this. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking the matter into your own hands. When I read a particularly powerful book, I make a card. When I hear something I want to follow through on – card.

If you can remind yourself of the major points of the most important lessons you learn, that will go a long way toward helping you sustain that important change you are making. So does pulling out your wallet and reading the card count as yoga?

Clinton School Blog 4

This week I gave a speech at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Here’s my fourth post on the experience.

During my dinner out with the Clinton School for Public Service students we talked about leadership. There were three different types of leadership challenges they face.

  1. Leading when they have a position of power
  2. Leading when someone else has the power
  3. Leading when no one has clear power

While position power seemed to matter to them a great deal, I told them that in most cases it didn’t matter. Competence rises to the top. However there are some subtle differences.

If you have good ideas, comments, or observations, share them. Get your voice into the conversation. Don’t let the value you have to contribute be left behind because you were somehow intimidated. This is most important when others have the position power. You advance neither yourself nor your group’s mission by sitting idly by.

If you have insightful, interesting, or revealing questions, ask them. Don’t be afraid to show that you are interested in what others have to say and can lead through inquiry. This is most important when you have the position power. You will always have opportunity to get your own opinion into the conversation. So lead by asking questions and drawing out others.

When no one has clear power use a healthy mix of comments and questions, but heed this word of warning. If the group begins looking to you as their informal leader, ask more questions and don’t gloat. Leaderless groups have a way of overthrowing their leaders and looking for new ones.

Of course, this simply scratches the surface of the enormous topic that is leadership. But it’s a start. And since I guess I’m the leader of this blog, I should probably ask more questions. So here’s one of my favorites.

What do you think great leaders do?

Clinton School Blog #3

This week I gave a speech at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Here’s my third post on the experience.

After the speech a few of the students from the Clinton School for Public Service invited me to join them for dinner. Over burrito bowls and beers we discussed the life paths of public and private service. Somehow we got on the subject of the biases in each direction.

  • Corporate Monsters
  • Ineffectual Bleeding Hearts

Those were a couple of the labels we identified, the worst ways that people on either side unfairly generalize about the people on the other side. Of course, there are plenty of ineffective people in the corporate world. And there are also self-aggrandizing, power hungry people in not-for-profits.

The key in either arena is to be aware of and avoid the temptations. Don’t let yourself get greedy and go down the Monster Track. Don’t get complacent and become an Ineffectual Bleeder. (Those were the names we bandied about.)

Even more important, watch out for both tracks in your organization. Don’t sit idly by and allow others to go down either path.

Clinton School Blog #2

This week I gave a speech at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Here’s my second post on the experience.

An audience member asked me what effect volunteering has on living a more heroic life. The answer is a lot.

We need to broaden, “you are what you eat.” Let’s make it, “you become what you consume.”

When we consume extreme political talk shows we view the world as antagonistic and hateful. Watching MTV Cribs makes us disappointed in our homes. Soap operas make everyone out to be devious and manipulative.

On the other hand, volunteering generally exposes you to a world more concerned with survival than Prada. It increases your awareness of your own privileges, freedoms, and opportunities. It leads to greater gratitude which has a host of personal and health benefits.

So yes, volunteering is a great way to be heroic.

But more broadly, what are you consuming? What media? What experiences? What people? What do you casually see and hear and intentionally watch and listen to each day. If you become what you consume, it may be time to take a good look at your diet.

Clinton School Blog #1

Last night I received a personal tour of the Clinton Presidential Library before then going on to give a speech as part of the Clinton School for Public Service speaker series. So here’s my first observation from my day in Little Rock.

We all need a slogan.

Every great political campaign has a great slogan, a rallying cry for its followers. However, the Clinton 1992 campaign had something else. It also had an internal slogan, something to remind everyone within the campaign where to focus their energy. Their internal slogan was, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

That slogan kept their focus. It ensured they would bring every issue back to what they viewed as their strongest suit.

Companies call this a mission statement. Though most companies fail to distill their mission down to something so crystal clear, and so their mission statements become onerous and useless.

If Clinton’s internal slogan had been, “It’s the economy and human rights and a fundamental belief that we should support our citizenry through safety nets in areas like healthcare and social security, stupid,” it would have failed utterly to drive anyone’s behavior. It might have made a nice plaque on a wall, but it would have done nothing to drive behavior.

Consider these made-up mission statements:

  • Happily deliver low-cost, comfortable air travel.
  • Do whatever it takes to kick the crap out of the competition.
  • Make a customer’s day, every day.

These mission statements are concise, to the point. They direct behavior. They’re memorable. They do more than rest neatly on a plaque that no one reads and no one remembers. Mission statements should be like slogans.

Similarly, we should all have a slogan for living, a slogan that helps us be the person we want to be. My slogan is Be the Hero. When I am angry or disappointed, at myself or someone else or the world, I say my mission statement. And it works.

Of course, it isn’t always easy to follow my slogan. Perhaps for the particularly hard moments I should take a page from Clinton and make my slogan, “Be the hero, stupid.”