There’s Room at the Table

In 1936 Dale Carnegie proposed that there are “six ways to get people to like you.”

Here’s his list:

  1. Be genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember people’s names.
  4. Be a good listener.
  5. Talk in terms of other’s interests.
  6. Make people feel important and do it sincerely.

– from How to Win Friends and Influence People

Not on the list?

  1. Share your accomplishments.
  2. Demonstrate your worthiness.
  3. Take yourself seriously.
  4. Describe your competence in detail.
  5. Act self-important.
  6. Tell an anecdote that makes you sound interesting.

Is this all self-evident? Is it obvious that humility and curiosity are the benchmarks of likability and therefore the cornerstones of connection? Most people would say so but I still see behaviors – and even notice impulses in myself – that contradict that sentiment.

The need to prove our worthiness seems to me the single greatest impediment to the establishment of mutually generative relationships. The drive to make sure “they know what I’ve done and what I can do” disallows the flowering of our natural interest in others because it keeps us bound by the disabling trio of comparison, competition and scarcity.

When we seek to connect, to build trust, to establish meaningful relationships we do not have to prove our merits or establish our bona fides. We simply have to remember three things:

  1. Each of us has an offering to make.
  2. Each of us has a ‘best’ way to make it.
  3. There is plenty of room at the table.

I have learned to trust that the better I get – the more focused, the more thoughtful – at making that true for others, the more others will make it true for me.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

The Facade of Competence

If you are experiencing difficulty connecting with your colleagues in a meaningful way, it’s possible that you are leading with your competence.

It’s possible that your investment in looking like you know what you’re doing is getting in the way of your being in relationship with the people who can help you do what you need to do.

I was once called “arrogant” after three weeks on the job because I couldn’t stop proving my “competence.”

I was competent. And I was the only one who didn’t think so.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Better Questions for a Better Year

I meet with a small group of trusted friends – fellow travelers – once a month for the purpose of connection that surfaces learning and deepens insight. We create a space of mutual respect and loving friendship because we want to, most importantly, but also because our work as leaders, consultants, teachers and coaches demands that we expand our capacity proportionate to our desire to be of service.

For our most recent conversation, Alia Fitzgerald composed the following questions to help our reflections on the past year shape our aspirations for the year ahead:

  • What are the six words that best describe 2018? What would you like those words to be in 2019?
  • What were you a part of last year that you’ll remember for the rest of your life? What do you take away that you could apply to your wellbeing and success this year?
  • What commitment if achieved tomorrow would give you the greatest feeling of contentment, satisfaction or success?

There is too much to do and too much at stake for any of us to go it alone. Trusted friends and powerful questions are still the best recipe for setting the intentions that allow us to do our very best work, the work that is ours alone to do.

[HT to Molly Davis and Alia Fitzgerald]


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Come Back to the Pack

I can get pretty enthusiastic about a new idea, approach or strategy. I feel the surge of positive energy that comes with knowing that “this” is for sure a better way and I can’t wait to get it in place as fast as I can.

And then I run into a harsh reality: other people, the ones who will help me implement the new idea or who will be responsible for owning and implementing it themselves, don’t share my enthusiasm. In fact, they don’t have any enthusiasm about it because they have no idea what I’m talking about!

I expect them to be right there with me, to somehow see inside my head and heart and magically transfer my passionate understanding of this great new concept to those locations in their own bodies.

And I remember that I have to take a few steps back to explain myself, to make my case and to remain open, somehow open, to their ideas about my new idea. I have to remain open to the likelihood that they will want to change, tweak, adjust or build on this thing that is already so perfectly formed! Alas, they might even reject it out of hand.

Maturity as a leader or a team member requires us to embrace our energetic enthusiasm for what’s possible while holding it just lightly enough so that it may be made even better by the wisdom of those we are privileged to call colleagues and friends.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

My attempt to interpret this poem

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

By William Stafford

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

We have to get our act together on this self-knowledge thing or else we’re going to get lost chasing someone else’s ideas about who and what we are.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

All that old stuff we haven’t dealt with, all those old ways we are used to being, aren’t much good for us anymore.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

We can keep going in the circles of our ignorance or we can finally break the cycle and be brave enough, kind enough to name what is true.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

Even though I don’t and can’t fully understand it I am asking for help to be real, to be open, so that I have the best chance of being found, of being seen, as I am.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

I desperately want to shut down, to go away, to go to sleep…but I know that if I help you and you help me we can stay awake right until dawn, and maybe even a little after, and that by doing so we can avoid the easy deceptions, the counterfeit connections that keep us from being who we really are, alone and together.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Again, and again, and again

It is not because you do not know the truth that I write to you, but because you know it already.
– 1 John 2:21

People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.
– 
Samuel Johnson


I am not writing this piece for you, I am writing it for me.

I am not trying – though it often sounds that way, I’m sure – to convince you of anything, to make you change anything, to swing your vote to my side.

It is through writing that I remember what I care about, why I care about it and what I need to do every day to live out those beliefs.

I care about self-knowledge and personal accountability for acting on that self-knowledge as consistently as possible.

I care about building relationships that are based on love more than fear, respect more than intimidation, and open-hearted vulnerability.

I care about learning, the relentless exploration of the frontiers to which each of us is called.

Every time I write I am inviting myself back to those three themes, checking on my integrity, exploring my commitment. Every day I bake a new cake of those beliefs, combining the ingredients once more to find out if I have them in the right proportion, to see again if I am living out what I so easily espouse.

If what I put down moves or shifts your point of view in any way, that’s the frosting, but I am not concerned with that.

I am concerned with the cake. If it’s not right, nothing else matters.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Tourist or Explorer?

I took a risk with a client the other day and did not stick the landing. It got a little messy because I was unclear, following a hunch in the moment and sowing confusion from a place of good intention.

The saving grace is that my client is gracious and understanding, willing to stay with me as I hobbled through an effort to take the work to a new place. Our ensuing conversations brought forth a new level of candor which resulted in a new level of understanding and learning. I’m thankful for the way it worked out. I’m glad I followed my hunch and I will be better for it the next time I am inclined to take that risk.

There are times I’ve been a tourist in my work, painting each interaction by number and “meeting expectations” as so many performance review forms blithely state.

There are also times when I’ve been an explorer, attempting to reach unknown places with no map, a hunch and a flashlight.

I will keep pushing myself to explore because every time I do, no matter how dark or stormy or uncertain, something better comes of it. And because good people are always there to help me find my way back home.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Earning the Delight of Solitude

“Solitude is painful when one is young but delightful when one is more mature” — Albert Einstein


It feels good to have more in common with Dr. Einstein than I realized.

For years now I’ve been contemplating why it is that I am increasingly comfortable with and even possessive of my time alone.

For a long time, more or less between the ages of 18 and 35, I could fairly be described as an “insecure extrovert.” I didn’t want to be around other people, I needed it in an unhealthy way.

I didn’t know how to be alone and it made me restless, anxious and uncertain when I had to be. Since this was still the pre-Smartphone era I didn’t have an easy form of escapism to dull the pain. I just had to feel it. And I hated it.

Other people served as a distraction from the unresolved questions in my heart and mind and the difficult feelings that accompanied them. In many cases I used other people to escape those feelings leading to unhealthy and short-lived relationships. It was a pattern broken by marriage but not resolved by it. In fact, had I not sought help in reconciling my inner life I’m sure my marriage would have suffered great damage, becoming an even more painful casualty.

Doing the work on myself not only made me a better friend, colleague, husband and father but it gave me the peace of mind and heart to be better with and to myself. That made it easier to be with myself and allowed me to transform from an “insecure extrovert” to a thoughtful and even loving one.

This is possible now because the time I spend in solitude refreshes me and heals me. It equips me to be more positive with and more generous to those I care about, instead of requiring them to feed my insatiable insecurity.

Increased comfort with solitude as we age makes sense because our experience of life is simplified. We’ve found our place and way in the world and the comfort of that leads to a quiet sense of security within the known certainties of change.

In my personal experience that increased comfort is also the equity earned from an investment in reconciliation; binding old wounds and enlarging my heart.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Read the Syllabus

When my son started college this fall I gave him two pieces of advice. These were not offered through some soul-searching recollection of my undergraduate experience but rather from my current role as a lecturer at Cal State San Marcos.

I told him that in the three years that I have been teaching at the college level these two things stand out as the easiest way to delineate between highly successful students and those who just get by.

The first is to read the syllabus. A syllabus is an extraordinary document. It is a 15 week roadmap (in the semester system) that provides a precise description of how to achieve success in a given class. Reading the syllabus and making plans according to what is learned there is so helpful, so advantageous, that it’s almost like cheating. In a well crafted syllabus there is no mystery, no secrets, no hidden trap doors. Yes, you have to do the work but you are equipped with the information you need to figure out how to do exactly that. And, if for some reason that is not the case, I told my son, you can apply the second piece advice, as follows:

Meet your professors. Find the spot on the syllabus that tells you their office hours, set up an appointment and meet with them. You don’t even need a reason, though most of my students who do so have a question about an assignment or are looking for some degree/career advice. In each of these encounters I make sure to spend some time simply getting to know them. And as a result, I remember their names, call on them in class more often and otherwise cultivate a connection born of a 15 minute conversation. This is where students seem to get tripped up, not believing that such a small event could have such a big impact. But it does, it absolutely does.

Nearing the end of his first college quarter, it seems that my son has taken me up on the first piece of advice but not the second.  I will continue to encourage him to do so, knowing how valuable it is, what a difference it can make. And I will encourage you to do so as well. This advice – taking full advantage of resources that are freely given and spending some time to make a personal connection – is just as valuable in the “real” world as it is in the collegiate one.

Surely there is information available to you in your field of endeavor that you have overlooked or set aside in favor of assumptions based on prior knowledge and personal biases. A little bit of humility and curiosity properly applied can be the key that unlocks that material and the confidence and capability that come with it.

Certainly there’s a connection to be made through a networking opportunity, a social media connection, comment or mention, an email inquiry, a handwritten note (!), that may open the door to a piece advice, a referral or even just a seed planted for some unknown future benefit. A little bit of initiative and openness properly applied can become the key to cultivating relationships whose benefits we cannot possibly estimate or appreciate.

Read the syllabus. Meet your professors. That’s not the whole list but it sure is a good place to start.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

A Week of Thanks: Day 3

I am thankful for my body.

I am thankful for the way it carried me up and down the streets of San Francisco this morning in my search for an open corner store;

For how it frees me from the creative prison of my head when I am stuck, stuck, stuck on what to write next. And then, like a message from the deep a leg twitches, a suggestion to let the wisdom of movement do the work. Sure enough, a block or two, a mile of two later, an idea breaks loose and runs to freedom.

It is a body that at its authentic best loves to swing, twist, bend, contort, rhythmically and otherwise. It loves to dance.

It is a body that has achieved some milestones – a marathon on one occasion, a few lengthy hikes up some good-sized hills – but has never been truly tested in that regard. Rather, it is one that has allowed me to move freely, quickly, energetically and deliberately forward in the every day; up stairs (two at a time), on a busy sidewalk, through a tedious market, museum or mall. Ever faster. Let’s go! A body that has had to double-back more than once to collect the kids who have been left behind in an urgent march to ‘get there.’

It is a body that has provided the physical bridge, a somatic connection, to the love of my life, the embrace of my children, the warm hug of friendship. It is a hand-holding, arms interlocking, head resting on shoulder, leaning on sort of body. One that has conformed itself to both the huddled embrace of sadness and the exuberant ‘high five’ of joyful celebration. It is a body that has expressed the longing of the heart when words could not be found.

It is a healthy body, most of all. Not a ‘specimen’ mind you, but healthy. And is it ages, a bit less flexible here and there, a bit rusty here and there, I am ever more thankful for how well it has done its work. And I am ever more committed to taking care of it as long as it will have me.

I am thankful for my body.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.