Questions

At any given point in our lives, each of us has a question that, in the words of the poet David Whyte, “has no right to go away.”

These are questions that beckon us to consider who we have been, who we are and who we want to be.

This kind of question is less a problem to be solved than an ally on whom to rely in the midst of transition. It is a marker for our discernment, be that active or passive. It patiently works in and through us as we stand on the threshold between this version of our experience and the one that is taking shape before us.

Neither easy nor simple, these questions shape us by simply being present and by us being present to them.

Some I have heard recently:

Who am I now that this change has taken place?
What’s next for me now that I have reached this milestone?
What I am prepared to learn, eager to learn?
How can I use my gifts in new ways?
How do I stay attentive to the more challenging disciplines of my life?
How do I open myself to the risk and joy of greater vulnerability?
How do I let go of what no longer serves me? What will take its place?
What is ‘enough’?

These questions are like an unexpected knock at the door. At first they startle us but then we realize that we knew they were coming and that all we need to do right now is open the door and let them in.

Properly welcomed, they will take care of the rest.


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.

Optimal Conditions for Growth

As leaders learn to see themselves as planters and cultivators, they will grow increasingly well attuned to the optimal conditions for growth:

Container: the supportive container for your team members is the thoughtfully defined scope of their work. It is appropriately sized to their role, experience and your expectations. It is adjusted based on progress, conditions, and the inevitable changes that occur.

Resources: soil, water and light for your team members are the information they require about the organization and its plans, how they fit into those plans and easy access to the tools they need to be successful. It is context and perspective about how what they do is connected to the goals and vision of the organization.

Attention: for your team members, regular care and feeding is checking in, asking what they need to be successful, providing recognition, assurance, feedback and necessary course corrections. Too much and they will drown. Too little and they will starve.

Applied with discipline and with care, it is nothing short of a miracle what can occur when living things are provided with conditions that respect and expect the emergence of their inherent potential.

Growth is never a given. It can never be assumed. But it is always possible when the conditions are right.

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Plumeria seedling at three weeks. Photo by Davis Berry (2018)


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.

An American Life

On this observance of Veterans Day I am reposting this tribute to my late stepfather, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean conflict. Like so many others, before and after, he served his country with distinction and honor. We are forever in their debt. 


My stepfather, William P. Clancey, Jr. died on January 26, 2011.

His story is so quintessentially “American” that I can only shake my head in disbelief that the fullness of his life was lived by just one man.

Born in the east he attended the Milton Academy for a short time before being shipped off to a reform school in New Mexico. From there he found his way to the University of Colorado but not before enlisting in the Marine Corps at 17 years old and serving in the South Pacific during World War II. He fought at Guadalcanal. He was offshore at Iwo Jima. He was in the flotilla during the signing of unconditional surrender on the USS Missouri.  Just a few years ago, on the anniversary of the attack on Iwo Jima, this deeply private, soft-spoken man wept at the memory of the loss he witnessed, the destruction he carried with him, like so many others, for the rest of his days.

He returned home long enough to transfer from Colorado to Cal, the school that would hold his affection forever, only to find himself back at war a few years later, this time in Korea. He served with distinction, was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain and was finally able to get home and get his civilian life underway.

First, it was law. He graduated from Boalt Hall and served as an assistant district attorney in San Francisco.  Then came a higher calling and W.P. Clancey, Esq became Rev. Clancey. He served at All Souls Parish in Berkeley in the 1960s and 70’s and, once again, he was right in the middle of the action. His life was touched both by the Harvey Milk assassination and, more personally, by the Jonestown massacre, losing a family member in the mass suicide.

He lived out his vocation by answering the call to serve parishes all over the Bay Area. He was known as a “priest of priests,” the list of those he mentored, encouraged and supported through the years far too long to mention.

He was intelligent but never put on heirs. Humble and focused, his was truly the “life of the mind and the heart of the gospel” to quote a Jesuit father I once knew. Most importantly, he was an unfailing servant. From his country to the law to every priest, parish and parishioner who called on him, Bill was there to do his part, to challenge and to support, to befriend and to console.

I most loved and respected his profound skepticism of authority, his commitment to remaining a “humble priest” rather than pursuing higher office in the church which would have pulled him away from those he had committed to serve.

As for my mother, he met her twice in his life. The first time was in the late 1960’s when my dad brought him home from seminary to be my sister’s Godfather. They met again about 10 years ago and in the reconnection began a courtship that would become a marriage, giving him a partner that would gently see him through the final battle of his life.

I am deeply grateful to have known this servant of men, this servant of God, if only for a few short years. His model and example will remain with me always as I strive to lead a life of and for others.

Thank you, Bill. May you rest in peace.


The Reliable Reciprocity of Disclosure

“Well, I guess if you’re going to share something personal I will start there, too.”
– recently overheard in a meeting


If I share something personal with you, you are likely going to share something personal in return. It’s just how it works. It’s how relationships are built, one layer of connective tissue at a time.

Early in my work with teams I introduce them to a thought experiment I learned when I facilitated a leadership workshop called Leading Out Loud, based on a book of the same name by Terry Pearce.

It goes something like this: think of all the words you can to describe a leader you would willingly follow? (If you’re so inclined, perhaps pause here and make a list of your own before continuing. I’m curious if you get the same results I get with my clients.)

I then ask them to determine which of the words they have chosen represent a leader’s “competence,” as in the “hard skills” required to do the job, and which represent a leader’s “connection,” as in those having to do with building relationship.

I have used this question and analysis method hundreds of times and without fail the results are the same. One third of the words used to respond to the question can be put in the bucket of competence/hard skills and two thirds of the words go into the bucket of connection/relationship skills. This is determined by affirmation of the participants. Every time.

It seems we want to follow leaders who consistently demonstrate trust, integrity, listening, empathy and so on. We may comply with leaders who excel in “competence” but we commit to leaders who excel in “connection.”

I encourage the leaders with whom I work to build their capacity for connection. And doing so starts with making oneself vulnerable enough to be known at a human, rather than at a positional level. What happens at a human level is the revelation of personal information that reminds us that no matter what position we hold, our work is happening in the context of our common humanity.

When asked to check in at a meeting, kick off a learning event, or introduce a new colleague, the leaders I most admire – and the ones whose authority is most respected – are the ones who use that as an opportunity to be known in a more authentic way. In so doing, others respond by making themselves known, also. And a virtuous circle of connection is born.


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.

Expect the Unexpected

img_5574Two of our plumeria plants put out seed pods this year.

This was unexpected. Mainly because we had no idea that they did that!

We’ve been growing plumeria for decades now and this has never happened before.

So I researched it and learned that if you want to harvest any seeds you have to let the pod ripen and split open on its own.

The first plant revealed its seeds and we were able to gather a few but it wasn’t much of a harvest. So, I fastened some netting around the second one which allowed us to catch many more. But even then they sat for a while, in the netting, because their owner forget about them.

Knowing nothing about the viability of sun-baked plumeria seeds I followed instructions on how to prepare them for planting.

After an overnight soak between two soggy sheets of paper towel, I poked the winged seeds into some potting soil, placed them in a plastic container (for greenhouse effect) and kept them in a warm lighted place.

And just a week later, look what happened!

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Not to be greedy, but I’m hoping for a few more. I’ve read that it can take a month for them to germinate so there’s still a chance.

Whatever happens from here, I’m so glad that I took a chance on these seeds. I’m so gratified that my efforts have been rewarded with these beautiful sprigs of new life. I’m so thankful to be reminded that sometimes it’s worth building up my expectations so that they can be totally and irreversibly exceeded.

It’s worth starting something. Find your seeds. Help them grow.


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.

The Best Advice

The best advice I ever received came from the book, “The Art of Possibility” by Ben and Rosamund Zander. It goes like this:

Don’t take yourself so damn seriously!” (aka, ‘Rule #6′)

I remember thinking, “How did they know!!!” (Yes, three exclamation points.)

The second best piece of advice I ever received was to see a therapist.

Doing so is how I learned make the space to apply the best advice I ever received.

I don’t believe that therapy is the only path to follow but it worked for me and it continues to pay dividends.

I’m not fixed or finished, by any means. I’m a work in progress and will forever be. It’s just that the time and energy I invested in clearing a path to understanding has made it possible for me to reduce my self-interest, my selfishness, my neediness and my need for control.

That reduction has forever changed the quality of my relationships, my capacity for understanding and empathy, my openness to new experiences. It has increased my sense of humor and my perspective. It has encouraged my acceptance of everything that’s beyond my control and a deeper commitment to everything that is.

And that’s what motivates my work today. I understand what’s possible and I want it for others. And for the people they lead. Especially for them.


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.

Safety, Dignity and Love

The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved. When you feel loved, when you feel safe, and when you know your dignity, you just keep growing! That’s what we do for one another as loving people—offer safe relationships in which we can change. This kind of love is far from sentimental; it has real power. In general, we need a judicious combination of safety and necessary conflict to keep moving forward in life.
– Richard Rohr


It’s bold to say “only,” don’t you think?

“The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved.”

Yes, it’s bold. But, is it right? Is it true?

Ask yourself, when did you change – when were you transformed – when you felt threatened, worthless and hated?

You didn’t. You weren’t. Because all of your energy was focused on protection, defense and preservation of a status quo that made more sense than an even more uncertain future.

Leadership is best described as holding a vision for a better future and making it possible for others to work towards and fulfill that vision.

That is impossible to do without safety, dignity and love.

Leaders, your mission is clear: create safe environments; uphold the dignity of all people; and love, love, love like you’ve never loved before.


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.

Love is in the Air

IMG_5859Southwest Airlines wants me to doodle on my napkin. They invited me, along with 141 passengers, to express myself as I see fit. Because they “LUV” me, of course!

Why this consistent, persistent, transparent emphasis on love? Why do they choose the heart as both the visual and visionary centerpiece of their corporate ethos?

The idealist might say it’s because the customer is the heart of their business. Or that, because human beings – especially 142 of them sitting shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh in a flying canister – value nothing more than to be seen, heard and understood, it’s an obvious, human-centric decision.

The cynic might say that if you are only going to offer open seating, peanuts and a tepid cup of coffee you’d better offset it with something a bit warmer, sincere or otherwise.

To crudely borrow from Karl Marx, maybe at the core of Southwest’s operating plan is a belief that love, no matter how it’s offered, is the “opiate of the masses.”

On the first leg of this trip, I witnessed a Southwest flight attendant publicly recognize a colleague’s achievement of having been chosen as the “face of the company” on their WiFi login page. He was genuine about it. She was clearly appreciative.

The instances of flight attendant repartee and the ad-libbing of otherwise tedious FAA announcements, as grating as they can sometimes be, are evidence of a humanness at the center of the enterprise. There’s a recognition of the value of creating an environment that emphasizes a “we’re all in this together” vibe accompanied by a nudge to not take it all so seriously.

Isn’t that right at the heart of what it means to love and be loved? For my part I recognize that my most loving  or “in love” relationships are the ones that remind me of my basic humanness. In other words, they help me keep my feet on the ground while simultaneously equipping me to fly.

That’s something that only love can do. And it’s what Southwest exists to do; to safely take us from the ground in this place to the ground in that place, with a sojourn through the miracle of flight along the way.

I fly Southwest at least once a month these days. My experiential/anecdotal “data set” has me convinced that they mean it. And that they mean to stick with it.

Just like love in all its forms, they don’t get it right all the time. And just like love in our relationships, it has to start within. That is to say, I can’t “love my neighbor” until I love myself.

If Southwest keeps loving, they will keep flying. And I’m onboard with that.


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.

It’s nice to have…

…but unnecessary.

That extra hour of sleep, or work, or exercise or reading or meditation or shopping or, you name it.

It’s nice to have some extra time on an early November Sunday but you don’t need it.

The most successful people in the world have exactly the same amount of time as everybody else.

It’s not about how much time. It’s about choices. It’s always about choices.


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.