How > What

“There is no organization large enough for even one human soul.”
{David Whyte}

If you are engaged in a conversation about your development – the arc of your life and where it is leading – you might be tempted to ask something like:

What do I want to be when I grow up?”

This question is too small. Its narrow focus is on the external realities of position, role and title, none of which is large enough to contain a person.

A better, bigger question is this:

How do I want to be when I grow up?”

This is an especially relevant development question since it gets to the quality of your internal reality.

I imagine that you will hold and play many roles in your life and I hope that each one represents a next step in the evolution of your learning.

What is far more satisfying to imagine, however, is that how you decide to live your life fills you with the pride of knowing that you made the strength of your humanity your most important goal.

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.

Why is there no trash on the ground at Disneyland?

A number of years ago I participated in a customer service training at a Disneyland resort. The event included a behind the scenes tour of the facility, a chance to go where “regular” park goers don’t go and to learn a few secrets about the Magic Kingdom.

One anecdote came up in the form of a question: Why is there no trash on the ground at Disneyland?

The answer? Because there’s no trash on the ground at Disneyland, of course! The “Broken Windows” theory of community renewal applied to the theme park business.

The Disney team proudly proclaimed that they have fewer sanitation workers than other amusement parks because they have established a culture of no trash on the ground.

Sunday, at Disneyland’s California Adventure I just happened to notice a dirty napkin on the ground a few feet in front of me. My first thought, indoctrinated as I had been, was to reach down and get it but at that very moment a “cast member” was headed my way and I decided to see if he had been trained as well as I had.

He had not been, and he sailed right on by.

In that moment I remembered how hard the work of culture building is. I remembered how challenging it is to establish and maintain consistency in both mindset and behavior in a small company never mind an organization the size and scope of Disney.

It’s essential to have high aspirations and to fall short sometimes. How else do we learn?

I hope today was an anomaly for that employee and that the Disney service culture is as vigilant now as when I learned from them years ago.

Next time, I’m going to grab the napkin and give him the benefit of the doubt. Every aspirational culture deserves a little help.

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.


There’s a line in a David Whyte poem I come back to again and again: “anything or anyone that doesn’t bring you alive is too small for you.”

It’s worth considering what you’re hanging onto that no longer serves you. That habit, that mindset, that behavior, that relationship…it’s familiar and understood. It’s comfortable.

If you let it go, what will you be left with? What will take its place? The great adventure is to let it go and find out. The great terror is to let it go and find out.

I’m reminded of the understory of a forest. If it doesn’t burn periodically nothing new has the space and light to 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.


Mindset Matters

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures…I divide the world into the learners and the nonlearners.”  Benjamin Barber

As I was being introduced at a recent speaking engagement I had an “iffy” feeling in my stomach. That feeling had actually been building for the hour or so before I started my talk. Something was welling up in me about this particular group; I had a growing uncertainty that my message and their interests were not well matched. Assured though I was by the coordinator of the event that my topic would be well appreciated, once I was on scene that was not my read of the situation. And yet, there I was and it was time to go to work.

It would be unfair to describe this group as “hostile.” They were really just skeptical or, as time would prove out, uncertain and maybe just curious in a removed sort of way. That they felt “hostile” to me is less indicative of them and more indicative of the mindset I was holding when I engaged them. My first pangs of doubt, my intuitive sense of being too much an outlier for their liking, set my judging, evaluative and critical self into high-gear. As Carol Dweck describes it in her terrific book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I was in the grip of my fixed mindset, allowing my negative feelings to evolve into a full-blown perception of the event as a test of my worth.

As I began to talk the first thing I noticed was that I was talking too much. My pacing was off. I was serious and stilted. I also noticed that I most definitely was not saying what I had planned to say. I heard myself making very strong and rational arguments that were doing nothing to endear me to this crowd whose negative judgment was surely coming, hastened rather than slowed by my own doing. Most importantly, the physical realities of my mindset were uncomfortably present: dry mouth, rigid posture, racing mind. These rarely show up when I speak – it’s been a while since I felt them this acutely – but my concerns about this event brought them fully forward.

Carol Dweck’s alternative to the fixed mindset is the growth mindset. This is the mindset of learning, of openness and of good old-fashioned hard work. It’s the mindset that says our abilities and impact are not fixed in time but rather capable of expansion commensurate with our willingness to do the work. The growth mindset relishes experience, learning from failure and progression rather than fear, judgment and loss. It’s alive with possibility rather than dulled by the inertia of perfectionism. It is what Ben Zander (please read The Art of Possibility) teaches his orchestra players to say when they make a mistake: “How fascinating!” (There’s a lot more possibility in that than in: “How stupid!”)

Interestingly, when I first read Dweck’s work I felt ashamed that in the instance of this talk, and a lot of the time, I default to the fixed mindset. In and of itself that feeling of shame is indicative of the fixed mindset. 

What if I had simply challenged myself to get as curious as possible about the uncertainty I was feeling? What if I had detached myself from judgment and considered what I might learn from speaking in a “hostile” environment? What if I had chosen to make my feelings as present as possible and considered how I might use them in service of the experience rather than continue to fight them?

For 40 minutes or so, I fought the doubt, the fear and the self-judgment. It wasn’t my best work but it was enough to get me back on solid ground. Finally, I hit my stride. And, guess what? The talk hit the mark. They engaged, they appreciated and they even, dare I say it, got inspired. They just needed time. And so did I.