Saturday, December 20, 2008

A New Horizon

Day 365. We have reached yet another horizon. What lies on the other side of the horizon is always a mystery, but we will all eventually get there. In the old days the maps and sea charts were marked with the admonition "There be Monsters Here". Of course we now know there are none. That we can see, anyway. With storms the sea gets churned up and with it, much comes to the surface. With our current economic crisis much is coming to the surface. Like no one really knows what to do. Yet we rush to again put laws and regulations on the books after the fact. Again with the control. Again with punishing the wrong people. Again creating a cynical and frightened community.

From where I sit this is nothing new. But there can be a different outcome. There can be a new awareness of what has been missing, the presence of which can make all the difference? What really works? What really matters?

The next leg of our journey will require more than just this one lonely boat, it will require an armada of like minded sailors going in the same direction toward the promise of a new land. An armada that can leverage the strength of the one into the power of many.

Look around. Who can you leverage? And who can leverage you?

See you on the other side.

Sail on.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Surviving The Perfect Storm

A sailor is not a real sailor until he's been in a storm at sea. He's not a real sailor until he's puked his guts out, been scared shitless, held on for dear life and prayed to God for his very survival.

I've had such an experience. And it looked like this: (Click on image below)

It happened in September, 1983, on a cruise from Greenwich, Connecticut to Bermuda. It was my first time on Sea Fever, a Bill Tripp designed 44 Mercer Sloop. I was a last minute crew replacement. I had never ocean sailed before and was not prepared for what was to come.

On day three we ran into the storm. It was called tropical storm Dean. There were 10-12 foot seas, driving rain and winds gusting to 50+ knots. I was so scared, disoriented and seasick that I was unable to function. After we finally arrived at St. George's harbor and cleared customs, I got off the boat, went to the airport and flew straight home.

A few months later, I ran across an article in Sail magazine about the adventure of another boat that had been caught in the same storm. This inspired me to take a course in heavy weather sailing. For the next six months, every time the clouds came in and the wind came up, we went out. We practiced what we were being taught in real time. I was seasick a lot! But I was no longer afraid. I knew what to expect. I knew how to handle the boat. It was no longer dangerous, it was simply heavy weather sailing.

That was 25 years ago. And as I look out to starboard now, its clear to me that my training will come in handy yet again. We are not going to be able to outrun this storm. I calmly run down the essentials with my first mate, Brett. There are only three things on my list.

1. Inform and ready the crew for what is about to happen.
2. Take care of the ship and make sure nothing breaks loose.
3. Take care of the crew, conserve their energy and keep morale high.

Not knowing what the future holds causes fear and anxiety. Not knowing what to do can cause us to freeze at a critical moment, or to panic and blame others for our fate.

But not this time. This time we are prepared. The crew knows exactly what can happen and what they must do when the time comes. We follow our checklist. We take nothing for granted. We don our foul weather gear, our life vests and run the life lines. We make the ship ready.

There is healthy anticipation, a sense of adventure, and the ship is secured quickly.

Sandwiches are made and the coffee is all set to perk. Hand pumps are positioned as back ups. Batteries are charged, Sails are reefed and Brett and I agree at what point we will heave-to. We set the watch schedule and the crew secures their gear.

At 20:00 hrs the wind reaches 40 knots. It's pitch black on deck and the rain is stinging and cold. The seas are running 6-8 feet. I take a fix and, having plenty of running room, order us to heave-to. Heaving-to allows the boat to stay in place and bob like a cork. But more importantly, it allows the crew to rest and conserve energy.

Brett hands me a cup of freshly brewed coffee as I come down the ladder to the galley. He shoots me a knowing smile. We're not in survival, we're simply heavy weather sailing.

The world has entered what many are calling the perfect economic storm. We have not been able to outrun it. As leaders, here is what we need to be conscious of, in order to make it through: Keep our heads. Realize that this is an important opportunity to stretch ourselves, challenge our crew, and focus the energy as we go through this together. Learn from this experience. Savor it. Look for the silver lining, the hidden opportunities, and the chance to develop mastery and greatness in yourself and others. Because as surely as this storm will pass, there will be others.


Sail on.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


When I'm at sea, I look forward to listening in on what the rest of the world is doing while I'm away. Yesterday morning, my first mate Brett and I were below enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast when one of our crew tuned the short wave radio to the BBC. A half hour later, we were back in the cockpit with our feet up enjoying our second cup of coffee in the cool morning breeze. It was great. Until we found ourselves talking about what we had heard on the radio. Well, not really talking.

The U.S. Presidential elections again proved to me how easy it is to get distracted from what's truly important. Lipstick on a Pig, no matter how entertaining, will never get us to a World that Works. The issues are much bigger than the minutia political machines and entertainment centered news media keep pointing us to. I'd thought I was smarter than that. I'd prided myself in noticing the man behind the curtain. Yet, there I was raising my voice in anger at my best friend. Not a good example for the crew when the Captain goes nuts on his first mate.

If you run an organization, or ever aspire to, there are important lessons here. How many times have you been distracted from what you really want, from what is really important, to the point of forgetting why you took on the job of leadership to begin with?

Leadership is about taking other people on an extraordinary journey. One where we and our crew feel challenged, appreciated, and part of something meaningful. One where the crew willingly takes responsibility for the safety of the ship. It's about a journey toward fulfillment, and to reach our destination, it requires all of us, not just some of us.

As leaders, we need to point higher, think higher, be higher.

I was really angry with Brett's seeming non-supportive position. He wasn't agreeing with me just because I was the Captain. He questioned everything and his beliefs made no sense to me.

Fortunately, when I recognized how angry I was, I began to get above the anger and question what I was believing, consciously or unconsciously, that was causing my violent reaction. It wasn't immediately apparent - to me at least.

I had to work backward from the situation I found myself in: I was angry at my best friend, Brett, and I really didn't want to be around him. And on a 44 foot sailboat in the middle of the Pacific ocean, that's not a good thing.

When I looked inside myself, I realized that I was feeling powerless to affect the political situation back home. This unconscious limiting belief that I was Powerless put me automatically into survival, which brought me to the most primal instinct of all: fight or flight. I could go to attack or retreat. In that moment, I unconsciously chose attack. Many choose retreat or resignation.

Just as Lipstick on a Pig unconsciously triggers the conclusion in some that "This candidate is (you fill in the limiting belief)", Powerless led me to "I don't want to be around my best friend, Brett." It happened in an instant and it had nothing whatsoever to do with Brett, but he was the recipient of my anger.

How many of us go directly to anger or despair and never question why?

Fortunately, my anger, along with my good friend's patient listening, gave me the space to notice my situation and get back in touch with what really matters to me: People at Peace. Clearly I was not at Peace with myself in that moment. I was not at peace with the politics at home and so I was fearful of the outcome. Fortunately, I was able to recognize that I was acting out of fear and was able to switch to being hopeful. You see, when I put my ego in check and looked at the situation clearly, I was able to appreciate that there are millions of us all over the world who are re-thinking what's important, and that includes my friend, Brett.

A World that Works because Business Works can only happen when more of us in business remember that the reason for our journey is not just the money, the exit strategy, the let-me-get-mine-and-get-out mentality. Business offers us the opportunity to bring people together on a great journey of our own creation. A great journey that can change the world for the better in our lifetime. One that can secure our children's future. Business can be the engine that perfects relationships, grows people, solves real problems and brings communities, nations and the world to a better place. This is not Pollyanna. There are millions of us all over the world on this quest. And yes, sometimes we get distracted.

This is not a time for distractions.

"Helmsman," I found myself saying, "stand by to change course."

It's our time to point higher, think higher, be higher.

Today is day 264. Thanks, Brett. I'm back.

Sail on.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Key Ingredients in the Science of Success

Try not to be a man of success, but rather to be a man of value.
- Albert Einstein

I have been absent for the last six weeks. Sailing. And loving every minute of it. And then my friend Paul Kearley, the handsome fellow to your right, sent me his latest blog. Paul has been doing his blog for over 352 issues. Amazing. But then Paul is amazing. He takes this opportunity to introduce an obscure man named Wallace D. Wittles, and his friend Rebecca Fine, who resurrected my Wittles' book from 1911 and promotes its wisdom. I know you will enjoy Paul's blog, and if you have a brain in your head, you will visit Ms. Fine's site and download your FREE copy of Mr. Wittles' book "The Science of Getting Rich"! It is 49 pages of pure brilliance, and the principles he speaks about can be applied to anything you want in life, including Creating an Extraordinary Organization. Thank you Paul and Rebecca.

Tom Voccola on Sea Fever

Key Ingredients in the Science of Success

by Paul Kearney

In 1910, in the age of Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, William Howard Taft, the suffrage movement and the unsettlement leading to World War 1, an obscure man named Wallace D. Whittles wrote a small text designed to help the common man understand the process of getting rich.

Whittles had discovered that creating wealth was in fact a science. Not one with test tubes, Bunsen burners or mathematical formulae as long as your arm, but a “provable” science all the same. He described his process this way: “It is a natural law that like causes always produce like effects. Therefore, any man or woman who learns to do things in this certain way will infallibly get rich."

I came across this little book about a year ago, from a newsletter that I receive and have been so captivated by its teachings; I thought I’d list some of the most important principles for you here today.

Caution: The following text requires that you have an open mind, and are interested in improving your position in life, both in attitude, energy and abundance.

Mr. Wattles tells us that to practice The Science of Getting Rich successfully we need to ...

· Understand that there is no limit to abundance.
· Accept that we are worthy and that our true desires are, too.
· Abandon competitive thought.
· Don't worry that someone else could beat you to all the good stuff.
· Avoid unethical practices in business and elsewhere.
· Look for ways to add value in all you do.
· Spend as much time as possible contemplating your desires: See what you want as if it is already a done deal -- imagine it clearly, "bringing out all its delightful details."
· And take that even further: "See yourself owning and using them. Make use of them in your imagination ... In the mental realm; enter at once into full enjoyment of the things you want."
· Notice when your thoughts turn to worry, doubt, and fear so that you can choose other thoughts that feel good and lead you back to positive energy.
· Marinate yourself in gratitude!
· Be careful what thoughts you choose to dwell on: "Things are not brought into being by thinking about their opposites."
· Avoid dwelling on or talking about your own troubles at all. The same is true for "horrible conditions" in certain places or for groups of people. Never speak in a discouraged or discouraging way.
· "Give no anxious thought to possible disasters, obstacles, panics, or unfavourable combinations of circumstances."
· Don't rush, overwork, or waste time trying to figure out some "strange, unusual, or remarkable action to perform as a first step toward getting rich." Just do what you normally do but with a new attitude, point of view, mindset.
· Not sure what action to take? Then you're not ready to act yet. Go to gratitude, contemplate the vision of what you want, don't rush and get yourself all anxious and uptight.
· Use your will power only to keep your mind off what you don't want and focused on what you DO want to attract and create in your life.

If you’d like a free copy of the book, you can go to and download the PDF file there.

This week, why not add a little science to your life; make your whole life an experiment about how to reach higher levels both in your attitude and your gratitude, and who knows, before long, you may easily reap some benefits that can make you wealthy and content with life.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Training 22 New Crew

Today's revolution is understanding, make peace happen!

These are the words that express Project TRIUMPH, an international program that brings Arab and Jewish teens from the Middle East together for a year long program of leadership and peace making in their local communities. There are 20 teens and 2 chaperons from Haifa, Israel. (nine boys, eleven girls, ten Arabs, and ten Jews.) We picked them up at LAX on Sunday, May 4th at 6 a.m. Day 125.

It's been one heck of a first week for the kids and also for my wife and partner, Frances, and I. We are at an old camp in the mountains above Simi Valley, California. We are learning about ourselves and examining what it is to be human. We are learning to recognize and manage the invisible forces in this world we were all born into. It is all new. Challenging. Full of possibility.

Frances designed Project TRIUMPH for our local Rotary Club and we have been blessed to be the main instructors since the beginning, when there were only a few of us. There are now dozens of volunteers here in California and on the ground in Israel. Our program is growing and making a difference to not only the kids, but to everyone associated with it.

It always amazes me how much I end up learning about myself during these events. During the first two years I felt I had to provide a degree of discipline and intervene as my young charges poked one another, talked out loud, seemingly ignored the lessons, fell asleep, took pictures of one another, passed notes, drew pictures, played cards, listened to their i-pods, and broke into arguments in Arabic and Hebrew - during class.

But not this year. This year I've found a new place to come from. Not from control but from freedom. This year I decided to not correct, not to use force, not to make them do anything. It is hard. I find myself wanting to yell at them. Wanting to tell them to sit up straight and pay attention. But I do not. Yet they are beginning to align. They are begining to pay attention. They are begining to engage - because they want to engage - not because I am forcing them to engage.

In quiet times, the kids come to me and ask a question or make an observation that could only be asked or made if they were listening to every word that was said. That could only be made if they fully understood the context of the conversation. Miraculously, they seem to. They are teaching me how to be effective, even in the face of what appears to be "no listening". There is no need to yell, to argue, to disagree or make them wrong. There is only a need to be authentic. In many ways, I am reaching new levels of understanding in ways I never dreamed of. Today's Revolution is Understanding!

Today is day 132 and my new crew from the Middle East is teaching me well.

Teaching me to create a Global Enterprise.

Sail on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moving into Flow

Today is day 115. The past few days have been amazing. After weeks of slow progress the wind finally shifted and moving us rapidly toward our destination. I finally feel like we're in the flow, rather than continuing to buck strong currents and errant winds.

Three days ago, while I was bobbing around waiting for my situation to change, I had the good fortune to attend a meeting of international entrepreneurs. I met people from Canada, Indonesia, South Africa, China, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan.

At a time when our governments are stuck catering to local selfish interests, we are facing global threats so dire that it's going to take something beyond politics as usual to solve. It's going to take people with Courage and Character. I believe I met many of them at the meeting.

Living in California, I am used to being on the cutting, if not bleeding, edge of things, at least in the United States. Trends tend to begin in the West and travel East. But what I've seen and experienced is that we really have to travel further west than California to fully experience what is to come. You have to travel to Asia, where many have learned from the west and are now combining what they have learned with the power and wisdom of their own ancient Asian heritage, to give us a new possibility. All for one and one for all has taken on a new vitality. The men and women entrepreneurs I met have both a social conscience and a deep desire to co-create solutions that benefit more than just their own companies.

The West is transferring wealth to the Asia at the rate of one billion dollars a week. This has been going on for at least twenty years. We in the U.S. are, according to many, broke and Spiritually exhausted, but just don't know it yet.

We must invent a new way of being in the world if we are to be happy. You notice I didn't say "to be the leader of the free world" or to "remain the most powerful military power on earth" or the "richest nation on earth". We have been all of those things, but it is time for us to transcend them and become something even more compelling to the rest of the world. We are entering an exciting time. We are going to have a revolution - of Spirit.

We have entered a period of uncertainty that some say will make the great depression look like a mild recession. Yet I believe we are ever so much more prepared to not only survive it, but to actually thrive because of it. You see, there must be a paradigm shift and, unfortunately, those only seem to happen in times of stress and threat. We are heading for a time of breakthroughs in health care, education, government, business, the environment and family. To get to them, however, we will have to pass through a period of great turmoil, of breakdown. It's happened before and will happen again. We can handle it.

I finally know, with every fibre in my being, what's next for me and why I was directed to co-create a Global Enterprise. I didn't know it at the time, but I co-created a global Vision with my wife Frances over 15 years ago. Looking back from today, I can see that we have been in intensive training to deliver on our Vision.

"A World that Works because Business Works."

Our mission is to help entrepreneurs and CEOs create extraordinary organizations in 90 days or less. The kind of enterprises you and I would be passionate to work for and happy to invest in because they give us the opportunty to be fully self expressed while we change the world for the better in our life time.

Today is day 115. Now that I know where I am going and why, there is much to do to make it happen by day 365. If you want to help me do it, give me a call.

Sail on.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The First 100 Days

It's not unusual for a sailor to change course and head for a different harbor when, after several days, the wind and tide are just not cooperating. Sometimes we’re on the water for days making little progress toward our destination. And sometimes, well, sometimes we see ourselves bobbing up and down like a cork with no land in sight, and it’s easy to question our destination, and perhaps our sanity.

When we set out on our adventure 100 days ago, I declared my intent to navigate these uncharted waters and reach my destination, “Global Enterprise” within a year. While I am still holding course, the wind does not seem to be cooperating. I say "seem to be," because at this point in my life, I have learned to expect the unexpected. Some days, it seems that everything I do is simply a place-holder until I am ready for what the universe has in store for me.

Nevertheless, I have 265 days left.

As you may have experienced in your own life, when you play full-out, take on something really big, or try to master something new, you are likely to get knocked to your knees more than a few times.

In that regard, I have not been disappointed. For the past 80 days, for example, I have been working hard to fill two CEO Boards. (If you are a first time reader, I joined The Alternative Board in January to learn how they built a global organization. I was certified in their methods and sent into the field to build two Boards of 8 CEOs each. The only difference is, I want larger companies on my board than their system was originally designed to support, so I’m finding few of their tried and true scripts seem to work for me.

Clearly, I have not perfected my message in a way that other CEOs find compelling. The past several weeks have not been easy by any means. My ego has gotten dented more than a few times along the way. I began the month with two CEOs on my first Board and ended the month with one. The fellow who backed out said he loved the idea, but hated the extra work. Two steps forward, one step back.

After sending letters to and cold calling more than 100 CEOs in my area, only five took my call. One was interested but didn’t meet my criteria. The second wanted to join but couldn't afford it. The third said he tried to grow once and it was too hard, so no thanks. The fourth said he would wait and see who else joined. The fifth is definitely my kind of guy and can afford it. I meet with him tomorrow. He started the conversation by saying "I don't need you to tell me how to be successful, I have everything I ever wanted. But I am interested in the camaraderie." So am I!

Anyway, this morning I was complaining to my wife, Frances, that I wished everything would settle down so I could gain some solid footing. She looked up and reminded me, "You’re on a boat! If you really wanted life to settle down, you’d be tied up at the dock."

Thanks, honey! Frances reminded me why I took on this challenge and set out for the unknown in the first place. It wasn’t because it would be a slam-dunk. It wasn’t because it the outcome is guaranteed, or even predictable. Otherwise, I’d have a desk job.

It’s day 100. I again look to the horizon and adjust my sails, reminded that I’ve set out on this journey because of my commitment to bring a remote possibility to fruition — A World that Works because Business Works. Suddenly, as I feel a cool breeze on my face and take in a deep, invigorating breath, I’m re-inspired by the memory of a late friend's poem called Imagine.

Here it is below. I hope you enjoy it and feel the sea breeze filling your sails again, too.


Imagine a world
where people are amazingly effective
as individuals and as members of teams.
Where they understand the business
and how they impact it.
Where they live where they want,
work where and when they want
and are powerfully effective.

Imagine a world
of global relationships
where prosperity and teamwork
replace cultural strife.

Where prosperity is driven
by the right ideas,
the right efforts and the right measures,
all focused on making a contribution,
to one another and our customers
rather than personal agendas
and department fiefdoms.

Imagine, what could we be?

- George Van Ness

Sail on.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Of Light and Resurrection

I've noticed it's easier to stay present on a boat at sea. A lot harder when in port. Today is day 83 of our one year voyage together and I want to focus on the joy of staying present.

To my neighbor's child, Joey, there are only the ducks in front of him. He's not worried about anything else. He is not into making meaning yet. He is at peace! He is where most of us aspire to return.

We sailors (we are all sailors if you consider we are sailing through space at 67,000miles per hour on a planet that rotates at something like 1038 miles an hour), think in terms of past, present and future. It's a convenient construct to help us make sense of things and give us hope. But, truth be told, there is no past and there is no future, except in our egoic mind. There is only this present moment and who we choose to be and what we choose to do in each one.

I am writing and you are reading this post in its own time and that's all that matters in this moment. Unless, of course, your ego self interrupts you with some concern from the past, which you cannot change, or the future, which hasn't happened yet.

But in this moment you are only reading this. There is nothing wrong. You are breathing so you are still alive. You are present. All is well.

Since we began this journey I have been doggedly focused on being present. It hasn't always been easy. Yes, I know where I am going and where I want to end up, but have come to know that creation only happens in the moment. When I take advantage of it, two things occur.

The first is that there is quiet in my head. I am not thinking. I am only Being. The second is I am at peace with myself. I am being authentically me. This is a powerful place to engage life from. For when you know who you really are there is peace and strength and acceptance.

Like I said, much easier on a boat away from everyday life.

Today is Easter Sunday for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, day 83, and life calls upon us yet again to be our next greatest version of our ever evolving selves.

I was looking forward to church all week, looking forward to celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and of life itself. This day always fills me with joy and hope.

Sitting in my usual seat in the last center row waiting for the service to begin, I couldn't help but notice that Dr. Jim, our co-pastor with Dr. Sue, was not yet there. As the service began, Dr. Sue looked shaken. She walked up on the stage and began to pace back and forth, her head down. Then she spoke.

"Dr. Jim called me this morning and told me he cannot be with us this morning," she said. "His beloved daughter, Caitlyn, was killed last night in an automobile accident. He is on his way to Florida to be with his family."

In that moment the entire community, many of whom knew Caitlyn through her participation in the youth ministry, was called upon to be present. And so was Dr. Sue. What can you possibly say when a parent loses a child?

What Dr. Sue, and the very day we were there to celebrate, reminded us of, was that there is no death, only the celebration of life continued. And that while there is no earthly reason for Caitlyn's passing that we will ever fully understand, we are called upon to have faith in the unfolding miracle called life. And in this moment, question what it may mean to each one of us.

What it means to me is that Caitlyn is present with God with no earthly distractions. She is at Peace in the presence of Unconditional Love and Acceptance.

We are, each of us, on our own journey. We will all experience what we are meant to experience if we can be present to each and every sacred moment we are given. Because, as Dr. Sue so profoundly reminded us, it is all sacred. Even Caitlyn's passing.

May God give us the grace and the wisdom to be the light we are here to be in the time we are given. To not wait for next week or next year. To be the Light we are meant to be right now. At home. At work. At Sea.

Sail On.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Built to Last

Sea Fever is 46 years old this year. She was designed for the late Alex Houghwout by famed naval architect Bill Tripp in 1958 and built by Mercer Boat Works in 1962. By every standard, Sea Fever was deliberately built to last. Her hull, for example is 4 inches thick to the water line and she is fitted with a 4 inch solid bronze cap that runs the entire length of her keel and rudder. I once hit a reef at 6 knots that took her right out of the water as we rode up and over it and she didn't even have a scratch! In addition to her rock solid hull, Sea Fever was given an expensive (at the time) 1958 Fresh water cooled Mercedes diesel, that, even after all this time, still starts on the very first try every time. Yes, Sea Fever was built to last. But that doesn't mean she hasn't needed a lot of tender loving care along the way. Sails, rigging, paint, varnish, and electronics have all been replaced at one time or another and that's to be expected, but pound for pound, Sea Fever is in many ways stronger than many of her modern counterparts. It also helps that she had two dedicated Captains that not only understood her pedigree but were concerned with her legacy as well.

As often happens on a long cruise, we were sitting in the cockpit comparing life and sailing when my first mate, Brett Modesti, took our Sea Fever conversation to the next level. "Tom," he asked, "can you point to an existing organization that was built to last and has a sustainable culture?"

This was a great question. Even when something is built to last, it will still need to be sustained by people who care about her pedigree and legacy.

Building a sustainable organization requires that its leader truly engage people to the point where they (the crew - employees and other stakeholders) take full responsibility for the ship's continued well being. The ship (organization), after all, is the vehicle that carries us all into the future.

In my work, I have asked over 3000 employees and managers what being "engaged" looks like and they have all described it more as a feeling.

1. Feeling Part of something meaningful, not just profitable
2. Feeling Challenged, not overwhelmed
3. Feeling Appreciated, not patronized
4. Feeling Responsible for the outcome, not a scapegoat

No one goes to work to do a bad job, but few get inspired about exit strategies designed to make owners and investors rich at their expense. It's interesting that a current best practice in engaging employees is to fire the bottom 10% every year. Good luck engaging people with that one! Just ask former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

So my pick for a company that was built to last and has a sustainable culture is General Electric. But not for the reason you may think. GE has a deeply rooted management culture and a rich tradition of guiding and mentoring future leaders through its ranks. Remember, there are tens of thousands of GE executives and managers besides the ones that make the pages of Newsweek. GE grows their own at every level. And they do it very well.

"During the 20 plus years that Jack Welch ran GE, it became the most valuable corporation in the world, increased in value over thirty times and under his leadership turned out more Fortune 500 CEOs than any other company in history." - Steven Bryce, Journalst

What most don't know is that this culture of grooming future corporate leaders was there long before Jack Welch took the helm, in fact he was a product of it, and as long as the commitment to sustainability remains, it will be there for a long time to come.

One of Mr. Walch's many contributions to the GE legacy was leveraging GEs wealth to pay off a market domination strategy: be the top two players or get out. Impressive use of power and resources. Fortunatly for Neutron Jack, as Welch was affectionately called at GE, the "father of fire the bottom 10%" had a deep, battle tested management corps to pull it off.

I believe that sustainability and succession planning is imperative for founders if their vision involves the long-term survival of the organization. The founders of GE set a standard and created a tradition much like the framers of the U.S. Constitution did. Those men, as described in Jim Collins' books "Built to Last" and "Good to Great" had what I call "Character", something few have a clue about today. In fact character is what we revered in those leaders. And in my view, the organizational legacies that men of character build take lot to destroy.

So, what is Character, exactly? Well, I define Character not simply as strong ego and personality, although they had those as well, but rather, men who "knew themselves at a deeper level". They were clear about their:

1. Passion - they knew what they were giving their lives for; their passion had to do with contributing to society, not creating an exit strategy.

2. Purpose - they knew how they affected the world around them, they were fearless in doing the right thing rather than the politically correct thing.

3. Values - they had a set of personal values that they thought about and accepted as core to their being. They were able to remain true to themselves.

4. Unique Abilities - they knew what their strengths were and focused on them, empowering others "with character" to employ their different and complementary unique abilities.

In short, they made their people feel part of something meaningful, challenged, appreciated, and responsible for the outcome.

I work with some amazing CEOs. And yet, there are many others who are just run by the "seat" they occupy and bring nothing to it whatsoever. These are not bad people. On the contrary, they are really hard working individuals, but they are, in my experience, unconscious to their own Purpose and Passion. Fortunately, in a company like GE, their vast management corps still seems to carry the tradition forward.

By the way. What works for GE will not necessarily work, as we have all seen, for Home Depot. And I suspect it may not work for Chrysler either. But that's another conversation.

This is day 74. Sail On

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Shackelton and the Third Law of Leadership

How exactly did Shackleton get 32 men to go where no man had gone before? And once there, how did he keep them aligned and engaged during all the unexpected changes and disappointments? Well, this is where my Third Law of Leadership comes in.

To Be Powerful in the World, You Must Learn to
Co-Create and Master a Game Worth Playing.

While Shackleton held the Vision, he engaged others in making it possible. In other words, he co-created each step of the journey, from raising the money, to recruiting the men, to surviving the adventure. And he did so by painting a vivid picture and focusing not on wealth or riches, but rather on something else entirely. He focused on something bigger than himself. He focused on the challenge. Something that would make a difference in the world. That 5000 men put their hands up was certainly proof that his Vision sparked the imagination of many.

Now the amazing thing was that as circumstances changed Shackleton simply repeated a specific process again and again and again. Establish the Mission, align, engage, fail, create a new Mission, align, engage, fail, create yet another Mission, align, engage, succeed. It wasn't just his Mission, but theirs, too, and in every case he succeeded at doing what many contemporary business executives fail to do. He was able to align and engage each and every one of his people in an ever changing hostile environment. The result was one of the greatest adventures stories of all time.

"In the face of changing circumstances and constant danger, Shackleton remained positive and decisive, which buoyed his crew. Further, throughout the 22-month Endurance expedition, Shackleton was able to bring out the best in each of his men. Each crew member contributed to the team's survival, from Captain Frank Worsley, whose exceptional navigation guided the men to both Elephant and South Georgia Islands; to carpenter Chippy McNeish, who reinforced the lifeboats; to cook Charles Green, who created meals day after day with limited resources; to Alexander Macklin and James McIlroy, the two doctors, who saved steward Perce Blackborow from gangrene resulting from frostbite; to second-in-command Frank Wild, who served as leader of the 21 men on Elephant Island after the departure of Shackleton and companions for South Georgia...Shackleton also encouraged esprit de corps by dissolving traditional hierarchies. For example, all men were required to take shifts on watch and scrubbing the deck." (Source Shackleton's Arctic Adventure, WBGH Educational Foundation)

Engaging people requires a Leader who authentically knows himself (Law I), who understands humanity and is able to master multiple relationships (Law 2) and Co-create a Game Worth Playing (Law 3) where each member of the crew feels:

1. Part of something meaningful
2. Challenged
3. Appreciated
4. Responsible for the outcome

That "Twenty-eight ordinary-turned-extraordinary men, led by Shackleton's example, survived nearly two years of unimaginable hardship at the end of the Earth," is a testament to how authentic leadership can interface with ordinary people and create extraordinary results.

Thanks to Wikipedia and WGBH for their engaging material. If you’d like to read the entire riveting story of Shackleton’s greatest adventure, I recommend that you read The Endurance, by Caroline Alexander. Knopf Press ©1998.

Sail on.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Shackelton and the Second Law of Leadership

"Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." – Sir Ernest Shackleton.

My Second Law of Leadership states: To be Powerful with others, you must first understand humanity and master relationships.

Right from the start, Shackleton was up front with what it would take to join him on his expedition to the Antarctic. Anyone interested would share his Vision and know what was expected. Yet, as a leader, Shackleton also understood that the men drawn to his adventure would be motivated by many different reasons. It was reported that he received over 5000 replies to his call to adventure and only chose the toughest and most reliable of men. He knew that what made some of them rugged also made them dangerous in the wrong circumstances, as the following Wikipedia account demonstrates.

"Elephant Island was an inhospitable place...and...Shackleton felt it essential that he set out to find help immediately upon arrival, and to him, it was obvious that he must head back to South Georgia, even if it meant traversing 1,287 kilometres (800 mi) of open ocean in one of the lifeboats. The lifeboat James Caird was chosen for the trip. To prepare for the journey, Shackleton chose his strongest sailors to accompany him, John Vincent and Timothy McCarthy, as well as experienced officer Thomas Crean. Shackleton also selected the expedition's carpenter, Harry McNish, who immediately made improvements to the open lifeboat. Morrell argues that Shackleton chose McNish and Vincent to accompany him not only for their talent and toughness, but also because they were noted malcontents. He did not want the atmosphere on Elephant Island to be disrupted. Shackleton had frequently chosen to have the most rebellious crew members close to him, in order to quell discontent amongst the party. [my emphasis] The difficult task of navigating the crossing was left to Frank Worsley. Ensuring they were on the correct course was of utmost importance as missing their target would certainly have doomed the team."

At every step along the journey, Shackleton practiced not only the Second Law of Leadership with an uncanny ability to create relatioships that worked no matter what, but he made sure everyone understood the Vision and Mission of the expedition, even when circumstances drastically changed. He also made sure each of his crew understood what was expected and he wasn't afraid to let them know when they needed to change. Put into a formula, this is what gave him unusual success among his crew.

1. He always provided a compelling Vision of the future
2. He was fair and above-board in being clear on what was expected of the relationship
3. He employed each individual’s strengths and natural talents, and neutralized their weaknesses
4. He rewarded positive behavior and was quick to give constructive feedback if his expectations were not met
5. He walked his talk, demonstrated the courage of his convictions and was not afraid to engage

Understanding what drives men (and women) is important, understanding how to authentically engage them makes you an effective leader.

Next week: Shackleton and the Third Law — Engaging People in a Game Worth Playing.

Sail on.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Shackleton and the First Law of Leadership

I took the midnight to 3 a.m. watch last night. We had finally gotten underway after being hove-to for a few days. While the wind was still blowing at 12 knots, the seas were beginning to settle, and the sky was clearing rapidly with a descending moon showing through the clouds at the horizon.

It was hauntingly beautiful.

After I set the autopilot and did a 360 scan for ships and other hazards, I found myself looking up at the stars in wonder. When my eyes got used to the dark the first layer of stars gave way to billions of others that are normally not visible to us in our light polluted sky at home.

Just then the North Star caught my eye and Sir Ernest Shackleton flashed into my mind. Yes, I thought, Shackleton was one man who exemplified everything I have come to know about being an extraordinary leader.

Let me tell you more.

"Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." – Sir Ernest Shackleton.

According to Wikipedia, "Shackleton is most noteworthy for leading the unsuccessful Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, colloquially known as the "Endurance Expedition" or "Shackleton's voyage", between 1914 and 1916. Although Shackleton failed to achieve his goal of crossing the Antarctic continent on foot, he demonstrated the leadership for which he is now known when the ship Endurance became trapped in the ice and was destroyed. Shackleton, known by his contemporaries as "the Boss", led his men to refuge on Elephant Island before heading across 1,287 kilometres (800 mi) of the open Antarctic Ocean to South Georgia Island in a small open lifeboat. Upon reaching the remote island, Shackleton crossed severe, mountainous terrain to reach a whaling station from where he was able to muster a ship, eventually to rescue his men on Elephant Island. All the men on Endurance survived their ordeal after spending 22 months in the Antarctic...Shackleton was a key figure in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration...that captured the public imagination...for his leadership skills...[and his]ability to lead men through challenging conditions."

If you have been with me for a while, or have read my book, The Accidental CEO - A Leader's Journey from Ego to Purpose, you know that I'm committed to uncovering the keys to extraordinary leadership and making them easily accessible to all people, no matter what their roles in life may be. Toward that end I've defined Three Laws of Leadership and I contend that if you fully explore and engage them, you will will rise to the top of anything you might wish to do in your life.

So what's my first law?

To be Powerful in Your Life, you must first understand and master your Self.

I think Sir Ernest Shackleton represents living all three laws, but to examine being a Legendary Leader like Shackleton you must begin at the beginning.

You must know your Self.

Well, what does that mean exactly? I believe that when you know who you really are, when you know what you stand for, your values and what you are giving your life for, you can face any challenge or crisis with courage, conviction and decisiveness - and although you may feel fear, you are freed from reacting from fear.

When you know who you are, you bring flexibility to fulfilling your Vision. Shackleton's Vision for his Antarctic Expedition was clear and unswerving, right up until his fortune changed.

Yet, when his ship was destroyed in the ice pack, he lost no time in creating a new plan: getting his entire crew to safety.

As you read the history of this expedition it describes Shackleton as being decisive when he had to be and inclusive when needed to be. More than anything, unlike many adventurers of his day (and ours), it showed his highest priority was the well-being of his people and a willingness to do the right thing no matter what.

Now, none of us will ever be Ernest Shackleton, and my intention is not to tell you to "be like him!" Rather, I want you to understand that when you are clear about who you are, you will have access to something that most do not. You will have access to the invisible, which gives you the most powerful freedom in the world.

What do you think that might be?

Next week: Shackleton and the Second Law of Leadership.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Heaving to...

Sometimes, when there is nothing else you can do, when you have no control over the situation, you just have to stop and rest. At sea, during heavy weather, we call this heaving-to. What heaving-to means is to stow all the sails except for a small storm sail tied against the wind. We also tie the rudder in the opposite direction to the sail. This pretty much stops the boat's forward movement. The only action the crew will feel is an up the down motion, pretty much like a cork. The waves slip harmlessly beneath the boat allowing the crew to rest, cook, eat and recover their strength from the challenges posed by the rough weather.

Days 40 through 50 were interesting in that, like being in a storm you can do nothing about, there was nothing to do until the weather changed. So I hove-to, waiting for prospects to make decisions, waiting for a strategic partner to finish a project, and waiting for appointments to be confirmed.

There are times when we just have to wait.

In the past I would have beat myself up worrying about the seeming lack of progress. But during the past ten days I decided to heave-to. I enjoyed every day, and every moment planning, fixing equipment, updating lists, cooking great meals for my wife, Frances, hiking, visiting past clients and being on television!

Being on television - you remember Sweet Lou and Friends - was an amazing experience. I went to a TV studio where they had it set up like a living room with Lou sitting at a desk and me sitting on the couch. I felt like I was on Johnny Carson! There were two co-hosts, a small audience, a band, the cameramen, the grips, the producer, the guys in the control room, and me.

Once Lou asked me a question it was like friends having a conversation. I never thought it would be so comfortable. In the past, when I saw the red lights on the cameras I would freeze. But not this time. This time I was fully engaged, and so was the audience and everyone else in the studio. After the show, the band, the grips and the audience wanted to know more and I even sold some books. I really have to do more of this! I didn't make any money to speak of, but I definitely savored every moment of my heave-to week.

Sail On!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sweet Lou and The Significance of Day 38

When you ocean sail your very life depends on being consciously aware every single moment.

You never know what the ocean is going to throw at you, but if you pay attention, work the boat and keep her headed in the right direction, you're pretty much assured of getting to your destination. The key is to never forget where you are relative to what you are doing and where you are going. At sea, for example, we take a fix to chart our progress at least three times a day - at dawn, at noon and at sunset. When you are sailing you are hyper-alive and that level of awareness brings with it a peace of mind that really allows you to enjoy the experience.

(Awareness > peace of mind > joyous experience.)

Since I began this journey with you I've been hyper-focused on every single moment and where it fits into the bigger picture of my quest.

Today is day 38. Just over 10% of our journey is already history. Can you believe it? I don't think I have ever been as present in all my life. In the past I would have awakened on day 365 and said, "Where the heck did the time go?" Do you know what I Mean?

Since I began this journey, however, there is only NOW and what I am DOING or NOT DOING to move myself closer to my goal. I couldn't care less about the past and the future depends completely on what I do right now, in the moment, on this day.

I am working the boat and checking the course religiously. I am making progress and I am having FUN!

To remind you, my goal is to move my work from that of a single practice to a global enterprise. While I love the sound of Global Enterprise, I still have no idea what it will look like or how I will get there. I am not attached to the outcome. I am, however, fully engaged in making it happen.

I am open and present to what ever the universe sends my way - no matter how unlikely - that might help me get to the formation of a Global Enterprise delivering CEOing.

For example, I have been wanting to put video up on my web site. I really don't know anything about video production or how to put it up on my web site, but on Day 31 I wrote down, "I am very effective in person, so it would be good to be able to have people actually see me talking to them, what about video on my site?"

Two days later I get a call out of the blue from a guy named "Sweet Lou". Normally, I have got to tell you, if someone named "Sweet" anything called me I would hang up pretty fast. But I didn't. I listened to him. Then I had coffee with him. It turns out that Lou Alonso had a dream to do a talk show so he created an internet television show called "Sweet Lou and Friends." I was recommended to Lou by my good friend Joe Lam, an amazing young movie producer. Hense the call.

Long story short, Lou is a big, flamboyant, creative guy with a heart to match. Professionally he is a master at creating environmentally safe buildings and homes (working with movie stars and ordinary folk)but he wanted to do more. So he chose to follow his dream to do a TV talk show. He didn't mind starting at the bottom to create something new and he is beginning to have some success. Yesterday, for example, Stacy Keech showed up on his show and, when I had coffee with him later in the day, he was hot on the heals of having Tom Sellek for his next show. Cool.

Anyway, Sweet Lou invited me to appear on his show next week. My first Video! Sweet!

How does this fit into getting me closer to my goal - we'll find out!

The significance of day 38 is that it was another chance to take a step closer to what I really want and I did just that. I accomplished a lot today. And I can only hope you did as well. I even found time to go on a 5.5 mile hike at sunset with my Coach Fred Jorge and we have another hike planned for Saturday.

Life is good, one day at a time.

And day 39 is going to be amazing as well!

Do you know what you are doing tomorrow?

Sail On.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sailing with Joe's Kid

There we were, sailing along, having a great time, chatting up a storm when suddenly, the wind dropped out of our sails. Perhaps the wind changed direction, or we strayed a bit off course, but suddenly there was a dramatic loss of momentum and the sails started to flap. This flapping of sails is called “luffing” and it signals that its time to pay attention, to see what’s going on and make some adjustments. Sometimes its only a slight adjustment, other times it means changing course altogether.

As I pulled into my driveway the other day I noticed my neighbor Steve was in his garage. (His name has been changed to protect the guilty!) Steve is an interesting guy. He's got two 1940 Oldsmobiles -- a fully restored two door convertible and a completely disassembled 4 door sedan he tells me his grandfather dated his grandmother in -- and a 1960's Pontiac GTO.

Steve is always "Fabbing" something up. He can take a broken, worn out anything and rebuild and restore it to better than new. Talking to Steve is like talking to Wilson, the faceless neighbor over the fence on the 90’s television show Home Improvement. Always a fount of wisdom, always fixing something, always smoking a cigar and wearing a beat-up, greasy ball cap from the 1950's.
Even before I walk over to his place, I know Steve is working on something in the garage because all the lights in the "hood" as he calls it, dim as he fires up his welder.

Yet Steve is also the Senior VP of Supply Chain Management for a multi-billion dollar international food manufacturer and, given the stories he’s shared about work, they’re a company I think I can help.

Anyway, Steve -- who read my book when it was still in manuscript form and knows that I transform companies for a living -- starts to tell me about how he again used another quote from my book to make a point in one of his meetings.

So there I was, sailing along on a full breeze doing hull speed and feeling pretty good when BAM, in his next breath, Steve goes on to say how he really wants to bring in this other guy to help him "engage his people" in his latest innovation initiative.

"And I even bought 150 of this guy’s books for my people so they can all get on board," he says.

So, never one to be shy, I ask him, "Steve, what keeps you from asking me to come in and work with your group? You know dam well it's what I do."

He doesn't answer me, he just looks down at a piece of metal he's grinding.

Then he says, "That's a good question, Tom, you need to figure that out, don't you?"

Talk about having the wind knocked out of my sails!

Now before you think I was feeling sorry for myself, let me assure you that I wasn’t. Fortunately, I've become quite adept at seeing and benefiting from everything that's previously been invisible to me. In the past I would have felt TOTALLY dejected, but this time I immediately thought to myself "Joe's Kid!"

You see, Steve is a guy I hang out with on Saturday afternoons talking about cars and life. He, no matter how he tries, can only see me as his unshaven neighbor who wears torn jeans and holey t-shirts and complains about his lack of book sales.

To Steve, I'm not the savior consultant on a quest to go global; I'm "Joe's Kid."

Let me explain with a bit of background from my Catholic upbringing. One of the few times in the Bible where Jesus gets really pissed off is when he goes home to Nazareth. In his home town He wasn't revered as the Savior, He was just the carpenter’s son. He was just "Joe's Kid," and no one took him seriously. (He said later that “a prophet has no honor in his own country.”) Jesus got so angry that, when he was leaving town, he shook the dust off his sandals at them. In that part of the world, that's about as serious as a single digit "good by" is here.

If Jesus had listened to his neighbors he might have totally missed his destiny. But he didn't, he left town and worked miracles.

Well guys, just as Jesus left town and went on to fulfill His destiny, we are getting out of dodge by leaving port together, and, hopefully, getting out of our own heads in order to fulfill our own destiny.

My goal this year is to move from a practice to a Global Enterprise. If I listened to Steve, if I thought for just one moment that I “wasn’t good enough”, I wouldn't be able to leave the "hood" much less “go global”.

So, who, or what, is the "Steve" in your life?

And, by the way, who are you treating like "Joe's Kid?" Your spouce, kids, employees, the guy accross the street? We tend to keep people in their little box to the point where they have to leave the relationship to grow. And we miss the real brilliance that they are.

Sail on!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Parallel Synchronized Randomness

I am using my space today to share a post from a new friend, Paul Kearley. That's him on the right. I have been suggesting you read his book MUST Thinking for weeks now. I am posting his blog post today for three reasons: The first is because it so reinforces what we have been talking about. The second is I want you to experience a really great writer. And third, well, he lives so far North he can use all the exposure he can get! Enjoy. --Tom

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. ~Albert Einstein

My daughter Lauren and I were in my car on our way to Halifax where she was to have an appointment with an eye specialist to see if there was anything to be done for her blocked tear duct.

It was snowing, the roads were snow packed and slippery, and we had 350 kilometres to drive there and 350 to return. While I was not looking forward to 700 kilometres of white knuckle driving for a 15 minute appointment, I was really looking forward to spending the time with her. She has this natural and instinctive way to not only make you feel good about yourself, no matter how you are feeling, but she is a master at dragging you from your worries and focusing you on what is really right with the world.

As we were driving along, weaving in between bare spots on the road that weren’t snow covered, counting the cars that had slid into the ditch and in between changing CD’s in the stereo from “Alexis on Fire” to something else, she blurted out, “Dad, you know what my favourite saying is?”

“What is it?” I asked, dragging my attention from driving to her words.

“Parallel Synchronized Randomness” she said.

“Parallel Syncho what? What is that” I asked.

“It’s when the random occurrences of your life line up to look like they were planned that way and that they were supposed to happen.” She replied. “Do you know what I mean?”

Boy, did I ever know what she meant. One of my favourite sayings is “There are no coincidences in life.” There are just way too many things that happen to me that make me say “Hmmm.”

For example as I have been trying to connect with people about my ebook “MUST Thinking”, I am finding people whom I have never met before, but I feel like I have known them all my life. I learned from Bob delBuono, an old mentor and friend, 15 years ago that when life randomly gives you an opportunity to meet someone that you can learn from about your current situation, you had better take the time to connect with that person right then and there, because it will not happen a second time. Those “stars” may never align again and you would have missed an opportunity to gain clarity or direction on what you needed to know.

Take, for example, how I met Tom Voccola.

Three weeks ago, I didn’t know him from Adam, but ‘m sure that I was supposed to. In case you haven’t heard of Tom, who I’m sure you will soon, he is the author of a book called “The Accidental CEO – A leader’s journey from ego to purpose”. I came to meet him through a business networking site similar to Facebook called Linkedin. I was looking through my 3rd level of contacts, I don’t know what for, when I saw his name. My fingers were obviously more in tune to the universe than my mind was and they clicked on his profile and presto, three weeks later, we have shared emails back and forth, Tom has written a testimonial for my ebook, we have chatted on the phone, and we are eagerly trying to see how we can support each other in business. Parallel Synchronized Randomness.

The person you happen to meet on the sidewalk who knows a person you should meet. The phone rings, it’s someone dialling a wrong number but somehow you get to speaking and she knows all about the answers that you are seeking. You get a flat tire driving to work and someone pulls over to help you and it just happens that this person knows someone that you have been trying to meet and makes the introduction. The book that just magically appears on your desk one morning that no one knows how it got there, but carries within it the secrets that you have been searching for.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Life is as big a miracle as you want it to be.

When we set out each morning, if we can become open to these experiences, it is amazing just where we could arrive in life, but we must be in tune with the “music” that is playing. If we’re always plugged into our “I” pods, we will miss and sometimes walk right by the “you” pods that are out there all around us, just waiting to be discovered.

This week, please take the time to listen to what is going on around you. Be curious. Take no random happening at face value and be in tune to the circumstances in life in which you find yourself. Dare to discipline yourself to look behind the randomness of them and you may find answers to the life challenges in which you have been searching. But you must be open to take a chance and see where it will take you.

Make this your best week ever.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

When Providence Moves too...

Hold onto your hats, mates. Trim the sails! The sun's come out, the wind's picked up and we're clipping along at hull speed!

Suddenly, my calendar is full, the phone's ringing off the hook, my hair (if I had some) is blowing back, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

Here’s a sampling of what’s come up lately. A previous client called to say he’s taking over a new start-up and committed to bring me in when they get to 100 employees. Then he referred me to his lawyer. The lawyer turns out to be a partner in the largest law firm in the world (did you get that?) And this lawyer specializes in start-ups and high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley. We set a date to meet and I will be sending him my book. In the meantime, he’s referred me to one of his serial entrepreneur clients who is a key influencer in YPO (Young President’s Organization.) I have been trying to break into the YPO speaking circuit for two years...suddenly this door opens.

I got a call from another consultant who was referred to me by yet another consultant who wants to bring me in on an assignment in Los Angeles. During our conversation, guess what? He is trying to do EXACTLY the same thing I am trying to do — go from a practice to a Global Enterprise. We begin work together this week.

And Tony, my new friend and associate at The Alternative Board, and I are now engaged in creating the visibility and marketing mechanisms to help fill our next two high level CEO Boards here in Ventura county.

So, there's a principle at work here that I simply MUST share with you that I, myself, am just beginning to have some understanding and competency around.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

— Walter H. Murray, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951

As we all know, to achieve anything in life, we must commit to a Vision, a picture of what we really want. Without that, it can be hard to muster the energy to get out of bed, much less climb a mountain.

But then, we must take action toward our Vision, even if we don’t know exactly what to do. The key is to take some action, any action. It doesn’t seem to matter as long as it is in authentic alignment with our desire and our values.

Then be alert to what unfolds — like the sun breaking out and a northwesterly wind coming up — and trim our sails accordingly.

When I cast off on this journey with you three short weeks ago, I had no idea how I would be able to move From a Practice to a Global Enterprise.

In the past, I thought I had to figure it out. To construct a detailed plan. To know exactly what was needed to get from here to there. But I never did figure it out. So Sea Fever and I stayed near shore doing little practice runs (nothing wrong with that), my grand sailing adventure mostly a figment of my imagination.

It wasn’t until recently that I finally got it. I mean, really GOT it. I don’t have to figure it all out. I’m ready, my boat’s ready. (I have been preparing for my next level of success for decades, just like you’ve been preparing for yours!) All I had to do is throw off the damn lines and go.

Now, just a note to be aware of. Not everything that shows up will be an open door or come to fruition, so don’t get discouraged. I met with a client yesterday who felt discouraged because his actions seemed to be producing little result. When he looked at it more closely, though, he found that he wasn’t really fully committed, not yet ready to move forward — and that he needs to first focus on readying his ship and his crew for the adventure that lies ahead.

So, what about you? What’s unfolding or not unfolding in YOUR life and your business?

Once you're committed, providence will move too...

There is so much that we can accomplish together.

And this is only day 22!

Yours on the Journey,

Captain Tom

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 15 - Out to Sea

In my last post, as we headed out to open sea, I asked you to answer 3 questions to help you chart your destination - your Vision of the future for 2008. I heard from many of you and I am inspired about the challenges you’re taking on.

In return, here's my business Vision: A World that Works because Business Works. This is big, but you know what, it inspires me and pulls me forward. It calls me to be bold!

As a first step toward realizing my Vision I know I MUST transition from a solo Practice to a Global Enterprise. I cannot get there alone. And, while I am totally committed to this outcome, I have no idea how to get there.

The first rule of accelerated success is to find someone who has already done at least part of what you want to do and learn from them. So, on January 6th, I flew to Denver, Colorado to be trained as a CEO Board Facilitator and Coach for The Alternative Board.

The Alternative Board (R) is an international provider of peer advisory and coaching solutions to leaders of privately held companies. In other words, TAB has already mastered much of what I want to do.

What did I learn in just 7 days? Well, I learned how they built their organization, I learned how they market to, engage and train CEOs, Presidents and Owners, and I learned one way to successfully build an enterprise. I also learned that these are amazing people, and discovered an opportunity for a strategic alliance.

What's more, I met fellow participants who are former senior executives in both the automotive and defense industries who are just as passionate about changing the workplace as I am. They are natural allies on my quest.

So where do we begin, you and I, when we're sailing uncharted waters? The first step is to seek out some old salts that have sailed those waters themselves. Go sailing with them. Listen to their tales. Benefit from their wisdom. Learn from their mistakes. Nine times out of ten they will gladly teach you what they know.

Today is Day 15. Do you know where you are going? Make sure you’re clear on your destination. Focus and take action in alignment with your Vision. Next week, onward, through the fog.

Yours on the Journey,

Tom Voccola

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I Promised You Adventure...

And adventure we will have.

We're gathered in the cockpit as we sail away from the harbor. You can no longer see the breakwater. As you look astern, the wake itself disappears into the fog. You can only hear the sound of the water against the hull and a fog horn in the distance. You feel the movement of the deck under your feet as Sea Fever rises and falls with the ocean swells. You decide to sit down. The deck moves up and meets you before you are ready.

You think to yourself, "This is different" and you're right. Everything about ocean sailing will require you to be different than you were just a few hours ago.

We are on our own. There is just us and a new environment. Water, blackness and fog. We have no idea what kind of challenges we will face. And we are not going to turn around. Yet we are on course. We are heading for a destination. A place where there is freedom to be ourselves. You want this. To test yourself. To be different. To be fulfilled. To learn to be - Captain - of your life, your career, your unique enterprise.

Okay, wake up. Pay attention. Now that we're aboard we're going to create a routine. Sailing in the open ocean requires a great deal of consciousness, or you will die soon enough. There's only one mission critical rule. Don't fall overboard. And only you can keep that rule. I can't keep it for you. You must remain on the boat to get to your destination.

The simple act of getting up and moving to another part of the boat requires a great deal of thought and coordination. Where is the nearest hand hold? When is the next roll of the deck? Who is where? Who is responsible for what? Is my life line attached?

There are measurements to be taken, a course to be followed, sails to be trimmed and weather to be watched. There is food to be prepared and watches to be scheduled and manned.

You think to yourself, "Why did I do this, anyway?"

You know there is actually an on-line virtual world called "New Life". In this virtual world you can give yourself an entirely new identity. We can change everything about ourselves. How we look, the kind of relationships we have, the life style we want, the home we live in and the games we play. I'm told that many times people in this virtual world excel in their new lives. They become richer, more famous and successful. Their businesses thrive and their people do what they are told. Yet, mostly, in their real lives, they continue to behave the same as they always have. Interesting.

In the next twelve months, the duration of this cruise, I will, you will, we will do what ever it takes, what ever we MUST do, to reach our destination.

But first, what is your destination for 2008?

Below are 3 important questions from my friend Paul Kearley's new book MUST THINKING

Go Here to Buy Paul's New Book

I want you to answer these 3 questions before your first watch. (We are on a boat, after all, and we will be recording our progress every Tuesday morning for the rest of the year.)

Now. Lie down on your bunk. Turn on the new LED light. Enjoy the gentle rocking of the ocean. Smell the coffee and the great supper cooking for you. And answer each of these questions for yourself.

1. What MUST happen for me to feel fulfilled and succesful? (My Vision)
2. Why MUST my Vision happen?
3. When MUST my Vision happen? (December 31, 2008)

Be creative. Write in the present tense, like it has already happened. Paint a word picture so that it moves you inside, so that it touches you dearly. Be ready to share your answers with me soon. (You can email me at if you want me to comment on them.)

I can't wait to share mine with you.

Dream Big. Be Bold.

Yours on the Journey,

Tom Voccola, Captain, The Sloop Sea Fever

P.S. If you just can't bring yourself to answer the 3 questions, buy Paul's book. You really MUST get in touch with what you really want. Because:

'Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back is always in effect. The moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material sustenance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.' - Goethe

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year, Mate!

A few days ago I invited you to set sail on a grand adventure with me.

During 2008 I will be sharing new ideas, concepts and questions about leadership that will help you with every aspect of your life, especially your business.

We’ve been working hard on the charts all morning and we are getting ready to cast off. If you haven’t reserved your bunk, you can do so right now by filling in the box to your right to join the team. All we need is your e-mail address. I promise not to share it with anyone. It is only for our work together here. Because with you on board, we can make this dialogue an international journal of new leadership thought, discovery and achievement.

Courage! Do not miss this adventure!