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Leadership

A Summer of Quantum Leaps in Clarity and Purpose

blairsinger_kilimanjaroThis summer, I have experienced probably more change, inspiration and clarity in such a short period of time than I can ever remember. Those of you who read my post about the “Mission to Kilimanjaro” have read a small part of it.

It is hard to describe the depth of feeling and emotion that has permeated my heart over these months. One thing that was re-awakened and re-affirmed was that great things happen when people make great commitments. Sometimes, getting out of your own way allows the biggest quantum leaps in your life and the lives of others.

In Tanzania, I was put face-to-face with the hardship and plight of 500+ kids in a school for the blind, albino and orphans. More than that, I was driven by the realization of how much of the world does without… and yet, how bright the spirits of those are who are given a glimpse of hope on a distant horizon. I also saw how the magic of love, fun and education blocks out all the rest of the squalor, pain and struggle that surrounds a person in that moment.

blairsinger_kilimanjaro3The willingness to look, get dirty and go into the bowels of environments that breed prejudice, ignorance, disease, addiction, poverty and even death is the work of huge spirits. It takes the drive of entrepreneurs, leaders and teachers to create islands of magic in those worlds.

Faced with pivotal decisions in my own life and career, I was forced to look beyond myself again over the last several months. The Mission: “To improve the quality of life for everyone through transformation…” took on new meaning and greater depth. The work that we did in Moshi woke up a part of me that had gone silent for a time. As my dear friend Po Chung (founder of DHL International) said, “It is a societal responsibility for those who know… to teach others.”

Just yesterday, I witnessed the “coin out” or graduation of one of my students from an incredible rehabilitation center created by dear friends and partners of mine, Josh and Lisa Lannon. What was incredible was hearing this person’s story of facing addiction, overcoming fear, surrendering to love and support, and witnessing a complete transformation (or re-awakening) of this person’s life. Once again, I was happily flooded with emotion.

I had to think… What about me? What are my addictions, distractions and resistances that keep me from being all that I can be? What am I possibly running from? How big of a game could I really play if I were to face whatever fears I have and truly be who I am supposed to be? What about you?

Have you ever felt like there was some cosmic fire hose out there relentlessly blasting you in the face with message after message – as if trying to get you see something? My values and priorities… Code of Honor, Mission first, never abandon a team mate in need, love stronger than a mountain, eliminating distractions that keep me from my calling… and at the same time witnessing the magic and exquisite brightness of spirit of those who peek through the veil of their normal existence…

blairsinger_kilimanjaro2The sweet and happy singing of a teenage boy with XP (exoderma pigmentosum) knowing that he will probably not live to see 20… The magic glow of a father and husband coming alive after years of addiction… the crowding of kids in blue sweaters to the chalkboard so eager to learn the day’s lessons… watching life after life take a turn toward greatness… and the hug of my 17 year old thanking me for being there to back him up. Wow!!

It starts with an entrepreneur somewhere with a dream to serve others. To create a space that is somehow a little bit better than it was before. I am in the deepest state of gratefulness to be blessed with great friends, teachers and partners who continue to illuminate that path.

I show you the video at the end of this blog to inspire you to whatever your next level of greatness is. To inspire you to remove the distractions that are keeping you from being whom you are supposed to be. As a result of K2, I have committed to founding my own foundation to improve the quality of life for children and families in need worldwide through education, healthcare and entrepreneurship.

Buckminster Fuller once said that the purpose for human beings was to be local problem solvers. It is what we are naturally good at. He also said that you may never know your true purpose in life; but to be assured that you would fulfill that purpose if you commit yourself to the highest advantage of others. In other words, our job is to seek problems and solve them so that everyone can live a more successful and fulfilling life.

I know this may sound like a religious sermon, but, now more than ever it is up to courageous entrepreneurs to create tools, experiences, processes, businesses and movements that give people a chance to experience their greatness… whether on the Masai plains of Africa, the back streets of Chennai, in trade magazines of Colombia, or in your own home town.

Inside of you is someone great. It takes courage to face it. It takes commitment to do something with it. But like Mack Newton says, “Courage is simply staying in fear for just one more minute.”

The Mission to Kilimanjaro…

Recently my 16 year old son and I went on an adventure to Tanzania to experience two things together: To join a team to work a few days in an orphanage and school for blind and albino children, and to climb Kilimanjaro, the largest free-standing mountain in the world.

We did this under the leadership of K2 Adventures, an organization who for the last five years has helped these children by providing health care, dental care, educational facilities, clothing and hope through part of the dollars spent on taking expeditions to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

The two days of work with the children was gut wrenching, heart-warming and life changing. Many of these children are kids that their society has given up on, persecuted against or are kids who are simply born into complete poverty. My son and I walked away from that experience touched and committed to giving whatever we can to continue supporting them.

During the work day at the school, the peak of Kilimanjaro emerged from the clouds to come into view for the first time. It took our breath away. Talk about intimidating!!!! But our expedition leaders who have done the trek many times assured us… We would just take it very slowly, one step at a time, one day at a time.

Certainly this was going to be the largest physical and psychological challenge of my life so far. I was nervous, but knew that my physical and mental conditioning would get me through. Little did I know that the mountain would issue me a challenge that I had never anticipated.

On day one of the climb, our team hiked from about 6300 feet to about 10,000 feet. As we reached our first campsite, spirits were high, we were feeling strong and the sharp snow-capped peak of Kili looming over us somehow did not seem as intimidating.

The porters had set up camp and prepared dinner as darkness settled over the giant mountain. The white glacier at the peak glistened like a huge white diamond in the near full moonlight. I swear I could touch the Milky Way.

We snuggled into our sleeping bags and quickly fell asleep. Sometime around 1 AM, I heard Ben get up, struggling to get out of the tent. Before I knew what was happening, he got outrageously sick, vomiting for all he was worth. With help, we cleaned up the tent, got him settled down and he fell back to sleep.

However the next morning, he was not better. Still sick and now cold, we warmed him up, gave him medication to ease his system, but as we attempted to continue our climb, he was very weak. Not willing to give up, he went slow with one of our guides, but still getting weaker. We had climbed another 3-400 feet and I was toward the front of our team when the radio call came that the team leader and myself should come back to assist Ben. We hiked down a hundred feet or so to where he was sitting. We urged him to keep going and assured him if he could get through this day of climbing, whatever bug he had contracted would be out of his system and he would be fine.

He climbed for about 5 minutes and got sick again. After another rest, he climbed again and got sick again, vomiting only the water he had just drunk. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and shook his head. He said, “Dad… I can’t do it. I just want to go home!” I had to stand behind him to keep him from falling down the mountain.

It was at this point that I got one of the biggest lessons of my life. It was not the lesson I thought Kili was going to throw at me, but one even more powerful. Clearly he had to go back down the mountain. His physical state was so depleted that I was worried about him. A guide would take him down and to a clinic where he could get checked out and then to a hotel to wait for the rest of us to complete the climb and descend in six more days.

I was now faced with a decision. Continue the climb without him and summit this monster and achieve the obvious goal of summiting Kili, or descend with him. I have to admit, in the moment it was a tough decision. Yet the thought of leaving my son in this state, in a strange country, seemed equally as unacceptable as not summiting the mountain.

I kicked the dirt. I remember looking out over the clouds that were now below us. I will never forget the moment when I looked deep inside, looked into the eyes of my weakening son and remembered our mission: To conquer this mountain together. Mission first and individual needs third. My personal desire to summit would have to be secondary to the mission and to he and I as a team. I also immediately recalled my Code of Honor that says, “Never abandon a team-mate in need.” He was clearly in need.

You see, I teach about mission, team, Code and Little Voice. I never thought that Kili would put me to the test in a way that was 180 degrees to the way I normally operate.

The decision was now clear. I looked into his bleary eyes and said, “We started this together, we finish this together.” I turned to our team leader and said, “I will go down with him and make sure he is okay.”

What happened after that was something that I did not expect. You see, I am a person who is always ‘taking the challenge,’ conquering odds, pushing boundaries. I hate to fail and I hate to not be in control of my own fate. Sound familiar? Summiting that mountain would have been one of the most difficult things I have ever done… but I would get it done somehow. However to turn back… to consciously decide NOT to push my boundaries again, was a whole new experience for me. It was a very new and different boundary.

While part of me was tormented by taking myself out of the game, simultaneously a very strange peace came over me. A peace of having followed my own rules, surrendered to a Code that was designed to bring my family and team closer.

In the four and a half hours it took to get down from there, I supported, encouraged and just loved my son each step of the way. Once in the van, he passed out for the one hour ride to the small, third world, neighborhood, four bed clinic. That night I lay in a bed next to him as he lay unconscious (passed out) for nearly 16 hours. I lay there watching my precious son and the needed fluids dripping back into his body.

Somehow I drifted off to sleep and was awakened at day break by a local rooster somewhere close by. As I opened my eyes, I looked over in time to see him open his. He smiled weakly and passed off to sleep again.

It’s one thing to say that you will always be there for someone or to say you really love them or to extoll the virtues of a relationship. But somehow, somewhere just below the snows of Kilimanjaro, I connected with my son at a level that not only gave me great peace, but that put my priorities, my life’s work and my spirit to the test.

That mountain will always be there. But the window to really connect with someone near and dear to you can be evasive. I thank K2 Adventures, I thank the incredible porters and leaders of our team, I thank my teachers and I thank the great lessons that I have learned that led me to that incredible decision on the side of the mountain. I thank Kili for its majesty and for giving me one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Most important, I thank God and the Universe for a thing called love that conquers any mountain.

The Miracle of Mt. Kilimanjaro and K2 Adventures

blair_singer_k21Tomorrow I climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with my son Ben as part of an adventure program put together and led by K2 Adventures. One of the things that really attracted me to www.K2Adventures.org is their Mission Statement: To care for children and families with special needs and or life changing medical circumstances by providing services and funds that will be used for educational and medical enrichment.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is an incredibly stunning and a true miracle that rises out of the African plains. But, the even greater miracle is these kids that we have been working with for the past 2 days, at an orphanage and school that K2 Adventures supports. It has been the most heart wrenching and moving experiences to go in and serve the albino and blind children, as well as many other kids with a variety of diseases that are in some cases terminal or very, very difficult and challenging to live with, or survive.

blair_singer_k2The money that we pay to make the climb goes towards these children who otherwise would not be getting what care they receive through K2 Adventures’ Program. Things like education and medical care, love and emotional support, and necessities like mattresses and daily items. They still sing, play and they still have fun. But, to put it in perspective, Kilimanjaro makes me a little nervous to climb… I’ll take it one step at a time and I expect to have a successful experience… but these kids have much higher, steeper mountains to climb just to deal with their daily personal challenges.

We have one albino child climbing to the top of the mountain with us tomorrow and if he makes it, he will be the first albino from Tanzania to climb the mountain. This has been an extremely touching experience for both Ben and myself, and reminds us both how truly blessed we really are. In reading this brief post, I hope you find yourself blessed, too.

Thank You for an Amazing Master Facilitator Training Event!

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with 41 brilliant presenters and
trainers. Our focus was on taking their current presentation skills to the next level and
training them to become Master Facilitators. Although I know that I was able to help
these 41 participants significantly up their game, they helped me up mine, too.

It was an amazing and humbling weekend for me. Their brilliance, energy and
commitment to learning was awesome! Each person’s growth was everyone’s growth.
Each person’s win was everyone’s win. Just their participation in the program has, as a
ripple effect, already affected the lives of thousands of people by these participants
simply acknowledging the unlimited capacity of others, and their confidence in their
ability to draw out the brilliance of those they work with.

Part of what I teach at the Master Facilitator Training Program is how to pull the
answers out of your audience/participants rather than focus on being the expert with all
the answers at hand. I gave this group many exercises to debrief and they showed me
over and over and over again that the answers I expected were just a few of the many
possible options. This is an experience that I have every time I facilitate a room- and it
is one of the main reasons that I continue to constantly expand my own knowledge. I
believe teachers are leaders and I also believe that by teaching others, we continue to
learn.

Facilitation is truly about pulling the brilliance and personal lessons and ideas out of
others rather than forcing your beliefs, solutions and personal experiences onto them.
We have all been taught through the traditional education systems that if we dont have
all the answers we are stupid, not good enough, and have little to contribute. From
that mindset, as teachers and presenters, we often feel that we are only doing our jobs
well if we can be the guru and have all the answers for any and all questions that may
arise in our rooms. But, what I have learned over 29 years is that the greatest gift you
can give others is the opportunity to experience a lesson and share what they learned
with the group for maximum learning and retention. Letting participants come up with
the answers allows them to be the heroes instead of it being all about the guru at the
front of the room.

When one becomes a true Master Facilitator, they accept that their job is not to
spoon feed answers or provide an entertaining show with a lesson, but to create
an environment that supports group participants in contributing their experiences,
expertise and ideas for the best results and personal buy-in among each member of the
group. This past weekend, 41 new Master Facilitators learned how to do exactly that!

Creating Profitable Workplaces through Team Motivation

Many years ago, myself and my colleagues went into the business world teaching something that at the time seemed “woo-woo”, “out there”, “nice but not real”, touchy-feely, new age-ish…..you name it. We taught entrepreneurs, business owners and managers that if you created a workplace with a sense of “purpose” or a reason to contribute to something noble, bigger than yourself….it would create dynamic and profitable workplaces. We also said that if your team had the ability to direct themselves, have control over their space, to treat the workplace in an organic way rather than in a machine-like way…. that would work too. It had worked in our businesses and we knew it would work in others.

Well today, according to the great work of Daniel Pink, the actual “science of human behavior” says we were right! (I love being right!) What really motivates people is not what the business or economic community really believed. (They mostly did not believe us then….but now they are seeing the light!) Financial incentives and consequences in any type of task that requires real “thinking” don’t work to increase results. As a matter of fact it is the opposite! Check out Daniel’s video to see what the real incentives are.

Years ago we set on a mission to improve the quality of life through transformation of the marketplace. It started in 1982. Today, thirty years later, the evidence and “science’ have finally caught up. How is that for lag time? To be a great leader, you have to be a great teacher. Understanding what Daniel Pink is saying in the video below will not only transform your team, your business and your results, but will transform YOU!!!! Be a teacher because “Teachers are Leaders.”

Please share your comments and questions on my Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/BlairSinger1

Leadership in the Upcoming Elections…

And for any Person in a Leadership Role

In the United States of America, we are preparing to select new (or the same) leadership for our country. One of my associates shared a video with me (at the bottom of the blog post) that they thought conveyed some good information in preparing for this crucial time to come. After reviewing it, I found that Robin Sharma pinpointed many critical points about leadership – for both elected officials and the leaders in our businesses and communities.

Robin points out how important transparency is. I could not agree more! However, the one point missed in the question asked on “candor” is the mannerisms in which a leader conducts him or herself under pressure. Do they treat these direct questions and challenges as personal attacks – or do they stick to the issues?

A person reveals a lot about themselves in the heat.

The issues are important, but I look at the person as well. Who are they? Do they conduct themselves in a way that they preach? Do they exhibit honor and courage or do they stoop to new lows in communication and decency. Communicating honorably, consistent with what I recommend others to do, has been a BIG focus of my own for the last 18 months… at times, it has created moments of significant upheaval in my life and business – but it has been worth it.

I encourage you to watch this video and share additional questions of your own based on Robin Sharma’s definitions. These times are more important than ever. There are 7 BILLION souls now sharing our planet, elections everywhere, economic chaos globally, environmental chaos continually revealing itself. In the midst of all this, who is capable of leading without succumbing under pressure?

There is huge opportunity on this planet right now to turn the tide of chaos. As Bucky would say, can we emerge through emergency?

Please share your comments, questions and suggestions on my Facebook page.