Category Archives: human development

The Lowering Value of Higher Education Costs

higher education
Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

Trusting Your Gut in the Age of Information

Two years ago I was speaking with a Country Manager from an American multinational tech company when he asked me an HR-related question. He was contemplating whether to hire a young programmer who had no higher education degree. Ostensibly, he wanted my opinion. In reality, he just needed confirmation.

I knew he knew the answer, just as he knew my thoughts. But cultural norms are hard to break even for senior-level managers, so I entertained his inquiry. I asked about the young man’s skills, motivation, fit, attitude, and ability to learn. Not surprisingly, he responded to all in the affirmative. I then asked, “What does your gut tell you?”

MBAs are Leaving a Musky Scent on Innovation

What do Google, Apple, Ernst & Young, Hilton, IBM, Nordstrom, and Penguin Random House all have in common? These top 7 companies no longer require a college degree, rather place more emphasis on skills. And in a digital age skill acquisition is no longer bound to a university. Even Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk believes there is a big problem in corporate America.  At the WSJ CEO Summit in December, Musk stated, “I think that there might be too many MBAs running companies.”

Musk labeled the “MBA-ization of America” as the bane of product innovation. He believes big corporate CEOs should spend less time on board meetings and financials.  “A company has no value in itself. This thing they call profit, should just mean over time that the value of the output is worth more than the inputs.” Musk urged CEOs to “get out there on the goddamn front line and show them that you care and that you’re not just in some plush office somewhere.” What results would Musk’s formula produce if applied to university costs (inputs) in relation to the student’s employability (output)?

What are Parents, Teachers, and Students are thankful for? YouTube

Both my sons would tell you straight up that if it wasn’t for the best teacher and tutor–YouTube–their academic performance would not have been and continue to be as high as without this essential learning tool. Homeschooling and distance learning have brought YouTube and free education-based learning platforms such as the Khan Academy to the forefront of learning. I’d be curious to know what percentage of high school and college students would credit such online platforms as reasons for passing and dare I say even graduating!

Teachers and parents are not always available for students, but YouTube is there 24/7. Videos can be paused and rewatched as needed at any hour of the day or night. Even pre-COVID the use of virtual classrooms enabled a new model of learning called the Flipped Classroom. Competent professionals and teachers making inspirational videos are modern-day virtual educators. They are here to stay and more are on the way.

Reevaluating Higher Education and Standardized Tests

Well-known and highly competitive international companies are beginning to write off higher education as a requisite for gainful employment. How will this trend impact the continuous rise in the cost of US higher education which has surged more than 538% since 1985? COVID has not only claimed the lives of over 2.5 million people. The pandemic has shone a bright light on the numerous social, racial, political, and economic injustices plaguing humans globally. The rising cost of US higher education contributes to all four.

There is another major change in higher education happening for the 2021-2022 college academic year. Pre-COVID about 2/3 of US colleges required applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score. As a result of COVID restrictions on the administration of standardized testing, over a thousand US colleges and universities for the upcoming year are waiving the SAT requirements. Most appear to be doing so only for the upcoming school year. Others are choosing to go several years without. They seem to be using this as an opportunity for a longitudinal study. Maybe they want to see what impact omitting aptitude tests has on recruitment, student performance, and job placement? What would be their reasoning for doing so?

What Are Companies Looking for in Candidates?

Standardized tests were designed to level the college admission playing field, but do they? The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) only tests critical reading, math, and writing.  How far will this knowledge alone get a recent graduate in today’s job market? We live in the age of information in which computers outperform humans. So what is needed in the marketplace in addition to technical skills?

Leadership, adaptability, cultural awareness, ethics, communication, and conflict management are six essential skills that companies seek. These essential human skills are not measured on a scholastic aptitude test. Companies, however, are at the end of the training and education line. They must teach these life-coping skills if not previously acquired by new hires. There is no one else. Companies are becoming surrogate parents and alternative education centers. So what value alone does the increasing cost of a diploma have for a company that ends up having to teach vital competencies needed in a fast-paced and even faster-changing global economy?

About the Author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert specializing in conflict resolution,  intergenerational dialogue, and psychological safety. He is also a Youth Coach, Author, and Speaker. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by revealing patterns and refining human systems in real-time!

Silence: The Innate Power of Sensing People

silencePhoto by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Silence makes us vulnerable

We all have had those moments in a conversation when suddenly the conversation stops. The awkward silence begins. You briefly make eye contact, smirk, then look away. Your physiology is triggered. You shift in your seat, scratch a sudden itch, or clear your throat. While trying to quickly think of something to break the silence you have a brain freeze. As long as you are speaking you are keeping your counterpart distracted. You keep them at bay. Consider it a shield of protection. For if you fall silent you become vulnerable. You open yourself up. Your counterpart is no longer distracted by questions. You are both on full display. This is when all senses become heightened. Your self-awareness and awareness of others increases. This is when our humanness comes to the forefront.

Silence is anything but silent

Silence is the absence of sound but not of information. It is amazing how humanly evoking it can be to sit with others and not say a word. An interesting ice-breaker to use with people unfamiliar with one another demonstrates the power of human perception in the absence of words. Create groups of three arranged in a triangle. Two participants through observation and sensing only describe the third person using adjectives and short sentences. This is done three times, each for several minutes, so everyone can be both the observer and the observee. You will be amazed at what people say about each other only by taking in their essence and projected aura.

The lost art of being silent

In the digital age if you are not regularly updating at least one social media account then you are not hip to the play. If you are not Instagramming, Facebooking, YouTubing, tweeting, podcasting, or blogging (guilty as charged), then you are not living in the times. Who doesn’t want to become an influencer? It is not only an actual job but a desirable one at that! Influencers don’t gain followers by remaining silent. Far from it. We are becoming less silent and more vocal and visible as technology and social media give us unprecedented access via a global network. This is not necessarily bad in the sense that we are becoming more transparent and giving public voices to everyone. The problem is with all the chatter, we are losing the ability to pick up important information when nothing is being said.

Accepting silence is to accept our social/emotional connectedness

Silence more often than not is associated with shyness, insecurity, social awkwardness, incompetence, or inattentiveness. Silence, however, allows us to reflect, relax, listen, be open, connect, and access our other senses as a means of taking in our environment and those around us. Recall the triad activity. By becoming less silent we are losing an important human trait that no computer or robot can do. And that is receiving and interpreting data when no verbal transmission exists. Many have watched Sophia–the AI robot–in awe, however, without any verbal precursor, she would just look blankly at you. Her AI is useless without some external stimulus. Even your dog has the social and emotional wherewithal to read your energy as you sit silently. It won’t be long before the silence is broken with a welcoming bark, a friendly nudge, or a sloppy kiss. If you are lucky you may receive all three.

Silence brings quality to our voice and respects others

We have the ability at any time to broadcast any message we want. What if this freedom we take for granted were not possible? What if you could only have one minute a day to say something? Which audience you would choose to address? What would you choose to tell them? What impact or outcome would you like to have? With that freedom comes responsibility. This is the point. Not all of what we say must be thought-provoking, philosophical, or awe-inspiring. However, one’s voice, one’s message is precious. And there are 7.8 billion precious human voices. If we are all speaking at once, who is listening? If everyone wants to be right, then who is wrong? I believe in the 80/20 rule. We have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. So 80% of the time we should be listening and observing and speaking only 20% of the time.

Silence brings you to the point

Silence in a conversation gives space for those involved to simply sit. Sit with what has been said. Sit with the thought of whether the conversation is on the right path, needs to shift, or simply needs to end. All results provide valuable feedback on what next step to take. Senior Forbes Contributor, Avery Blank’s article, “6 Ways Leaders Use Silence To Increase Their Power (And You Can, Too) provides additional insight into the value of harnessing the power of silence. So next time you find yourself in that awkward silence do not be so quick to break it. Relax, breathe, and embrace it. See it as a gift. In some cases, it can bring you to the point more quickly than a barrage of questions. Use it to take in other valuable nonverbal aspects of communication that are so vital to how we humanly connect and relate with others.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert specializing in conflict resolution,  intergenerational dialogue, and psychological safety. He is also a Youth Coach, Author, and Speaker. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by revealing patterns and refining human systems in real-time!

Mental Health: Reframing Employee Well-Being

Mental Health
Empty recreation room due to COVID and increased use of remote work

A New Mental Health Reality

Anne was a second-year apprentice when the Coronavirus outbreak occurred. Prior to that, she had a controllable washing compulsion. She started showing up late as showers now took an hour. Colleagues noticed she wasn’t as attentive. Anne required meetings to address her slipping performance. She started feeling stressed and shunned. She requested a reduction in hours. That request was denied. Anne was at risk of losing her apprenticeship.

COVID Bringing Mental Health to the Brink

Even pre-COVID, of 1,900 remote workers polled, 21% reported loneliness as the biggest struggle of working remotely. Now with lockdowns, family concerns, social distancing, homeschooling, remote working, layoffs, and financial struggles–all during the holiday season and cold winter months–people, like Anne, have reached or exceeded their ability to cope. “Depression, alcohol, other substance misuses, and anxiety have all skyrocketed because of COVID. It’s having an impact on the business bottom line because sick employees mean decreased productivity and increased accidents at work.”, Sagar Parikh, M.D., University of Michigan. Growing mental health issues extend beyond the US. The Mental Health Foundation reports the leading cause of absenteeism in the UK is mental health. An article titled, “Mental health in the workplace”, states 70 million workdays in the UK are lost yearly to mental health problems, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.

Working Remotely: Mediating Loneliness & Isolation

A recent Mental Health America study found that among people who screened with moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety or depression, 70% reported that one of the top three factors contributing to their mental health concerns was loneliness or isolation. According to Dr. Adam Hickman’s GALLUP article, “How to Manage the Loneliness and Isolation of Remote Workers”, employees can feel as lonely at work too. Physical presence alone does not remedy feelings of loneliness. It is a question of emotional, psychological, and purposeful connectedness. Hickman differentiates loneliness from isolation. Both, he writes, can be remedied with targeted interventions.  Interestingly, causes of burnout in a study conducted by GALLUP were related to feelings of disconnectedness whether in regards to job expectations, role, relationships, culture, or sense of purpose. Whether working remotely or in offices, rising mental health issues are the next major HR challenge to reckon with a digital age.

Addressing Loneliness to Improve Mental Health and Productivity

In the Mental Health Foundation article, “How to support mental health at work”, 10 mental health improvement tips are provided. Four tips–keeping active, eating well, taking breaks, drinking sensiblyin theory only require self-discipline. Three tips–talking about your feelings, keeping in touch, and caring for othersare only fulfilled in relation to others. The remaining three–asking for help, doing something you are good at, and accepting who you are–not only require others, they also require a connection to a greater purpose, other than your ego. Six of the ten tips presume that which is usually lacking in cases where loneliness exists–the existence of relationships and purpose. So how does one implement a tip requiring a key ingredient that is already lacking?

Mental Health Initiatives Strengthen Personnel

Building rapport during scheduled Zoom meetings only goes so far. Calling someone with a question is different than spinning your chair around. “Organic interaction in a virtual world is difficult.” Michael is one of the thousands of pandemic graduates whose first job out of university was in one state while his office was back home in another. Employed since August he has had no personal team contact. Michael also has a history of light depression. The remote COVID reality has him seeking counseling to help cope. Michael is happy overall with how his supervisor tends to his mental wellness. He has a mentor, but this onboarding initiative feels more like a policy than a mentoring relationship. Mentors require time and proper supervision to deal with the multitude of onboarding issues that can arise. Michael stated there really is no forum to discuss psychological health. This, he said, would be valuable.

Mitigating Mental Health Requires a Clear Shared Goal

“An essential building block for workplace mental health is the ability to have open, authentic conversations about mental health in the workplace, both individually and on a strategic level. This is more important than ever as we recover from the impact of the pandemic.”
– Mental Health Foundation

Loneliness is not simply being disconnected from people. The remedy is simply not gathering around a billiard table or organizing a team-building workshop. It usually also entails a lack of role clarity and meaning.  Anne, Michael, and their respective teams would be better able to implement all ten tips with clear roles and expectations, all focused on a shared goal greater than any one member. Indirectly teams mitigate feelings of loneliness and purposelessness while achieving the goal. Inter- and intrapersonal inquiries are naturally addressed when this common goal stands in the center–holding the space and focus. This approach fosters a solution-focused, resilient, inclusive, and innovative work culture all in real-time.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert specializing in conflict resolution,  intergenerational dialogue, and psychological safety. He is also a Youth Coach, Author, and Speaker. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by revealing patterns and refining human systems in real-time!

The Challenger Tragedy: The Human Cost of Hiding the Truth

Challenger Crew
STS-51-L crew: (front row) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair; (back row) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik (Creator: NASA/Johnson Space Center)

Challenger: The Final Flight

Just 73 seconds after Challenger’s liftoff, a leak in the right solid rocket booster led to the shuttle breaking up over the Atlantic Ocean perilously hurdling all seven astronauts in a 2 minute 45-second free-fall at speeds over 200 mph. One of those seven astronauts was Concord, New Hampshire teacher, Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe had been selected from more than 11,000 applicants to be the first participant in the NASA Teacher in Space Project.

But there was something more tragic than the innocent loss of seven lives that brisk morning on January 28, 1986. The accident was preventable. It was known and on record, that cold temperatures increased the risk of O-ring failure in the solid rocket boosters. The initial recommendation from the engineers of the boosters was to scrub the launch. After watching the recent four-part Netflix docuseries on Challenger’s final flight I could not but think of how it eerily resembled the way the US President has been handling the Corona Pandemic.

Mounting Pressure: Thiokol/NASA Conference Call

On January 27th at 8:45 PM, the evening before Challenger’s last flight, there was an intense and controversial conference call between Morton Thiokol (contractor for the solid rocket boosters) and NASA officials. Thiokol engineers in Utah made a unanimous case not to launch Challenger due to abnormal below-freezing temperatures that night. During the call, Thiokol’s Vice President of engineering further advised not to launch unless temperatures were above 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Larry Mulloy, NASA’s Project Manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center, then countered, “Good God Thiokol, when do you want me to launch, next April!

Prior to holding a final vote and further adding mounting pressure to launch in light of strong resignation, Thiokol’s VP of engineering was told to “take off his engineering hat and put on his manager hat.” Since Thiokol had no conclusive evidence of absolute sealing failure and feeling the pressure from NASA, the VP gave in. NASA was happy. The launch would proceed. Challenger’s fate was sealed.

The Rogers Commission: NASA Image vs. Integrity

President Ronald Reagan was to give his State of the Union Address also scheduled for later that day on the 28th of January. For the first time in US history, a Presidential State of the Union Address was postponed for one week. There was even a rumor that the Challenger launch scheduled for that morning was insisted upon so that Reagan could address it later in his speech.

Due to the national and international significance of the tragedy, Reagan created a Presidential Commission to investigate the Challenger disaster. He appointed William Rogers, a former Secretary of State under Nixon and Attorney General under Eisenhower, to lead the commission. It was reported that President Reagan told Rogers prior to the investigation, “Whatever you do, don’t embarrass NASA. They are national heroes. We are going to need them. They are going to have to launch again.” If the goal of the Rogers Commission was to protect NASA and not discover the reasons for the tragedy, how would that interfere with the Commission’s integrity?

Richard Cook & Phillip Buffey: Whistleblowers & Investigative Reporting

A NASA business analyst by the name of Richard Cook was present at the Commission’s open sessions. Cook would later describe NASA as being a close-knit family. Problems stay within; whistleblowers are few… They would never go outside the family.” When he heard NASA officials falsely reporting to the Commission of never having seen any evidence of erosion on the secondary O-ring seal, Richard Cook’s conscience no longer allowed him to stay quiet. So he contacted the New York Times NASA writer, Phillip Buffey.

Just like the leak in Challenger’s solid rocket booster seal set off a series of cataclysmic events, so too did Buffey’s Sunday, February 9th New York Times article titled, “NASA HAD WARNING OF A DISASTER RISK POSED BY BOOSTER”. Mentioning Cook by name the insider stated both Thiokol and NASA knew extremely cold temperatures could result in ring seal failure. Moreover, both parties knew that a sealing failure would be catastrophic. The article would be the first example of several whistleblowers who would come forward. With the assistance of the New York Times and a few Commission members, NASA’s attempt to cover-up the truth of the Challenger disaster would unravel.

Sally Ride: Employer Loyalty vs. Coworker Loyalty

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was the only active NASA astronaut on the Rogers Commission. The other well-known long-retired astronaut was Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. Ride had previously flown on two Space Shuttle Challenger missions. The seven astronauts who perished on Challenger were her coworkers. She would not let their deaths be in vain.

Due to Richard Cook’s New York Times‘ article, printed just the day before, the following Monday hearing was held behind closed doors and out of public view. Rogers wanted to give NASA a chance to speak privately. But before Lawrence Mulloy from NASA could even begin, Ride interrupted him. She had received calls from Washington reporters who had heard a rumor that one of the contractors may have recommended not even launching. Ride wanted to know so she asked Mulloy, “Is that really true?” Mulloy dodged the question. Ride had information and did not relent. Ride asked Mulloy if he had any documentation from the contractor saying they were worried about the cold temperatures. Mulloy responded, “I don’t recall any.” Ride knew that wasn’t true.

Allan McDonald & Sally Ride: The Truth Must Be Heard

Upon hearing Mulloy’s response to Ride’s follow-up question about documentation, a man sitting in the back of the hearing room thought to himself, “Well that is a flat-ass-out lie!” Allen McDonald, a Morton Thiokol representative, was present at the January 27th conference call in Florida. He heard Mulloy take umbrage to Thiokols’ engineers’ recommendation to postpone the launch. Like Ride, McDonald knew Mulloy was lying. So he proceeded to raise his hand and stand up. With a quivering voice McDonald said, “Mr. Chairman, we (Morton Thiokol) recommended not to launch!

Shortly after the hearing Ride walked by another committee member, Air Force General Donald Kutyna, and without saying a word handed him a piece of paper. On the sheet were two columns. One showed temperatures. The other showed corresponding O-ring resiliency. The chart showed that as temperatures dropped, so did the O-rings’ ability to properly seal. With this evidence, Roger’s ability to protect NASA for much longer was also dropping. To protect her from the possibility of employer retaliation, it wouldn’t be until after Ride’s death in 2012 that Kutyna would publicly announce that she had handed him proof that NASA was doing everything in their power not to take responsibility for the deaths of their own employees, her colleagues.

Donald Kutyna & Richard Feynman: Friendship, Dinner, a Car, & an Idea

In addition to Ride’s overt comments in the hearing and covert action in the hallway, two key members on the Commission would come together with the hope of preventing another catastrophic shuttle accident. Air Force General Donald Kutyna was one of them. The other was renowned physicist Richard Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize in Physics.  Both Kutyna and Feynman hit it off from the get-go. That friendship would have a significant impact on the investigation. Feynman, with Kutyna’s support, would deliver what would be remembered as the most memorable performance to be televised from the hearings.

With Ride’s chart in hand, Kutyna had a dilemma. How could he introduce to the Commission the document Ride had slipped to him earlier that day without getting her in trouble with her employer NASA? That same evening on the 10th of February Feynman went over to Kutyna’s house for dinner. Kutyna’s had a sports car in his garage. Kutyna suddenly had a revelation. Kutyna said to Feynman, “Professor, I have O-rings in this engine and they leak when it is cold.”  Feynman didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. He had a plan.

Feynman’s Oscar-worthy Performance: How A Simple Demonstration Influenced Public Opinion

In a futile last effort to honor Reagan’s request to protect NASA, Rogers purposely avoided the topic of temperature. So instead, Rogers began the live broadcasted session on February 11th by asking NASA to talk about the joints on Challenger’s booster rockets. Once again, NASA’s Project Manager, Larry Mulloy, was called to give the presentation. Feynman couldn’t hear it anymore. Sally Ride’s evidence showing NASA’s known correlation between low temperatures and sealing failure was about to go on full display.

Feynman couldn’t wait to end the charade and make his mic hot. When the moment was right, Feynman went live. He started with a clamped frozen O-ring taken from Kutyna’s garage. Feynman showed how the rubber ring’s resiliency is compromised as it gets colder. And as the rubber seal warms it takes time to go back to its original form. Feynman concluded the brief yet effective demonstration by saying, “I believe that has some significance for our problem.” NASA members and Rogers could only sit and fume. For the next 48 hours, the media would replay the Noble Laureate’s experiment. Public opinion had been swayed.

Roger’s Discovery: Human Safety Has A Price

There was a shift in Rogers after seeing Feynman’s experiment and hearing Mulloy’s response to Thiokol’s recommendation not to launch below 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Rogers could no longer protect NASA. Mulloy: “I found this conclusion (launching only above 53 degrees Fahrenheit) without bases and I challenged this logic.” To which Rogers responded, “They (Thiokol) construed what you said to mean that you wanted them to change their minds, so they were under a lot of pressure to give you (NASA) the answer you wanted.”

The families of Challenger’s ill-fated flight could not apprehend the lack of consideration of human life. Dr. William Lucas, Mulloy’s boss, and Director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center believed NASA needed to launch shuttles on schedule. NASA and Lucas knew in 1985 and even well before that, there was a design flaw with the seals. When asked by Rogers, Lucas responded, “I have been aware of the problem with the seals. My assessment was, it was a reasonable risk to take.” Rogers then followed up by asking about flight safety to which Lucas coldly replied, “I did not think it was a problem sufficient to ground the fleet.” Rogers with some emotion retorted, “The waiver says actual loss: loss of mission, vehicle, and crew. I don’t know how you can say that didn’t involve flight safety.

The Human Risk Factor: Profit vs. Human Life

Why was NASA in such a rush? Why wasn’t Challenger’s launch postponed to more conducive conditions? NASA tried to maintain a very high launch rate per year in order to honor commercial and military satellite contracts. Up until Challenger’s explosion, NASA had carried out 25 missions under the Space Shuttle Progam by using four orbiters (Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, and Atlantis). Whether real or imagined, Mulloy’s hands were tied to the constraints of the system that required more launches than they could successfully make.

The culture at NASA at the time was that they could do anything.  NASA portrayed the image of a well-run agency, on time, and on budget. NASA was saying the orbiters were like commercial airplanes, so safe that they could put teachers in it. They were the good guys who could do no wrong. In actuality, there was a high level of risk with every launch. Overconfidence overcame care. Ego over empathy. In the end, it was a fatally flawed decision process.

Three Truth-Seeking Takeaways: The Crucial Role of Whistleblowers, Investigative Reporting, & Experts

Like the Challenger astronauts, we too are floating in space on a ship. Similarly, Earth requires maintenance and care for its passengers. Earth, like Challenger, has a current “deadly gas leak” called Coronavirus. For about a year it has been combusting and killing human passengers all over the world. Just as Morton Thiokol and NASA  knew about the high risk of a deadly launch risk, the President of the United States back in February 2020 also knew about the deadly contagiousness of the airborne virus. NASA put business, profit, and company gain/reputation before human life resulting in a national and global tragedy. Donald Trump also withheld the truth. Donald Trump, even after being infected and hospitalized, still downplayed the deadly risk for the sake of business, profit, and personal gain/reputation. The similarities are eerily similar.

There is a key difference though between the Challenger tragedy and the current Corona tragedy still underway. The truthful conclusion from the Rogers Commission, in light of its unwritten wish to protect NASA, was only possible because of a combination of whistleblowers, investigative journalism, and the role of experts. Donald Trump wages daily wars against exactly these three essential elements to uncovering the truth. With each passing day, globalization and our interconnectedness grow. Therefore, corporations and governments are being increasingly confronted with ethical decisions. Most ethical dilemmas pit growth and profit against human life and environmental sustainability. The Challenger tragedy and the Columbia tragedy that would also take place over Florida in 2003 are stark reminders of these dilemmas. History has countless stories. One is being written right now. With current global environmental and humanitarian concerns, there are three significant questions to ask and answer.

Three Salient Questions: Profit or Posterity?

At what cost are companies/governments willing to put our spaceship Earth at risk to disintegrate for the sake of business, profit, and individual reputation?

What price are companies/governments willing to pay to put its passengers (all humans) at risk of death for the sake of business, profit, and individual reputation?

At what cost are companies/governments willing to shame whistleblowers, denounce investigative reporting (not only media), and delegitimize the role of experts for the sake of business, profit, and individual reputation?

President Reagan: On Humility, Humanity, Taking Responsibility, & Instilling Hope

I end this article with content from a speech by President Ronald Reagan months after the Challenger disaster. The current president has not once even come close to publically addressing the pandemic in such a fashion. It is long overdue. Reagan’s speech is as salient and needed now as it was then. With a few words, it could easily be altered to honor the over 220,000 American deaths and counting (over, 1,100,000 worldwide) as if “the Gipper” were speaking to us today.

In America, we learn from our setbacks as well as our successes. And although the lessons of failure are hard, they are often the most important on the road to progress. We’ve learned in the past few months that we are frail and fallible. But we have also learned that we have the courage to face our faults and the strength to correct our errors. This has been a difficult passage for America, but we will go on just as the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger would have wanted us to. We’ll simply do what has to be done to make our space program safe and reliable and a renewed source of pride for our nation. We’ve suffered a tragedy and a setback but we’ll forge ahead wiser this time, and undaunted, as undaunted as the spirit of the Challenger and her seven heroes.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert, Conflict Resolution Specialist, Change Facilitator, Youth Coach, Author, and Speaker. He accompanies individuals, teams, and organizations wanting to fully integrate their human potential. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by encouraging authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom.

L. ROOTS: The Story of 19 Year Old Entrepreneur Linda Kratzer

L. Roots

Linda, it has been five years since you spoke at my book presentation. You were a great example of the teen inspired growth model, the EPIC Model. Now you’re 19. I’d like to revisit your story and your business L. ROOTS as you continue to explore, play, inspire, and connect. Can you please tell the readers who don’t know you who you are and what is going on in your life at this time?

Sure, my name is Linda Kratzer and I’m the proud owner of L. ROOTS. I live in South Styria and since the age of 12, I have been producing and selling my own natural products. I love to create new products and tweak existing ones. In addition to cosmetic products like soap, balms, or aroma roll-ons, I also have tasty and delicious creations to savor. I offer a wide variety of syrups, herbal salt, and jellies.

As long as I can remember I have always been interested in herbs and the way they heal, affect, and help the human body. I continuously attend seminars and trainings to increase my knowledge about the herbs I use. The most recent and recognizable one was my aromatherapy diploma. I’m currently studying Pharmaceutical Studies at Karl Franzens University in Graz. After finishing my studies I plan on further growing my business.

Now with the EPIC Model in mind, let’s start with Explore. What have you been learning? What new business ideas have you had?

I think the learning process was by far the most important over the last years. Due to the many seminars and courses I’ve attended, I’m better able to perfect my products. Step by step, I’m improving the formulas for my soaps, specific biological cosmetics, and other recipes and learning about the business. This is a demanding process and one not that easy to master. I’m still young and because I didn’t have anyone to tell me about these things I had to learn a lot on my own. But now I have a certificate to commercially manufacture cosmetics.

The certification in aromatherapy was a year of hard work, but I am happy that I did it. I kind of rose like a phoenix (as my training supervisor said) because I learned so many important things and skills for my future. The lessons were multifaceted. I learned about marketing, behavior at business meetings, the biochemical background of herbs, how to deal with clients, various contraindications, diseases and how they occur, human anatomy, and last but not least how to create aromatherapy with essential oils. But most importantly, I want to use my knowledge about essential oils to create unique high-quality cosmetics.

L. ROOTSDuring this extensive education, I also found out where I wanted to go with L. ROOTS and what I want to do with this knowledge in the future. I have become interested in human anatomy and may want to learn more about it and become a massage therapist as well. I could use personalized massage oils for my clients. As part of my current studies, I am close to finishing a certification called “Aromastreichungen”. It isn’t massage therapy per se, but it does involve applying oils to the body.

Next is Play which is about actual experimentation. Learning by doing. What new discoveries have you made?

I can proudly say that I use essential oils for most aches and pains in everyday life, not just for physical but also for psychological matters. I’m a quite cerebral person so I use the oils to learn to listen to the heart as well. I learned that things take time and that I sometimes should just relax a little. All this became possible because of different essential oil mixtures. As a result of my experimentation or “playing,” I Iearned that you can trick your body in positive ways.

I recently had a medical issue that also has unexpectedly resulted in play. A few months ago I had a thyroid operation that left a scar. As a result of this personal experience, I’m developing a scar ointment. Since this medical event, I am also “playing” with essential oils that support the hormonal system. It has been working amazingly well!

As an aromatherapist, I make recommendations based on a person’s ailments. Since I don’t recommend anything I didn’t try out myself, I’m always busy experimenting on myself and on my whole family. They don’t mind. I want to know how easy the application is, how the people like it, how they feel, and of course, if it works in fulfilling the desired purpose.

In 2019 I was chosen by the Landeshypothekenbank Steiermark as one of the manufacturers for their presents for International Savings Day. I had to produce thousands of my rose jelly, a quantity I’ve never done to such an extent before. But I did it and I was proud! I creatively made a concept for storage without an actual working space. It was a valuable “learning by doing” on how to work timely and effectively to maintain high product quality in large quantities.

Now let’s move on to Inspire. Who has been inspirational in motivating you to start your business and further push boundaries as both you and L. ROOTS evolve?

In general, I’d say I always loved my work so much that it became clear over the years that I’d never want to do anything else. I just want to get up every day and keep developing my business, create new products, and learn about nature and essential oils. Some friends are supportive, but I’d say most important for me in starting my business were my parents. They always believe in me even when I have doubts. They encourage me to try things out. My work needs a lot of space and time and they continue to support the development of L. ROOTS. They even paid for some courses. I also always consider their opinion when there are big decisions to make because their point of view means a lot to me.

My boyfriend, Benedikt, is also one of my greatest sources of inspiration. We are very similar but in different ways. He too is a young entrepreneur and started his business Remagine, doing web development since the age of 20. We go to business meetings together and encourage each other to push boundaries. We both are still young and sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously by older people who have had their business their whole life but together we are braver. He also made my website. Thanks to him I can now sell my products online as well.

L. ROOTS Do I think I inspire others? I’m not really a self-confident person so I haven’t thought about that before. I’m sure some people might feel inspired by my work. I have raised awareness about nature among children already and I think one could call this inspirational. But what I can claim is, that some teenagers my age might be inspired to start their own business. All it needs is discipline and passion. Sometimes you have to work weekends but if you love what you do you will not have any problems working hard for your success.

Last but not least in the EPIC Model is Connect. What have you learned about yourself in the last five years?  What new connections with others have contributed to your development? Finally, I believe younger generations are developing a closer connection with nature. This is particularly true given your business. What new connections with nature you have made since your journey started with L. ROOTS?

I have been learning a lot about myself. Sometimes it even seems as if I just got to know me in the last 5 years! I noticed that I have a knack for understanding human nature. I like working with people. Surprisingly, I also like office work which I’d have never expected about myself. I learned about my strengths and some of my weaknesses. Delegating work is an issue because I have problems with accepting some help. I also didn’t feel comfortable about being the youngest person attending courses. It did take some time for me to open up and to make friends but now I know being the youngest isn’t something I have to overthink. Age doesn’t matter, because people who want to learn something specific are always connected by their interest and not by their age.

In the last 5 years, I got to know so many important and inspiring people who helped me grow. That’s a fact I appreciate a lot. I think each person who comes into your life is there for a reason. All in all, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t met all those people. They helped me, for example, with my first photoshoot. I now have a room to practice aromatherapy in a practice at Haus voller Leben in Leibnitz. There have also been opportunities to sell my products in shops and local businesses.

My new connection with nature is now I know the biochemical makeup of medicinal plants. It’s always been interesting to know that hundreds of years ago our ancestors had tremendous knowledge about plants. They were “learning by doing” and passed their knowledge down over generations. Nowadays those discoveries are well-founded and we can learn about it.

Some people reading this may have teens with whom they can share your story. Since beginning L. ROOTS as a pre-teen, what tips would you give a young person passionate about starting her or his own business?

I think they should know on the one hand, that starting a business is hard work. It’s a long process with lots of trials and errors. They should write their plans down and see what they are talented at but also where their weaknesses are. But let’s not call it “weaknesses”. I prefer to call it “things you can work on”. For example, I have to work on being confident in front of many people so I plan to attend some courses to improve my self-confidence.

But on the other hand, I would like to highlight how truly beautiful it is to wake up in the morning and know you can live your dream. All your hard work is really worth it and it pays off. On days when all seems to stagnate, just try to write down what you have already achieved in life. Write down your accomplishments and what you are proud of. It also helps to visualize your success. And most important for starting a business at a young age is to stop overthinking what others might think about you.

Also worth mentioning is that you should be aware that you are the architect of your own fortune. So, to achieve something you have to go out, talk to people, and do something for it even if it’s hard sometimes or if you have to push your boundaries for it. You are what you do, not what you say you will do or what you wish for.

You can do this! 😉

Linda, is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

First I’d like to share that we need to work WITH nature and not AGAINST nature. We benefit from plants when they are used as essential oils and when making tea from the leaves of medicinal herbs).

Second, for whoever needs to hear this: You can start your own business if you want to. I’m only 19 and on my way to living my dream. Anyone can do this.

Third, good things take time. You can do your best but you also have to let it grow by itself a little. So you do have time to think and in the meantime, some opportunities can unfold by themselves. Be patient. Sometimes that’s the hardest part for me.

And last but not least, surround yourself with people who help you grow. Appreciate the ones who have always been there for you when you needed them most.

Thanks Linda. As a final question, are there particular people or businesses you seek or feel could be a good cooperation partner as you grow L.Roots? And what is the best way to get in touch with you?

Well, I’d say I’m looking for cooperation in the following five areas.

  • I’m looking for partner shops to sell my products. Listed on my website are already some companies doing so. This really helps me get established.
  • I’m interested in market places where I can exhibit products.
  • For next year I’d be interested in organizations offering workshops for children and young adults.
  • I’m open to cooperating with psychologists who would like to integrate mixtures of essential oils in their work or seek doctors who are interested in alternative medicine.
  • What I’m looking for most lately is a place to work. My business is growing and our kitchen as a workspace and my own room as an office is no longer the right place. Maybe there are people who had the same problem and who have ideas or know of places in the area from Graz to Leibnitz that would be suitable for the growing needs of my business.

I’m always pleased to get tips. I’m easy to reach, although, as a student, I may not always answer right away. I always return calls. You can also write on my website contact form on www.lroots.at, or send me an e-mail at info@lroots.at. If you want to know more about my products you can find me on Instagram (l.roots.info), Facebook (L.Roots by Linda Kratzer), Pinterest (l.roots), and LinkedIn (Linda Kratzer).

Thank you Linda for this exciting and inspiring update. It is truly EPIC! For my German readers, Linda Kratzer will be an upcoming guest on Julia Oswald’s Lunch Break Stories. Stay tuned!
About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert, Conflict Resolution Specialist, Process Facilitator, Youth Advocate, Author, and Speaker. He accompanies individuals, teams, and organizations wanting to fully integrate their human potential. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by encouraging authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom.

VUCA: From A System And Problem Focus To A Person And Solution Orientation

VUCA

VUCA needs a new meaning and focus

By now VUCA is as familiar of an acronym as ADHD, AWOL, and of course COVID.  Acronyms are useful in labeling and giving importance to complex themes. Labeling a problem soothes the mind by identifying something hard to understand. The hope is then to find a solution. What if the solution were in the acronym? What if the problem-focused and system-oriented VUCA acronym became solution-focused and people-oriented? The angst derived by the former would diminish and the optimism derived by the latter would flourish. People solve problems and influence systems. So wouldn’t it be wise to promote solution-orientated attitudes and behaviors?

VUCA people transform VUCA situations

What do adolescents, first-time parents, adults in a mid-life crisis, or anyone facing a life-altering event tell you? Life is VUCA. Digitalization and globalization may be intensifying VUCA, but it isn’t anything new. What if instead of associating VUCA as a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world to dread, it was linked to Virtuousness, Understanding, Compassion, and Adaptability? Instead of being at the whim of a VUCA world, these essential human skills foster life-long learning. What effect would this reframing of VUCA and consequent skill acquisition have on our human development?

Virtuousness contains volatility

The online Cambridge Dictionary defines virtuous as “having good moral qualities and behaviors.” Fears have a tendency to rise in volatile situations. Drastic fluctuations, therefore, influence people to act impulsively with short-term results and immediate gains. A selfish mentality can develop. “Take what you can now before it is too late!” This perturbed mindset can lead to rash and immoral reactions. The accumulation of unethical decision making on a large scale in times of volatility ironically increases and compounds the volatility one wishes to diminish. A strong moral compass helps contain volatility. Virtuous people are stabilizers in times of instability.

Understanding reduces uncertainty

The online Cambridge Dictionary defines understanding as “knowledge about a subject, situation, etc. or about how something works.” How should one deal with uncertainty? Be mindful of what is in your control/what is known. Seek guidance to understand that which is uncertain or not completely known. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Conduct your own research. Simply put, be curious and learn. There is nothing more conducive to festering uncertainty than a fixed mindset, or solely relying on hearsay or one source of information. Fear of the unknown is best dealt with by keeping an open mind and understanding other realities.

Compassion humanizes complexity

The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines compassion as the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”  With nearly 8 billion people navigating complexity each day no one is exempt and no one goes unscathed. Unchecked complexity can lead to victimization and potential harm. Therefore, we need to show our compassion. Compassion humanizes the negative consequences of unresolved complexity by fostering inclusivity, a helping attitude, and raising social awareness at all levels. The pervasive, inclusive, and multi-leveled effort of the current Black Lives Matter movement is a case in point. Compassion ensures that we acknowledge how complexity impacts us all. And as importantly, it illustrates the vital role we all play in dealing with it.

Adaptability neutralizes ambiguity

The online Oxford Dictionary defines adaptability as the “quality of being able to change or be changed in order to deal successfully with new situations.” As creatures of habit, we adopt routines to creatively deal with ambiguity. Being too reliant on a fixed routine or way of living, however, can have limitations when an unforeseen significant event occurs. COVID-19 has been disrupting the routines and habits of millions of people. The further our fixed mindsets stray away from an ever-changing world reality the more we are confronted with this widening gap. This is illustrated in the digital paradox.  Unfortunately, it takes a global pandemic like COVID-19 to remind us that we are not masters of the universe. Rather, we are a part of it. And as such, we, like all other living organisms, must either adapt to changing circumstances or face unnecessary hardship.

VUCA people need to be nurtured and engaged

It is high time we better deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Fortunately, with a change of perspective and focus, the answer may be hidden in the same acronym. With virtuousness, understanding, compassion, and adaptability one is better able to cope with VUCA situations. All humans have the capacity to develop and practice these life-long skills. Doing so feeds a growth mindset and cultivates a collective consciousness focused on posterity. Younger generations see the value and need of being VUCA. We are seeing more VUCA people organizing in greater numbers across continents and for causes affecting all humans everywhere. Progressive companies also reap the benefit of developing human edge cultures. In sum, VUCA people are essential for a VUCA world.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Expert, Conflict Resolution Specialist, Change Facilitator, Youth Coach, Author, and Speaker. He accompanies individuals, teams, and organizations wanting to fully integrate their human potential. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by encouraging authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom.

Effective Leadership – A Changing Of The Guards

Effective Leadership

What is effective leadership anyway?

The Online Oxford Dictionary defines leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organization. Additionally, it defines effective as successful in producing a desired or intended result.” Simply put: Effective leadership is the capacity to successfully guide the intended or desired action(s) of a person or group. According to this amoral definition, any person or group of people versed in rhetoric and/or subversive tactics can display effective leadership. But we know this not to be true. Ethical intention and the means by which outcomes are achieved are paramount. 

Essential components of effective leadership

Organizations seeking effective leadership must look beyond outcome achievement. As the current global reality demonstrates, the ends no longer justify the means. Personal integrity, social competencies, economic equity, conflict transformation, transparency, environmental stewardship, posterity, ethical conduct, and inclusivity (age, gender, race) need to be at the core of effective leadership requirements and competencies. First, companies must clarify the intention of effective leadership. Second, this raison d’être should elicit an authentic response in every individual inspired to heed the call. Lastly, leadership needs to have the capacity to skillfully and creatively orchestrate the collection, the aggregate of these diverse individual entities in order to bring the intention to fruition. How should leadership ethically and equitably influence your organization? What sustainable methods should leadership use to reach objectives? How inclusive should processes be? How should leadership ensure that all stakeholders benefit from the outcome?

Effective leadership ensures economic equity 

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the world’s richest 1 percent, own 44 percent of the world’s wealth. Adults with less than $10,000 in wealth make up 56.6 percent of the world’s population, but hold less than 2 percent of global wealth. Effective leadership needs to become financially transparent, sustainable, and equitable for posterity’s sake. Universal economic opportunity needs to be at the forefront of all policies. Leadership needs to ensure that all humans have fair and equal access to both natural and artificial resources necessary to sustain a proper standard for living (access mental and physical healthcare included) and provide for a family when desired without jeopardizing career development.

Effective leadership is inclusive

The most translated document in the world is the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To date, it has been translated in 370 languages. Why? In addition to preserving the environment, without which humans could not exist, there is nothing more fundamental than ensuring the basic rights of all human beings. For example, which traits allowed women-led nations to cope well with COVID-19? Likewise, how can improving racial/ethnic balance in leadership better ensure basic human rights? Leadership is appropriately and ethically represented across gender and race when the ratio of those in leading roles are proportionate to those being led.

Bright Spots in closing gender and racial gaps

In 2018, Glassdoor partnered with JUST Capital to look at major corporations committed to equal pay. Remarkably, only 16 out of 920 publicly traded companies, the likes of Microsoft, VMWare, and Salesforce–just to name a few–were ensuring pay equity across gender and racial and ethnic lines. As companies close gender and racial/ethnic gaps and governments ensure human rights for all citizens, effective leadership promotes values that are transparent, ethical, equitable, sustainable, and inclusive.

Effective leadership entails environmental stewardship

The Internet of things (IoT) entails everything connected to the internet. So too are we interconnected with all living things (IoLT). When nature is out of balance so are we. We are an integral part of nature. We cannot survive without a healthy and diverse environment. As such, it is our human responsibility to care for our use of it. Environmental stewardship refers to responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices. Aldo Leopold (1887–1949) championed environmental stewardship based on a land ethic “dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it.” (source: Wikipedia)

Effective leadership is intergenerational

Leadership roles in traditional organizations are often held by those who are one, two, or even three generations older than those being led. This alone is not a problem. Actually, there is a wealth of potential here. It can become an issue, however, when senior leadership is unable to incorporate the values and intentions of the younger generations of those they lead. Intergenerational learning is paramount in mutually acknowledging and integrating old and new forms of leadership. Companies who can do so will become more resilient and have an easier time ensuring an organization’s vitality. How can organizations with older forms of leadership give space for newer forms of leadership?

Acknowledging a changing of guards

Each generation has a new ideal of what effective leadership entails. Young people feel unheard and are quick to dismiss older mentalities as antiquated. Older people hold on to long-held beliefs are quick to dismiss newer realities as not being time-tested. A lack of mutual acknowledgment and respect prevents a seamless integration or transition of leadership styles. When all generations can honor the wisdom each brings, then there is an opportunity for dialogue, transformation, and growth. Newer companies and start-ups have an easier time implementing newer forms of leadership and organizational management since most employees belong to one or at most two generations. How can newer forms of leadership be given space in older and larger organizations where three or four generations are working together? As with all changing of the guards, the process must be honorable, on-going, and inclusive.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems & Group Dynamics Expert, Conflict Facilitator, Youth Coach, Author, and Speaker. He accompanies individuals and teams wanting to fully integrate their human resource potential at all organizational levels. As the creator of the EPIC Model, Jean-Pierre brings out the expertise in groups by encouraging authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom.

Resilience: Overcoming Adversity To Further One’s Development

resilienceResilience: Raspberry plant growing out of isolation and darkness

Resilience in nature

Recently, I stepped into the backyard and noticed a raspberry seedling had grown through the drainage hole of an overturned pot. Occasionally, some plants manage to sprout outside the bed–seen in the background. This one had bad luck. It escaped alright, but into an enclosed container. No worries. This plant did more than escape. It did what most plants do when faced with inhospitable conditions.

Resilience according to Merriam Webster has two definitions. The latter one being, “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” For the sake of this post, this definition will be used as it best fits how humans describe overcoming hardship.

We only need the basics

Similar to the unlucky rogue raspberry shoot, we too had no idea how quickly we would find ourselves trapped in our homes and apartments, alone and isolated. However, like the seedling, COVID-19 showed us that life continues to exist even when reduced to the basics. Nature constantly reminds us of what is needed to live. In spite of darkness and isolation, the plant had enough nourishment to continue on with its purpose. This is precisely what the world should be positively taking away from the pandemic. Namely, like plants, we truly do not need as much as we think to live a fulfilling life. Besides having sufficient food, light, and water, the plant showed three key elements of resilience in overcoming hardship and challenges.

Resilience is accepting the situation for what it is

Aside from humans, no plant or animal takes umbrage to misfortune. When did complaining ever change an undesirable situation? In the book, “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why”, Lawrence Gonzalez writes about the differences between someone dying or surviving in life or death situations. Along with Viktor Frankl’s, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, both authors discuss the importance of purpose. Both also learned of another survivor trait.  Well before Gonzalez and Frankl, the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, born almost 2,000 years prior even observed:

“For good or for ill, life and nature are governed by laws that we can’t change. The quicker we accept this, the more tranquil we can be.”

Once the survivors accepted they could succumb in the next hours, an overwhelming feeling of relief came over them. Accepting their mortality released them from their own torment of death. Now, with a clear conscience, they were able to refocus their energy on making sure this outcome did not become their fate. And in most cases, they literally did it one step at a time.

Resilience requires going deep within to find purpose

Darkness can surround us in difficult times. Support systems may not be easily accessible. Like with the coronavirus,  reaching outward in times of need can be hampered by government measures and/or personal limitations. When such conditions exist to whom and where do you turn? You go within. Raspberry roots grow deep underground, seeking water and nutrients to sustain life. The basis of resilience lies also deep within humans too. What is deep within us? Purpose. The will to live. Resilience requires a “why.” What makes you want to dig down deep within yourself in times of hardship? Why should you persist when faced with insurmountable obstacles and overwhelming feelings of adversity? Purpose makes you want to endure. And that you find within you.

Resilience requires looking above to set a goal

Normally, the flower pot is a container that sustains and supports plant development. When inverted, however, it does the opposite. The little amount of sunshine entering through the tiny drainage hole not only provided enough nourishment, but it also provided a goal to reach. For plants the why is clear; it is the “how” that sometimes poses the challenge. In this case, the seedling overcame the hurdle. The hole whose sole purpose is normally to drain excess water now became the goal to reach. Talk about a paradigm shift! We go deep within to find our “why.” Purpose alone, however, is not enough. Purpose requires a goal to show the achievement of the mission. Otherwise, it only remains an unfulfilled dream.

Resilience is short-term survival in order to live again

Until the plant breached the confinement of the overturned pot it was surviving. Once it cleared the hole and grew new leaves outside it went back to living. Humans too can be resilient and survive in the short-term. However, the long-term goal is to live. Remaining in survival mode for too long can be hazardous. Gonzalez wrote a follow-up book, Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. Survivors survive with the hope of living again. Unfortunately for some, the trauma that may result from the ordeal of surviving makes it difficult for some to continue on living. They remain in survival mode with deleterious results.

A vaccine is needed but insufficient

Too many humans were surviving and showing resiliency prior to the outbreak. I would like to have history portray the COVID-19 pandemic as having saved more lives than it had taken by having us–like the raspberry plant–see the light. In our case, this means seeing the bigger picture for humanity. We cannot change COVID-19. We can, however, rethink our attitude, alter our behaviors, revise our policies, and update our structures. Like the raspberry plant, we will break through the hole and come out. Humankind must benefit from the multitude of awe-inspiring acts of human resiliency now on display worldwide. Let us not allow this global resiliency to be in vain. Worse than the current impact of the pandemic would be to squander this opportunity to achieve an equitable standard of living for all. This is fully in our control. Now is our chance to strive for that ray of light!

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Facilitator, Coach, Youth Expert, and Speaker. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential. He does so by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. Jean-Pierre is the creator of the EPIC Model of development and authored What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

COVID-19: The Outer And Inner Leadership Test

COVID-19
Image by Vektor Kunst from Pixabay

COVID-19 knows no socio-economic boundaries and is not intimidated by legal action, social media, political antics, economic sanctions, and military force

COVID-19 has no regard for titles or authority as officials, Hollywood actors, and sports stars test positive. You cannot take legal action against it.  Stonewalling will not make COVID-19 disappear. Name-calling will not shame it. Social media smear campaigns only increase its ability to mislead potential victims. Neither bribery, blackmail, nor hush money will make COVID-19 go away. You cannot levy a tax against it or block it by building a wall. So what is left in the bag of tricks of so-called leaders faced with a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions? COVID-19 can not even be eradicated with the combined use of all the world’s military might ($2 Trillion dollars global yearly spending). Imagine how $2,000,000,000,000 could help R&D find a cure. Imagine how this unfathomable amount of money could help SMEs, vulnerable populations, and families all over the world affected by the economic impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the World’s Mid-Life Crisis

It usually takes a significant medical issue or some personal crisis for a person to stop and reflect on life. Your health and well-being is number one as is that of Earth. What price do you put on your health and environmental well-being? COVID-19 is shining a bright spotlight on our collective welfare. It calls into question the equality of current global economic systems. It makes evident the gaps in social welfare systems. COVID-19 makes us ask questions like what is it all for? What is really important in life? Who truly benefits from my time, talents, and energy?

COVID-19 calls into question our human existence

This is a rapidly changing situation requiring millions of people to continuously adapt, refocus, and remain calm, while not forgetting about the simple human kindness and consideration that will help us all get through this. Millions more are sacrificing their safety to ensure others remain healthy. Are we doing all this just to get back to business as usual as we did after the 2008 financial crisis? What did we learn from that economic collapse? Do you remember who was responsible for creating a volatile and fragile system? As you hunker down in your abode with family and loved ones, there is no shortage of time to reflect on what really is important in your life.  What realizations have you since come to recognize? What changes have you already made to your lifestyle that you would like to keep going forward even after the impact of COVID-19 diminishes?

COVID-19 calls upon true leadership

COVID-19’s greatest ally is leadership incompetency. It has an uncanny ability to show a leader’s true ability to lead in a time of crisis. COVID-19 separates leaders who pretend they know how to lead from those who actually can. COVID-19 relentlessly spreads each time a leader fails to transmit the social gravity of isolation for the sake of personal, political, or economic gain. Taiwan has been a beacon of the leadership needed in such a crisis due to an educated vice-president. Those responsibly leading nations, however, do not need to be epidemiologists as is the case with Chen Chien-jen. They do need to consult closely with experts in the field who know how best to respond to such situations. Leaders in times of crisis know how to deliver clear and concise directives. They know how to instinctively inspire people to act calmly, rationally, and collectively.

COVID-19 ultimately demands inner leadership

COVID-19 is a top priority for all country, state, and local leaders. The real leader, however, in combating the spread of COVID-19 is you! COVID-19 is a serious example of why competent inner leadership is as crucial in such times as outer leadership. It is the epitome of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity). The #staythefuckhome movement is a prime example for the emphatic call to lead from within. We all have the wherewithal to choose our part in either spreading or containing the virus. A simple individual decision like self-isolating and reducing social contact taken by masses of people helps reduce the risk of furthering the spread of this contagious and life-threatening virus. As the world becomes more complex individual decisions and actions–inner leadership–will become more necessary in overcoming global challenges to achieve shared human goals that impact us all.

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Human Systems Facilitator, Executive Coach, Youth Expert, and Speaker. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is the creator of the EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

For more information on how companies can better cope with VUCA by encouraging employee empowerment read my blog on Human Edge Cultures

Running Barefoot: Life & Leadership Philosophy in Motion

Barefoot running
10k Herbstlauf 2019

Running Barefoot: Life & leadership philosophy in motion

In addition to the physical and mental benefits of running barefoot, running barefoot has evolved into a life and leadership philosophy. Here are many lessons I am still learning!

  1. You always have a choice. No matter how difficult the terrain looks ahead while running or in life, there is always a next step you can make, even if it isn’t the direction you expected to go in.
  2. Trust your instincts in a difficult situation. Running barefoot is instinctive running. Humans have been running much longer without shoes than with shoes. When in doubt, trust your gut.
  3. Listen to your body. Valuable information is not always transmitted through words, nor through your shoes.
  4. You can handle more than you think. I run barefoot on gravel, snow and in temperatures just below freezing. Overcome your fears through practice.
  5. Be mindful. Barefoot running requires your full attention most of the time. Be present. Act with intention. Be mindful of your form and your conduct.
  6. Silence is golden. When running bare I am silent and can listen to the environment. I have startled shod runners and animals alike. Learn to listen with all of your senses.
  7. Take responsibility for your actions. If I step on a stone I cannot blame it. We choose how we respond to life. No one or no thing makes us do anything or react in a certain way. 
  8. Transform hurtful energy. When I step on an object I allow the unpleasant energy to run through my body and transfer it to briefly run faster. Convert as much energy into self-improvement.
  9. You need less than you think. Rid yourself of clutter. Become a minimalist with how you conceptualize and interact with the world. The less you have the more you can take in.
  10. Be light in temperament. You are physically lighter barefoot. Holding grudges leaves no space to hold something that gives you power and energy. Forgive. Let go and move on.
  11. Be non-judgmental. I received looks and was made fun of when I started. Now people are curious and ask questions. Be open to new possibilities. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
  12. Use both body and mind simultaneously. Running barefoot incorporates both. We tend to use one at a time. A more holistic experience results when engaging both simultaneously. 
  13. Have fun. There is a playful quality to running barefoot. Try something new. Laugh with others and at yourself! Life is too short to take yourself too seriously!
  14. Be adaptable. Running barefoot requires you to adapt your approach and movement according to changing conditions. Train your mind and body to be flexible. 
  15. Live in the moment. Running barefoot demands that you be present in the here and now. Scan ahead but know your next step.
  16. Stay alert. Running barefoot doesn’t allow you to be inattentive for too long. Stay on your toes and don’t get caught flat-footed!
  17. Connect with nature and discharge negative energy. When running barefoot I reap the health benefits of grounding. You benefit when interacting and connecting with nature.
  18. Be true to yourself. No matter what you do, say, or if you wear shoes or not, there will always be critics. Do what is in your best interest as long as it doesn’t prevent others from doing so as well.

About the Author

Jean-Pierre is a Human Systems Facilitator, Conflict Resolution Specialist, Executive Coach, and Youth Expert. He optimizes HR and leadership potential by enhancing group dynamics, team interdependence, and individual performance. He is the creator of the EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.