Sunday, May 31, 2015

The CEO and the Student

Is it normal to hear an elementary school student make the same observation as a CEO? That’s what happened when I gave a series of presentations over the past month. My calendar included:

-   Three CEO workshops (entitled “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”)

-   A speech in Japanese to 100 elementary school students in New York City. I told them stories from cycling the length of Japan, 2,500 miles in 67 days, with my son when he was eight years old.

-   A 90-minute speech on “being adventurous” at an offsite in New Jersey for the pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo.

-   A keynote to ~700 people at the Atrion Always On Symposium in Providence, RI. The thought leadership event encouraged companies to develop a positive work culture built around five pillars: vision, purpose, values, people and “wow experiences.” I gave a 45-minute talk about the last pillar, emphasizing that people who are encouraged to set exciting personal goals will bring that energy to the workplace. I spoke immediately after Maysoon Zayid, a comedian who rocked my world with her presentation. If you haven’t seen her TED talk, you need to.

    Here's a photo with Tim Hebert, the CEO of Atrion, who attended one of my workshops earlier in the year. I was honored he invited me to speak at his event.

-   A presentation with my fellow adventurer Alison Qualter Berna to middle school students at the United Nations International School in NYC. We told them about guiding our friend Dan Berlin last October when he became the first blind runner to cross the Grand Canyon “rim to rim to rim” nonstop. The students were particularly excited by video footage from the thousand-foot drop off as we guided Dan up the Canyon's treacherous North Rim. Here's a photo of Alison guiding Dan next to that drop off. I was immediately behind Dan, ready to grab him if he stumbled:

-   I delivered a graduation address to the high school class of 2015 at the United Nations International School. This was the sixth year in a row I've given a talk to the graduates, and it’s always an honor. I shared thoughts on discomfort (the birthplace of resilience), failure (what is it exactly?), and what I wish someone had told me when I was 18. Crediting the comedian Paula Poundstone, I told them: adults who ask what you want to be when you grow up are looking for ideas for themselves. Here's a pic from my talk:

The question the elementary school student and CEO each asked: “Weren’t you afraid?” The student asked that about my decision to cycle across Japan with my 8-year-old son when I had never attempted such a thing. The CEO asked that about my decision to leave a 14-year career at Intel Corporation to become an adventurer.

My answer to both: “Yes.” Come up with an idea that is meaningful to you. An idea that gives you chills and makes you feel alive. If you’re afraid, that means you’re on the right track. Take a deep breath. Smile. Then dive fearlessly into your own adventure.

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