Writings: Leadership lessons from dancing guy

Derek Sivers
Derek Sivers

This is drawn from Derek Sivers’ website, with permission:

If you’ve learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let’s watch a movement (click on the video below) happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons:

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.

The 2nd follower is a turning point: it’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut, and it’s not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.

A movement must be public. Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader. Everyone needs to see the followers, because new followers emulate followers – not the leader.

Now here come 2 more, then 3 more. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we’ve got a movement!

As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there’s no reason not to join now. They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry. Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.

And ladies and gentlemen that is how a movement is made! Let’s recap what we learned:

If you are a version of the shirtless dancing guy, all alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals, making everything clearly about the movement, not you.

Be public. Be easy to follow!

But the biggest lesson here – did you catch it?

Leadership is over-glorified.

Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:

It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.

There is no movement without the first follower.

We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective.

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

Writings: “Get in!”… a tale of the other flood

Get in.....!
Get in…..!

An old monk’s tale…shared by a friend in Japan:

A religious man is on top of a roof during a great flood.

A man comes by in a boat and says, “Get in, get in!” The religious man replies, “No, I have faith in God. He will grant me a miracle.”

Later, the water is up to his waist and another boat comes by, and this guy tells him to get in again. The man responds that he has faith in God, and God will give him a miracle.

With the water chest high, another boat comes to rescue him, but he turns down the offer again.  He says, “God will grant me a miracle.”

With the water at chin high, a helicopter throws down a ladder and they tell him to get in. Mumbling with water in his mouth, he again turns down the request for help.

And he drowns.

He arrives at the gates of heaven with broken faith, and says to Peter, “I thought God would grand me a miracle. I have been let down.”

St. Peter chuckles and responds, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about. We sent you three boats and a helicopter.”

Writings: (Don’t) be careful what you ask for….

Don't be so careful you can't get close enough to your dreams that you can't get close enough to touch them....
Don’t be so careful you can’t get close enough to your dreams that you can’t get close enough to touch them….

“Be careful what you ask for…..”

Whenever I hear someone say this (is it true for you?) they’re almost always noticing something that turned out…the way it was asked for.

“Hope I get a promotion.”

So you do. With no raise.

“I always catch 4–5 colds every winter.”


OK, so we never really know how things are going to turn out. Cool enough – we can come up with a zillion examples of the surprises life can throw our way, both stuff we expected & things that went the other way. But lately I’ve been noticing how people articulate pretty clearly what they really want, and then just as articulately list the reasons they’re not going to see it happen.

“I want another job!”

So, go after one.

“I can’t. I need the benefits at this one, and the family would have to move, and my parents don’t want me to do that, and I have to feed the dog (someone actually told me that, and let that keep her from finishing updating her resume), and I’m scared and my wife has friends where I work now and my husband doesn’t make enough money and….”

You get the idea.

It’s time to take the leap. Take the risk, take the jump. Sure, be careful enough to not whack yourself or hurt someone or neglect the chance to love someone, but not so careful you pass up the chance to feel how wonderful it feels to do what you truly were born to do.

I met a guy who was conducting a tour at The Future of Flight factory in Seattle (it’s a Boeing operation –  you see planes made), and since I saw him five times (I brough him tour groups), I told him it sure was fun to watch him give tours, because he seemed to be having such a good time, which in turn made it fun for the people.

He said, “My daddy told me, “If you do something you love, you never have to work a day in your life.'”

Wouldn’t that be great?

Be wise, be observant, use discretion…but don’t be so “careful” you can’t taste the thrill of doing what your heart sings for you.

Make it so, Number One.

Brother Ian

Writings: A reminder: We just put it all together….

Elliot with Siri, and it's all good.
Elliot with Siri, and it’s all good.

One of my favourite people in the world is Elliot Pemberton, who grew up in Friday Harbor, Washington in the USA, where I used to watch him play football & as we put out the school newspaper together. I’ve always thought St. Peter must have been like Elliot – whenever he speaks, people want to listen, which makes him a natural leader.

He’s living in Austin these days, and he tells this little story as he made breakfast for Kari & the kids:

This morning I proudly woke up and made Siri some French toast with homemade cinnamon bread (Kari made the bread earlier), fresh eggs from our backyard chickens and topped the french toast with local honey instead of syrup.

Siri loved it and I told her I was so glad she liked the French toast that I made. She then gave an all-knowing exasperated smile while shaking her head, put up her hands, took a deep breath and said, “Dad, you didn’t make it. Mom made the bread, our chickens made the eggs and bees made the honey… you just put it together.”

Elliot posted this, a little later on Facebook:

Screen shot 2013-09-29 at 11.05.54 PM

Music: The story behind “The End of the Road (Mabel’s Song)”

Solo piano player Joe Bongiorno
Solo piano player Joe Bongiorno

When I first heard Joe Bongiorno‘s new release, The Flight of a Dream earlier this month, I knew that he had a winner on his hands. I’ve listened to it now maybe six million times…but that’s been a couple of weeks, so I had time. It’s great! (Click here to hear samples – you’ll get it!)

I discovered that he had put a song called The End of the Road (Mabel’s Song) on the album, and although I know Joe well, I didn’t know of anyone named Mabel in his life. His response touched me deeply:

Been asked ALOT about the story behind this song from the new album…. You might remember a post of mine about 9 months back.

This song was inspired by that experience. Here it is from Feb 3rd of this year:

The new album...
The new album…

The doorbell rang this morning. A sweet elderly lady standing there with a worried look. I greeted her and she asked for Mabel. Mabel was the lady who lived in our house previously (we had just moved in four months before), and I knew she had she had passed away.

I really didn’t want to bear this news to the kind lady. She then told me that she had driven two days from Texas to come to the house to see her. She had written Mabel a letter and it had been returned to sender.

I remember this letter coming before the holidays. She had no other way to attempt contact than to come in person. With a frog in my throat, I let her know that Mabel had passed away. She sighed, as if almost with relief that what she feared was true, and then her eyes welled up sadly.

She looked to her husband still sitting in the car and shook her head sadly. He understood the look & turned away as if to hide his emotion. I invited her in for a little visit but she said sweetly, “It’s time to go home”.

Perhaps this is a reminder to me to reach out more often to friends and family. It’s a reminder, too, that life can change at any moment, for any of us… for someone my age, I have lost very few people who were dear to me.

I am quite sure that I’ll get my fair dose of this in the days to come….

Here’s the song (click here to listen).

Choose one….

For some reason, I remember Wayne Gretzky saying, “You miss one hundred precent of the shots you never take.”

Don’t get caught up in the choices. It’s what you do, not what you choose, that matters.

Choose one, and shoot! (said the Great One.) Photo by Ian Byington, in Cook Street Village, in Victoria, BC.
Choose one, and shoot! (said the Great One.) Photo by Ian Byington, in Cook Street Village, in Victoria, BC.

Poetry: Far better things…..

Let the tears wash your sorrows into the new day beyond....
Let the tears wash your sorrows into the new day beyond….

Part of the path to purification is walking (or running, if you’re fast that way!) through the fires that burn away the stuff…that keeps us from pure love. The fires are tough, usually painful, sometimes unbearably so – but there’s always another day. There’s always another sunrise. There’s always later…which is a great place to look back from.

Here’s one of my favourite expressions of this, from Rumi:

Sorrow prepares you for joy.
It violently sweeps everything out of your house,
so that new joy can find space to enter.
It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart,
so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.
It pulls up the rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden beneath
have room to grow.
Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart,
far better things will take their place…


Writings: Remember to celebrate (maybe this will help)

Get it write the first time....
Get it write the first time….

I know you think monks just sit around thinking up jokes & stories to make their point, which is hard because they don’t get out into the world enough (some monks, you know).

But it’s really not like that – here’s one of my faves:


A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand. He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.

So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up. In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk says, “We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.” So, he goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives in a locked vault that hasn’t been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot. So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing, “We missed the “R”, we missed the “R”. His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.

The young monk asks the old abbot, “What’s wrong, father?” With a choking voice, the old abbot replies, “The word was CELEBRATE!”

As the harvest moon rises….

The moon rose tonight through lowhanging clouds over Ross Bay below Victoria, BC....lighting up the night & the seas reflecting her beams....photo by Ian Byington.
The moon rose tonight through lowhanging clouds over Ross Bay below Victoria, BC….lighting up the night & the seas reflecting her beams….photo by Ian Byington.

Beautiful moon tonight, hey?

Here’s a song to go with it: Play here! (It’s me singing “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” for you….)

Happy Harvest Moon to you!