Dave and Erik speak with award-winning global facilitator, Peter Bailey. Peter walks us through each step of what he calls the “Heroic Journey Mindset” which echoes many of the waypoints of the No Barriers Map we aim to illuminate with this podcast.
As President of The Prouty Project, Peter Bailey develops creative experience-based leadership development programs for companies and people to expand their life skills, belief systems, and communication processes. In his free time he roasts his own coffee beans, writes, sails, surfs, rock climbs, and enjoys time with his wife, kids, and two cats.
Peter’s TEDx talk: “Developing The Heroic Journey Mindset”
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“If you’ve stayed through the really hard thing, you will find that there is a gift. You will find yourself benefiting from what you just learned and pulling from the hardest thing you just did, the dark night of the soul, in a new way. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m glad I stayed with this. I would have bailed out many times before, but I stayed through it and now I’ve got this experience to call on.”
Peter : If you've stayed through the really hard thing, you will find that there is a gift. You will find yourself benefiting from what you just learned and pulling from the hardest thing you just did, the dark night of the soul, in a new way. You're like, "Oh my gosh, I'm glad I stayed with this. I would have bailed out many times before, but I stayed through it and now I've got this experience to call on."
Erik : It's easy to talk about the successes. But what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Eric Weinmeir. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. Part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. On that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in, in the summit, exits a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call no barriers.
David : Today we learn about how to apply the heroic journey to your own personal story. As president of the Prouty Project, Peter Bailey develops experienced based leadership development programs for companies and people, to expand their life skills, their belief systems and communication processes. In his free time, Peter roasts his own coffee beans, writes, sails, surfs, rock climbs and enjoys time with his wife, kids and two cats. Today, we'll talk to Peter more about what he calls the heroic journey mindset. Enjoy the conversation.
David : Eric, really excited today to be joined by Peter Bailey, someone we've know for many, many years who has helped No Barriers in a lot of ways over the years as we've thought about our curriculum. Looking forward to a great conversation. Welcome Eric, and welcome Peter.
Erik : Yeah, thank you. And thank you so much Peter. It's really good to reconnect with you. Just for the audience, who doesn't know this, you were instrumental in helping to create No Barriers and help us with our evolution, when we were a fledging organization and community, trying to figure out where we were going. We came out to the Prouty Project and you guys helped us really solidify our direction and the way we wanted to go forward. Then you even jumped in and facilitated a bunch of our programs in the beginning and did a masterful job. It's a great excuse to reconnect to you and tap into all your wisdom today.
Peter : I loved working with you guys from the very beginning, and honored to be a part of all the good work you're doing, so thanks for connecting again.
Erik : I was really fascinated. I listened to your Ted Talk again this morning, talking a lot about the hero's journey, but also about the narratives that we tell ourselves. You describe mindsets as the narratives that we tell ourselves, and there are good narratives and bad narratives. Describe that a little bit more for us. I think that word mindset gets thrown around a lot. A lot of people don't really know what it means.
Peter : When you think about stories, and I know you're all about helping to reframe stories. No Barriers in itself is a reframe, as you say, "What's within you is bigger than what's in front of you." That's a reframe. That's a retelling of the story so that you are more powerful in front of what's happening. I think that's the mindset we need to bring to this. The Ted Talk that I told about my wife's cancer journey was really reframing for her, "Ugh I have this horrible thing, cancer, to wait, I've got this opportunity to heal and be different about it."
Erik : Just to jump in Peter, it was like five years ago, your wife-
Peter : Just crossed the four year mark.
Erik : Okay, four years. She's a vegetarian. She's super fit and healthy and suddenly just crazy diagnosis of serious cancer right?
Peter : Right, right. As I said in the Ted Talk, she didn't want these medical devices. She reframed that story. I'm going to call this one power and this one purpose. It chokes me up even when I think of that every time, to say, how do I take any adversity and reframe it so that it becomes a strength of me? It makes me stronger. I talked about it in notes I sent you guys, life topography is what you're born into. What does your life look like? What are your circumstances? More importantly, what are you going to do about it? The story I had early on, I'm a child of a single parent. My dad had an aneurysm in a VA hospital from the Navy. I could really go down a road of, this is not a good story to start out with. Somewhere along the line I had to flip that, and just say, "What do I have that's going to make me stronger?" I actually began to capitalize on the sensitivity and that compassion connection and work with kids in the South Bronx.
Erik : Peter, before you flip the narrative, what's a bad story look like? At No Barriers, we see a lot of folks that are pretty broken and pretty hurt. They have bad narratives. What would you say is an example of a bad narrative that maybe you've had or you've seen others have?
Peter : Some of my story was, child of single parent. My dad is disabled and in a nursing home. I got into shoplifting and drugs and alcohol and got in with a bad crowd that was starting to do stuff. You had to one up the others to be one of the crowd. That's why I told you the story about crossing the bridge, the six lane highway on the outside, and my seventh grade sneakers. Before that, doing a chimney climbs, crazy stunts, just to be liked. You get older and you start doing stuff that's even more dangerous and that story doesn't have a good ending.
Erik : What was the underlying story behind all that crazy behavior though?
Peter : Probably around, I wasn't enough, and fear based, and not being accepted and not being liked. I remember, I was the smallest kid in my class. The various things that I bought and a lot of that goes back to... I think what you're getting at here Eric, I was caught up in what the world thought of me and not what I thought of me. It was an external locus of control. I looked at me through your eyes. If I saw good stuff, I thought, "Great." If I saw bad stuff, I started liking me less.
Peter : A lot of the work that we got involved in, in the South Bronx and later on throughout Outward Bound or corporate work, is helping people develop that internal locus of control, that ownership of yourself through your own building of self esteem again, of, "Wait, no matter what my circumstances, my life topography, I can retell the story of strength, creativity, innovation. I'm different. I'm useful." All of those things you could begin to tell in a more positive way. Every one of those gives you strength to solve the problem rather than the downward spiral.
David : Is that going back to Eric's original question, that idea of what mindset really is then?
Peter : Yeah.
David : That's what you're describing here. That's the mindset.
Peter : Yeah. Remember Mark Twain said, "The worst things in our life never happened." Sometimes the stories we're believing weren't true. Yet we've begun to put together this story that was my limiting belief about who I was in the world. All you need to do... There's a psychology term called pattern interrupt. It's the change it. It's to make a difference. Sometimes that an Outward Bound experience or running a marathon for the first time, or doing military service or climbing a mountain. I didn't think I could do that and I did, and now I'm starting to build. I'm starting to build that internal sense of myself in a different story frame.
Erik : Peter, you're working with individuals and teams at the Prouty Project, and at least my experience is, you see these wildly successful people, and they have these internal, terrible sabotaging narratives underneath. You're like, "How the heck are you normal and succeeding on the surface because your internal dialogue is like all insecurity and not fitting in." That almost gives you that reverse drive to succeed externally, and they're miserable on the inside.
Peter : Not everybody is, but folks aren't not always filling their dreams the way they'd most like to. A lot of the work we do at Prouty is to do strategic planning, do leadership development, do board work, but to do it with the people first. Bring in scientists, artists, musicians, we do it in an experiential way so that they're actually out of themselves a little bit. We'll do service work with these groups also so that they're seeing themselves out of the stuck image of themselves working as a team. Teams generally want to work well together. Nobody gets up and says, "I'm going to do a bad job at my job today." Something gets in their way. A lot of what we find by working with the insights discovery work or any of the tools we bring, is to help them see through new lenses, "What am I doing? How can I improve that? How do I build a better relationship and become a little more aware in that emotional intelligence thing? Self-awareness, self management, other awareness, and empathy, and relationship management, how do I leap into that space by having done the others well?"
Erik : I know that some of the things that you list in terms of these transformational experiences that you set up for teams, but you're developing skills, belief systems and communication processes. So just take us through, in a nutshell, in plain English?
Peter : Yeah. Part of it, and you guys have been in leadership development for a long time. We put it into three frameworks of leading self, leading others and leading the business. Think about everything you've ever wanted to do, working with youth or adults, on helping them lead themselves better. That self awareness, that's a Myers Briggs or an insights tool, something that gives you a reflection on how you think, act, gather energy, make decisions. Then you do something like a ropes course where you have to jump off the quantum leap for a swinging trapeze in the mid air. By getting them to be more aware of what's going on inside me as I do this, and how am I getting support from my team, how am I supporting others, we put a lot of experiences in that two or three day experience so that they see, wow, I'm learning more because I'm now paying attention to it. I'm not living by default. By making them notice and address and name the things that we're talking about to be leading yourself better.
Peter : Then we go back to your jobs and you take another three months before you come back again and say, "Now let's build on that. Let's lead others." We go into another form of team dynamics and coaching skills and conflict management and start building on that so that you can then see, how do I take myself a little bit out of the picture but modify me so I'm working better with other people?
Peter : Then the third one is doing this on behalf of your business, so that you actually are thinking a little higher up, a little more enterprise wide, how can I do this leading self, leading others and leading the business better, so that, oddly enough, you focus on yourself so you can get yourself out of it.
Erik : I feel like the way you're describing it is similar to some of the stuff that we do, although we have a different community. There's an external and an internal journey going on. The external affects the internal. You're pulling people out of the internal so you can create new patterns and new thought processes so that it affects them back on the internal side.
Peter : Right, absolutely, same kind of thing.
David : Peter, I was really excited to bring you on the podcast to talk about something that has been very meaningful to me in my life, which is the Hero's Journey. I consider you to be one of the global experts on the Hero's Journey and what it means and why it matters. For those listeners who don't know, the Hero's Journey came out of the work of Joseph Campbell, whose one of the world's preeminent researchers on human society. He says that since the beginning of civilization, people have been called away from the ordinary world to embark on a journey to discover purpose and meaning in their lives and those that answer that call return home heroes.
David : I'd love to spend some time. I found this to be so valuable in my own life, and I've seen it valuable in the people that we serve at No Barriers. I know, Peter, you're an expert on this. I'd love to start with, for our listeners who don't know what this is, why does it matter? Why should they even care about the Hero's Journey? Then we can walk through what it is.
Peter : Sure, that's great. I would say I'm a practitioner of it. I'd hate to say I'm an expert because I'm learning everyday how to apply it even better. I love it. I'm an enthusiast and definitely hold Joseph Campbell on high for the work that he did on uncovering this, and recognize that it actually exists in multiple cultures around the world, that idea that you said, going away, having an experience and coming back changed.
Erik : Peter, isn't there hundreds, if not thousands of stories, all throughout history of written storytelling of people going out and experiencing this hero's journey, and that's what Joseph Campbell was tapping into? It's not something that we've invented.
Peter : Right, agreed. I think our storytelling world and our media world has adopted it so Ulysses was a heroic journey. Star Wars was a heroic journey. Wizard of Oz was a heroic journey. Lion King, you have kids who watch Lion King. This lion gets banished from the colony, goes off and gets strong and comes back and takes on the evil Uncle Scar. All of that is the same story, just written large.
David : Why should our listeners care about this? Why does it matter?
Peter : Going back to Eric's good question, what was my mindset story and how can I change it? I think what the Heroic Journey does for us is it helps us look at our life in a new lens. Instead of seeing this downward spiral, "He's this, this or this and he's never going to amount to much", you could say, "What if I look at this on the journey wheel," and you can get that through the Ted X or just Google Heroic Journey. You'll see a number of them. It starts with your journey and there's a preparation phase. If I start being more aware of what's happening to me in my preparation, then I'm going to be, again, more attentive to, how am I preparing? Whether it's a trip to a mountain or an ice walk or a dog sledding trip or a marathon, I become more focused on that and developing my mental, spiritual and physical balance to be stronger.
Erik : Or a cancer diagnosis, right Peter?
Peter : Or cancer, right.
David : I think that's really important for our listeners, is I love how you tied it first to the idea that Eric said at the beginning. It's about mindset. It is a tool that can help us reframe our own stories into the more positive and optimistic and fulfilling stories that we need as we're going through life. It starts with there, okay well if you want a tool to help you reframe how you're telling your own story into a way that can be very fulfilling, it's a great tool for that. Then you dove into, Peter, the beginning of that, which is preparation. To Eric's point, it doesn't have to be this big epic journey, like climb Everest. It could be something big and epic like dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
Erik : Peter, in my mind, it seems like there are two kinds of adventures. There's one that you take on, that you choose, like climb Mount Everest. The other is one that is thrust upon you, that you didn't want at all. It's not just things you choose. It's the shit that happens to us.
Peter : Right, and I think that second part is the one that's even better for us, David, to use, because we're not expecting it. It's one thing if you're going to go do a trip to move your family to India. You know that's going to be an adventure. That call to adventure, you get a job posting in India. You're going to do all the prep you need to go there. It's the other one that happens suddenly to you. They call that a precipitating event. 9/11 was a precipitating event. Tsunamis, world crises, the pandemic, having a healthcare crisis, those things that happen to us, if we're not prepared, if we don't have the navigational toolkit, and I like to call is loose knees to be able to respond better, it can knock us out of the box and give us a really... It doesn't mean you can't get through it but you go through it so much more painfully. Whereas if I know, okay this is a precipitating event, like Tanya's cancer. She did that, she said, "Okay, let's start. Boot up a Caring Bridge site. Let everybody know to be a part of my Team Fierce." She was making proactive choices to start the journey.
Peter : I think that's, to your point Eric, when you have choices, you're going to be stronger in it. You're not a victim of an experience. I've never lost a limb because of military combat. For people and friends of mine who have, that was the beginning of a journey that they didn't expect. When they take that on, there can be a retelling and afterwards, you find out that, you know what, by doing that it made them stronger for the next thing that's going to happen, which is kids leave home, you change houses, there's a car accident. Once you start practicing that mindset, David, around the Heroic Journey, you can use it again and again and it gets easier.
David : Walk us through. Preparation is the first one. How do I prepare for something that is completely unexpected, like this precipitating event?
Peter : Right, so if you had this on a clock dial, and I know you can see the wheel. The 12 is the journey begins. This actually goes counter clockwise, funnily enough. At the 11 number, that's where preparation is. To your question, if we're going to prepare, I don't know what I'm preparing for. I want to be as fit, mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, as I can. What am I doing on a regular basis, during pandemic, to do that? Am I sitting in front of the TV eating a bag of Cheetos? Or am I thinking, I'm going to crack out 100 pushups today, just cause. What can I do begin to pull myself away from negative thoughts into more positive thoughts? Have I meditated? Have I ever learned to meditate? Maybe I'll learn to meditate? Can I practice some yoga?
Peter : Adding to your toolkit, things we can do to make us more resilient, for what you said David, for what we don't know is coming. You know something is, so we might as well be prepared as possible.
Peter : After that, there's the call to adventure. Eric, it could be the opportunity to call me and say, "Hey Peter, we'd love for you to be on the next climbing trip, you and Timmy O'Neil." I'm off. I'm like, wow, what a great call to adventure that would be. Or, something happens cataclysmic to me or my family or the house or something and I just got to be in a better frame of mind to handle that. That's being prepared for that call to adventure.
Erik : You have to accept it too, right Peter? You have to say, "Okay, game on. I accept this adventure. I'm in." It doesn't matter whether I want to be in or not, I got to get myself ready.
Peter : Right, and it doesn't mean you have to like it, but there's acceptance and like is different.
David : To bring that back to the story of your wife, where was the call to adventure there?
Peter : Well, her call to adventure was, "Honey, I have to go in for a biopsy and they found something. I have throat cancer." As you said Eric, non-smoker, non-drinker, I have throat cancer. Boom, there's the call to adventure. Our choice is that... Victor Frankel talks about it, is that you only have control over your attitudes. Do I go bad or do I go positive? That's the choice point. I think everything in our life and the topography of things happen to us, we have choice points. What am I going to make a choice point here for? Negative, poor me, or damn going to need some community. I better start rallying the troops. I got to pull my peeps around me. What do I need to do to more positively get myself prepared to handle this better?
Erik : Not to interrupt Peter, but my dad had a stroke about, I don't know, about six years ago. He called me up from the hospital as he was starting to do his rehab and he's like, "It's really fascinating going through some of this rehab, watching the little incremental improvements every day and watching my memory come back and my speech improve." I'm like, holy cow, this guy is like, game on. He's totally accepted this adventure with a mindset that blew my mind. Yeah, I'm relating big time.
Peter : We can get something gold. There is treasure buried in whatever happens to us if we dig hard enough to find it.
Erik : That's taken on the call to adventure. Keep rolling with it because this is awesome.
Peter : Right as you are about to approach this, so again, Tanya is getting her cancer diagnosis. Now she's got to get prepared to do what she's got to do. You're about to cross the threshold there, what we call guardians at the gate. Those are those last minute things that push you back in your mind or are real people, that just challenge you, "Are you really ready to take this on? Are you really moving your family to India?" All your friends tell you no and yet you still want to do it. What are the things that are making you? It helps you gel your discernment and capture that commitment so you say, "Dammit I'm going forward."
Peter : That commitment throws you into the road of challenges. That's when it gets hard. You get food poisoning, sick on the plane. Your luggage is lost or whatever the circumstances. That's when the beginning of the journey is out there. You have to start pulling your resources together. The community that you called in, the allies that you've invited to help you, that's when we need them. Allies are at every step of this circle.
David : Peter, I'd like to talk to you about that threshold. I think Eric and I work with a lot of people where the voices that tell people not to cross their threshold, the hardest voices are their own, not external voices. Sometimes it's external, but a lot of times it's you telling yourself, "I can't do this." Is that part of-
Erik : Maybe those internal voices, Dave, are a reflection of the external voices that have been in their lives, those negative voices that are pulling them down too.
Peter : Right, I used to say, Eric, that I have a committee in my head and they all wear hoods. They're negative. They don't tell me good things. They tell me bad things. Where can we help get people to think through the voices in their head, that they're like, "You know what, shut up and sit down. I don't want to listen to that voice anymore. I'm going with this ally who says I can do it." Or I'm developing that inner still quiet voice that says in myself, I believe I can do this. That makes us stronger by doing it too.
Erik : My son, RJ, would be nervous before a soccer game and I'd say, "You nervous?" He'd be like, "Yeah." I'd be like, "Tell those voices to shut up."
Peter : Right. Committee members, get them out of here.
Erik : Yeah.
David : I love Peter, you share, once you enter into that road of challenges, sometimes it's the allies. Eric was being an ally to his son and saying, "Shut those voices out," and they were his own voices. You need those allies on the road of challenges. Continue us on this journey as we've now embraced the road of challenge.
Peter : Once you do the road of challenges, it gets hard, harder, hardest and you might, at some point, say, "God why am I doing this? This was not a good idea." If you stay with it, and I would probably say to anybody who is listening, if you stay through the really hard thing, you will find that there is a gift. You will find yourself benefiting from what you just learned, and pulling from the hardest thing you just did, the dark night of the soul, in a new way. You're like, "Oh my gosh, I'm glad I stayed with this. I would have bailed out many time before, but I stayed through it and now I've got this experience to call on."
Erik : Peter, are there any great examples that you can think of so I understand that gift? I think I understand it but it'd be good to hear something concrete. We try to talk about this at No Barriers through that context of through that struggle, there are going to be gifts. It's hard and it can easily turn into a cliché.
Peter : Right. I would say I've been through a divorce and divorce is a really hard thing to go through in anybody's relationship life. It was hard and it went much like the Heroic Journey, where it's just, who do I call in for allies to help me through this. What I learned from that process made stronger for my next experience in life, my next relationship. Whether it's physical or, as you said David, it's also the easy stuff like I'm moving houses. That can be pretty disruptive to people and kids. I would say kids are not immune from a Heroic Journey. In fact, the more they know about it sooner, the more they can put into place, "Oh it's just another road of challenges kids. We can get through this." Or when you come back from that hard thing, of going to the dentist, what did you learn? I learned I could do it even though I'm afraid. Fear is one of those things that I think looms so large in our lives and often it just throws up ghosts of things that didn't really happen. I think that's the biggest piece for me and my journey, is how do I get through PTSD for one thing or another, or fear from what the outcomes might be because I don't know.
Peter : I heard a great definition that fear is a bad use of imagination. We're thinking about all... My wife calls it my movie mind. You know what, none of that is going to happen. I've seen too many Hollywood movies that I think they will.
Erik : These are archetypal things right, that you hear over and over. We see it at No Barriers, these stories where loss and struggle turns into creativity and empathy or some kind of concrete success at the end of the road.
Peter : To that point, Eric, then you've got that thing inside you that you can use to call on for the next hard thing. It's something that nobody can take away. It's something that you earned yourself was your response to it. I love that quote from James Lane Allen that, "Adversity doesn't build character. It reveals it." Think about where we're going through hard stuff and adversity and we get our character revealed. We're not always happy about what we see but what we did do that we felt good about, keep that. Build on that going forward.
Erik : The end of the journey, or nearing the end of the journey, Peter, is really precipitous, at least in my experience, because people come home from this learning experience and they're like, "Hey, I want to tell you what I learned. I want you to be a part of my story." People are like, "I don't care, whatever." You tend to, at least we find in our experiences, it's easy to drop off a cliff right there and really fall into a serious depression. What do you call that piece? Is it choreographing of two worlds?
Peter : Yep yep, there's a return, the magical return is that lower right quadrant, where you're coming back. That's actually where your allies, David and I would say Eric, "Be careful. You just kayaked the Colorado. That was a big deal. Don't brush it off. You're going to need to unpack that for a couple of months." Or coming back from fighting overseas, or whatever your health journey was, to allow people to know and give them permission, "This is really big stuff." We tend to brush it off. I think it's the brushing off that minimizes how cellularly important this is for us to recognize.
Peter : That reentry that you talk about, the choreographer of two worlds, Eric, is the coming back home. People might say, "How was kayaking the river?" Where do you even begin to tell them about that?
Erik : Or your example of the vet that comes home and has just been through something that you almost can't describe. You cannot describe it to the world. You only could have experienced it for yourself.
Peter : Or with the people you were there with, those are your peers. Those are your allies. I think that's why people re-up, either for military service or for expats. Same for expats, if you lived overseas, and you lived in Indonesia like I did for a couple years, if you're there five years, seven years, you're going to have a really hard time coming back to Minnesota. People aren't going to get it. What you look for are the people who have done overseas living because they have a different convolution in their brain from learning language and modifying and fixing and solution building. You look for those people. For our returning vets, they look for the people who know what that story is like. I think that's powerful.
Erik : I have a question about that reentry, at least in my experience, even in the climbing world, it makes sense. You climb mountains and then you come down and you use it to be a better person. I don't know if that always happens. I think people escape to the mountains. It can become an escapism or I imagine, the vet escapes to all these adrenalized sports and communities and activities because they just can't make that reentry work.
Peter : Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erik : Are there any tips or any thoughts on how people can come back from that adventure and reenter the world and make their lives and their community a better place?
Peter : That's a great question. I wouldn't have all the answers for it. My first gut reaction is, I would like our community to be better at receiving people back from big experience, from divorce, from the loss of parents, from the loss of kids and tragedy. We're not very good. If someone has a broken leg or they've lost a limb, we don't want to talk about it, so we've got this social moray of, "Don't talk about it. Keep it secret." The secretness is poison. I think whether you can begin to help communities begin to understand their role in welcoming people back from big experience, that's going to be the beginning of making it safe for me to talk about it. Rather than, how was the kayak experience? How was, you move from one city to another, rather than that just that superficial. I had a dear friend, they come back from a trip and she'd say, "Tell me about it. Tell me everything." Just that asking for everything was an invitation to just, wow. Nobody wants to hear everything. You need to find solution groups or wisdom circles or finding communities that say, "David, how was that for you? Tell me everything." What a gift.
Peter : That falls on us, Eric, to welcome you back differently. We're not prepared for that. We, in our own heroic journey, have to better at being allies. There is so much going on in the world right now, we need to be a little more aware of, how can I be a better ally to everything that's going on, and to ask, "Tell me how it was? Tell me everything."
Erik : I think companies and organizations and communities are starting to do that better right, because you see in the media now, diversity and inclusion. Let's make your story, your Heroic Journey, a strength that will be an asset to our company, our team. It's starting to value people's experiences better, rather than having a cookie cutter approach.
Peter : Absolutely, in fact, we adopted it at Prouty as a response to the pandemic. We had a monthly staff meeting, which we shifted to daily. We now met with everybody, 9:00 AM, for a check in hour, how are you. We asked that question, "How are you? How are you really?" That way, again, opened up the stage or the environment so that we could be more accessible to each other and what they're going through and not judge them. I think the whole Heroic Journey piece sounds like it's woo woo for some people. We use it with every corporate group we work with. If you work with retreats and leadership development cohorts and you have them tell 22 executives are telling each other their personal or professional heroic journey, it changes the conversation.
David : Peter, we're at the choreographer of two worlds. Is that the end? You got the magical deterrent, the choreographer of two worlds. Is that it?
Peter : Great question. So now you're coming back and you hit the top of the dial again, where it says, "Journey begins." I've been through a full circle. Take a deep breath. What did I learn? What did I gain from that? How did I access my allies in all four phases of that? How am I better prepared for my next journey? What would I do differently? All this is around my capacity to reflect on my behaviors. There are aspects that coming out of this pandemic I don't feel good about to myself. I wish I had been more responsive to some of the protests around George Floyd when it happened. I was stuck. I just didn't know. What is my role in what has to change here? As I look back at my own life, I'm like, I don't feel good about that. I know I have to do more. What part do I take up? What can I do?
Peter : That's where that Heroic Journey cycle allows you to look at that and say, "Okay do more. Figure out what it is you want to do." Then you're ready for the next one. I think you said before, David, there's going to be more. You're going to get the next one and the next one. They're like waves coming in, in sets of seven, ocean waves. Then you're going to have the big wave. Whoa, it tips over everything. We got to get prepared for those and then help our community and friends and family be better prepared for whatever. It's not about tragedy. It's also about the good stuff. When you get promoted, that gets lonely at the top. How are you doing that Heroic Journey as you get promoted? All of this is just another life mapping tool to prepare for life with looser knees, so that I'm a little more buoyant, a little more flexible, a little more responsive.
David : Peter, I think a lot of what you're talking about and you even use these words and we use them too, is creating that map, the map for your life. Why does that matter? Why do we need a map? How come that's important?
Peter : I think a map is important, but I think the compass is important. I think I share with you that I work on the board of Outward Bound. They have, "Compassion is my compass." What a great tool. If I lead with compassion, even if I have a meeting with someone I'm in a bit of a conflict with, if I lead with compassion, it's going to go better. If my highest goal is, I want the relationship intact, that's my goal. Then whatever we do to make that happen lends towards that. I think we have to get better at using compasses and some of us are good at orienteering and some of us have never done it. The tool of a compass is really about setting a bearing for where you want to go and then looking as far out as you possibly can, at that oak tree, and then putting the compass back in your pocket. I'm looking at the compass as I'm walking. I'm going to bump into things. I'm going to get off track. How do we build a better sense of our compass, our moral compass, our personal compass, our direction compass.
Peter : I love to quote from Peter Sengue a long time ago. He says, "Vision is an immune system for an organization. If you have a long enough vision out there, no matter what happens in the short term, you can get through it." Going back to that sail boat, being on a boat getting seasick, you're going to get seasick if you're in the swell of looking at the swells. Look at the horizon. The horizon moves more gently. I want to look as far out as I possibly can. I think, as a society, we have lost our vision. We're trying to regain that so that we can look further out and say, "Yes, it's bumpy now but it's going to get better, because here's what we're doing about that." If I can begin to develop, whether it was Tanya's cancer journey or anything that we're facing, how do I get a better vision of what I want further out and then head up, head for it.
David : Peter, I'm fascinated by the part of the conversation where you talked about how we all need to become better allies, or as we say in No Barriers, paralons, better rope team members. How do you coach someone to become a better ally?
Peter : Oh man, that's a great question. I think you guys are really good at that, on the tools of what No Barriers leads. The rope team analogy is a really good one, because you have to cognizant of the various parts of being a pioneer or a rope team or what reach means. You're picking phrases that help people name what they're doing. Part of that is to name what a team development process could look like. Let's come up with operating principles that we all want to work towards. Then what does that mean to Eric. It might mean something different to you Dave. Let's communicate what those differences mean so that we now have a new language of what that means to be a rope team.
Peter : That's the first thing we do with teams, is begin to unify an understanding of what the language is telling us so that we don't miss or misunderstand what people are thinking.
Peter : One of my favorite quotes is that, "Undisclosed expectations lead to premeditated resentments." That goes across the kitchen table. That happens in global conflict. My biggest problem is that I didn't tell you what I was expecting of you David, and you let me know. Well, who's fault is that? Mine, because I didn't tell. If I didn't do team development around, what are our expectations to each other. As a rope team, now we're beginning to take care of each other in a whole new way.
David : Peter, we've talked about your wife and the Heroic Journey you all went through. What heroic journey are you currently on?
Peter : I'll be very honest here. I'm 61. I've got 30 years of leadership development in my life, and I'm probably coming around the circle for the 20th, 30th time, and part of me is thinking, "Where am I now? What is my next horizon? What's my Everest? What's my next piece that I'm going after?" I'm in that discernment place of, I'm too young to retire. I'm too tired to keep working as hard as I'm working. I want to keep doing good stuff, so what does that look like? If I pick up my tool bag and grab my allies and have conversations. Honestly, I imagine some of the listeners have done this, you're seeing pods of people come together, tribe members who are talking about just that. Who do we want to be going forward? What did we learn from the pandemic? What did we learn from George Floyd and Brianna Taylor? What have learned about the attacks on Asians? What are we learning now about how we want to be a society that we got to embrace and change and be a part of a solution? That's my new horizon, is figuring that out.
Erik : When you're open to that uncertainty in your own life and you're asking these questions and you're reaching out in the universe for answers, do you find that... I don't want to be all goofy, but allies kind of appear? They gravitate towards you when you ask the right question and express the right kind of attitude and gratitude. At least I've found that in my life. It's the most magical thing I've ever found in my life in terms of people gravitating towards me that say, "I'll help you with this next piece."
Peter : Right, I think that thing, Eric, is a vulnerability. If I keep this to myself and keep it secret and private, that I'm struggling in my later life with what I'm supposed to do next, I will not get the help. That will not attract the allies. If you do what you just said, Eric, which is put it out there, "I'm looking to figure out this next piece." To be honest, it's a little lonely. It's not comfortable. I don't have an easy answer. I'm a little shy saying it on a podcast, because I just told the world that I'm uncomfortable, but by doing that, I'm now actually... and people have Eric. We have these small groups seem to form around, "I want to be on your wisdom council. I want to be on a team talking about that because I'm going through that too." The next thing you know, I've got a half dozen people who are going through the same thing and now, we're going to make something happen. Vulnerability is not weakness.
Peter : Brene Brown, you've all heard the great Ted Talk. It's not weakness, it's strength. I think when we begin to embrace that as a society, the more vulnerable leaders that we work with are powerful leaders. We really want to encourage that. The command and control is dead. I'm sorry. We've got to find a new way to be.
David : When you go through this process where you've got this unanticipated challenge that hits you and you gather yourself and you gather your team and you go through the Heroic Journey, some of that sometimes feels a bit contrived, like you're almost fooling yourself to tell a story that's positive, when in fact, it isn't. Can you talk about that idea of, are we just intentionally telling ourselves this narrative to help our mindset even though the negative is all there and we're just overlooking it.
Erik : Dave, that's such a good question. I have literally climbing friends who say, "I look up at a big mountain and it looks so gnarly and so ridiculous and so preposterous, that I could ever do that." You have to lift yourself up and tell yourself a story, that I have what it takes to get to the top of that thing. It is a mental gymnastic endeavor, isn't it?
Peter : Yeah, it's huge. I think that's a great thing to look at, is this could come off as Pollyanna, oh just walk the wheel. You'll be fine. If you look at the legions of people who are recovering from addictions, the basis of a 12 step program is surrender and then starting to practice new principles that change the way you have answered life's questions. If you can't do it, practice it. Try it anyway. It's not going to be done perfectly. You're going to fall down a few times. Part of that in that whole recovery process is to build in new patterns and act as if. I don't want to go here. Okay, don't care, go anyway. Go to an AA meeting. Do it anyway. As you do, you'll hear things you'll need to hear that will help you feel more connected and there's a sense of belonging in that.
David : Peter, this has been an amazing conversation. We thank you so much for your time and all your support of No Barriers over the years. Thank you for the incredible work you continue to do. Any listener who would like to learn more about you, where should they go to learn more about your work?
Peter : I would say come to the website for the Prouty Project in Minnesota. I also invite you to watch the TED X on building your leadership heroic journey, because that will help you see for yourselves, how can I get grounded in my life's story. Then go do this work with other people because you are, as you were saying before David, you're part of a community to people who are coming back from big experiences all the time.
Peter : Again, I love the work that you're doing at No Barriers. Thank you so much you guys, for everything you're doing. I'm a fan, so I'll stay close.
Erik : Peter, if they're really lucky, you'll take them out on the think tank boat on Lake Minnetonka right?
Peter : Yeah, and I have to tell a story.
Erik : Yeah, let's hear that story Peter. You know you weren't going to get through this podcast without the story.
Peter : Eric came and visited our office. We had great meals and good times. We took him out on a boat on Lake Minnetonka. I think somebody grabbed his hat and he didn't' know he had these keys inside the hat. It was your keys right?
Erik : It was a talking watch.
Peter : It was a watch. It was your watch.
Erik : Yeah, it was my talking watch.
Peter : Very expensive watch, and it fell kerplunk. There's a sound that those things make when they land in a lake that you just hear it deeply. I said immediately, "Oh that's your watch?" I dove in, being somewhat heroic myself, with no degree of success. I was flapping around, couldn't find it, came up for air a couple of times. Eric went down and with his feet, found it in like three seconds. He was like, "I got it."
Erik : That was amazing. That was luck. The great part of the story was that Peter's team just destroyed him and laughed and had so much fun with that story. To this day, Jeff just smiles when I mention the watch story.
Peter : Oh yeah, that was great.
Erik : At your expense sadly.
Peter : Oh my, it was great that you found it.
Erik : Nice.
Peter : Love it.
David : As always, listeners, if you are interested in learning more the things that Peter mentioned in the end here, we'll put those in our show notes, links to those resources for you. Thank you all so much for listening. Thank you Peter, for joining us. Thanks Eric, for another great conversation.
Thank you everyone, No Barriers.
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