Are You Creating Our Future or Just Trying to Survive?


This summer I was fortunate to attend the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, the publisher of the book I co-authored with Ken Blanchard Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision. The mission of Berrett-Koehler is “to create a world that works for all.”

Some of the most respected thought-leaders in the field of leadership and social change shared their vision for the future – Ken Blanchard, Margaret Wheatley, Peter Block, BJ Gallagher, Richard Leider, John Perkins, and Brian Tracy to name a few. Some of the speakers were inspiring, others thought-provoking and some were challenging.

Yet each of them demanded that we step outside our comfort zone and look at a bigger picture – to take responsibility for making a contribution to creating a world that works for all.

It is so easy during these times of economic unrest, political uncertainty, and environmental concerns to become overwhelmed, slipping into a “fear state” mentality and focus on self-preservation.  This is a natural human reaction activated by our primitive neurological wiring. But we have the capacity to over-ride our instincts, a reactivity that no longer serves us, humanity or our planet. Because we have this capacity, we each have the capability to define for ourselves how we can make a real contribution.

I invite you to watch three of the speakers. Each clip is no more than 3 minutes. These are not prepared speeches – they were speaking spontaneously, frankly, and sincerely.

After watching them, I challenge you to consider where you want to put your own attention – on clarifying your vision or on survival strategies.

Today, I am not providing answers or any specific suggestions. This is not a “how to” post. I encourage you to find your own answers. For this is a subject we must each come to terms with in our own way.



24 comments to Are You Creating Our Future or Just Trying to Survive?

  • Heather Park

    found this very interesting and made me think about how negative I have become in response to the national situation in UK. But a new term is starting and i am about to work with new clients so hopefully I will be more motivated after reflecting on the comments from the speakers. Thanks for posting this and heading me in the right direction. Will use it in my work

  • Marye Gail Harrison

    I loved hearing these three speak from their hearts this morning. At 71 years, I also live in a confusing place between grief and determination. These messages inspire me to find the will and courage to live as fully as possible however it turns out and whenever it ends, just as I am.

    Thanks for this deeply thought provoking message,
    Marye Gail Harrison

  • Jesse, thank you for sharing these 3 insightful clips. The wisdom expressed here is born from years of experience and reflection.
    I appreciate your work


  • Christo van Zyl

    Hi Jesse.

    Thank you for this post. As you said not a how-to, just something to ponder. It resonated with me deeply because we are living in a time where many people are busy, but not living. Time is a forgotten value, actual connection with real people is a task and connecting with people virtually seems valid… We want more Facebook likes and more Twitter followers and more Pintrest places I want to go…

    Yet, we are attached to an unknown outcome. I like that they mentioned we become stewards of service without attachment to the outcome, other than to serve.

    Thank you for this thought provoking non-how-to post. I really enjoyed, and it made me think and re-connect with my purpose.

    Best regards,
    Christo van Zyl

    • I was touched by your own thought-provoking comments, Christo. I agree that “we are living in a time where many people are busy, but not living.” I’m so pleased that my post helped you re-connect with your purpose, because that is the basis of what connects us with life.

  • Finally took a moment to watch the 3 video clips.

    I resonated with all 3 of them, if not entirely, at least in some ways.

    Ken Blanchard on ‘refiring’ after retirement: I’m not going to get detailed here on what it triggered (you know how wordy I can get! :) Suffice it to say that I have some thoughts on that subject based on some of my time spent working in long term care and assisted living. I’ve briefly shared some of these thoughts a while back with Steve Keating. I mentioned how I had observed SO MANY people in the latter stages of life that no longer felt they had a ‘purpose’. And yet, I could see them overflowing with wisdom and knowledge from the stories they would share with me day in and day out. And in their special gifts and talents some were still capable of passing on to younger generations. Example: a woman in her 90’s began to teach my oldest daughter how to crochet from her bed whenever she came to visit when I was working. There is a WEALTH of ‘knowledge’ currently going un-mined (if that is a word) and untapped. Many are EAGER to share. Many want and NEED to still feel like they have a purpose in this world. And they do. Yet many are withering away in nursing homes all over this country and the world without even a family member to visit them. I consider these treasure troves of DIAMONDS in our midst. Forgotten.

    I’ve pondered an idea or two on this…still cooking in the crockpot! :)

    Peter Block: Cracked me up! Love his take on things! Especially love what he had to say about the great ‘mystery’. We seem to spend so much of our lives trying to control what is completely out of our control. Or thinking that we know the ‘unknowable’ as another way we try to control what is uncontrollable. It gives us a measure of comfort. Yet, when faced with certain things in life, we come to realize that some of what we do is futile. And I don’t mean futility in the negative sense. More like a ‘freedom’ that comes when we finally have an a-ha moment and realize that we can actually GIVE UP worrying about something. Or trying to control or prevent certain things because in reality, some things really ARE outside of our control! Period. I hope that makes sense.

    Meg Wheatley raised some very interesting questions as well. For me, I have found that there can come a point where the will to survive is very strong. Regardless of environment or conditions. As long as the will to live is there, we find a way to work with what we have.

    Case in point, I recently watched United 93 again. It’s a movie about one of the planes that were hi-jacked on 9/11. They tried to make it as true to life as possible. They did an INCREDIBLE job. I literally had the feeling of what it would be like if I had been on that plane all the way to the last moment.

    If anyone hasn’t seen United 93 and wants to, here is a link to the trailer:

    Once again, another great post Jesse.

    • Samantha, I am honored that you shared your wisdom and reflections here. Your comments are really the makings of a strong blog post (or two). I was especially touched by your observation of elderly who felt no longer had a purpose while you could see it overflowing. I will hold that image. Thank you for that. Peter Block is one of the wisest and most respectful people I know. And Meg Wheatley is always on the cutting edge of what’s real and relevant. I have not seen United 93. Thanks for the link, and again, thanks for your insightful comments. I’ll be thinking about them for awhile.

      • Thank you Jesse. That means a lot. :)

        United 93: I HIGHLY recommend it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. (although it might be too intense for anyone who directly lost someone on 9/11) :(

        I should have clarified a bit more as to why I mentioned it. Although we all know the tragic ending of all flights on 9/11, my point was in reference to what the passengers on United 93 attempted to do once they received information from loved ones via inflight phones that other planes had been hi-jacked; 2 crashed in to the world trade centers, and another at the Pentagon.

        Once the passengers UNDERSTOOD that it was a suicide mission, they realized that if they did NOTHING, they were all going to die. So they come up with a plan to try to take over the cockpit using whatever weapons they could find on board. One of the passengers was a pilot who had experience with single engine planes. Another passenger had years of experience as an ATC to help talk him down once they gained control of the cockpit.

        For that flight, the passengers faced the reality that it was DO something and perhaps die trying. Or do NOTHING, and death was certain.

        These were regular people. Just like you and me. And in the moment when everything is on the line. People’s leadership skills kick in. And they can get innovative really fast during a crisis. They didn’t go down without trying. And that is why I love this film…Courage in the face of terror and death.

        PS: I HIGHLY recommend having a large supply of tissues handy.

  • Khalid

    Hi Jesse,


    This made me really relate to what my mom is going through these days. She has just retired from a 30++ years in teaching Math!

    I visited her few days ago and I saw this sadness of letting go of a life time career.

    I wish if she can understand English to show her these videos but I guess I for the point of what she is going through!

    Thanks again Jesse.


    • Hi Khalid, Your mom is lucky to have a son who is sensitive to what she is going through. It’s not uncommon to assume our purpose is tied to our career. Hopefully your mother will be able to see how her lifetime of wisdom and knowledge touches the lives of others in so many small moments every day, and that she can discover new ways to experience and express passion. Warm wishes for her on her journey.

  • Just wanted to drop a note saying, “First time commenter – long-time follower…” And… “Thank you.” You inspired a post I had planned on writing for some time. I think I am guilty of living too comfortably in a reaction mode – trying to get through the immediate obstacle – seeking the next obstacle to overcome. Sometimes I need to slow down to speed up.

    And Samantha Hall… Wow, you have a way with words. I would love to read your posts.

    Keep rockin’!
    Chris Young
    The Rainmaker

    • Thank you Chris. That just made my day! :)

      I also just read your post Employee Engagement. Love the five key questions you’ve outlined. They hit all the major components needed to create healthy teams.

      And thanks again, Jesse, for writing such great posts yourself and providing with us an opportunity and space to share thoughts and ideas with each other.

    • Hi Chris, Employee Engagement: Just How Screwed Up Is Your Team? is an excellent post, and I am delighted to have provided inspiration. Thanks for the reminder that “sometimes we need to slow down in order to speed up.” And also, much thanks for your comments to Samantha. The most rewarding part of blogging is when the comments turn to conversation and when good people connect with each other. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  • Dear Chris,

    As a firm believer in divine appointment and how relationships we foster in this life all seem to be part of a tapestry that searches our hearts and individual circumstances, along with the needs and vision of others we will meet, I am amazed at how the timing of your message / invitation being placed in my inbox this morning. That is an earful of type, but I am very touched by the conversations you have shared here. I do not know why, but I’d like to hear what Meg had to say, but it didn’t have any sound, even though the others worked fine.

    At times, we come to our conclusions about what would make our world one that works for all based on preconceived notions and indiscriminate nuances that are not based in our heart / faith-based / factual reality. What I mean is that we often fail to seek and to see the whole picture of what someone else’s needs are, and yet we pummel the minds and hearts of many, and waste their time and energy by not seeing their need and seeking their best in everything we do. The cycle of this way of thinking is that we then have unmet needs, unmet visions, and under achiever status in all we try to do, because we failed to acknowledge the fact, like John the Baptizer said of Christ, that for us to be achievers of what matters, other people must increase in importance, while I, and everything surrounding “me” must decrease.

    I can see how taking full advantage of the tools you make available will help me accomplish this very difficult task. Thankfully, difficult does not mean impossible. Thanks for being a friend, and sharing this very positive message with me.

    Sincerely and appreciatively,


  • RW Howe


    Sorry I addressed you as Chris. It was the last name that stuck in my memory before I started typing, and it was still early. LOL. I tried the link to Meg’s video after I sent the comment and it worked out fine. In fact, her thoughts impressed upon me the importance of care-givers needing care-givers and how so much of the time, those who want to help are starved themselves for social and spiritual nourishment. I like the fact that each of these speakers were just being real, and not swayed by what others might want to hear. Well done. By the way, I’ve added Seapoint Center to a public list of mine on Facebook. I call it Great Biz Connections. You can find it at!/lists/108577885960246.

    Have a blessed day. I am glad to be a part of it and glad that you were part of mine.

  • Jesse

    These people are thinkers that realize that small assumptions are what are leading us down the wrong paths all t0o often.

    Ken pointed out our lack of real leadership today, and how it is taking apart the very fiber of our society and our organizations.

    Peter pointed out a few key things that stopping and THINKING is important, that life is more than just a set of tools, but in fact it has to be based on ideas and concepts. The problem with our economic scarcity assumption, the reality is there is no real shortage and the economy is not limited in size. If we started to focus our efforts on growing the economy instead of trying to get a bigger piece of the current one we would all do better. There is enough to go round, we just need to accept that and focus on it instead of on greed. He also points out that we need to get comfortable with not being perfect or knowing everything. It allows us to instead focus on those few things that we can do. I also really like how someone finally said that the virtual world is useful, but it will never be real. Like many things it can help us, but it shouldn’t dominate us.

    Meg on the other hand tells us to let go of trying to be responsible for changing the world, while we should still be willing to share the ideas and concepts to help others.

    All in all good thoughts that teach lessons on being humble.

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