The Lift | Brian@GrowthWorks

The Lift | Brian@GrowthWorks

The Game of Life... and Some Simple Ways to Play it Longer

by Brian McDermott on 07/12/12

Bad day? Bad job? Bad boss? Bad health? This TED Talk gamer, Jane McGonigal, offers keen insight and simple actions for becoming more resilient, and for living a longer happier life.

She tells a personal story about a physical trauma that pushed her into a deep depression, but also inspired her to create a game that players say is making their lives better. The connections are inspiring that she makes between research about the regrets expressed by people near death and studies about the benefits of building personal resilience -- physical, mental, emotional and social.

It's 19 minutes worth watching. I felt better after seeing it. It was posted this month on the TedTalk site. (Email subscribers Watch Here.)

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Anyone Would Have Done the Same... Or Would They?

by Brian McDermott on 06/06/12

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. This one is an Ohio high school student, humbled by the attention she's received for simply doing what she says any girl in the same situation would have done for her.

Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, this story is a poignant reminder that small gestures, when doing the right thing, lead to heady results -- be they part of a high school track and field event or part of a corporate strategy for change, innovation, growth, learning...

The video is 2 minutes. The article is well-written and worth reading.

(Email subscribers Watch and Read here.)

(This article originally appeared with a different video on the ESPN website I've combined them here to make them available with one click.)

Meghan Vogel doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.

Vogel, a junior runner for West Liberty-Salem High School (West Liberty, Ohio), won the 1,600-meter title Saturday at the Division III girls state meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus. But it's what she did in her next race that was most remarkable.

With about 20 meters to go in the 3,200, Arden McMath, a sophomore from Arlington High School, collapsed in front of Vogel. Rather than run by her, Vogel helped McMath to her feet and carried her across the finish line, making sure to keep McMath ahead of her.

"Any girl on the track would have done the same for me," Vogel said Monday.

But Vogel's gesture resonated with the thousands of spectators who witnessed it, as well as with the thousands more who have read about the story or seen video of the race's finish.

By the time Vogel arrived home Saturday night, word of her sportsmanship was spreading. She had 30 new friend requests on Facebook within a few hours. Ohio media pounced on the story and lauded Vogel's selfless act.

Monday was supposed to be a "pajamas day" at the Vogel home in West Liberty, a day to relax after last week's conclusion of the school year and the busy weekend at the state championships. Instead. it was spent reliving the race.

"The phone's been ringing a lot," said Ann Vogel, Meghan's mother and coach.

It wasn't Meghan's first act of sportsmanship on the track.

A week earlier, at the state qualifying meet, West Liberty-Salem was running fifth in the 4x800 relay when Vogel took the baton for the anchor leg. She summoned a big effort and passed two other runners, clinching a berth in the state championships for her team.

Vogel was so wiped out after crossing the finish line that she collapsed, and her excited teammates rushed to her side to help her back to her feet. But then Vogel saw one of the girls she had passed, a freshman who also had fallen.

Vogel went to the other runner and offered a hand up and a few words of encouragement.

"She was in fourth (one spot from qualifying for state) and felt awful," Vogel said.

At the state championships, Vogel had a difficult 1,600/3,200 double. She won the 1,600 in a personal-best 4 minutes, 58.31 seconds, stepped onto the podium for photos and medals, talked to the local media, and went to visit with her family.

That left her with about an hour to get ready for the 3,200, in which she was seeded seventh.

Three laps into the eight-lap race, Vogel was falling off the pace. Her mother watched from the backstretch and could tell that her daughter didn't have the energy to contend for another title.

"By that time it was a matter of just finishing (the race)," Ann Vogel said. "I kind of joked with her about being in last place because she's never been last. And every lap she looked at me and smiled."

Vogel rounded the final turn for home and could see that the only other runner who hadn't finished yet was faltering. And then McMath, a runner Vogel had never met before, fell to the track.

Vogel never had a moment of doubt about what to do next.

"I remember moving to her position," she said. "(McMath) was doing the best she could to keep her body upright. There was a lot of shake in her legs, which is totally understandable."

The crowd cheered when Vogel stopped and the roar grew louder as she and McMath moved closer to the finish line. Vogel purposely steered McMath across the finish line ahead of her.

"We're a little bit of a minority being distance runners," Vogel said. "I think we all have an instant connection."

A race that had become pointless in the grand scheme of the day for Vogel quickly took on a new meaning.

"I think fate may have put me (in last place) for a reason," Vogel said.

Ann Vogel was across the track and couldn't see her daughter when she stopped. But a coaching friend told Ann Vogel, "Ann, look up at the screen."

She turned to the video board and saw her daughter supporting another runner on her shoulder.

"I ran around (the perimeter of the track) as fast as I could," Ann Vogel said. "It wasn't easy to get around with all of the people standing there but I was hearing the crowd and I could see tears running down people's faces."

McMath was quickly scooped up by medical staff. By rule, a runner in track or cross country is automatically disqualified for aiding another runner, but meet officials chose to leave McMath and Vogel in the results rather than take action.

McMath was given 14th place in 12:29.90, and Vogel 15th in 12:30.24.

A half-hour after the race was over, Vogel grabbed her mother's shoulder and said she felt dizzy and a little nauseated. Ann Vogel found a trainer and together they moved Meghan to a tent.

Vogel sat down with a cup of Gatorade on a cot that was positioned next to McMath, who was lying down and still recovering from dehydration and heat exhaustion.

"She was still pretty sick at that point," Meghan Vogel said of McMath. "Her coach turned to me and said, 'Thank you.' "

The two girls will meet again, formally this time, Tuesday morning for an interview with the TV show "Fox And Friends."

The response to her simple gesture has taken Vogel by surprise.

"It's been crazy. I can't understand why everyone wants to talk to me, but I guess I'm getting used to it now," she said. "It's strange to have people telling me that this was such a powerful act of kindness and using words like 'humanity.' It's weird. When I hear words like that I think of Harriet Tubman and saving people's lives. I don't consider myself a hero. I just did what I knew was right and what I was supposed to do."

Make a Difference,


Hope Where Hope Is Hard to Find...

by Brian McDermott on 05/15/12

It's was a worn out cliche - "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" -- until I watched this music video shot at Seattle Children's Hospital. It's kids in the toughest of circumstances finding hope in a place where hope can be so very hard to find. Words I've heard so many times before take on new meaning when viewed through fresh eyes. See for yourself...

(Email subscribers Watch Here or click on the headline)

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P.S. Thanks to my friend Karen Noar in Seattle for sharing this. I was looking for some inspiration today.

Alive Inside...

by Brian McDermott on 04/28/12

I love this video clip every which way...

It's a promo for a new documentary about an experiment using music to bring a little dignity back into the lives of people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's. There are 16,000 nursing homes in the United States, and 5.6 million people whose minds are going blank. The experiment appears to work. Dramatically.

As someone who works on the "people side" of facilitating change and innovation in businesses, Alive Inside, also strikes me as a powerful metaphor. There are a lot of workplaces in which leaders say, "Employees are our most important asset," but lead in ways that diminish people's spirits -- inflicting creative dementia through micromanagement, undervaluing individual talents and ideas, and dismissing well-intentioned challenges to the discouragement of the status quo with a wave of the "Sorry, that's the way we do things here" flag.

The question for Dan Cohen, the social worker who started this experiment, was focused on what it would take to reengage the light and spirit in lives assumed to be lost and unreachable.

The parallel question for me, thinking about how to make a workplace innovative and successful, is focused on what it takes to engage rather than disenfranchise workers. In my experience, that kind of awakening starts with meaningful and purposeful work and the chance for people to use their unique talents and skills as much as possible.

I marvel at the new hope this experiment provides for the elders in our lives. And I wonder, if iPods and a little personalized music can rekindle a spark in lives that seemed all but lost to age and illness, what can be accomplished by paying better attention to what causes minds and spirits to go blank in the workplace.

(Email subscribers Watch Here or click on the headline)

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Inspiration for Innovation...

by Brian McDermott on 04/10/12

A 10-minute smile, interrupted only by frequent laughter...

This video -- about a creative kid with a stash of cardboard boxes, a filmmaker with an eye for finding things special in unexpected places, and a bunch of people looking to spread a little joy -- is a fresh reminder for me about what it takes to make the world an innovative and positive place.

It's a dazzling little concoction with story elements that touch on the value of passion, the contagiousness of creativity, and the marvel of imagination.

It's a tweak: Don't take life and business so seriously that the incredible ability to navigate the world with the eyes and energy of a child is forgotten or squandered.

(Email Subscribers Watch Here of Click on the Headline)

Kudos to the director, Nirvan Mullick. And thanks to friend Mary Coyne Wessling for brightening my day by posting this link on Facebook.

Make a Difference,


Before You Make a Judgment...

by Brian McDermott on 03/27/12

A moving reminder from a couple of teenagers about the risks and limitations of making superficial judgments and assumptions, and about standing by what we believe in -- no matter what.

What would have been missed if Simon Cowell's initial reaction to these two performers -- "Just when you think things couldn't get any worse." -- had kept them off stage? Watch and you will see...

(Email subscribers Watch Here or click on the headline)

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P.S. Thanks to Sean Schuette at IntrinXec Management Inc. for sharing this with me.

Everyone Helped Everyone...

by Brian McDermott on 03/20/12

This is an 11-minute story about "people just doing what they had to do"... about "everyone having a little hero in them." It's a 9-11 story I had never heard before about scores of average citizens who answered a call for help to get a half million people off Manhattan in 9 hours after the destruction of the World Trade Center towers -- the largest sea evacuation in history. Narrated by Tom Hanks.

(Email subscribers Watch Here or click on the headline)

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The Future of Learning...

by Brian McDermott on 03/12/12

From kindergartens to corporations, the work of learning may be in for some topsy-turvy overhauling, based on innovations developed by a former hedge fund manager in Boston who started making tutorial YouTube videos in a closet.

60 Minutes, the CBS TV News magazine, aired this 13-minute segment about Sal Khan and Khan Academy (it starts with a 30-sec. commercial). It has foundation-shaking implications if you're a teacher, a trainer, a student in any capacity, a parent with kids in school, or a business leader who values lifelong learning...

(Email Subscribers Watch Here or click the headline)

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We Don't Need No More Trouble...

by Brian McDermott on 03/09/12

This is a brilliant and inspiring musical counterpoint to the sounds of war that seem to keep increasing around the world. Let's hope (and act) that the voices raised for peace are heard more clearly...

(Email subscribers Watch Here or click on the headline)
There are more great videos at Playing for Change | Connecting the World Through Music.

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Wit in the World? What's Your Edge...

by Brian McDermott on 03/07/12

I can always use a laugh, and this delivers. But this 1.5-min video also inspires me to question: How comfortable am I with my status quo? How willing am I to change or innovate in what I do and how I tell people my own story my own way?

(Email Subscribers Watch Here of click the headline)

Thanks to Vikas Narula at Keyhubs for passing this along, saying it might be the "best start-up video ever"...  Visit: DollarShaveClub for details.

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