RHB Convocation Address

I look around today and I see excitement and hope in many eyes.

But I also know that some of us, well along into our lives and into our careers, will sometimes will swipe a cynical brush down a young and fresh canvas.

I am 51 years old and have held a number of positions in many different industries. I've had great successes and I've had a few failures and heartbreaks.

Perhaps this life then has given me a little perspective.

So this is what I wish to pass onto this year's graduating class.

When the celebrations die down, put a list together of what you imagine would be your ideal job. Seek out people who do now you may want want to do someday. Politely ask them for a few minutes of their time. Ask them:

  • what they enjoy about their job
  • what they do not enjoy about it
  • how their industry has changed since they began
  • what they wish they knew when they started down their road
  • what their dream job would be right now
  • what advice they would give you as you are just starting out
  • who they might be able to introduce you to
  • what they do for fun in their spare time (we often reveal our true nature when we reveal our passions)
  • ask them how you can help them in turn (then try and do exactly that)

Remember that the opinion you receive is from one person only. You need to have a statistically valid sample size before drawing conclusions about an entire profession or an industry. Often when people talk about "the good old days" the days weren't golden, they were.

Practice the art of communication and leadership, join Toastmasters; an amazing organization that looks good on a resume and will provide confidence and feedback you will never get from a classroom or a textbook.

Practice this question "If I could do one thing better, what would it be?"

Practice this question “What is it I did right that you valued?”

Keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. Or apologize.

Most people treat networking like dieting. They only do it when they have to, and they stop immediately upon reaching their goal. Instead, you should stop dieting and adapt a healthy lifestyle of adding value and staying in touch with people.

Your destiny is often determined by the people you associate with so you should surround yourself with good people who have your own best interests at heart (enough to give you a kick in the butt when they think you are making bad decisions.)

Disassociate your efforts from an expectation of immediate reward.  Your reputation should be the results of your action, not the focus of them.

Heartbreak is a part of life. Cynicism is not. Hearts get stronger after being broken. Cynicism builds a callous on our soul. I would rather have friends who loved and lost than people around me who were tired and cynical.

Above all, each of us is responsible for what paint goes on our canvas.

Congratulations class of 2010!

eCourse Announcement

We are pleased to announce the new online RHB eCourse will be launched June 2011. This online program will allow a company to generate a culture based on intrinsic reward and ultimately achieve a RHB "3rd gear certification".

When you give yourself all the credit

This week I went for a run with my buddy Gord. We were chatting while keeping a very fast pace and I was thinking, "wow, I'm getting really strong!!"

Then we reached our midway point, turned around and struggled to run home against a 30 kph headwind. I realized to my chagrin, much of my previous speed had been wind-assisted.

It's easy to start to think "I'm successful because I worked hard, unlike all those lazy and entitled people in society who need government assistance." That conviction presumes we begin to run our races under equal circumstances. It also assigns a behavior (1st gear entitlement) to an entire group without investigating 2nd gear incentives.

In reality, some kids are born with a tailwind. They are aided by stable families, adequate nutrition, great schools and financial resources that allow them to compete.

Other kids are born into a headwind. Subjected to sexual and physical assault, battered by inconsistent or absent parenting and lacking adequate food and schooling, they often fall behind.

That's not to say a kid with a headwind can't win and a kid with a tailwind can't lose.

It just means we should think about the circumstances of the race before we judge the nature of the competitors.

In memory of Harold

Today I connected on Twitter with April Hawkins, an archivist at the Royal Ontario Museum. I had asked her about her biggest challenges; she responded "Transforming interest in ancient/historic objects into ethical curation." The idea of ethics and archeology is a real issue worldwide as there is a massive industry dealing with stolen and counterfeit artifacts.

I got me thinking back to a dive I did with Harold Dunne back in the 1990s. We were scuba diving in a small creek in Carlton Place, Ontario when Harold surfaced with a beautiful spear-tip grasped in his wetsuit mitt.

We both examined the finely crafted object. It was long and slender, still quite sharp and about 6 inches long. You could tell it had been chiseled long ago by a master craftsman.

"What are you going to do with it Harold?" I inquired.

"I don't know, maybe I'll keep it in my basement or put it on the wall at my office."

"Harold, can I offer a suggestion? If you do that, it will sooner or later get thrown out. I know an archeologist who works for the Museum of Civilization. Dave Keenlyside might be able to identify it for you."

"Will he confiscate it?" Harold asked.

"I doubt it, but at least we will know a little more about it's history."

To his credit, Harold brought the spear-tip to the museum. Dave identified it as an Adena spear-tip and then explained that the object itself wasn't valuable but it's context was.

"It is named after a distinctive Early Woodland group of people who lived between 800-300 BC and who were located in central and southern Ohio as well as nearby areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana" he told us. "I have never seen one found this far north. If I had seen it in a garage sale, I would have assumed it was purchased during a trip to the USA. The fact you found it in a creek near Ottawa means that either those people lived father north than we realized or they were were using extensive trade routes."

Harold decided to donate the spear-tip to the Museum and was given a beautiful hand-painted fiber-glass replica mounted on a plaque. The museum also sent a few archeologists to the spot to see if any other items could be located.

Harold passed away in 2007 but I know his 3rd gear "do the right thing" donation expanded mankind's knowledge.

1st gear (narrow self interest behavior) is easy – but 3rd gear behavior may have the side-effect of people remembering you long after you are gone.

Thanks Harold.

I've got 11 minutes to try to make you happy (TEDx Talk)

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event.

Shift gears and get successful (in Urdu!)

Shift gears and get successful (in Urdu!)

Translation courtesy of RHB Junaid Zuberi

Skift gir og bli suksessfull!

Skift gir og bli suksessfull! Her er en kort video som forklarer hva «Real Human Being» og de tre girene er.

Norwegian translation courtesy of a RHB in Norway!

Troque de marcha e tenha sucesso!

Troque de marcha e tenha sucesso! Este é um pequeno video que explica o que é Real Human Being e as três marchas de comportamento

Portuguese translation courtesy of Claudia El-moor RHB

Let's all fight for the same thing

Canada celebrates Remembrance Day on November 11. Every year I edit and re-post my "What I fight" blog.

This year – a division has opened up between some who feel the red Remembrance day poppy honours war and others who see the red poppy as a sign of remembrance.

Firstly, newspapers carefully design headlines to create anger and angst. This sells papers. Think about the generalities this headline suggests. It implies "all" veterans are offended by "all students." Don't be manipulated.

So how do we get the white poppy people and the red poppy people to sit down and discuss their goals?

In 1973 I was 13 years old.  My dad was transferred to a Canadian military base in West Germany as part of Canada's NATO commitment. Growing up in a military family that relocated every 2 or 3 years,  I had grown accustomed to a transient lifestyle.

A week after we arrived in Lahr, my family went for a drive through the local countryside.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I brought along my camera.

We parked the car and our family made its way down a lane way that ran beside a German cemetery. The flowers were beautiful and the grass was nicely clipped. My mother commented how much she admired the way Germans tended their graveyards (we had lived in Europe 10 years before.) We wandered on a little further and came to a hillside. These gravestones were in disrepair, many overgrown by grass and weeds.   I remember Mom expressing her surprise.

In rusty German, she asked a boy in a nearby field why this graveyard was so badly tended.

He answered briefly.

Mom looked at us, "It's a Jewish graveyard."

I believe that Real Human Being Nation started at that moment.

Humans have a tendency to act out of narrow self-interest.   (RHB's know this as 1st Gear Behavior )  Companies see first gear manifested among their employees as entitlement, not-my-job-ism and "us against them" behavioral silos. Societies see first gear exhibited as racism, bullying, homophobia and ageism.

One key aspect of 1st gear is often the need to seek out an enemy.  Sales hates marketing. Marketing hates Finance. Finance hates HR.  And no one can stand head office.

George Carlin used to say " have you ever noticed that everyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?"

When Adolph Hitler wanted to create solidarity in his country, he had to identify a common enemy. And so, 40 years later, my family came across a graveyard with no one left to love and remember and care for the graves of their relatives.

Perhaps we should stop assigning 1st gear (narrow self interest) behavior to a tribe or a nationality or a religion or a political party or all people who wear a certain colour of a poppy. 1st gear exists within all of us. eg 1st gear might mean someone would deliberately wear a white poppy on Remembrance Day to deliberately antagonize someone else.

2nd gear is external reward or punishment. Many Germans were anti-Semitic because of 2nd gear incentive systems (peer pressure, desire for promotion and status, fear of punishment).

3rd gear is intrinsic reward. It means "doing the right thing."

There are students in 3rd gear who try to do the right thing and there are students in 1st gear who use their agenda to justify offending other people.

There are veterans in 3rd gear who are not threatened by a white poppy and in fact support any idea to stop future conflicts.

Someone who wears a red poppy who is trying to be in 3rd gear would shift past a 2nd gear angry knee-jerk reaction and be comfortable enough in their own skin to engage in dialogue with someone wearing a poppy of another colour.

If we must be offended about something, let's be offended about racism, sexism, intolerance, arrogance or any of the other 1st gear behaviors that plague us all.

I think the best way to "honor the troops" is to reach out and connect with others and prevent conflict from occurring. And that's less about fighting over what colour poppy to wear and more about how we act 365 days a year.

I am always honoured by this email:

"Dave, all is well down south here, about as hot here as it is in Iraq and
Afghanistan right now. Thanks for what you do, building [RHB] bridges between the
communities is the only way we will get out of this mess. Keep up the great
work. [General] Peter [Atkinson] Deputy Commander Fort Hood Texas

A good guy isn't defined by the color of their poppy but by the gear they are in.


(and here's the end of the story. When we returned a week later, the grass in the graveyard had been neatly clipped.  Please see the photo. Sometimes just asking the question can make a difference.)

Prerad' rýchlost' a staň sa úspešným!

Toto krátke video Vám vysvetlí filozofiu "RHB"

Slovakian translation courtesy of Anglické jazykové štúdio (Adela Dóka RHB)

Becoming a "Real Human Being"

Written by Alice Lin (Published in The Cannon, September 10, 2013)

Looking back to my introductory years at the University of Guelph, I really didn’t care much for orientation week. Like most students, it was a week to claim and accumulate as much free stuff as possible.

However, the real purpose of orientation week is to introduce new incoming students to academic, social and cultural communities at the university. Activities and events are intended to give students the foundation they need to succeed not only in school, but hopefully, in the real world later on.

One such event featured an inspirational speaker, Dave Howlett, whom spoke to students about the “Real Human Being” (RHB) philosophy on Sunday September 1st at Peter Clark Hall. His talk provided students with the kind of jump-start I wish I had in my introductory years in university. He didn’t just give tips on how to succeed as a student, but how to succeed as a human being.

Howlett began his session by telling everyone in the crowd to get over themselves and assume that everyone you meet is intelligent. This really caught my attention because I had always valued the importance of a first impression. Especially when it comes to a job interview for example, I wouldn’t want to come across like an unintelligent fool. However, there’s a clear distinction between a first impression and pre-judging somebody that unfairly puts them into a category in your head which is often based solely on superficial characteristics, i.e. mullets and dreadlocks.

Howlett then went on to identify three personalities that we come across daily. First, the person that walks through the door without holding it behind them. Second, the person that holds the door for the person behind them but becomes angry when they are not thanked. Lastly, the person that holds the door for the stranger but doesn’t get angry when they were not thanked. This inevitably forced everyone in the room to reflect upon themselves—who were they? For me, I was the person that expected reciprocity.

As human beings, we naturally thrive on reciprocity. If we do something for somebody, we expect to be acknowledged and appreciated for those actions. It is this type of mentality, Howlett points out, hinders us from becoming a "real human being".

To succeed in life, Howlett says we must all practice being that third person. In addition to assuming that everyone you meet is intelligent, exercising selflessness and not expecting reciprocity will help build your reputation as a person of knowledge, integrity and empathy.

One of the main organizers of the event said that he’s seen Howlett before and clearly felt that he has great value to add to students at the university. “[Howlett] leaves me thinking about my life choices and how to be a better person. [He] is great at making you really think about … how we all have a duty to try and be the best person we can.”

After the event, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the type of person I am and wondered if others felt the same way, particularly first year students. Sure enough, an attendant at the event confirmed the impact of the RHB philosophy. “I am a new incoming first-year and was very moved by the talk and it made me feel very motivated to become a better person.” They said through an e-mail correspondence to the event organizers. “I think the university should have made the attendance mandatory.”

For more information about the RHB philosophy, visit: http://realhumanbeing.org/

Feedback from Annemarie Pedersen, Industry Communications Director at Canada Beef Inc.

I have hired a number of speakers for events over the years so I know the challenges of trying to find someone who will ‘wow’ the audience and also reflect the vision and values of the sponsor.

I recently employed Dave Howlett to deliver a dinner keynote for our annual Canada Beef conference. The audience were professionals representing different sectors of the Canadian beef industry including beef producers; they are strong-minded individuals with strong opinions. As part of our rebranding exercise, we are trying to get our industry representatives to set narrow self-interest aside and unite behind the Canadian Beef brand. After all a brand is a result of thousands of interactions that fulfill the brand promise.

Dave’s humorous and poignant keynote about how anyone can shift gears and be “one of the good guys” garnered us rave reviews. We still have people, a week later, contacting us and telling us how impressed they were with that presentation. The RHB “3-gear”concept is brilliant in its simplicity and remarkable in its longevity. One of our attendees had heard him speak at another conference three years before and came up afterwards to mention how RHB had made an major impact in her husband’s life.

If you want a low-maintenance inspirational speaker who will create a long-lasting behavior change with your employees or attendees, call Dave Howlett.