The Beatles are the best selling music act of all time. With over 600 million records sold, I wouldn’t be surprised if no one ever sells more albums than them. Why? Because, obviously, no one buys records anymore.

For many decades, record executives had the perfect system in place.

The radio played the hits. In order to listen to that hit, you had to go buy that record. If your friend heard that record and they wanted to listen to it, they had to go buy one too. If you wore out your record, you had to go buy a new one.

This worked for a long time; until 1999. In 1999, you have Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning working together to launch Napster. Napster didn’t appear on the giant music industry radar at first. And why would they? Two kids against Goliath.

Yet, rather quickly, it showed the potential of what a decentralized, peer to peer sharing network can do. And just like that the record industry was gone. No more Tower Records. No more buying CDs.

The final nail in the coffin was in 2001 when Apple released the iPod. Carrying thousands of songs in your pocket was now easy to do. Also, there was Radiohead. Radiohead in 2007 pioneered the “pay what you want” which opened the door for crowdfunding and permission marketing.

By the end of the decade, record executives needed to make a choice. They could sit there and insist that things go back to the way things were (and ultimately die) or you could see what was happening and adapt. Many chose the former and tried to sue their way back into existence.

Too often, we look at our resources as a way to dictate our decisions. But time and time again, resources are not the main issue here. It is having the guts, to see things as they really are and what they can become. Having the guts to say we are going to go a different direction.

Here’s the thing:

We underestimated the internet. We underestimated decentralized networks. We underestimated the network effect. We underestimated social media and smart phones. We constantly underestimate how fast change continues to come at us. Things are drastically different from what they were just 20 years ago. (Teens are shocked to discover that I used to have to pay 10 cents to send and receive a text.) And there are real game changers coming around the corner. AI, the internet of things, VR, smart cars…1984 is here.

AI can already read x-ray scans better than a radiologist. There is no industry safe from what is to come.

The question is, are you going to keep underestimating what is to come next? Because if you are insisting the world stay the same, you might be left behind.

Deciding at the beginning

When Pivot Adventure wasn’t working in its infancy, it was difficult to make the decisions I wanted to make.

Such as class sizes or tuition fees.

But I wanted it to be a certain way. I wanted it to stand out from the crowd and be the opposite of what was available. Instead of being expensive, we were going to be affordable. Instead of inside, we were going to be outside. Instead of clinical, we were going to be experiential. And so on.

The rational actor would have said, “Turn around. You are flying too close to the sun. Compromise.”

Yet, we made up our mind we were going to do it anyway despite what the critics would say.

And when it began to work, it freed us to go even further.

Looking back, it would have been easy to compromise on our values when the dollars and cents were not adding up. It would have been easy to justify decisions that wouldn’t have been good in the long run.

The thing is, money is only one axis to measure. Deciding at the beginning what we were (and what we were not), it freed us to say Yes and No on what opportunities came our way. It wasn’t the easiest choice but it has made us better and more generous for it.

What does standing up and standing out mean?

It means when everyone is standing over here, you can be over there.

At first, I wanted Pivot Adventure to be accepted amongst the mental health community. To be like everyone else. To be familiar. To blend in.

Once we made the decision to be different, not to be capital “T” Therapy, to be over there, by ourselves…

It freed us.

It freed us because we realized that the therapeutic model has too many problems with it for what we wanted to accomplish. We didn’t want to have to diagnose our students in order to code and send to insurance. We didn’t want to use a deficit-based model.

And it is exactly what families and teens have been looking for. Many have lost faith in the current therapy regime. There isn’t time commitment, it’s costly and there is no time table of when it will work. So, we did the opposite.

More time commitment, cutting costs, move the classroom outside, teach skills, use adventure as a teaching tool…

This doesn’t mean that the current therapy model doesn’t have a place but it does mean there is room for something else.

Pivot Adventure is that something else.

This is what we mean when we tell our students to stand up and stand out. To be vulnerable enough to say, “Yes, this is me and this is what I offer.”

It isn’t the critic that counts. We don’t need to be everyone’s friend (or client), we just need somebody.

Somebody is waiting to be impacted by your contribution.

Gossip culture

The first gossip magazine was launched in 1916. The Broadway Brevities and Society Gossip was quite literally a magazine spreading rumors about New York celebrities.

It turns out gossip is a profitable way to sell papers. And later, it sold TV ads and now serves as click bait for Facebook.

Gossip is the killer of joy and inner peace.

The worst part of it? We critique what we are most ashamed of. Because of our insecurities we feel a need to go out of our way to put others down.

Gossip is the modern day cigarette. We know it is bad for us, and yet, many of us can’t help but indulge “just this once.”

If we are constantly criticizing, we are constantly looking for flaws. It is only a matter of time before we point a finger and three more are pointed back.

The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa, the most recognizable painting in the world, isn’t perfect. In fact, many artist (and computers) today could copy it and change it to make it better from a technical stand point.

Yet, no one cares about making the Mona Lisa better. We care about the story, the emotion it evokes.

Here’s the thing about art:

Art is never finished. It is never perfect. It is shipped. It is displayed for the audience to enjoy.

So, of course, now that it is done, we can make it better. Perhaps, that is what you want to do. Create a 2.0 version. But that is for another artist with a blank canvas to decide.

The limit

When looking in the mirror, what do you see?

For most, it is limits.

The limits of how we look, how we act, but more importantly, the limits on what we can accomplish.

And when we dare to push those limits, specifically with something we haven’t done before, we are surprised to discover that inside there was another gear, a switch, we didn’t know existed.

So, the problem isn’t physical. We can push past discomfort in the short run to go further.

The problem is we our internal narrative. The voice in our head that puts a barrier on what we can accomplish. The voice that sets expectations, a glass ceiling. The voice that insulates ourselves. The Resistance that keeps us from being who it is we were born to be.

We can’t break the laws of gravity. It’s the law. But we can certainly break the dark patterns of our internal narrative. That limit is set but not in stone.

The question is: Why not you? When are you going to pick yourself?

You are good enough.

What’s wrong with this picture?

A while back, I had a conversation with the person in charge of the mental health policies and procedures, programs and staff for a particular school district. I was surprised to discover during that conversation that this person didn’t know that they can actually recommend services for a student that is at-risk for self harm. (I later emailed them the legislation.) This is tragic news since this person was making decisions that were affecting tens of thousands of students (and families) and were operating under the wrong assumptions.

A few weeks ago, I was assisting an alumni with helping her friend get in touch with someone on the suicide prevention hotline. When I called a human didn’t pick up the phone on the other end. Instead, it was a long series of menus from a robot asking what my mental health state was. (Also it was really difficult to find the text line–something that most teens prefer.) I was so frustrated at the end and couldn’t help but wonder how someone on the edge might feel?

I can’t tell you how many times district leaders say there isn’t much they can do to promote our course, that their hands are tide because schools work independently from each other. A sovereign place. And the principals? They parrot the same.

We are doing it wrong.

Years of insulating ourselves with rules and red tape, worried that someone might sue has trapped us. This isn’t the players fault either. There is a regime in place that none of them probably had any part of in building (but perhaps reinforcing). The good ones are frustrated to no end. They lie awake at night wondering How do we fix this?

We are in the worst mental health crisis in human history and COVID has only amplified this. Yet, we are still hoping that trying the same things that got us here in the first place are going to bring about different results.

They won’t.

That is why I am so pleased of the work we are doing at Pivot Adventure. At first, we wanted to be like everyone else but then we realized we don’t want to do it like everyone else. It takes guts to stand up and say, “Follow me.” But I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with parents and students that this experience was a godsend. They had felt trapped, hopeless and unsure what to do and then out of thin air our flyer popped up in their inbox.

The bottom line here is that we need deep radical reform in the mental health sector. We have rules and regulations for schools and not near enough for social media giants. We can’t keep doing the same thing we have always done and think things will magically fix themselves. That is what got us here in the first place.

Acting on fear closes the doors of possibility. It never opens it.

What makes a good day?

Is it a balance sheet?

Is it when the good outweighs the bad?

How are we keeping score?

Running a marathon may not feel very good in the middle of it but it feels amazing when it’s done.

Perhaps, it is less about our circumstances or outside forces but rather how we feel about these circumstances that determine what kind of day we have.

How we feel is all up to interpretation.

Decision remorse

No one signs up for rehab thinking this is going to be fun.

Or perhaps, you need to take a job opportunity of a lifetime but it’s in Cleveland.

No matter what the circumstances are…

It is okay to feel sad once you have made the right decision.

“The good old days”

We spend a lot of time reminiscing about “the good old days.” We wish someone could have told us these were the days we are going to remember.

It turns out, that no matter what decade, there are always fond memories we can look back on and cherish.

One common thread though is that we don’t really remember much of the busy, mundane, everyday work (or email or Netflix or social media). We mix what we think is important with emergencies and fires.

Yet, we fill our lives with so much of it.

I think what we are really sad about isn’t that those days are gone but that the days ahead are getting shorter. And we wish we didn’t squander away what we used to have.

One way to break this cycle of regret is to focus on what is essential and rid of everything else. Difficult when our culture is fighting so hard for our attention.