Category Archives: Leadership

Gross National Happiness – Bhutan


Last year, I had the immense honor and good fortune to attend Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness conference, in Paro, Bhutan.   The conference organizers asked Professor Robert Wolcott of Kellogg Innovation Network to speak, and they allowed him to bring 10 colleagues.   I responded quickly, and obtained one of these fortunate slots.


A picture with my guide in front of our hotel in Paro, just after visiting the infamous Tiger’s Nest.

The idea came from the 4th King of Bhutan.   When he took the throne, in 1972 at 16 years old, he was told that his country was one of the poorest in the world.   Embracing his Buddhist upbringing, he responded that it was one of the happiest.   Upon that declaration, Gross National Happiness was born.    Since then, countries can objectively measure their happiness and compare to others.

Having visited Bhutan, I can attest, it is rather poor (in material terms) and somewhat happy (in personal contentment).   [According to the World Happiness Ratings, which includes personal income, Bhutan is ranked 84th and the US is ranked 13th.]   However, with the influx of foreign money & aid; and more concerning, the influx of information, comparison, and expectation through the internet, they are becoming richer and “sadder” at the same time.    Currently, the contentment is dissipating as children leave their villages for more worldly pursuits.    These villages are left without workers and people are finding themselves more unfulfilled.

The new king (the 5th) has continued GNH’s broad work to really discover how a country can measure (objectively) happiness.   The picture above was sent to me, to ponder my own happiness at the end of 2016.   These nine categories are significant as they have been developed over 50 years, outside of America’s stamp on the pursuit of happiness.

They have established nine domains of happiness.

  1.  psychological well-being
  2.  health
  3.  education
  4.  time use
  5.  cultural diversity and resilience
  6.  good governance
  7.  community vitality
  8.  ecological diversity and resilience
  9.  living standards

I think think these lead to the nine questions posed by GNH for the New Year…

  1. How is our interior life?
  2. What do we wish to learn?
  3. How are our relationships?
  4. Are we an active citizen?
  5. Does your material situation meet your needs?
  6. How is your health?
  7. How do we spend our time?
  8. How is our creativity?
  9. How do we care for our world?

Blessings in the New Year! – Pierre



Brandon Marshall honors us (veterans) by taking a knee…

John Leyba/Getty Images
John Leyba/Getty Images

Brandon Marshall has honored me by taking a knee during the national anthem; and he is executing leadership from a position of visibility.

I am a veteran of seven military operations including Desert Storm, Provide Comfort, Northern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. I was second in command of the Air Forces stationed in Afghanistan in 2008.   In that regard, I put many coins on caskets departing the country.   Similarly, I was in the Pentagon during the 9-11 attack.

I served my country with the resolve to protect our constitution and our way of life.  Being in service; whether the military, police, fire, or even as a politician; we swear to protect the constitution.   It is our job.    It is our life.

In one of my fighter squadrons, we had a speech which we recited every Friday afternoon. In those inspirational words, we reminded each other that “we protect the freedoms that others may have forgotten.”   I feel we are forgetting something…

Freedom is established by law in our constitution and begins with Amendment 1; which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Brandon Marshall isn’t denigrating the military. He is honoring its hard fought battles and lives lost by executing his constitutional right (which we defend) to “speak” regarding a serious conundrum that we are struggling with in our country.   It is a problem and has been a problem and a major challenge from both perspectives.

Harvard Leadership 101 class taught by Ronald Heifetz, defines leadership as “mobilizing people to work on hard problems.”

Brandon is mobilizing us and is personally doing the work.   He is donating money and time to move this dialog forward.   He has lost endorsements and received a bunch of boos when entering mile high last week.   Leadership is lonely.

Brandon, thank you for honoring us with your leadership.    Please continue to help bring visibility to this issue, because if it was an easy, we would have already fixed it.

Call me, if you need a military spokesman and supporter.

Choose or Decide

Chocolate or Vanilla
Chocolate or Vanilla

If you’ve ever attended the Landmark Forum, you might remember a point where the forum leader asks a volunteer a question… “Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream – Choose?”    The volunteer then says “Chocolate?” … “Why” … “Well, I like chocolate” … “Sit Down!”.

After a few minutes and multiple volunteers being asked to sit down, I was perplexed.   What answer did this leader want?   Why was everyone failing the choice?   What the HELL was going on?   I am now hungry and want some Ice Cream!

After a period of time, I got it.

There is an inherent difference in how we make decisions and choices.    This is important and metaphoric of so many challenges we face.

Are we stuck in the past or leaning into the future?

A decision is fraught with evaluation of past knowledge, experience, and bias; and our decisions are made through that lens.   (I like Chocolate).  And although experience, like our ego, helps us navigate complex problems in our world, its main job is to keep us safe; and thus will limit options, opportunity and possibility in its quest to align our actions and create CERTAINTY.

And in a class I took at Kellogg from their adjunct professor “Depaak Chopra,” if we can create perfect certainty, meaning guarantee ONE possible response, we eliminate risk and as a side-effect eliminate the other infinite responses.

… and, just maybe, one of those infinite possibilities would be more meaningful and exciting than the one we picked.

So, in choice, the response comes from a different place.    When I eliminate my experience, cognitive debate, and personal bias, I am free to choose.

I become open and vulnerable to a new possibility, a new way of seeing the world, a new experience.   Choice is about something unknown, something creative, something risky.   So how do I want to live my life?

Choice is brave where decisions are fearful.

Choice expands where decisions limit.

Choice creates where decisions protect.

So yes, I attended the Landmark Forum in 2013.   And I still hear a myriad of reasons when faced with a decision or choice.   But now, if conscious, I can step aside from the voices; and based on the issue, I can choose … or choose to decide.

So,  “Chocolate or Vanilla?”  … Choose …