Walk Out Walk On (Enhanced)

A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now

Margaret Wheatley (Author) | Deborah Frieze (Author)

Publication date: 06/03/2011

Walk Out Walk On (Enhanced)

This book provides an intimate experience of how seven healthy and resilient communities took on intractable problems by working together in new and different ways.

The Enhanced Edition includes 25 minutes of animation, video, and audio. The animation shows the “Two Loops Theory of Change” with a voiceover from co-author Deborah Frieze. Three videos show inspirational “Walk On” communities in Brazil, South Africa, and India. This edition also includes the “Walk Out Walk On” theme song.

  • 2012 Nautilus Silver Award Winner in Social Change Category
  • By the bestselling author of Leadership and the New Science and Turning to One Another

  • Provides an intimate experience of how seven healthy and resilient communities took on intractable problems by working together in new and different ways

  • immerses the reader in the experience of each community through stories, essays, first-person accounts, and over 100 color photos

This is an era of increasingly complex problems, fewer and fewer resources to address them, and failing solutions. Is it possible to find viable solutions to the challenges we face today as individuals, communities, and nations? This inspiring book takes readers on a learning journey to seven communities around the world to meet people who have "walked out" of limiting beliefs and assumptions and "walked on" to create healthy and resilient communities. These Walk Outs who Walk On use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.

In India, we meet people from Shikshantar, a community that is rejecting the modern culture of money, with its emphasis on self-interest and scarcity, in favor of a gift culture based on generosity and reciprocity. In Zimbabwe, we discover the capacity people have to adapt and invent new ways of surviving and thriving in the face of total systems collapse.

Through essays, stories, and beautiful color photographs, Wheatley and Frieze immerse us in these communities that are accomplishing extraordinary things by relying on everyone to be an entrepreneur, a leader, an artist. From Mexico to Greece, from Columbus, Ohio to Johannesburg, South Africa, we discover that every community has within itself the ingenuity, intelligence, and inventiveness to solve the seemingly insolvable. "It's almost like we discovered a gift inside ourselves," one Brazilian said, "something that was already there.

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Overview

This book provides an intimate experience of how seven healthy and resilient communities took on intractable problems by working together in new and different ways.

The Enhanced Edition includes 25 minutes of animation, video, and audio. The animation shows the “Two Loops Theory of Change” with a voiceover from co-author Deborah Frieze. Three videos show inspirational “Walk On” communities in Brazil, South Africa, and India. This edition also includes the “Walk Out Walk On” theme song.

  • 2012 Nautilus Silver Award Winner in Social Change Category
  • By the bestselling author of Leadership and the New Science and Turning to One Another

  • Provides an intimate experience of how seven healthy and resilient communities took on intractable problems by working together in new and different ways

  • immerses the reader in the experience of each community through stories, essays, first-person accounts, and over 100 color photos

This is an era of increasingly complex problems, fewer and fewer resources to address them, and failing solutions. Is it possible to find viable solutions to the challenges we face today as individuals, communities, and nations? This inspiring book takes readers on a learning journey to seven communities around the world to meet people who have "walked out" of limiting beliefs and assumptions and "walked on" to create healthy and resilient communities. These Walk Outs who Walk On use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.

In India, we meet people from Shikshantar, a community that is rejecting the modern culture of money, with its emphasis on self-interest and scarcity, in favor of a gift culture based on generosity and reciprocity. In Zimbabwe, we discover the capacity people have to adapt and invent new ways of surviving and thriving in the face of total systems collapse.

Through essays, stories, and beautiful color photographs, Wheatley and Frieze immerse us in these communities that are accomplishing extraordinary things by relying on everyone to be an entrepreneur, a leader, an artist. From Mexico to Greece, from Columbus, Ohio to Johannesburg, South Africa, we discover that every community has within itself the ingenuity, intelligence, and inventiveness to solve the seemingly insolvable. "It's almost like we discovered a gift inside ourselves," one Brazilian said, "something that was already there.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Margaret Wheatley

Now in my 70s, I can look back and appreciate what a rich and blessed life I’ve lived. I’ve been able to give my curiosity free rein and to be with extraordinary teachers. I’ve been able to explore a wide range of disciplines and lived in several different cultures. I’ve learned from an incredible diversity of people, from indigenous peoples to the Dalai Lama, from small town ministers to senior government ministers, from leading scientists to National Park rangers, from engaged activists to solitary monastics. This access to so many sources of experience and wisdom, held in the container of friendship, continues to deepen my resolve to bring whatever I’m learning into my books and teachings. For me, privilege is a responsibility, rather than a source of guilt.

Having experienced so much, I want to find the best means to communicate with all of you as we aspire to do meaningful work and be of service to others in this ever-darkening world.

I have been a consultant and speaker since 1973, and have worked, I believe, with almost all types of organizations and people. They range from the head of the U.S. Army to twelve year old Girl Scouts, and include Fortune 50 corporations, government agencies, healthcare institutions, foundations, public schools, colleges, major church denominations, professional associations, and monasteries. I have also worked on all continents (except Antarctica). Invitations to work in so many different places, with all types of people, fed both my curiosity and ability to recognize patterns of behavior common across cultural and institutional differences. And it kept me alert to changing trends in leadership. I am fond of making generalizations, sometimes to the annoyance of others, but they feel genuine and accurate to me because of the scope and depth of my work.

I have served as full-time graduate management faculty at two institutions, Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and The Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. I’ve been a formal advisor for leadership programs in England, Croatia, Denmark, Australia and the United States and, in Berkana, with leadership initiatives in India, Senegal, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Greece, Canada and Europe. For the past nine years, I have had a formal appointment (President approved) to serve the National Parks as one of twelve citizen advisors on their National Advisory Board. My portfolio has been leadership and culture change within the system of 400+ national parks. This work has been among the most rewarding of my career, both because of the mission of National Parks and the dedicated and smart people who work to fulfill this mission under increasingly difficult circumstances.

I am co-founder and President of The Berkana Institute, a global non-profit founded in 1991. Berkana has been a leader in experimenting with new organizational forms based on a coherent theory of how living systems adapt and change. Berkana has worked in partnership with a rich diversity of people around the world who strengthen their communities by working with the wisdom and wealth already present in their people, traditions and environment. These pioneers do not deny or flee from our global crisis; they respond by moving courageously into the future now, experimenting with many different solutions. Berkana’s newest work is to train Warriors for the Human Spirit, leaders from around the world who engage together, learning-in-community, training with discipline and dedication to develop a stable mind and skillful means. These spiritual warriors do their work with compassion and insight, vowing to refrain from using aggression and fear to accomplish their ends. www.berkana.org.

My newest book is: Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity

(June 2017, Berrett-Koehler). This book is born of my desire to summon us to be leaders for this time as things fall apart, to reclaim leadership as a noble profession that creates possibility and humaneness in the midst of increasing fear and turmoil by creating Islands of Sanity.

Each of my books has been an invitation to explore new ways of being and thinking based on wisdom drawn from new science, history, and spiritual traditions. Leadership and the New Science (1992, 1999, 2006, in 18 languages), is a voyage of discovery into an orderly universe where relationships are the basis of everything, a world that organizes itself according to unchanging laws that modern humans ignore. A Simpler Way (1996) continued that journey, asking whether we could organize following life’s example so that our lives and work would be less difficult, more delightful.

In Turning to One Another (2002, 2009), I invited readers to explore the power of conversations to create strong relationships and meaningful change. Finding Our Way (2005) offered a variety of roadmaps for how to navigate the different aspects of our lives, from nations to organizations to family, as the world grows more uncertain. When I observed how difficult it was for good leaders to not lose their way, I wrote Perseverance (2010) as a daily guide for maintaining our commitment, presence and energy no matter how hard the work is. Walk Out Walk On (2011), co-authored with Deborah Frieze, described the work of communities daring to live the future now, in conditions much harsher than ours, bright beacons illuminating what’s possible when we humans commit to working together. In 2012, I offered So Far From Home where I detailed the dynamics of global society that have emerged to create a world far distant from the one we were working so hard to create. I strongly encouraged us to notice what’s going on, and to counter this downward spiral by standing up as Warriors for the Human Spirit.

In 2014, I wrote How Does Raven Know? Entering Sacred World, A Meditative Memoir. Unlike my previous seven books, How Does Raven Know? invites you to see the world anew informed not by science but by sacred wisdom–a world we modern ones have dismissed or ignored, but still held for us in the ancient wisdom traditions of most cultures. It is not a call to action, but to relationship with forgotten companions and animate Earth which, in my own experience, willingly offer us support, encouragement, and consolation.

My articles appear in a wide range of professional publications and magazines, and can be downloaded free from my website, www.margaretwheatley.com. On the website, you can order DVDs and CDs that I’ve produced on topics ranging from personal to organizational.

I was raised on the East Coast of the U.S., first in the New York City area, and then lived in Boston for 15 years. In 1989, my family and I moved west to the mountains and red rock canyons of Utah. I have two adult sons and have raised five stepchildren, all seven from the same father. There are now 21 grandchildren (and counting) and three great-grandchildren. My family, friends and work bring me joy, and so does the time I spend in the true quiet of wilderness or wandering deep into the red rock canyons of Utah.



Visit Author Page - Deborah Frieze

Deborah Frieze is an author, entrepreneur and social activist. In 2013, she co-founded the Boston Impact Initiative, a place-based impact investing fund that seeks to create systemic shifts in opportunity for urban communities. The fund takes an integrated capital approach, combining investing, lending and giving to help build resilient local economies.

Deborah's focus on resilience began during her tenure as co-president of The Berkana Institute, where she worked to support pioneering leaders who were walking out of organizations and systems that were failing to contribute to the common good—and walking on to build resilient communities. These leaders are the subject of her award-winning book, Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, co-authored with Margaret Wheatley.

After writing Walk Out Walk On, Deborah decided to build an urban learning center modeled after the pioneering leaders she wrote about. In August 2013, she founded the Old Oak Dojo in Jamaica Plain, MA, a place where neighbors gather to rediscover how to create healthy and resilient communities. This small studio, which shares a half-acre residential lot with a community home, is an experiment in dissolving the boundary between public and private. Its purpose is to provide a space for community to meet, learn, eat, celebrate and play—and thereby restore our wholeness as citizens.

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Table of Contents

Our Invitation for How to Read This Book

Part One: Leaving Home

  • Walk Outs Who Walk On
  • Why We Visit These Communities
  • Your Hosts (The Authors)
  • Seven Healthy and Resilient Communities
  • The Role Walk Outs Play in Creating Change
  • Preparing to Leave Home
  • The Courage Quest
  • Packing for the Journey

Part Two: Journeying

  • Mexico: From Scaling Up to Scaling Across
  • Brazil: From Power to Play
  • South Africa: From Problem to Place
  • Zimbabwe: From Efficiency to Resilience
  • India: From Transacting to Gifting
  • Greece: From Intervention to Friendship
  • United States: From Hero to Host

Part Three: Returning Home

  • The Patterns That Connect
  • Will You Walk On?
  • Stepping Onto the Invisible Path

Part Four: Reflections

  • Choosing to Act
  • We Never Know Who We Are

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Excerpt

Walk Out Walk On

PART I
LEAVING HOME

This is the setting out.
The leaving of everything behind.
Leaving the social milieu. The preconceptions.
The definitions. The language.

The narrowed field of vision. The expectations.

No longer expecting relationships, memories, words,

or letters to mean what they used to mean.

To be, in a word: Open.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

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This book takes you on a Learning Journey to places that will inspire, disturb, and provoke you, and to meet people who will delight, nourish, and encourage you. We’re glad that you’ve joined us. We visit seven communities around the world, seven very different cultures, all of which are experimenting with what it means to live the future now. We, the authors, are intimately connected with each of these communities; we’ve worked alongside them for several years and been transformed by these experiences and relationships.

Our journey takes us to Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, Greece, and the United States. In each community, we’ll experience firsthand what’s possible when we change our beliefs about what people are capable of and how change happens. We’ll witness communities that rely on everyone to be an entrepreneur, a leader, an artist. These communities trust that these are common human traits, not limited to a few gifted people. We’ll meet people who use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.

And as we move from community to community, we’ll explore the deeper patterns that link them together, diverse as they are. We’ll see how change happens through self-organized efforts that then move across the planet through networks of relationship. We’ll see that lasting change doesn’t start from the top of a system, but from deep inside it, when people step forward to solve a problem, then move on to the next issue that needs addressing. We’ll see how much becomes possible when we abandon hope of being saved by the perfect leader or the perfect program, and instead look inside our community to notice that the resources and wisdom we need are already here.

In every community, you’ll meet the Walk Outs Who Walk On. Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in some of them.

WALK OUTS WHO WALK ON

Walk Outs are people who bravely choose to leave behind situations, jobs, relationships, and ideas that restrict and confine them, anything that inhibits them. They walk on to the ideas, people, and practices that enable them to explore and discover new gifts, new possibilities.

We learned the phrase “Walks Outs Who Walk On” from our friends in India. They had created a network of young people who chose to leave school. They didn’t consider themselves “dropouts,” a negative label assigned to them by the school system. They left school because they wanted to be learners, not passive students. They walked on to discover many ways they could contribute to creating change in their world.1

Although the phrase may be new to you, think about situations in your life that you’ve consciously chosen to leave because you knew that to stay any longer would limit you. Whenever we choose to leave behind what confines us, whenever we courageously step forward to discover new capacities, then we can rightfully call ourselves Walk Outs Who Walk On.

The people you meet on this journey have walked out of a world of unsolvable problems, scarce resources, limiting beliefs, and destructive individualism. They’ve walked on to beliefs and practices that solve problems and reveal abundant resources. They’ve created communities where everyone is welcome to learn, grow, and contribute. They’ve walked out of the greed and grasping of this time, where many individuals try to get as much as they can, and walked on to discover how to create what they need with what they have. And while we visit only seven communities on this journey, there are millions more people like them throughout the world.

When people and communities walk out, they discover they’re more gifted and wiser than they believed or had been told, that working together—even in the harshest circumstances—can be joyful, that they can invent solutions to problems that others have declared unsolvable. These communities are creating meaningful change in some of the most difficult political, social, and economic circumstances. They may have little money, few trustworthy formal leaders, and minimal material resources. They may have been told they’re “backward” or don’t possess the requisite expertise to solve their own problems. Had they accepted current thinking, they would have sat back and waited passively for help to come from the outside—from experts, foreign aid, heroic leaders.

But instead, they walked out. They had the good sense not to buy into these paralyzing beliefs about themselves and how change happens. They walked on to discover that the wisdom and wealth they need resides in themselves—in everyday people, their cultural traditions and their environment. They’ve used this wisdom and wealth to conduct bold experiments in how to create healthy and resilient communities where all people matter, all people can contribute. Their creativity and hard work make it easier for us to see that a different world is possible.

WHY WE VISIT THESE COMMUNITIES

Margaret (Meg) and Deborah, as your hosts for this Learning Journey, are taking you to meet people and communities we’ve partnered with for several years through our work with The Berkana Institute.2 There are many, many other places worthy of visiting, but these are the ones we know well, that we’re most intimate with. We’re taking you to meet our friends, people with whom we’ve worked, danced, argued, cried, laughed, consoled, celebrated, and loved. Together, we’ve explored how self-organization and change happen, we’ve learned to trust the illimitable power of community, and we’ve come to realize how important our heritage and cultural traditions are.

Not only do we know these people as friends, but they also know each other well. For several years now, they’ve worked and learned together, visited one another’s communities, shared their discoveries and dilemmas, and gathered annually as a learning community. As we visit each community, you may notice how they weave through each other’s lives, how they support each other in deep friendship.

Your experience with these people and communities doesn’t have to end with this book. We’ve created www.walkoutwalkon.net where you can watch videos, hear interviews, and keep informed about where these communities and people are now. Learn more about the Walk Out Walk On website on p. 260.)

YOUR HOSTS (THE AUTHORS)

Deborah has partnered with each one of these communities since 2004. She’s led Learning Journeys to Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In this book, she’s written each of the seven visits, wanting you to experience what it feels like to be there, getting to know these communities and their pioneering work. All of these relationships were developed through the Berkana Exchange (an initiative of The Berkana Institute), a community of friends and a community of practice that has worked together over several years and that continues to actively engage and support one another. The people Deborah writes about have become her extended family, an intimate learning community that is inventing new solutions to the issues she cares about most—such as food security, ecological sustainability, and economic self-reliance.

image

Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

Meg has worked with most of the people you’ll meet, in gatherings and Berkana-hosted events around the world. She’s been on the ground in the communities in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the United States and led three Learning Journeys to South Africa and Zimbabwe. From her experiences with these communities—as mentor, student, steward, friend—she’s learned firsthand about the power of community and self-organization. (It is these people and communities who’ve informed her work over the past several years; their stories and examples appear in her articles and books.) Meg’s contribution here is to prepare you for the journey and to guide the reflections that, hopefully, lead you to think more deeply about your experiences and what might be changing in you as a result. Throughout the visits, both Deborah and Meg make visible the patterns and beliefs that connect these diverse communities.

SEVEN HEALTHY AND RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

We define these places as healthy and resilient communities because they have learned to trust themselves to find their own solutions and take control of their own future. They develop greater capacities and become smarter over time as they learn what works and how to work together. They become confident that they can deal with whatever problem confronts them next. In the face of hunger, poverty, ill health, environmental degradation, and economic injustice, they respond, adapt, invent. That’s what makes them healthy and resilient.

Healthy and resilient communities take on big issues, those that all communities eventually must deal with—food, economics, education, leadership, environmental challenges. To give you a taste of what’s ahead on this journey, here’s a brief description of where we’re going and the focus for each visit:

Mexico: From Scaling Up to Scaling Across. Taking things to scale doesn’t happen vertically through one-size-fits-all replication strategies. We’ll visit Unitierra, a new form of university, and the Zapatistas, a populist movement for self-determination. In both places, there’s a deep, unshakable belief in the power of people to claim their right to live and learn as they see fit. We’ll observe how their experiments move horizontally, scaling across villages and nations, trans-locally, as many diverse people learn from their discoveries and are inspired to try their own.

Brazil: From Power to Play. Most leaders believe that it’s their job to motivate people, that without their directive control, no work gets done. The most common way to motivate people is through external means, using punishment and reward. We’ll experience Warriors Without Weapons, where play, not power, evokes people’s passion, creativity, and motivation to work hard on seemingly overwhelming challenges.

South Africa: From Problem to Place. Today’s approach to social change posits that large and complex issues must be addressed one by one, with institutions and experts who specialize in that particular problem. We’ll explore tiny Joubert Park in Johannesburg, where people have created changes in education, public safety, arts, ecology, food, and more using the principle of start anywhere, follow it everywhere.3

Zimbabwe: From Efficiency to Resilience. Conventional attempts to solve problems of scarcity focus on efficiencies—attempting to do more with less by cutting budgets and staff, minimizing resources, optimizing outputs. Kufunda Learning Village has achieved resilience in a time of total systems collapse by choosing a different approach. They engage in a wide range of small local actions that give them the capacity to continuously adapt to an unpredictable and chaotic world.

India: From Transacting to Gifting. The transactional culture of today promotes self-interest and scarcity; people strive to take as much as they can and accumulate more than they need. In a gift culture—common in many traditional societies—generosity prevails and money loses its power. Shikshantar is experimenting with gift culture, replacing mindless growth with the confidence that we have what we need.

Greece: From Intervention to Friendship. In our pursuit to find what works, we seldom notice how disempowering it is when we look for answers from experts and best practices created elsewhere. At the Art of Learning Centering at Axladtisa-Avatakia, participants walked out of dependence on experts and learned to trust the capacities and creativity available in friendship to address their community’s needs.

United States: From Hero to Host. When a community stops waiting for a hero to save it, it discovers internal resources and solutions to solve otherwise intractable problems. People in Columbus, Ohio, are walking out of heroic leadership and walking on to a new “operating system” of using conversational processes to address complex problems, such as health care, homelessness, poverty, public safety, and more.

These seven communities are very different from one another—different cultures, histories, and environments. But beneath these interesting and important differences, they share a common identity as Walk Outs Who Walked On.

THE ROLE WALK OUTS PLAY IN CREATING CHANGE

Walk Outs Who Walk On play a crucial role in societal change. They use this time of dissolution and failing systems to create and experiment with new ways of working and organizing. In doing their pioneering work, they rely on the fact that people’s capacity to self-organize is the most powerful change process there is. They’ve seen how local efforts can emerge into larger, transformative changes when they connect with other local efforts. They’ve confirmed Margaret Mead’s brilliant statement that the world changes by dint of small groups of dedicated people. And they’ve demonstrated that when people know where they come from—their traditions and culture—they develop strength and stamina. These pathfinders have come to understand that living is a synonym for learning: they experiment, take risks, fail, succeed, make it up as they go along, and offer compassion and forgiveness to each other.

image

When any of us experiment with walking on, we’re able to discover potential that we couldn’t see before we freed ourselves from constraints. It’s motivating to discover these hidden capacities and see how they serve us to accomplish good work. It’s essential that we feel motivated, that we have faith that we’re doing the right work, because whenever we use ideas and approaches that don’t conform to the world’s expectations, we’re going to meet with resistance.

At Berkana, we use a map (co-created with our global family of friends and colleagues) to describe the predictable dynamics that are bound to occur between those pioneering the new and those preserving the old. We’ve used it for many years in diverse organizations and communities and now rely on it to know what to expect when we decide to walk out and walk on.

All systems go through life cycles. There’s progress, setbacks, seasons. When a new effort begins, it feels like spring. People are excited by new possibilities, innovations and ideas abound, problems get solved, people feel inspired and motivated to contribute. It all works very well, for a time.

And then, especially if there’s growth and success, things can start to go downhill. Leaders lose trust in people’s ability to self-organize and feel the need to take control, to standardize everything, to issue policies, regulations, and laws. Self-organization gets replaced by over-organization; compliance becomes more important than creativity. Means and ends get reversed, and people struggle to uphold the system rather than having the system support them. These large, lumbering bureaucracies—think about education, health care, government, business—no longer have the capacity to create solutions to the very problems they were created to solve.

When a system reaches this stage of impotence, when it becomes the problem rather than the solution, we as individuals and communities have a choice. Either we struggle to fix and repair the current system, or we create new alternatives. New alternatives can be created either inside or outside the failing system. But if we choose to walk out and walk on, there are two competing roles we’re called upon to play: We have to be thoughtful and compassionate in attending to what’s dying—we have to be good hospice workers. And we have to be experimenters, pioneers, edge-walkers. Playing these dual roles is never easy, of course, but even so, there are enough people brave enough to do so.

Skilled hospice workers offer comfort and support to those at the end of their lives far beyond attending to physical needs. They help the dying focus on the transition ahead, and encourage them to see what their life has taught them—what wisdom and values shine clearly now that the distractions are gone.

Walk Outs need to do this kind of hospice work on ourselves. Even as we stop struggling to fix things, even as we reject the status quo, we don’t leap empty-handed into the future. We need to consciously carry with us the values and practices that feel essential. What have we learned, what do we treasure as the means to create good work, fulfilling lives, meaningful relationships? From our many experiences—the battles, victories, disappointments, successes—we need to glean our hard-won wisdom and preserve it at all costs. This is what we’ll most need as we walk out and walk on to give birth to the future.

Inside dying systems, Walk Outs Who Walk On are those few leaders who refuse to work from the dominant values that permeate the bureaucracy, such things as speed, greed, fear, and aggression. They use their formal leadership to champion values and practices that respect people, that rely on people’s inherent motivation, creativity, and caring to get quality work done. These leaders consciously create oases or protected areas within the bureaucracy where people can still contribute, protected from the disabling demands of the old system. These leaders are treasures. They’re dedicated, thoughtful revolutionaries who work hard to give birth to the new in very difficult circumstances.

And then there are those who leave the system entirely, eager to be free of all constraints to experiment with the future. You’ll read their stories in the next pages. But even though they might appear to have more freedom than those still inside, they encounter many challenges that restrict their actions. Old habits and ways of thinking constantly rear up on their path. It’s easy to get yanked backward, or to doubt that this is the right direction. It takes vigilance to notice when these old ways of thinking block the path ahead.

Pioneers have to expect to feel ignored, invisible, and lonely a good portion of the time. What they’re doing is so new and different that others can’t see their work even when it’s staring them in the face. These are difficult dynamics to live with, especially when you know you’ve done good work, that you’ve solved problems that others are still struggling with. This is why it’s so important that pioneers work as community, encouraging one another through the trials and risks natural to those giving birth to the new in the midst of the breakdown of the old.

If you’ve walked out of confining situations, you’ve probably experienced at least some of these dynamics. They’re easily observable in the lives of innovators and courageous leaders everywhere. They’ll be quite noticeable in the stories you’re about to read as we journey through these seven communities. In each visit, we’ll see how these difficult dynamics lose their power as we work together in community. It’s so much easier to keep walking on when we’re in the company of kindred spirits.

Before we move on to Mexico, we’d like to talk about packing. How can you travel light but ensure that you have all the essentials for a rich learning experience?

PREPARING TO LEAVE HOME

A Learning Journey can be judged successful by how much it destabilizes and challenges our worldview. If we take the risk to step into a world very different from our own, we discover that our particular way of seeing is incomplete, that there are many more ways to see and interpret what’s going on in life. We can discover that judgments and assumptions often limit our ability to see new possibilities.

Most traditions and cultures have initiation rituals that require setting out in order to be transformed. We willingly and bravely undertake a quest. We leave the comforts and safety of home, travel to strange and unfamiliar lands, and are welcomed to return only after we’ve discovered answers to our quest that we’re prepared to put into practice.

This Learning Journey in book form might not seem to be asking that much of you. You’re probably reading this in familiar surroundings. But don’t be fooled. You won’t be tested by the demons and dragons of old, but you might well be confronted by your beliefs and assumptions, internal demons that may rear up to block your path, or warn you to turn back, preventing you from reaching lands of new possibility.

THE COURAGE TO QUEST

Quests begin with a yearning that won’t let us go. These questions of profound longing can be deceptively simple: “Why can’t people be more kind?” “Why can’t we work together better?” “Why are so many people unhappy?” “Does life have to be so hard?”

Behind these questions—perhaps the reason we’re brave enough to ask them—is a deep intuition that things could be better, that life doesn’t have to be this way. This sense that more is possible can propel us beyond the safety of our daily routines, the security of our habitual ways of thinking, and send us out into the world to find answers.

Leaving home takes courage. We have to be brave enough to explore our questions, to cultivate our dissatisfaction with the present state of things, to notice what disturbs us, what feels unfair, terrible, heartbreaking. We have to be unafraid to look reality in the eye and notice what’s really going on. If what we see opens our hearts, this is a good thing, because that’s where our courage is found. With open hearts, we can bravely begin searching. We can go into the world with our questions, carried by our yearning to find a simpler and more effective way to live life and to benefit more people.

Here are a few questions that we offer to engage you as a learner. They’re designed to help you notice what you notice in your world. Among all possible information and situations, we only observe a miniscule percentage of what’s happening. As you notice what gets your attention, you can also see your filters.

What issues consistently get your attention? Which ones make you angry? Which ones make you excited?

Have you glimpsed or experienced a future that inspires and motivates you?

Who do you want to be for this world? What is the contribution you hope to make?

Are you willing to risk being changed by this journey?

PACKING FOR THE JOURNEY

As with any journey, it’s better to pack light. For this particular trip, since you’re sitting someplace comfortable, the only baggage you need to attend to is what you’re carrying in your mind. By this stage in our lives, we each have a well-developed lens for viewing the world. We began constructing this lens as young children from the beliefs and assumptions taught by our families and culture. Throughout most of our lives, we polish and refine this lens with our experiences—the good, the bad, the ugly, the sublime.

As we rush about our lives, preoccupied with tasks and responsibilities, it becomes easy to forget that how we see the world is just one of many possible interpretations. We settle into our opinions and judgments, and assume that everyone else sees things the same way. But if this were true, we wouldn’t get into arguments or difficulties with our partners, colleagues, leaders.

When we enter a new culture, we can expect to feel surprised, confused, disrupted. These are promising feelings, because they offer us a choice. Either we can retreat to the safety of our familiar opinions, or we can become curious. If we’re willing to be disturbed, we can try to let go of our judgments and confess that we don’t understand what we’re seeing.

Confusing moments are wonderful opportunities to observe our minds more closely. If something’s provoked or startled me, it’s because I assumed something different was true. I thought things worked like this, but now I’m not so sure. …

• I thought material well-being made people happy, yet I’m sitting with people who have no material goods and we’re feeling very happy, just because we’re together, sharing stories.

• I expected that good community leaders had to be formally trained and developed, yet here I am meeting dozens of people, some with no education, who are bright and capable leaders, skilled at engaging others and getting work done.

• I believed that social entrepreneurs were a rare breed of people, yet here everyone I meet seems to have ideas and is thinking about the next project or dream.

• I assumed that our methods of planning, budgeting, and strategizing were necessary to get anything done, yet here I’m meeting highly motivated people who are accomplishing great work without doing any of those activities.

As we journey together, we encourage you to welcome those moments when you feel confronted, surprised. Each one is an opportunity to see your own mind, to notice your beliefs and assumptions. And to be open to change.

Now let’s begin.

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