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The Soul of Leadership

Phil Cousineau

Phil Cousineau

PHIL COUSINEAU is an award-winning writer and filmmaker, story consultant and editor, travel leader and inspirational speaker on myth in the modern world. His life-long fascination with the art, literature, and history of culture has taken him on many journeys in many realms. He lectures frequently on a wide range of topics–from mythology, film, and writing, to beauty, travel, sports, and creativity. He has published more than 40 books and has earned 25 scriptwriting credits. “The omnipresent influence of myth in modern life” is a thread that runs through all of his work.

Born at an army hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, in the 1950s, Phil Cousineau grew up just outside of Detroit, once known as the “Paris of the Midwest.” While moonlighting in a steel factory he studied journalism at the University of Detroit. Before turning to writing books and films full-time in the 1980s, Cousineau’s peripatetic career included stints as a sportswriter, playing semi-professional basketball in Europe, harvesting date trees on an Israeli kibbutz, painting 44 Victorian houses in San Francisco, and teaching screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

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The Interview Transcript

0:01 – Hugh Ballou Welcome to today’s episode of The Nonprofit Exchange, hosted by SynerVision Leadership Foundation. I’m Hugh Ballou, founder and president. Center Vision is like in music, ensemble. It’s like ensemble. It’s the synergy of what we do together, and we create that synergy in our organization, our teams, our boards, our volunteers, our staff, because we have a vision. And also because we step up as a leader. My guest today is a very special friend, a prolific author and filmmaker.

0:40 – Hugh Ballou He’s got over 100 creative projects. Phil Cousineau, welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange. Please tell people a little bit about who you are and why you do this work.

0:54 – Phil Cosineau Good morning, Hugh. Thank you for the invitation. Greetings to everyone out there in the ether. Yeah, I’m Phil, Phil Cousineau. I grew up in Detroit, in one of probably the last families in America, maybe the world, in the 1950s, who actually read books together out loud. But even more than that, we would read, with my father in the lead, books from Homer to Mark Twain, and many things in between. But then my dad had a pedagogy, that fancy old word for a teaching style, in which he would take us to a museum or an art exhibition or a ballpark that helped elucidate what we had just read in the book.

1:38 – Phil Cosineau So if we read Moby Dick, he would take us in the car, the old Ford station wagon from Detroit, all the way to New Bedford, Massachusetts to go to the home of Melville. And there is something about that that has gotten into me so that I read prodigiously, but then I write and then I teach in the places that I read about. So, I think this is an echo of growing up in Soul City, America, Motown, Detroit, in which I grew up French Catholic, so I grew up with a sense of spirituality that everything in the world had some kind of spirit or soul.

2:16 – Phil Cosineau But I was also a ball player. I loved music all along. My life since leaving Detroit has been a kind of weave of looking for soul in art, but also soul in real life. Political work, the environmental work, and it all comes together with a notion about leadership. I was captain of my high school basketball team, co-captain, captain of the track team. And I learned early on, although I was very shy and quiet growing up on the streets of Detroit, that leadership means a great deal. It helps not only to organize our community, but also to infuse our lives and our relationships with soul and spirit.

3:07 – Phil Cosineau Leadership without soul is narcissistic. It’s power mongering. Leadership with soul means that you’re doing something for more than just yourself or even the betterment of your business. What it means is getting in touch with the center, what is real in life. That’s a great—it’s Ray Charles. Ray Charles is talking about the soul, getting back to the real thing, getting back to the real soul. So I found myself writing and filming and photographing all around the world looking for the soul of cultures, looking for the soul of history, which is a fancy but also funky way, as we would have said growing up in Detroit.

3:53 – Phil Cosineau I find out what’s the real thing. What’s the real thing here? With one added element. This morning, because I’ve also written two or three books on the origin of words, what words deeply mean in their roots. That’s why we talked about the roots of words. So what does leadership actually mean in Western culture? I found out this morning, just before I came on here, that it’s a thousand-year-old word. It goes back to Old English, and it originally meant to go forth with other people to seek a common goal and for the leader itself to guide.

4:32 – Phil Cosineau So not just me pulling you along because I’m inspired and I’m messianic and so on, but for the common wheel, a beautiful old word, the benefit of everybody. Why would this mean something now? Here I just turned but I have five more books in the works. I’m working on three more films. I’m more infused than ever. Why? Because I believe that as the Atlantic Monthly, that prestigious magazine, which is years old or so, wrote just a few months ago, we are conceivably, arbitrarily, or arguably the most innovative inventive, futuristic culture in human history, bar none.

5:16 – Phil Cosineau We are also the loneliest culture in human history, where most people, especially men, do not have friends after the age of Women feel alone, left behind in different parts of the country, and so on. How can we heal this great divide while moving into a future? We do it with soulful leadership.

5:39 – Hugh Ballou That is profound. And you hit on a lot of themes that we emphasize in the culture of Center Vision Leadership Foundation. We have a culture of leaders, private community, and we do work with people in four continents. And the common factor is that word that you lifted up, which is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted words in our language is leadership. And it’s not boss, which is bad if you spell it backwards. It’s a whole different paradigm. And in my world, as a musical conductor, you can’t make people do anything.

6:20 – Hugh Ballou Conductors are perceived to be dictators, but you got a little white stick and a bunch of union musicians, you can’t make them do anything, but you can influence them. So underneath this soul, people respond to our soul, to our genuine being, authenticity. So we are in high resonance. Phil, I was in attendance with Phil in Alabama. And for what? Almost three days, two and a half days. And there was a group of high level leaders. And you were talking about the art of pilgrimage. And we were spellbound.

6:58 – Hugh Ballou And you do among the creative things you do, you do films, you do books, but you also lead pilgrimages. So how does that help us as leaders be a soulful leader? And how does that help us better ourselves and work on who we are? And it’s time away from the busyness of what we’re doing when we take a pilgrimage. Talk about those pilgrimages and why they’re important.

7:26 – Phil Cosineau Great, thank you for that opening. I’ve been traveling, as I hinted at, since I was a kid. My father thought it was extremely important for us to have a social life, an athletic life, a life of the mind. My mother believed that we needed a life of the spirit as well. So I’ve been traveling, but I’ve been traveling with purpose since I was a kid. We had a reason to go to a local cathedral. We had a reason to go to the ballpark or to go to an art museum. And After I graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Detroit, I went off for three months and came back three years later.

8:07 – Phil Cosineau Why? Because Detroit was such a violent place when I was graduating from high school. It was considered the murder capital of the world. I went to war zones after that were far less threatening than what I grew up with in Detroit. And what I discovered as I would go to the homes of James Joyce or go to the battlefield of Troy in Western Turkey, part of ancient Greece, I found that I was a kind of the, remember the movie, The Accidental Tourist with William Hurt? I was the accidental pilgrim.

8:40 – Phil Cosineau Excuse me. I would read prodigiously about where I was going out of a measure of respect for what had happened there and what had happened to those people. So I found myself going with a sense of purpose because I was looking for meaning. And in the early 80s, I began leading tours with a purpose, going to Ireland with the great poet Robert Blyde to look for the poetry, the truth of Ireland, the deep sense of identity in England on a King Arthur trip. These unfolded, so I was leading about a tour a year, which is a great way for me to strategize and to do research for my projects.

9:22 – Phil Cosineau And then in as I think I told all of you there in Anniston, I was reading the New York Times travel section and found a really startling little box, what they used to call bullets, And it said, by the year pilgrimage is going to overtake the armaments industry as the number one business in the world. So my old journalist eye perked up, and I’m thinking, what happened? Why did travel suddenly become so popular? With a bit of research, I found out there was a surge in the late 1990s in pilgrimage, both Christian, Muslim, Jewish, but also artistic pilgrimage.

10:03 – Phil Cosineau Going to the studio of Renoir in the south of France or the laboratory of Albert Einstein in Switzerland. Why? Because more people are traveling than ever before in human history, but more people are disappointed in their travels than ever before. People are lonely in their travels. They’re traveling because it’s hip. They read something in Condé Nast magazine. You have to go to this remote island. People are doing things without a sense of meaning and purpose. So I cobbled together this book called The Art of Pilgrimage, which encourages people to go somewhere to find answers to questions they cannot solve at home.

10:51 – Phil Cosineau And this is a 60,000-year-old tradition, if you consider the Australian Aborigine walkabout, the Native American vision quests, Christian pilgrimages going to the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. And today, to bring you full circle with technology, one of the most popular pilgrimages in California you is going to the garage of Hewlett and Packard, just south of San Francisco, where symbolically, mythically, the whole world of computers began. There are busloads of people going from San Francisco airport down to Sunnyvale and Silicon Valley to go to the garage where all this began.

11:35 – Phil Cosineau So coming full circle, what does this all mean? People today are healthier, leading longer lives, in some way more colorful than ever. We have more access to art and science than ever before. It’s also the loneliest culture in human history. How do you get around this? By leading a life of meaning and purpose. So I lead tours all around the world, mostly Greece, France, and Ireland. But what I’m finding is the people that sign up are saying, I’ve traveled all my life, But I forget where I’ve been a week after I go home.

12:17 – Phil Cosineau This rings deep for me as a writer and a filmmaker because I think our travels, as well as our business dealings, are ways of making memory. If we are not living and acting out of the impulses of our deep soul, there is no meaning. We can be successful and wealthy, but without meaning, we are bereft. So if there’s one thing, a thread that ties together all my work, it’s to encourage people to become creative as possible, but with that creativity, make a contribution back to the community.

12:59 – Phil Cosineau This is these The long-term vision of the work I did with Joseph Campbell, the famous scholar of mythology. I wrote the hero’s journey, which is now a common phrase all around the world. It’s the movie in the book about his life. The point of the whole hero’s journey is not to make you cool. It’s not just to make you heroic and put you on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Their true purpose of the hero’s journey is to find what they used to call the boon, the gift, sometimes symbolized by the Holy Grail, and bring it back.

13:34 – Phil Cosineau Why? For the betterment of your community, your family, your neighborhood. This is a formula that is lost in most American business.

13:47 – Hugh Ballou You’re so spot on. So, the hero’s journey, the creative journey, the pilgrim’s journey, you’ve spoken about those. Talk about those just a minute. Are those similar or are they contrasting journeys?

14:02 – Phil Cosineau What I learned from my great mentor, Joseph Campbell, is that you can think of these journeys a circle. And the circle, by the way, is a symbol of the soul. Van Gogh used it. Michelangelo used it. Theologians, but also artists like Kandinsky, And the hero journey is not chronological. It goes anti-chronology. It goes counterclockwise. Because when you leave on the journey that you need to take for yourself, but also for your community, you’re going against the wind, man. You’re going against the grain.

14:40 – Phil Cosineau It is tough to actually make a significant difference in our own lives, but as well as the world, of course. So, you take this journey where you leave home like going backwards from o’clock to You’re going back because the real juice, the real truth, the thing that can feed the rest of the world is deep down in the darkness. And it’s a place you have to go alone at first to grab that treasure mythologically. Myths all around the world say this. But when then you come out, it’s not just to come back for the accolades like after a Super Bowl.

15:23 – Phil Cosineau What is seized in that underworld, in your dream, in your spirit, in your heart, in your soul, is the thing that the world is longing for. So this is the question I ask in my creative work with creativity. It’s what I ask anybody who takes one of my tours when we go on pilgrimage. What are you longing for? What is your family or your neighborhood longing for? Not just bringing in jobs and making a lot of money for people all around you. What does the spirit of the times long for? So the easiest metaphor for this and one of the longest that we have is that it’s a journey.

16:01 – Phil Cosineau You have to leave home, leave what has been comfortable, the comfortable answers for you. One quick anecdote about that, Steve Jobs, great example of this in the Walter Isaacson biography, worldwide bestseller. Jobs describes how he envisioned the future of technology, the future of the world where we are all hooked up together by our laptops just like this, by our phones and so on, but something was missing. Something was missing. And he knew that he could not just find that answer here in California, where I am in San Francisco at the moment.

16:41 – Phil Cosineau So he went and lived in Japan. And he studied Japanese calligraphy, Japanese art, and what he discovered was what will help bring all this technology together in everyday life, what will help bring communities together is beauty. He decided then and there, in a way no corporate leader, no inventor had ever thought of before, Remember, a lot of our inventions have been clunky, ugly, utilitarian, but not necessarily beautiful. Jobs came back from, I think it was two years in Japan, with both technology and beauty, an artistic sensibility behind him, and said the way to lure people in to buy my Apple products will be through beauty and a sense of reaching out to end the social isolation we have.

17:42 – Phil Cosineau Now, for me, that’s an example. Things have gone awry here and there, obviously, but it’s a formula that I just explored in my new book, Who Stole the Arms of the Venus de Milo? It’s a book about the famous statue, of course, but the question is something I heard a little girl ask when we were standing in front of the statue at the Louvre in Paris. This little girl was wondering, Mama, Mama, where are the arms of the Venus de Milo? It was a gorgeous question. It’s a wonderful book title. It also cuts to the core of the cultural crisis at the moment.

18:23 – Phil Cosineau Someone stole a lot of the beauty in our life. They stole our sense of meaning. They stole our sense of aesthetics only for the excuse of commerce. So what I am trying to teach on my tours and my books and my films, my workshops all around the world is to create something the world has never seen before and then be out in front. That is what a leader does. The secondary meaning of leadership is guiding. But can we guide with a sense of our heart and our spirit? Or do we pull that back and say, it’s only numbers, man, it’s only numbers.

19:02 – Phil Cosineau If we do that, we are stealing the arms of the Venus de Milo.

19:09 – Hugh Ballou I’ve spent probably years in deep study of the work of a psychiatrist, Murray Bowen, in Bowen family systems. And principally it’s about differentiation of self managing self. And if we can’t lead ourselves, how are we expected to influence other people positively? And in my work in organizational culture, like the orchestra, what they see is what I get. And the culture is a reflection of the leader. So, what comes to my mind is you’re talking about this leadership. Sometimes we make poor choices and the unintended consequences of our decisions confuse us.

19:54 – Hugh Ballou So, speak a little bit. You said you read a lot. I find the common denominator, the best leaders are readers. And the top of the readers are also authors, because we got something that we want to share with the world. So, back up a little bit. So, incorporated in that space, you’re a leader. When did you decide you were a leader? And what sets you apart from the models that you’re That are your model models that you want to start you are established and have established influence so many people in a very positive way so what’s our responsibility as a leader to make better decisions and care for self and then when did you first.

20:37 – Hugh Ballou Take on that mantle of leader and how do you care for yourself.

20:42 – Phil Cosineau My, I’ve been interviewed hundreds and hundreds of times, but never quite like that. Thank you, that’s beautiful. And it is directed to exactly my work. I discovered early on when I was a young fellow that I was a book-loving jock. I played four sports, but I never went anywhere without a book. I was constantly reading to feed my soul. That’s a good way of just describing why we read. It’s not just to become smart. It’s to feed our spirit, to feed our heart, to feed our soul. And I learned that I had a—you know, the origin of encyclopedia means well-rounded.

21:26 – Phil Cosineau Cyclo, like a bicycle, it’s right in the middle. To be well-rounded. That’s how I grew up. And I later discovered in my love of Greek culture that that was the ideal for Greek culture for years. Excellence in mind, body, and soul. And I have tried to embody that all my life. I love the life of the body. I love sports, but I also love the spiritual life and the life of the mind. That weave makes me very different. In the world of the arts when I coached kids for seven years. And it’s an embodiment of what the Greeks pursued, which is the excellent life, so that you are trying to hone.

22:11 – Phil Cosineau Old Greek philosophy said, people are inherently lazy, which is why they became the most competitive people in human history, far more than even modern Americans. This is the upside, I think the funny side of competition. They had competitions for kissing, for drinking, for nudity, for actually business diplomatic deals. There were prizes and competitions for everything imaginable. Why? Because they knew on some level that people will always resort to going back to the old way, the groove, the rut in human thinking.

22:51 – Phil Cosineau People are in hazel inherently lazy and will fall asleep. So what brings all my work together is a very compassionate and sometimes humorous way of saying the great Human dilemma. Is that we fall asleep. Over and over and over again. And it’s the function of art, and I think spirituality, some political work to wake us up. The great leaders in philosophy, religion, sports, business, have all had a clever, and the best of them have had a compassionate way of saying, look, we’re getting back into our old habits.

23:37 – Phil Cosineau We’re falling asleep again. Now let’s wake up, but go forth together. And I’ve discovered by playing ball, but by also lecturing in front of a thousand people at once, that that very notion, like the recent footage of Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein leading an orchestra, there comes a moment when, what, people in an orchestra for him with the National Philharmonic become one. That feeling on the basketball court, the soccer pitch, maybe the best of business meetings is like that in Maestro, the movie Maestro, where suddenly there was no difference between you and me.

24:25 – Phil Cosineau We are in this symphony together. We’re in this ball game together. We’re in this negotiation for new housing in downtown San Francisco, where it’s so perilous for new building. I think you, that this is one of the great human longings. And it always has been, but it’s been left behind. This little secret that we have, we are longing for the feeling that I’ve had on the basketball court, the baseball diamond, business meetings, film teams, when you might have a hundred people working on a film at once, and then there comes a few of these moments where there’s only one decision left.

25:08 – Phil Cosineau And it’s the one everybody knows, everybody comes together on at the same time. And it’s healing. That’s the secret. If the decision you make in business or on the basketball court or in the parish church, if it’s not a healing final decision, it’s the wrong one. The healing decision is beautiful.

25:32 – Hugh Ballou I’m just going to give that a second to settle in. If you’re coming by Facebook, this is the nonprofit exchange. I’m Hugh blue center vision leadership foundation. I’ve just put a picture in the background. People are listening on this. We’re recording this in early People may be listening to this some multiple years from now, but these principles, we’re going back to ancient scholars, the Greeks. And I marvel at some of those philosophers. I marvel at the work of Bach. He wrote so many pieces, it’s almost impossible to have written them out in his lifetime.

26:13 – Hugh Ballou Very complex music. And he didn’t have a computer to do it or a recorder to play it back. It was in his head. So it’s interesting that you used the conductor model. I just put a picture behind us. This is me from my better side in a penguin suit. And so that was a profound explanation of what I stand for and what I’ve spent my life teaching leaders is the orchestra model. You know, you’ve got all of these people, the instruments sound different, some of them are transposing instruments, some are loud, some are softer, but it’s the leader that inspires people to create this harmony, but there’s a culture that really supersedes the leader, but the leader is the catalyst for that happening.

27:01 – Hugh Ballou So I just love, I haven’t seen Maestro yet, but Leonard Bernstein was a profound influence on so many people like me in our early childhood. And Phil Kosano, you have influence on so many people as well. But any more you want to say about the orchestra and that synergy, that ensemble, we call it in music. Any more you want to say before I go to another question?

27:23 – Phil Cosineau Yes, actually, thank you for giving me that moment, the opportunity. You triggered it by invoking one of the gods, to use the Greek language, Bak. In some of my brief reading about him, someone I listen to almost every day, I heard that he went through what we would call today an existential crisis about his own music, whether or not it was developing, whether or not he was being stuck, which is a perilous feeling for creative people, stuck, I will never create again. Oh my God, you feel like the world is ending, right?

28:03 – Phil Cosineau So my reading, excuse me. My reading tells me that he handled this by going on a pilgrimage. He walked from his hometown, I think in central Germany, all the way to the north of Germany to attend a Sunday recital by the conductor, you might know the name, I forget it at the moment, but the conductor he most revered at that time. And he walked, apparently in the winter, miles to listen to something outside of himself, beyond his own genius, because he knew he was stuck. He needed to make that next turn, the ratchet of the gear that we call creativity.

28:50 – Phil Cosineau That takes humility. A journey like this is a form of pilgrimage. And I ask people if they come to me, for some kind of consultation about creativity, do you need to be by yourself for a while to search for an answer? Do you need to go somewhere that might hold the answer to take your business, your creativity, your faith, which may be on shaky ground at the moment, to the next level, to take it deeper? Often it takes a moment of sheer humility. And I love the fact that Bach walked, well, two ways, miles to be inspired to take his work to the next level.

29:32 – Hugh Ballou People that are successful do what others are not willing to do.

29:38 – Multiple Speakers Beautiful.

29:39 – Hugh Ballou And he, I just cannot imagine, he was a numerologist. You can add up the numbers for the notes and those patterns, and then the cricifixus, the great cricifixus in his mass, There’s a sign of the cross in every bar, a visual sign, in addition to the numerology, in addition to the profound melodies and harmonics. And he was also a theologian. He wrote a lot of his texts. So it’s just, we think we’re so smart today, but I’m not sure we’ve gotten any smarter. We depend on the devices. And, you know, there’s the relationship piece.

30:16 – Hugh Ballou That we undervalue, which is at the heart of everything you’re talking about. And how do we relate to humankind? And philanthropy is something people misunderstood as only money, but it’s the love of humankind.

30:30 – Multiple Speakers And I see that in you.

30:32 – Hugh Ballou You have such a genuine way with people that people sit in silence listening to you. And we’re just so touched. I’m just enamored by what you’re sharing today. And it’s so relevant. For today’s world, we’re going to go longer for this interview today. I asked Phil if we can have there’s so many things we can talk about. We could go for hours, but we’re going to be minutes today instead of So we’re doing a double session. We’re going to call this the non profit exchange extra. When we have a deep topic and more things we talk about, at least we’ll give you a hint for the rest of them.

31:05 – Hugh Ballou And I’m going to point you to Phil’s website because there’s a lot of stuff on that website. So. You’ve spoken about creativity. I work with all kinds of leaders. Now, entrepreneurs, that’s a very specific kind of leader, very visionary, very creative, sometimes not very tactical. So it’s out of balance. There’s the old joke that people say that all of you entrepreneurs suffer from insanity. And of course, we say, no, we don’t.

31:39 – Multiple Speakers We enjoy it.

31:41 – Hugh Ballou But there’s a prerequisite to let go of the boundaries to be able to get to a place and out of that box. But do we have to be creative to be a leader? Is there a tension between form and freedom, creativity and systems? Talk about this creative spot. I mean, you’re so creative, but you’re also very tactical and you get things done. Some creative people just don’t get things done. So talk about creativity, curse, blessing, what is it?

32:16 – Phil Cosineau About a dozen years ago or so, I address this in a book called Stoking the Creative Fires because I’ve been dealing with so many people who were stuck in the movies. I’m a consultant down in the movie studios, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Pixar, Lucasfilm, but also beginning teachers or even kids in college, even in high school. There comes a point where you can’t get beyond yourself. You don’t know the next move to make. It does help to read someone who’s been out there before you.

32:52 – Phil Cosineau Someone who’s been the pioneer. That’s what the pioneer means. He blazes the trail for you. And that can inspire us to have the courage of our convictions. If we’re a little nervous or tenuous about whether or not we’re insane, as you’ve just joked. Excuse me. Or whether we’re onto something new. So by definition for me, the leader is someone who’s had an inspiration, which means he or she has allowed spirit to come in. Let’s remember that. Inspiration is a reference to spirit. It has come not just from you and your own brilliance, your own genius.

33:36 – Phil Cosineau The spirit comes in from somewhere beyond, what the Irish call the back of beyond. So the leader is someone who is humble enough, has enough humility to allow inspiration to come in, and that the spirit allows you to fill your lungs, you might say, to fill your heart, to fill your soul, which the oxygen itself is what can help bring in the new idea. And the rest of us are looking around to see who’s going to lead my team to the Super Bowl, who’s going to lead my team to finish this film, to get this business deal done.

34:14 – Phil Cosineau So the leader isn’t the one who stands back. The leader is the one who is brave enough, has enough moxie to blend the old with the new. This takes tact, as you have just said, but also a kind of vision. Create. I had to look up the word create. You just asked me about that. I went all the way back to the old Latin and I found something utterly beautiful. The original meaning means to grow. Creare. Remember the Bob Dylan line, he who ain’t busy being born is busy dying. I think that goes with creativity.

34:56 – Phil Cosineau If you are only sticking with the old models, the old form of thinking because it was successful for a long time. Look what just happened with Sears Roebuck. That’s one of the business reasons why people are saying it’s disintegrating because it was stuck with an old model. So create means to grow, grow or die in a sense, which is another aphorism in American business. But it also means, a secondary meaning of kre is to find order where there was chaos. And that goes in many, many forms of life.

35:33 – Phil Cosineau From the village priest who is getting one thing from the parish and another directive from the Vatican. Can you make order and beauty, I suggest, out of all that chaos? The leader is the one who can grow, show others how to grow, and not be stultified, but also find beauty in order in the middle of the madness. What’s that great line by Robert Penn Warren? Give me a moment beyond the madness. I’m paraphrasing. That’s what we look to. It’s the quarterback in the middle of the chaos of people screaming in the stadium.

36:18 – Phil Cosineau And Joe Cool, Joe Montana, Patrick Holmes yesterday, is the one. And stay cool, which also means, you see what I just did there? I took a breath. All great leaders know how to do this in a meeting, both physically, but also spiritually, you take a breath. And do you know what the worldwide synonym for soul and spirit is? Breath. I did a book, Soul, from Socrates to Ray Charles, which is still being used by Harvard Divinity School after years. And in that book, I traced down what this notion of soul is, this thread that goes from birth to death.

37:09 – Phil Cosineau And everywhere the suggestion is we have soul. At the moment when the first breath is taken, and then soul leaves when the last breath is extinguished. You can look at business this way. Is the business still breathing? Is it alive? Is it vibrant? Is it soulful? See, we can be playful with this, but it’s also a way of saying, is this business model true or isn’t it? The leader who is full of vitality is the one who can lead us out of the darkness. And if you’re only getting darkness from your leader, you’re in trouble.

37:53 – Phil Cosineau Call for a taxi. Get out of town.

37:58 – Hugh Ballou Yeah, push the eject button. Richard Rohr talks about three phases. Disorder, reorder. And we see that happening and learning to go with that is bravery, but it’s also visionary leadership.

38:18 – Phil Cosineau And compassionate too. I’m not sure how often people talk about compassion in the business world. You would know more about that. Remember, originally it means to suffer with. That’s what compassion actually means. Do you have the capability to think about what your business model means to the shareholders, but also the people that are working for you? Do you have compassion for the effect your business model has on the environment? It takes a leadership to address both of those.

38:49 – Phil Cosineau And I think it takes a little bit of spirit.

38:54 – Hugh Ballou Well, we have been our listeners a different kind of business model is what we call nonprofit. It’s the only industry to defines itself by what it isn’t and that’s in that word is a lie. Anyway, it’s it’s a for-purpose business model, but we have the same weakness, you know, we’re looking at numbers. We’re looking at how many people we feed how many of this we do how many of that are we showing compassion not only for the people that we serve, but the people that are in our organization that are doing the serving.

39:21 – Hugh Ballou So, let’s talk about America and our leadership model.

39:25 – Multiple Speakers It’s changed over the years.

39:30 – Hugh Ballou Way back, interviewing Andrew Carnegie, one of Virginia natives, Napoleon Hill, interviewed leaders, and he developed this whole philosophy of success. Now, people think that growing rich is about money, But he of the attributes of wealth money, he said, is the last one because it’s the least important. And he discovered a lot of things. You know, those were the robber barons. They were pretty vicious business people. But he discovered a whole whole lot of things, having something valuable to give to people.

40:01 – Hugh Ballou You serve people. You have something valuable you bring. You have a positive mental attitude. You surround yourself with competent people. And you never stop you, you make it happen. So there’s, there’s some wisdom in that. That’s not greed that people want to reframe in a harmful way. And some of that, that American, you know, the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers and the Carnegie’s and the Morgan’s, you know, there were some pretty, pretty oppressive things that happened and we still have some residue for that.

40:32 – Hugh Ballou But talk about the, the, the leadership model. What I see is people are counting numbers and they’re busy. We’re focusing on, you talked about the Greeks, we’re focusing on the Kronos time rather than the Kairos moments that are so revealing for leaders. So that was a long question, sorry, but anything in there about the American leadership model and what’s missing?

40:56 – Phil Cosineau Oh, that’s wonderful. This is taking me into the Venn diagram where there’s some overlap here. One thing that the audience might want to think about is the difference between the hero and the leader. They’re not the same thing. But there are also different kinds of heroes. And there’s a dangerous form of the hero, which is only the model, let’s say, of Hercules in ancient times, but also some political leaders now who we don’t need to name, they’ll be obvious when we describe them, who are only in it for themselves.

41:33 – Phil Cosineau The hero is the one who is bullying forward. The leader is the one who is bullying forward for self-aggrandizement, only for my own heroism, my fame, my success. But there’s another kind of hero who is quieter. It’s the one we secretly long for. Ralph Waldo Emerson, our great transcendentalist philosopher, said the hero is one who is immovably centered. One with such deep convictions that you can’t be swayed to one side by the devil, so to speak. Get behind me, Satan. Remember that, get thee behind me.

42:16 – Phil Cosineau But instead, centered because you know what you’re doing for yourself, your own soul will also be good for your family and the community around you. That takes some sophistication, spiritually. And I think that’s what we need. Those who are only saying this is good for the shareholders, the environment be damned, so to speak, or I’m doing this because this is what the precepts of the church have told us for years. What does the moment require? What does the moment require? That’s what the hero will ask.

42:54 – Phil Cosineau And that sometimes the hero has to step aside at that moment and allow the leader to move through. I think a lot of this is done alone rather than in conversation. This is something that, I’ll hold this up. The cell phone has been one of the great miracles of the modern world. It has also intensified our solitude in the most paradoxical of ways because it’s replacing a lot of human conversation. People are talking less and less and less. Oh, I’ll text you. Or I won’t even call you. You don’t even say that anymore.

43:36 – Phil Cosineau I’ll text you. I’ll text you. Well, that makes us quick. It doesn’t make us soulful. So one suggestion I simply make is to have conversations with the people around you, the other leaders, the people, face-to-face conversation. That’s what makes the world go round. Conversation advances culture. Conversation advances friendship. It’s such a lonely society because people are relying simply on technology, technique.

44:13 – Hugh Ballou You’re so spot on. And when I get called in to talk to a high-tech company that’s got all of this at their fingertips, they have a problem with communication.

44:22 – Multiple Speakers That’s right.

44:23 – Hugh Ballou Just texting the person in the next cubicle when they could lean over and say, hey, Phil, What do you think of this? This is the lost art of conversation.

44:34 – Phil Cosineau So my next, next book is going to be called The Long Conversation. And it comes from a phrase that I came up with on the spot when I was meeting, again, my early mentor, this is the mid-1980s, Joseph Campbell, the most famous scholar of mythology and philosophy in modern times, one of the greatest influencers on myth and literature. And we are going to meet after one of his talks here in San Francisco at a famous, called the Redwood Bar. And I got Joe on the phone, I said, let’s meet tonight for a Glenlivet, his drink of choice, great scotch.

45:14 – Phil Cosineau And we’ll carry on with, and then I found myself grasping for a moment, what do I say now? Why do I really want to meet this famous man? We’ll carry on with our long conversation. And Campbell said, do you mean the great conversation? Remember, that was the idea from Harvard. If you read these books that we recommend, you don’t even have to go to university. You can consider yourself educated in the old Victorian sense. Joe thought I meant that, but I was reaching for something else, which is very, very germane to what we’re discussing here, Hugh.

45:53 – Phil Cosineau And I went on to say, I’m paraphrasing now, but I said, no, Joe, I mean, what we do when we’ve been meeting for all these years, we had two or three seconds of small talk, then it was immediately, what are you reading? Where have you been traveling? Who are you associating with? What are you reading again? We went right down into soul immediately. I hear your father just died.

46:15 – Multiple Speakers Tell me about your father.

46:18 – Phil Cosineau So out of this came a beautiful metaphor that we used together for eight years, and it’s going to be the title of my next book. The Long Conversation’s meeting with remarkable mentors. And what it consists of is this belief that I have followed since I left college, Detroit, in the mid-1970s. The conversation that will challenge me and make me grow, but not lock me into my own narcissism. The Long Conversation is the one that we have when we talk about birth, death, crisis, illness, war, art, God or the gods.

47:02 – Phil Cosineau In other words, the long conversation is the one where we talk about things that human beings have talked about since the Paleolithic caves. Now, here is my key point with all this, and I believe in this so ardently. It’s at the heart of this new book of mine on the Venus de Milo. If we don’t have even a few minutes of this long conversation every day, we fall into despair. We fall into loneliness. Even if our stock portfolio went up, even if we got some public praise, if we have not touched something eternal, something out of time and space, we get nervous.

47:45 – Phil Cosineau We are outside of ourselves, which is why we have great books or the great book, the two or three great books. We can do this if we meet someone for a long conversation. Hugh, let’s go for a drink around the corner. Tell me about your relationship with your first coach, the teacher who meant the most to you. I have been asking this question in workshops for years, and people break down in tears. Because there was no gap here. The moment I said, who is the first person who recognized you, your talent, and then encouraged you?

48:31 – Phil Cosineau Phil, you have a great flair for words. Have you thought about being a writer? That’s the exact quote from my English teacher in the seventh grade. I have never forgotten it. I did thank her. I sent her copies of my first two or three books. That’s a moment of touching something outside of time. To remember the mentors, to remember the people who encouraged us, and remember in French that means to give someone heart. To encourage means to give you the courage of your own heart.

49:04 – Hugh Ballou That is so, so important. It’s like we need to learn a different 2nd question and we meet people rather than asking them. What do you do? You’re basically asking people who are you?

49:15 – Phil Cosineau Yes, yes, yes. I lived in Ireland, the west of Ireland, for a year in the 1980s. It was one of the great turning points for my writing career because some friends just said, we only live in this house for two months a year. We would love for you to go and spend as much time as you need because they knew I was at a crossroad in my late 20s. Either I was going to become a writer or I was going to paint houses for the rest of my life. So I went out there and I wrote for to hours a day for months. And my Irish neighbor, an old farmer named Mr.

49:49 – Phil Cosineau Keeney, would be up to walk his cows out to the fields at a.m. Every morning. Sometimes, Hugh, I was still awake because I’d been writing all night. So I would go outside and smell that great Irish, what they call the whiskey and soda air. It’s so strong in the countryside. And Mr. Keeney would ask me, Hey lad, how’s your heart? You feel how different that is from, hey, how are you? Everything cool? What’s up? It was mostly dismissive greetings we give each other. But that was so soulful, I have never forgotten it.

50:32 – Phil Cosineau And a lot of people in my circles, they know this is a little tick of mine, where if I haven’t seen someone for a while, I’ll tilt my head a little bit like this, and no small talk. That’s what this means, no small talk. Hugh, how’s your heart? Cutting straight into it, or even a moment of something outside of time and space. Hugh, that’s what people are longing for.

50:59 – Hugh Ballou This is profound. We’re going over time and over time, and this is the extra not private exchange extra. We’re going to go a few more minutes before we go to. I want to talk about your website and what people will find, but in your notes, well, you’ve talked about the heroes journey, the creative journey, the pilgrim, this journey. The boon set that stage for the boom, and it’s not money. It’s not power. It’s not fame. It’s the capacity to bring a world changing gift back to the community.

51:31 – Hugh Ballou Elaborate on that just a little bit before you go to your website.

51:36 – Phil Cosineau Sure, and It’s a wonderful word from the ancients, very strong in medieval times. Once in a while, someone will say, he or she is my boon friend. It’s around once in a while, but it’s mostly in the old stories. And what it referred to was the gift that the hero or the heroine was seeking. The golden fleece in one of those stories, the Holy Grail. Remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones is looking for something. The Maltese Falcon in the great movie with John Huston, Humphrey Bogart.

52:18 – Phil Cosineau These are all symbols. Of the thing, it’s symbolized by a thing that the world is longing for and only the hero, the great leader can find because everybody else is too afraid. No one else wants to break the old model. People are afraid of being crucified in one way or ridiculed in another, ostracized. But the boon is the gift that changes everything. Now, on a grand level, it could be the invention of, say, the car, the telephone, the computer. Those are the large ones. But on a more everyday level, it simply refers to wisdom.

53:05 – Phil Cosineau What did you learn during that business meeting? What did you learn when you had an hour with your spiritual counselor? What happened? What did you bring back? All the things that you are winning and learning and buying, is it all for you? The boon is that element in stories for the last years that says that the hero, the leader, the change maker is bringing back something that will change family, neighborhood, community, sometimes the world. But it’s always a metaphor for wisdom.

53:46 – Phil Cosineau What did you learn? Don’t tell me how much money you made. Don’t tell me you just bought more companies. Don’t tell me that you just got more awards from the Elks Club. No. What did you learn? People rarely talk about that, but in my experience, teaching in countries around the world, this is a universal. People want to know that what they have experienced, what they have endured in life is actually worth something. So this is a simple suggestion for people in everyday life, but also in your spiritual life or in your business life.

54:25 – Phil Cosineau Turn the question around and say something on a very human level. What did you learn during that workshop? Did you get anything that can feed the soul in that trip, in that movie that you watched, in that symphony that you just listened to? Wisdom is what we’re longing for because it means we’ve actually, we’ve learned something while we were harrowing hell. Remember that old phrase?

54:58 – Hugh Ballou Yes, Phil Cousineau is this has been great. I’m going to ask people to go to your website. It’s Phil, like you would spell Phil, P-H-I-L. Cousineau is cousin with a French ending, E-A-U dot net, Phil Cousineau dot net. And I’m going to, for the people watching a video, I’m going to show it to them. People that aren’t can pull it up themselves. Phil Cousineau dot net. So, Phil, when people go to your website, there’s a whole lot of stuff here. So on the homepage, there’s some handsome pictures of you, but there’s also links for your trips, your pilgrimages.

55:36 – Hugh Ballou And then down the side, there’s a tab for books. Tell us where people should go when they go here, and what do you want them to notice when they come here?

55:47 – Phil Cosineau That’s beautifully asked. Thank you so much. My wife, Jo, she maintains this for me. It’s wonderful. She lists my current affairs, so to say, interviews that are coming up or workshops that are coming up, tours I’m about to lead. I’m leading a tour to Greece in a couple of months that’s already sold out. In the fall, I’m leading a workshop in Chartres in France at the Great Cathedral with the cosmologist Brian Swim. On the search for meaning. So people can look for workshops, seminars.

56:21 – Phil Cosineau They can look for some of the books that are listed here, books, films. But here, I’m also offering, somewhere here on this site, is a place to go for consultation. I have recently just helped my 100th student publish a book. And I’m as proud of that as I am of my own accomplishments. This is enormously important for me to be helping people while I’m helping myself. You see, this is kind of me walking my talk even after an hour of our discussions about what’s the thread between all of this work.

57:03 – Phil Cosineau I have published, I’ve created a great deal, but it’s just as important for me to help someone. You know the great basketball coach John Wooden? He won NCAA basketball championships, something like that. And he had a great phrase at the end of his talks. He became quite successful for his lectures on the pyramid of success. A world sought after scholar. And he used to end his talks by saying, I’ve helped you help someone else. And that’s the spirit that I try to write with and teach with, and that’s on this site.

57:43 – Phil Cosineau So here, sure, you can find out where I’m lecturing and maybe buy a book or two. They make great gifts, of course. But it’s also, you might know someone, you might know a student. Someone in your family who’s struggling in school, and who could use an hour consultation to help get this person through a writer’s block, a study block. And then in turn, I’m also happy to help people in many, many forms, from business to sports, because I’m also a coach. See, I wrote a book on the history of the Olympics there.

58:19 – Phil Cosineau If I can’t help you, I will help you find someone that can help you. And I loved the fact that we have taken a leap forward with modern websites so that we have a place to go for help, so we feel less alone in our own creative endeavors.

58:38 – Hugh Ballou Well, I’m not alone.

58:40 – Multiple Speakers I’ve been so inspired today.

58:43 – Hugh Ballou Episode number of the nonprofit exchange has been certainly a new milestone for us. So, Phil cousin, you’ve left us a lot to think about. There’ll be a transcript in the, in the podcast and on the website. At You’ll find the regular episodes in this new thread, which is going to be the extra. So it’s a step up, and we could talk forever. There’s just so much inspiration, and I know your heart. And I have been enlightened and inspired today. Thank you so much for being our guest today on The Nonprofit Exchange.

59:25 – Phil Cosineau Thank you for the invitation. Thank you for being so prepared, for asking some cutting edge questions. It’s a delight for me to have someone who’s so woven in to the work. And just one final little thing to pass on to the listeners. Don’t doubt yourself. You have a gift, but the gift isn’t enough. We have to pass on the gift.

59:54 – Hugh Ballou Outstanding. Thank you, sir.

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