What does it take to be a gamechanger?

Last month I was invited to join ten gamechangers from around the world.The youngest was Mr. Corey, the ten year old shown in the photo, the CEO and Founder of Mr. Cory’s Cookies. We assembled in the lodge on top of Powder Mountain in Utah, the venue for the Summit Series weekend. (Featured in last Sunday’s New York Times.) Mr. Corey spoke on how he had launched his cookie business. Later he joined my talk and told the audience that he too had been bullied at school.

The conversation that evening turned rapidly to what makes a gamechanger. It’s a grandiose title because at some level we all initiate change. One of the participants was struck by how successful gamechangers relentlessly question why things should be so. Another pointed out that they never get stuck on a negative thought. I reflected how an hour earlier Mr. Corey had turned down my offer to help by working with his school around bullying. (“I’m fine,” he said. “I have new friends. I’ve moved on.”) And I was reminded of George Vaillant’s grounbreaking long-term study at Harvard on happiness and his conclusions on the importance of healthy denial. Mr. Corey could have fallen in to the victim role. Instead he is creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie for his health-conscious customers. Where we place our attention is central to the life that we create.

Working in the other direction is shame. Shame wraps itself around the core of our being with the belief that we don’t deserve to exist. When I ran a study in to the long-term effects of bullying it was the most common symptom reported by survivors of bullying. And it has been in the news during the last month, thanks to a powerful TED talk from Monica Lewinsky around cyberbullying and Dr. Brene Brown’s conversation with Oprah about her new book on shame. Shame is isolating. If you are the target of shame you no longer feel you have the right to belong. The striking part of Brene Brown’s thesis – and what resonates most closely with our work at No Bully – is that shame cannot survive in the face of empathy.