The Turning Point

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From Outside-In to Inside-Out

Fact40% of 4-year college students actually graduate in 4 years (59%, 6 years).¹

Fact23% of 2-year college students graduate (in 2 years).¹

Fact81.4% of high school students graduate (up from 70% in 2003). 50% of those who drop out clearly can afford to stay in school. Low income high school graduates are 73.3% (nationally).²

What goes?

Consider that schools can be, at times, boring, off-target and ineffective.  As well, many students are financially challenged.

And yet—-tens of thousands of students who are deeply challenged by money, race, gender, culture still manage to get through, and many actually do well in school, life, and community.

How come?

Because they s-t-a-n-d for something, for a future that inspires them, calls them, engages them.

A future that they d-e-s-i-g-n.

They are “on” purpose, committed, accountable—-on-the-court, up for the challenge.  I don’t mean some motivational slick, quick mood shift but something far more fundamental: they have been trained, coached and mentored to discover, develop, and begin to fully trust their inner character, their “grit.”  This can be done far more rapidly, affordably and readily than people imagine.  With e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.

See Paul Tough’s, “How Children Succeed” work on what we’re calling “grit,” or you could say, qualities of “character” such as:

  • Resilience.
  • Resourcefulness.
  • Courage.
  • Tenacity.
  • Integrity.
  • —-i.e., “grit”—-enables students (people) in A-L-L circumstances to generate, to succeed, to navigate the challenges of their lives.




News flashCharacter and grit are N-O-T in short supply.  N-O-T in short supply.

In fact, character and grit—-courage, tenacity, integrity, resilience and resourcefulness—-are abundant IF we are enabling our young people to tap into their own reservoirs of taking on, out loud, a public stand for their lives: their resourcefulness, inspiration, tenacity.

The Turning Point is a one day program that correlates with Paul Tough’s work on what he calls “the character hypothesis.”  The Turning Point enables, challenges, and supports students in taking a stand for their life.


Students get to see that the future, their future, quite literally comes out of their mouth, as a declaration of their future, of the possibility they stand for, their vision they are committed to. (See the superb work on stand-taking as conceived and practiced by Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen at  SSRN; Steve Zafron and David Logan in “The 3 Laws of Performance;” Landmark coaching courses; Fernando Flores’ work on speech acts; and the article, “Promise-Based Management”, The Harvard Business Review, April 2007.)

In working with adult leaders who are analytically (conceptually) brilliant, we have discovered that time after time, they fail to lead.  They fail to generate and experience the satisfaction, the inspiration, the fulfillment of making the difference that they thought their education trained them for.

How come?

Because all of their knowledge and brilliance was not founded on, nor did it empower, their stand for the future, for the unpredictable, for the possible, for bold action.  Their “brilliance” didn’t create or build anything “outside the box” of what was already known, the expected, the predictable, the “drift”.  Their public, declared/stand for the future had not been confronted, discovered, declared, and it remained simply missing from their attempt to lead.

In America, we do not train, develop, and educate many (if a-n-y) authentic leaders in our educational system—-from kindergarten to doctorates.

What we do train, and deliver, is winners, opportunists, and hustlers—-and not authentic leaders.  (See Winners, Opportunists, and Hustlers, Huffington Post, Tony Smith (6/19/12).)  Leadership requires a stand for a future much bigger than yourself.  (See Erhard and Jensen, Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership/SSRN)

The Turning Point is designed for high school students all the way through to doctoral students across the country.  It is effective with rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, women or men, young or old, declaring their stand for their own future, generating a purpose that demands and calls forth their own contribution.  They constitute themselves as their vision and how their future can actually play out as a grounded, strategic “game plan.”

Student participants in The Turning Point are able to declare their stand for their future and confront their own life, their own future, and work out what their values are, and what/who they are willing to be, and expect to be, held to account for (by both their peers and adults).  Taking their own stand has their future be theirs, not merely a good idea or trendy information.  It is a transformation in who they are “being” (what they see, say, and think) not just what they do and know.…and they get to say so.

—Part II—

In addition, The Turning Point orients students to the real world:  The market place.  Their jobs.  Their careers.  Their income.  Their advancement.  Who they are in their character.  What they can do with their actions.  What they can (and do) deliver through their skills, and how to use their knowledge in relevant ways.  When young people are asked—-quite openly and directly, to say their “value proposition” (who they are, what impact they can/do cause through their actions and their skills)…..they do!  Readily.  They look at their strengths and develop how to communicate their “power” (skills, attitudes, strengths) without apology, without confusion, without hesitation, without “false modesty.”

They account for and contribute their own styles and abilities, straightforwardly.  They own their own power.

It is theirs.

We define “empower” as five elements:

  1. Engage.
  2. Inspire.
  3. Equip.
  4. Authorize.
  5. Hold to account.


The Turning Point enables students to empower themselves.

Once their stand is formulated, written, then said, then shared, The Turning Point then takes on this stuff, “selling”—-what is it to communicate the value of anything, including themselves, when done with full integrity and juice (inspiration)?  How they communicate their own value authentically, with integrity and the “juice” (inspiration)?  Additionally, they take on defining what marketing and branding is in the world and regarding themselves (i.e., what do other people say about them when they’re not in the room).  This brings up the power and impact of their reputation and how they cause it; how they can clean it up; and how they can expand it.

They then take on 2 of the most fulfilling and essential skills sets/mind sets of all:

  • Integrity.
  • Powerful Listening.


They share with their peers, both in pairs and in large groups, as they formulate, come to grips with, and confront their own futures….with themselves as the authors of their future.  They start to take on a different outlook and energy.  It’s as almost as if you can see their courage come alive and emerge right in front of you.

They bring their education to life, and their life to education.

This is beyond absorbing more mountains and streams of information, “outside-in”—-learning about the established world already “out there”—-more information, concepts, explanations, and data so that they can better describe and explain the established world already “out there” (and thereby inadvertently be constrained to merely navigating it).  Distinct from that, in The Turning Point, they get a chance, the chance, to take a stand and declare their lives, to create, invent, discover the world and their lives beyond what is left over from all they’ve learned and known from the past.

In coaching 1,000s of entrepreneurs and creative leaders in all fields, it’s clear to me that throughout history, taking a stand, declaring one’s self, has made the difference, the foundation.  Without that, people go through the motions, and at best are capable only of “compliance” (fitting in) and not really inventing, innovating, creating—-rocking the world, so to speak….and people really can rock the world.

People who “rock the world” generate from their own stand for the future; they consistently envision something that doesn’t exist…. yet….and they think the future through/sound it through; they work it through.  They understand that one must learn to communicate their vision—-their life—-with a particular bone deep, vivid, power, honesty, and directness in order to bring their vision to life, and life to their vision.  When people realize and accept this, they become our leaders, the ones who impact events, who make history.

These are the people who alter everything.

It is surprisingly available to each of us.

The Turning Point provides that shift to the students so they get hold of it….in 6 hours!  Student participants expand themselves as leaders; they speak to groups straightforwardly and authentically; they are listened to and they listen authentically to others.

So—-what is next for education?

That each and every student is able to, and does, make a lasting difference precisely because they are equipped, “inside-out:” they can declare their own stand, vision, and values and lay out a strategic game plan to make it happen.

Over a lifetime.

The Turning Point.


¹ “Learning That Works,” by Joel Klein, Time Magazine, May 14, 2012.

² See “High School Graduation Rates by State.” See also