Between 2007 and 2014, I apprenticed to a man who helped South Africa transition out of apartheid, Colombia find the road to peace, and an alliance of North and South American countries change the war on drugs. He works in the background, well out of the public eye, facilitating high stakes dialogues.

As his apprentice, I learned how to help even the bitterest of powerful opponents sit and talk together as a way of healing conflict, finding their humanity, and embracing a future of working together.

During those years, we helped dangerous enemies become friendly collaborators.

Colombian leaders working together to find collective prosperity across the whole nation. 2007

It is the “set” in “the truth shall set you free” — a moment of being present that releases the past and welcomes the possibility (and thus the beginning) of a new future.

I often showed a film of Picasso’s painting process to illustrate how radical creative metamorphosis can be. Check out Picasso’s destruction of the bull’s head at the end. It’s 8 different bullheads, one after the other. Imagine the flexibility needed to destroy and create so ruthlessly — until the final form emerges.

The main problem, however, was that our clients weren’t paying us to help them create healthy society. They were paying us to help them solve their problems. It’s kind of like hiring someone to help you weed your garden and they start trying to be your landscape architect. It’s their garden — their realities. My partners asked me, Who are we to tell them what health looks like?

In other words, the innovations I wanted to realize would have fundamentally altered the brand promise and its methodologies. My partners wanted to grow what we had rather than leap into the unknown with me. But I had reached the point of no return, and my question became my mission.

We’ve cracked the code; we know what creativity is, how it works, and how to apply it in tough social challenges.

The win here is that I’ve “put my stake in the ground” and am “raising my flag.” No matter where we go from here, we have something. We’ve followed our truth and we have something, dammit. And we’re going with it. Will we be successful? Too soon to tell.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Leadership training for the new way of change