Geordie Aitken – Ninja Trainer at Aitken Leadership Group

[quote style=”boxed”]Not doing things because of fear is always a mistake. Those may be the only mistakes. I’ve made a number of them.[/quote]

Geordie builds leaders and trains ninja. It’s often the same thing. His purpose is helping the next generation of world leaders achieve personal mastery, and to have a sweet time doing it. He calls his approach Ninja Training.

Geordie’s clients hire him because he’s a different sort of leadership educator, facilitator and coach. Organizations bring Geordie in to design unique ‘people development’ programs, and to catalyze the growth of high-potential up-and-comers.

Geordie leads Aitken Leadership Group with his father, David. Their programs have transformed the cultures of service organizations throughout North America, including architecture and design firms, engineering companies, restaurants, salons, police academies, and airports. Among other things, Geordie and David co-teach for the Brookings Institution and ACEC of Washington, DC,as faculty with the Senior Executives Institute.

With a deep understanding of how to design a ‘peak learning’ experience, Geordie is sought after as a consultant. He knows how to help organizations shift culture, and how to inspire people to shift their behavior.

Mostly, Geordie’s gotten quite adept at creating experiences where personal change – even transformation – can be really fun. Geordie works closely with his wife, Magda Dominik, an education specialist who creates immersive learning environments for adults.

Geordie, Magda and the Aitken family live in a secluded mountain stronghold in British Columbia, Canada.

What are you working on right now?

New immersive learning design modules. We just finished a 3-day retreat in Jasper called ‘Into the Wild’. It was an intense (and intensely fun) survival simulation with a group of about 33. Thematically, you could say it was about the shift of mind from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’ at work and in life. It was awesome.

I’m also collaborating with Jeff Hull of Nonchalance. Can’t say anything more about that. Ninja Training continues to spread. There are more ninja now, in North America, than ten years ago. Many more. They don’t announce themselves but they know how to identify each other.

What does your typical day look like?

wake meditate train eat work dream love design eat walk sweat talk read sleep.

3 trends that excite you?

  • Game designers who are applying their art in meaningful directions.
  • Urban farming is taking off in Vancouver, where I live, and that is very inspiring.
  • The coming Zombie Apocalypse: everyone is talking about it. It’s alerting people to the very real need for personal preparedness.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Ideas are already ‘things,’ I think; they just need nurturing. I have various journals that over time become like grimoires, spellbooks for changing reality.

I look back on my journals from five years ago and see the extraordinary ways that those seeds have grown fruit. I think if it’s worth dreaming about it’s worth writing down. Diagrams, models, notes, webs of words… these things help my brain reinforce certain subtle connections. Eventually these doodles and random bits of vision coalesce and aggregate and become less random.

Then eventually I need to talk about things. I have very smart people around me so I had better have my shit together when I start to talk about my ideas.

What inspires you?

Getting back into rhythm with nature. Keeping track of the tides, moon, and winds. I go on a Sea Safari every year with some fellow expeditionaries. Ten days or so of ocean kayaking off Vancouver Island’s Westcoast. That’s where some serious inspiration happens.

Being married is inspiring. Being committed to someone else is a spiritual path. Talking to Magda and being challenged on how I think about things is inspiring. Tough at first, but ultimately inspiring.

Being trusted inspires me. I am very field-oriented so people’s opinions of me matter. Maybe too much. But when I feel trusted by someone I take that very seriously. Well, not seriously as in gravely, I mean I want to live up to what their trust represents to me. I work hard for people who believe in me. It’s a rather constructive back-eddy of my ego.

Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?

I grew up in Vancouver and the big influence was/is the presence of Nature. Big trees, big rain. The rain made me who I am.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Not doing things because of fear is always a mistake. Those may be the only mistakes. I’ve made a number of them.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Ideas are only as resilient as the people behind them. If you’re growing a company to sell an idea, make sure you’re taking care of the people. Grow the culture of your company as intentionally as you develop your business strategy. It’s easy to be excited, passionate and disciplined when things are all new and romantic. It’s when change happens, when people get a bit scared, that you will be tested.

What do you read every day, and why?

I read magazines while in the bathroom. Usually the same ones, over and over. I have clearly cemented certain neural pathways. I find it hard not to have something readable in my hands when I am sitting in the bathroom. The habit started with People magazine when I was a kid. My mom bought it. It is very good bathroom reading. Now I’m quite promiscuous. Anything will do. Spiritual development books, British Esquire, The Walking Dead, they’re in the bathroom rack right now.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Dark Nights of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. Every creative person should have it on hand. And when you take breaks from that, pick up BPRD 1946, which is a spinoff Hellboy story by Mike Mignola.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

Focus Booster is on my desktop. I use it for the ‘Pomodoro’ technique. Really good. Don’t skip the breaks.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Carl Jung. If you can’t raise him, then James Hillman.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.

My moustache caused it. I have since shaved.

What market is emerging right now for you?

The market is of young people entering positions of leadership and responsibility. They are entering the government in droves and they are starting to take over companies in a massive way. They are seen as entitled by their elders but I truly believe they are the salvation our world needs. They are not cynical. They are not ironic. They mean to do good and they will do it. But they need coaching and development.

What makes them really interesting is that these kids, these digital natives, they will not accept education in its traditional forms: staid, stoic, didactic. They want to learn and immediately apply.They want to try it, break it. They have to experiment, and be allowed to fail.

So as a leadership educator – as a Merlin to these young would-be Kings and Queens of the realm – the challenge is to offer them something fresh. Something that is as sophisticated as they are. Ninja Training, basically.

If you went back to school, what would you study?

I don’t know what degree I would do, but I would study Carl Jung and Archetypal Psychology. Maybe it would be a degree in Depth Psychology. Whatever would help bring the underlying patterning of human meaning, and meaning-making, into greater awareness and clarity. There is no area of academia that better understands the mystery, the awe, that is part of human life. I am captivated by the mystery, and live next to it as much as I can stand. So much of life today encourages us to be automated, robotic in our responses. Remembering the wild frontier of unknowing is part of becoming human again. I’m talking about just being present to life in all its uncertainty. I want to help people do that.

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