​Leonard C. Burrello
Executive Director
The Center for Appreciative

Organizing in Education
The Center for Appreciative Organizing in Education recommends that school districts consider Martin Seligman’s concept of well-being when defining their purposes, core values, and metrics for measuring student success. Seligman writes about five elements of well-being (PERMA) in his 2011 book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Those five elements, summarized in “The PERMA Model: A Scientific Theory of Happiness,” are:

  • positive emotions – at work, while in school, and throughout your life;
  • engagement with one’s work, art, relationships, or play;
  • Reciprocal and meaningful one-to-one relationships, as well as positive group relationships based around common interests;
  • meaning and purpose, which come from living a life of fulfilling experiences which contribute to the world beyond oneself and to the good of others;
  • and accomplishments and achievements in the performance arts, music programs, peer leadership activities, etc.  Accomplishment can only result from your having set realistic and realizable goals, and your aspirations must go beyond receiving high marks on an exam.

This all came to mind today after a casual reading of Adam Bryant’s interview with Bracken Darrell in The New York Times.
Darrell grew up with two educators as parents with modest incomes. They divorced, and the family’s financial security waned, but his parents continued to promote education. While playing basketball in high school and college, Bracken sought after meaningful and impactful student leadership experiences. He assures us that “[t]he single thing that’s made me successful over my life is drive. It’s not I.Q.  It’s not some luck of having social skills that somebody else doesn’t have. It’s just drive . . . It’s amazing how good life is if you work hard.” He also, of course, set goals. Goals do not cost anything in and of themselves – they are free, but they are so effective as a means of staying hungry and creating hunger in others.
Early in the interview, Darrell discusses the core values that he believes his company once lacked. One was speaking up. For years, he says, “everybody’s talking about problems. But if nobody listens to them they stop talking about problems, so you don’t know what they are.  The most dangerous thing is to be sitting in an office and nobody’s telling you what’s wrong. So I immediately started talking about speaking up and moving fast.”
We think his big “aha” moment was when he realized that “you have to inspire people to do stuff, just like in high school, even though they’re getting paid to work.” Darrell goes on to say something that exemplifies his outward-looking mindset: “It’s a volunteer world, even if it doesn’t look like it. If you treat people like volunteers, you’re much better off.”
Darrell has built a career and a successful business off Seligman’s PERMA model: his parents infused him with a positive attitude towards continued education and achievement. His incredible drive engaged him with his work. Beyond those he had always had with his parents, he built relationships with his employees and treated them like volunteers in a powerful cooperative. He derived meaning from those relationships and the work which he and his staff accomplished, from the work they did to solve the company’s problems together for the betterment of their consumers. And he has thus accomplished more with his team and his community than simply turning a greater profit.
Darrel is the CEO of Logitech, a technology accessories maker, but the lessons he’s learned are applicable to the world his parents so deeply respected – the world of education and educators.