Monthly Archives: April 2017


NSL were guests at the ATFP and APN forum with the Washington Center last night and lots of good questions came up. The one that we hear a lot is about NSL and normalization…that programs like ours pretend an equality of opportunity while hiding a disparity of power.

The team and the alums answered it well, saying that they give themselves permission to participate on NSL and then decide. For them, that is not how they experienced it. They claim the right to decide for themselves, contrary to the dogmas of those who are full of shoulds and should nots. Normalization sounds to them like a parent voice telling them who they can play with. They resent being treated like children unable to make their own adult decisions.

But there is also another answer which has to do with how you see power. When you think of power as armies and economies and tanks and guns, then there is clearly no balance of power between the sides. One is the occupier and the other is the occupier. But that is a limiting view of power if you think in terms of stories, where stories reflect and create asymmetrical power relations.

Think of the David v Goliath struggles of the last century, eg Vietnam, where the USA won the war and lost the story. Think of how the USSR collapsed. they still had power but the story collapsed into incoherency. Or think of the insurgencies that erupt with no military force but a power over hearts and minds. That is real power.

The battle for peace in Israel Palestine is being raged in the hearts and minds of the world right now, independent of how many rockets get fired or how many bombs dropped. NSL says that stories reach across walls and prejudices and break down barriers, they are a call to conscience and to claim a deeper humanity. The NSL team come to share stories, and there is no equivalence of someone who lives near the beach in Tel Aviv and can travel the world at whim and someone who lives in a refugee camp and can’t go anywhere. If you want to call the act of witness, an act of resistance, then that is what it is. But there is no sense of normalization or papering over the inconvenient truths. That would kill the story.

The real growth happens once one person decides to shut up and actually listen for a change. Then you see the power equation shift dramatically. Israelis are actually hearing and being changed by what they hear their Palestinian team mates are saying. And Palestinians are hearing for the first time the human story of the people who occupy them and how imprisoned they feel in a system that indoctrinates and conscripts them before they are barely old enough to make an adult decision about anything. When 18 year olds in the USA are leaving for college and a new adventure, 18 year olds in Israel are donning a uniform and learning how to operate an M16.

Yet NSL basically agrees with what the normalization critique is saying, but disagrees that the correct conclusion is non-engagement. It draws exactly the opposite conclusion. You speak truth to power, you witness, you challenge, you confront, you resist, you work to get a hearing in the halls of power and in the corridors of your enemies. You do not use lack of physical power as the excuse to not even exercise the moral power you do have, or expect the world to rally to the celebration of your victimhood. As we always say, Rage is not a tactic. If you want to change the world, you have to change the story. And if you have a story, you have power.

“What does he need to do tonight?”

The new question the broadcasters put to the pundits before a election debate.
“She has to be more likable.”
“He has to be more Presidential.”
oh….thanks…how profound.
Since when did two bit pundits know what a candidate needed to do???? One can only Imagine….

Lets cross now to Jerusalem- “Jesus has a campaign rally at the Citadel. What does he need to do, Josephus?”

“Well Moses, he needs to rally the base, the peasants and the shepherds and the samaritan women minority, and at the same time, not rile the Romans who don’t want any disturbances of civic serenity and then in the middle, the Pharisees are going to watch to see if Jesus does sway the undecided. Polls are showing he is winning the poor, illiterate and downtrodden. The Temple see threats in the Galilean Fishermen’s League led by Simon Peter who will support Jesus and the Sadducees against controversial Pharisee leader Caiphas, Its going to be a big debate Moses, and I think Jesus must show his divine side. Enough of his ‘Blessed are the poor ‘cliches. He has to make Judea and Samaria Great Again. Show us his miracles.”

“Do you see,Moses, any chance of violence, or that Jesus followers will react if the Romans move in to quell the festival crowd enthusiasm?”

“No Josephus, if there is one thing that we can be certain of, it is that no one will be crucified this week, because the Pharisees do not have Pilate on side, and Romans love to see the subject people arguing over religion because they can exploit it.”

“Moses, Will Jesus sayings on paying taxes hurt his appeal?”

” It depends Josephus, on whether people think his attack on Wells Fargo money changing table outside the Temple is a stunt or a real effort to show up the 99% Middle Class plight.”

Thanks Moses, we will stay tuned to that unfolding story, and now
we cut to Waterloo.

“Pierre, what does Bonaparte have to do here?”
“Not Lose.”

Now we Cross now to a local story at Gettysburg
” Jefferson, what does Lee have to do here?”
“Not lose.”

We Cross now to CNN
“Wolf, what does CNN need to do here?”
“Not ask dumb ass questions.”
“Then what do our correspondents get to say to the camera?’
“That they need a brain. and another job other than insulting the intelligence of every viewer.”

So that is what they need. Thanks for watching.


Since the Bush-Rove days, the election strategy de jour is win by dividing. Appeal to the basest of bases so you get your ardent voters out to beat the crap out of the other side, and put gay marriage and abortion or God or Hillary as wedge issues on the ballots as extra incentive.

Then you win…just.. and in your very next breath say.. with no hint of irony or shame …its time to unite folks..I wasn’t serious..I was only scaring you to get your vote..I won …so now it’s all ok..what I said about migrants, women, mexicans..nukes, russia, just kidding…come on…please .let’s now come together as Americans.!!! Your vote has made me into a stateman. Crooked Hillary ..lock her up… is now a great public servant. We are all americans.

Trump did not invent this move. It’s the practice. But he mastered it brilliantly.

The hypocrisy is mind boggling, so presumptuous but it’s how people have worked out how to win…at any costs. Slash and burn.

What Lincoln said..a house divided against itself cannot stand…has become… a party that does not divide the house cannot rise.

Who would have thought that we would decide to create a new civil war every 4 years…red v blue, city v country, coast v heartlands, men v women, South v North, just to elect a president. It destroys the very thing you must have to govern. Trust.

A Divider cannot turn into a Uniter in 5 hours, just as someone who has hurt you, threatened you, ignored you, insulted you can suddenly in the space of 5 hours become the great healer of the nation’s wounds. No… have been elected President of the DSA instead of the USA, the Divided States of America. Good luck. You will need it.

My Eulogy for Dad

As a war time navigator, Dad certainly ended up in places that were not on the map of his growing up. Back then, he and brother Steve would play on Aunty Moriah’s property at Warrill Creek and he’d dream of becoming a farmer, saving his pocket money so he and his Dad could buy a few acres.

Life, of course, had other plans.

Dad’s father Martin died when Berny was 17. Next year World War 2 came, and brother Steve died in the AIF defending Singapore when it fell. Dad signed up on Pearl Harbor day…the army, then the RAAF and was commissioned as an officer, sent to fly with RAF Bomber Command. The trajectory of his life changed so dramatically. Even in his later years, this humble Christian Brothers Ipswich boy could not believe his luck.

As the boat steamed up the Brisbane River, on his way to war, Dad remembered looking back at the last landmark on the distant shore-Nazareth House. What lay ahead was a whole other world- San Francisco, New York, London, officer training, navigation school, Squadron 115, 30 combat missions over Europe. In those dangerous days, you were lucky to survive 5 missions. In the RAF he was a leader and as navigator – getting the crew home safely was the difference between life or death. On a Bribie beach 50 years later, when one of his crew Alan Gibbs recognized Berny, he greeted him as “the man who saved my life.”

In that crucible of war, he excelled and he met the love of his life, a stunningly beautiful Air Force nurse, Muriel Thompson, who was not Catholic, not Australian, and who was not exactly what the family had in mind. Dad dared all for love. He brought his new bride home to 36 Alma Street, Clayfield and returned to work with the Commonwealth Bank and went to University to get a Commerce degree.

This aspiring Ipswich farmer boy had taken on Hitler and won, had a beautiful sophisticated wife, and he was a decorated officer. The world was his. Thus had he built the platform to create one amazing life.

68 years of marriage, Bank Manager and CBO Association Vice President, 4 kids, 14 grand kids, 14 great grand kids, his service to the church- the 2 local parishes, the devoted baby sitter, his work with the Oblates, Iona, Rosies, the Passion Play, lay catechist, NCC. Dad always invested his ambitions and inspirations in others. Do your best was never enough- He wanted the best of the best. If Steve or I brought home a 97% mark from Iona Dad would grill us, what happened to the other 3%?

The kids- the grand kids-the great grand kids -they are his legacy. Now Grandpa could be a curmudgeonly old critter but you knew that when times got tough, he would be there for you, with his boots on.

His deep Catholic faith defined him. A few hours before he died, Sister Faustina came over to us after mass and said,”Berny, you are the greatest example of faith we sisters know.”

The lowest points of his long life was losing his first born, our sister Suzy and then Mum, three years ago. But this year, a final high point….funnily enough- back at Aunty Moriahs’ farm- only this time, it is what has become Amberley Air Force base-to receive the Legion of Honor for his role on D Day and the liberation of France. For Dad it was final recognition of his life of service. Aunty Moriah must have smiled.

Last Tuesday morning, I took him to mass, and left him to rest. After lunch, as if he knew, he said his goodbyes to the amazing staff and two hours later he was gone. For this navigator, just as in 1944, Nazareth House was the last sight Berny had of this earthly shore.

Like a good navigator, he left us a map- of how to live, how to serve, and how to die. Weeks before I arrived, Dad had told Jenny and Steve- “I am waiting for Paul to take me home.” I will be forever grateful that he waited, and that he saw in me what we always saw in him- the joy of coming home. May God give him that joy at last.

If you want to change the world, you have to change the story! September 27, 2015

What story?” You ask.
The story that says, “You are wasting your time trying to change anything.”
The story that says, ”Who are you to presume you can do anything that makes a difference to anyone? Are you the Messiah?”
The story that says ”We tried it all before, and it didn’t work then and so obviously it won’t work now.”
The story that says  “Why bother? Just live your own life and make the best of it. No one else gives a dam. Why should you?”
The story that says, “We have always had this story of how we do things, and to mess with that is to insult those who came before you.”
The story that says, “Try it but if you fail, you risk being labeled a loser. Don’t take crazy risks. Be prudent.”
The story that says  ”You have to wait till you are ready, and you are not ready.”
The story that says, “You have to wait till you have enough funds, and you have no funds: you are broke!”
The story that says “You have to wait till you get the right people, and so far, you have the wrong people, merely amateurs.”
The story that says, “You need to get your Harvard degree in change management and your Oxford MBA. Till then, leave it to the experts.”

The story that says” The best minds, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Generals, Popes, Diplomats, Rabbis, Mullahs, and Senators have all tried to bring peace to Israel and Palestine, and you think your little program can possibly do what this pantheon of potentates have failed to do?”

….If you want to change the world, you have to change the story…We know because its been done before:
Selma, Seneca Falls, Stonewall,
Gandhi, FDR, MLK. JFK. LBJ
Jesus, Moses, Abraham,The Prophet. Buddha
Steve Jobs, FDR the Beatles, Obama,
Me and You
……………………………………..(Write your name here)
Come join the Story Change Revolution!

  1. Paul Andrew Costello for New Story Leadership 2015 Team and moving forward to 2016

(Thought I would give myself a little pep talk)


+(That is the motto of New Story Leadership. (

It Matters Less the Story You Tell, It Matters More the Story You Trigger, the one that shapes the Listening

“I never said half the things I said.” Yogi Berra

“Its not what you said that matters
and its not even what you think you said
(which is sometimes totally different)
Its not even what your audience heard
its what they think they heard you saying.”


Unless you speak inside the story that shapes the Listeners Listening
you will trigger them back into their own preferred stories anyway
reducing you to the script they expected.  Nothing Changes.
Its not the story you tell that matters,
despite all our workshops and training
its the story you trigger
the story people listen to you through.
Story is the shape of our listening. Now that reminds of of something I read or maybe even wrote way back
the Shape of our listening

Re-interpreting Karl Marx’s Interpretation- Memo to Presidential Candidates

It is one of those quotable quotes- “that philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it.” It looks good on a T-shirt and a bumper sticker, and its too clever by half. The irony of course, is that this interpretation of philosophers interpreting the world is also an interpretation.

The sleight of hand is to make you think that changing the world is different from changing what the world means. Yet, what great minds like Marx or Freud or Darwin do is not that much in terms of  heroic action. Take a voyage to the Galapagos Islands  and come home and write a book- see women with various forms of hysteria and write a case study, study the economies of the industrializing world at the British Library, and write a few hefty tomes- Yes, Marx does change the world but he changes it by seeing it through a different lens, understanding it as a hidden process of consciousness and liberation, and therefore ripe for revolution. He did what any good philosopher does, reinterpret the world, and thereby he changed it. He makes his own saying into a lie.

Nothing helps change more than the story that we invent that tells us that we are on the brink of it, or that  it is urgent because things are broken and desperate. Sound familiar? Washington is broken. Wall Street is running the show. Government is corrupt and bloated. Its what narrative practitioners so enjoy about any election year- that the headlines of any or all of the candidates echo the cliches that are as old as Plato and as hackneyed as Jefferson and Hamilton. Imagine a candidate saying, “Nothing needs to change, that we are changing too much, that we need to get back to what we used to do in the 1950’s.”   Won’t happen.

To change the world is the reverse of what Marx said because it means changing how we interpret it, just as he did.  If we, like him, interpret it as  ripe for change, and we convince people that we are reading history right, we too can muster the masses to our cause.  

Finally, this might make a good memo to the Presidential Candidates for 2016- if you want to change the world, help us change the way we see it. Don’t pander to our lazy habits of mind that don’t want to think too hard about the hard issues. Stop feeding our messianic delusions  by promising that you and only you can save us from Mexicans, Martians and Marxists. You might not change our hearts, but why not at least try changing our minds.

From Walls to Windows- The Power of Stories

When combatants decide to share a personal story, one that comes out of the authority of their own experience, not parotting some tribal or religious orthodoxy, they begin to dismantle the wall of separation. They turn a wall into a window. Brick by brick, story by story, light comes through.
Underneath all the disagreements and bitterness, a shared human story gradually emerges.

The stories that feed war and fuel the military’s  propaganda machine can only work by stripping the “other” of their humanity.  For that reason, sharing a story from the heart becomes a profound act of resistance.

NSL’s goal is to create a Listening culture in the midst of a debate where people mostly shout past one another. At NSL, stories are treated as gifts, and where by modeling a narrative way, people can reclaim the capacity that war has stolen from them, the power to give people  back their humanity.

Go to Wall of Stories 

What if…. the future already happened, but we missed it?

What if…. the old story- that Israelis and Palestinians can never get along, that they will always hate and mistrust each other, that violence is in their DNA, gets contradicted every summer in a small and secret Washington DC human laboratory? Its not at the NIH, and its not a CIA plot. Its not even Los Alamos! Its a bit of a secret, of course, and its fragile. Sometimes it blows up, but sometimes, sometimes, it works.

Who knew? And what difference could it make?

What if…. a small group of intrepid activists commit to a 7 week experiment every year, one that might prove the past to be irrelevant when they realize the one thing that unites them as young people is their future.

Like their elders, they can’t even agree on the past, but unlike their elders, they inherited it. They did not live it, and so, they don’t have to keep on reliving it. The future is a different country,, if that is what they choose to make it. For the first time, they are confronted with a choice they never thought they had.

What if…. these pioneers do it hard, struggle to hear each other and argue and cry and disagree, but yet, remain committed, remain at the table. Over time, they realize that there is something they are creating that does not blunt their differences but shows them glimpses of another way, hints of another possibility. What if this could become the new story? What if they as leaders return home to translate this new story into reality. That is what NSL is all about.

Are you a pioneer? Do you want to test yourself in a human experiment about difference? Do you want to explore the distant future up close, then NSL might be for you.

If you are passionate, ready to argue and to listen, eager to engage the other side, prepared to be shocked and made feel uncomfortable, convinced of course that you are always right but ready to admit you may be totally wrong, then NSL might be the summer of a lifetime, something not to be missed.

On the other hand, If you want a relaxed, polite and comfortable summer, meeting new friends and having fun, go to Miami. NSL is like a boot camp for change makers. You come thinking you will change the world, and return understanding that first, the world has to change you. And that is never easy.

If you are ready? Go here.


Happy thanksgiving to All- someone mentioned recently that Gratitude has an effect on how we experience time- that it slows it down. partly because it means we look back and double down on moments and people whose contribution, by our thanks, we are revalidating And is has something of a pause about it, a deep breath, a sigh of the soul that instead of expressing our pain, it is more a lovers sigh, that life could be THIS good. Wow. As one bumper sticker says, Slow down to the speed of life, One is grateful to what gratitude does for us, even if for one day of the year.