Our Mission Defined

A New Paradigm in Education

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” –Joel A. Barker

We believe, for a brighter future, we must develop those that will lead others that have the habits to be healthy physically fit happy successful emotionally intelligent empathetic ethical people with grit, which are well educated, skilled in creative, critical, and divergent thinking, capable of adaptability and collaboration, and are good stewards of the earth.


This has been our mission for a very long time, it has grown and been refined with the help of our mentors, some still with us, some passed, with our staff and with our students. Each word has been carefully chosen and reflected upon. Our goal in writing this page is to have you develop a full understanding of what we do and why we do it.

The Big Why of Our Mission

We take our mission seriously, it is our guiding post for all of our actions. It will be our guiding post long after our founders have passed. For each decision that is to be made, for each motion on the floor to be passed, it must first pass the test that it is in agreement with our mission. Our founders have given those that follow, for perpetuity, this guiding post, it will not change. That no decision will jeopardize or change the mission. Each key point is defined below:


Positive habits are learned from those that model positive habits daily: good mentors re-enforce those habits in their students. People like to say practice make perfect. No, practice make permanent. To truly make perfect one must practice the task perfectly, to strive with each practice to raise the bar, to raise ones expectation. We strive to develop the habits, the daily core routines that happy success people do.


Being happy is a habit; being unhappy is also a habit. If a person has the habit of being happy the daily problems of everyday life do not spiral the person down but are just seen as a challenge to overcome. There are eight daily core routines that have been identified as common to happy people and the structure of the staff and students day is punctuated with those core routines. Research has shown that practicing these daily core routines change the structures of the brain, it reduces serotonin and increases melatonin which makes one live longer and live healthier; there is another payback which is success.


You probably would say that someone that sets and meets their goal of becoming a doctor, dentist, stockbroker, or lawyer successful. You would probably say that those people that met those goals would reflect on meeting their goals as being successful. You would probably say that anyone that is depressed about their life sees themselves as being unsuccessful. You would probably say that someone that takes their own life as being unsuccessful. Yet those same people that you said were successful are nearly twice as likely to kill themselves as the general population. We at Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institure do not base or see success solely on a high score on a standardized test or be the richest person in town. Our definition of success – a person that achieves desired prosperity. We have let our hospice patients help us with that definition.

Our work with hospice patients has taught us that a person at the end of life has a clearer perspective of what is important. Many that were unhappy or terrified of dying have told us the things they would have changed or done differently; those that were happy told us why they were content here is that list:

As you go deeper into what we do, you will see that we are serious about making those points resonate throughout what we do in all our programs, and measuring success in more real ways.

Emotional Intelligence

We define emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions, how our own emotional intelligence influences emotions of others, and how to recognize the emotions of others. This is a learned skill, not by lecture and testing but developed through observation of the modeling of others and continual interaction with others.


Being empathic is the skill to understand and share the feelings of another. The skill of empathy is necessary to be a good horseman, good friend, spouse, parent, or leader. Not having empathy for others will prevent a person from building personal and professional relationships, and in those deep connections that make for success in both kinship and business. To develop the skills of empathy and emotional intelligence can not be learned from lecture, reading, or standardized tests but from observation and experience. A child will learn more in a half an hour of playing tag than in a week of studying a book.

Empathy is only part of what we strive for, we believe that this is only part of the bigger picture. We believe world class leaders requires critical understanding of what makes people tick, what people need to raise their own personal bar, to solve the problems of the organizations that they are leading.

World-Class Leadership

Our world has always prospered under good skilled and balanced leaders. Our own mid-range goal is to develop the leadership to take over the work that we do in our organization. Our long-range goal is to take it forward into the ancestors that have yet to be born. To build a world that will continue to be healthy and prosper as long as the sun shines. Everything we do is to build great leaders from the ground up. We create an enviormant and situations that the skills of leadership develop organicly not starting at age 18 or 15 but as soon as they can watch and listen to others.


Grit is to have the courage and resolve; the strength of character to continue to push on when roadblocks get in our way. None of us will have a life free of problems, some will be small like getting turned down for a date others will be enormous like the loss of a child. Without grit, small problems are devastating, with grit when we encounter large problems we can pick ourselves up and continue to do what needs to get done. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), everyone understands can be caused by having trauma happen to one’s self or seeing it happen to someone else, but few realize that it can also be caused by being overprotected. Being overprotected prevents us from having the automony to experience a little hurt and grow from it when young. Grit must be developed a little bit each day grown over time.

Well Educated

Being well educated is broader than simply being well prepared for the workforce, much broader.

Truly being well educated gives a person the depth and breadth of knowledge and skill-set to have mastery of the other attributes listed in our mission such as creative, critical, and divergent thinker. As a person raises their bar of mastery in any one skill-set, it contributes to the ability to raise the bar in all of the other attributes leading to being well educated. Example without a good knowledge base of history, science, and math a leader does not have the tools to decern fact from fiction or emotion. Being well balanced in all of those attributes of a well-educated person spirals up to continue making the person much more well educated.

Being well educated requires us all to keep moving forward, if we are not moving forward we are falling behind. Therefore being well educated is also a habit.


Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, not only especially the production of an artistic work but in any problem-solving endeavor be it engineering, law, or medicine, truly the list is endless.

Through exposure to many subjects and disciplines, through design projects, collaboration with others, and rewarded for finding better ways of doing tasks and solving problems our students become creative and develop a positive outlook when being confronted with challenges.

In our rapidly changing world, our leaders need to find new and creative solutions to the problems that will lie ahead.

Critical Thinking

As Defined by Micheal Scriven & Richard Paul

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”

To solve a problem based on critical thinking one must have a great breadth and depth of knowledge and without emotion pars out facts from fiction, popular fallacy from reality then using logic and reasoning to address the true problem. The benefit of decisions based on critical thinking is time, energy, and money pursuing solutions to problems that will not solve the problem will not be wasted. Critical thinking will eliminate much more costly solutions from those that are less expensive or simpler. It will eliminate working at solving a problem that is not a real problem. It will allow people to see a real problem when others can’t see a real problem at all, or see that a given solution may cause a much bigger problem. It will give an awareness to a problem that others can not see. Again another skill that our true leaders need to be masters at.


In real life trails can be rocky, paths are blocked with a swollen creek. The simple act of running on a rocky trail picking a path across a creek makes children agile in not only in running but in thinking. What would stop others in their tracks does not slow our students down. The failure of equipment, the death of livestock, unpredicted weather, the death of a friend, lack of acceptance or rejection, or civil unrest; all of these happen in real-life and in addition to building grit these events that require a workaround to train the mind to be adaptable, to have agility, and prepare us for bigger hurdles.


Collaboration is more than working with others on a team, it is to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of those that will make up the team and shore up those weaknesses and build on the strengths, that is when synergy is at its best. Like the making of rope from randomly combining individual fibers the strengths of one offset the weakness of others, the output will be greater than the sum of its parts. However, if those fibers are put together with mindfulness making sure that the weakness of one fiber is paired up with a fiber that shores up by the strengths of another a superior rope is produced.

If a well thought out collaborative team is built on that same precept that all members have different strengths the team will define synergy. It is not enough to simply work together in a team but train leaders to build great teams that build on the strengths of the team and help strengthen members weaknesses.

Our students will have real-time experiences with well tuned functioning teams defining synergy. Our participants learn to build productive teams that can be done more than one person can do alone by the sheer volume of work to be done or the need of various experts from the different fields of study to put their heads together for a common good. All students will be project managers on little through midsized projects learning the tools and skills of project management. Their capstone project will most likely be a project that they will want the synergy of collaboration.

Good Stewards of the Earth

We cannot be separated from nature; all food, water, timber, wool, cotton, and many medicines come from nature. Many cultures teach that everything we need has been given to us in nature. Many resources that come from the earth are finite like copper, tin, coal and crude oil, others through good management like game, timber, pastures, crops will feed and clothe us as long as the sun shines and the rain falls. But with poor management of these resources and the land may continue to cause manmade disasters like the Dust Bowl. Therefore, it is our responsibility through education and modeling that we create leaders that will not only make decisions that will positively influence their community but the legacy of their good work will live for generations to come.

Veterans, Military, and First Responders, Their Families and the Elderly

We strongly believe that our future leaders must protect and serve those that protected and served us. We believe the first step in developing those leaders is developing strong bonds to those that have served and to their families. We understand that it is wrong that these very people that have served us in times of conflict or peace should be put in isolation. These people should be respected and helped every day not just on Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day.

The Families

We understand it is hard for the families of military every step of their journey: boot camp, being deployed, returning from deployment, and retirement. We understand that the soldier and their family are ill prepared for these events and both the soldier and their family need training, skills, tools, and mentorship to navigate these times. When done properly and early it minimizes the damage for all.

Families of the Fallen

We also see a great need for training and an experienced community with the tools to catch the families of fallen soldiers and first responders when they need it most. It is shown that early intervention minimizes dropout rate, addiction, and suicide of the children of the fallen.


A measure of the health of a society is how well we treat the elderly. Elderly that are institutionalized until death sees little value in their living. These are people with great skills and experiences; when the elderly are able to mentor young adults and children, they have a reason to get up, to keep moving, and to live. Studies show that both the elderly and the ones they mentor have a better quality of life.

Elderly and Veterans (and First Responders) as a Resource

We see Elderly, Veterans, Military, and First Responders and their Families as resources with experiences, training, and the grit we need as peers for other participants and as our future staff.

<!### Services to Elderly and Veterans (and First Responders) and Families Will Be Free of Charge

They have already paid the cost of their service to the US, therefore, we believe that there will be no cost to them or their families. We do believe that they must contribute by helping with chores using the skills they are learning and the expertise they already possess. >

"Critical thinking is a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture."
—Francis Bacon (1605)