FAQ -- Can You Explain Your Mission?

A New Paradigm in Education

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” (Buckminster Fuller)

Our Mission

In 1975 our mission was first written. Over the years, our mentors, staff, students, and parents have worked and refining our mission. Each word was carefully chosen and reflected on. It is our guidepost for generations to come. Our mission’s core has never changed though a few words have changed over the years to add clarity and remove ambiguity. It is not only our goal that Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute will continue for perpetuity but our mission will stand to the test of time. All affiliate schools will follow our mission as outlined.

“We believe that a school mission must first prepare its customers (the students) for their individual long-range goals. To that end, we work to use our customer’s personal goals as the vehicles to learn core subjects, building on their strengths, and shoring up any weakness the customers may have.

“We believe that it is up to us to develop future generations of statesmen and stateswomen for a brighter lasting future. We need to create statesmen and stateswomen with a love for Christ, for The US Constitution, and good stewards of the earth. They must have depth and breadth of the Bible, The US Constitution, the harvest, and understanding so deep they will fight to protect them.”>

“Our graduates: must have the habits to be spiritually, mentally, physically, and fiscally healthy and fit, happy, prosperous, emotionally intelligent, empathetic ethical people, with grit and courage; people who are well educated, skilled in creative, critical, and divergent thinking; capable of adaptability and collaboration. People that can and will make the hard decisions necessary to protect the rights of all. In short, the people we need to raise and lead the next generations to the highest standards.”

A Model to Follow

Many of those who grew up during the Great Depression then served during World War II or contributed to the war effort as civilians, and are considered the Greatest Generation. Not only did many of these men and women fight in the war, most volunteered to fight. This generation was also the driving force in putting a man on the moon. It has been said that they were driven to do the right thing.

Through our work with veterans from WWII and Korea, we have heard countless stories of their daily lives, how they were raised, how they were educated, and their experiences in peace and war. Our founders were raised and mentored by this generation and the previous generation. They believe that we need to have future generations having the same skills, attributes, and mindset. Since 1975, our founder’s long-range goal was to have an institute that replicated those results, and work began to build that institution. In 2001 Brian opened the doors on what would later become Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute to give the kids of today many of the same experiences, develop in them the habits, and attributes as those we call the greatest generation. We have also pulled practices from some of the best hotbeds of talent.

The Big Why of Our Mission

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

Their Chosen Field

Our customer is our students, not the state or the insurance company. We do not have a canned curriculum that the students must follow. We provide our students with the freedom and resources to meet their occupation, avocation, family, economic independents, and fitness goals. Like the Founders and Framers of our nation, we also see the need to give our students a strong bond with Christ.


Our belief the kids that made up the Greatest Generation and the generations before were the products of their parents’ and elders’ modeling of love and discipline and doing the core daily routines of pre-1940 life. These attributed to the habits that made the pre-WWII kids the great people they were.

We learn good habits from watching and working with those we want to emulate: good mentors re-enforce their students’ habits. People like to say practice makes perfect. No, practice make permanent. To truly make perfect, one must practice the task correctly, strive with each repetition to raise the bar, and elevate their expectations. We strive to develop the habits of the happiest and most successful people of the Greatest Generation and generations before; through daily core routines.


Our students’ happiness starts with the autonomy to spend their day exploring their interests, developing their passions, and learning in a way that best suits them. Being happy during the formative years develops the brain to its fullest potential. Being in a constant state of stress, on the other hand, limits physical and mental development and future success. Happiness does not come from a day without challenges is come from being given challenges, followed by success.

Happiness is the result of a healthy adrenaline serotonin cycle. A need may cause a spike in adrenalin, the adrenalin produces the stress to do something, be it fight, flight, or work. Serotonin may come from the intrinsic meeting of the need or the external praise for completing the task. This cycle can result from rough and tumble free play, free exploration to venture from safety and find the way back to home, or a strenuous physical or mental task being met and worked through to successful completion. The act of gathering around the central fire and telling the story of the challenge, the “battle,” to their family and peers of their success are just a few examples. Happiness is a product of where you are in the challenge and success cycle. If a person has no challenges, they cannot have the resulting success; therefore, robbed of the happiness that comes with the challenge/success cycle. Music, background noise, the color of light, conversation, and what we choose to think about all can either drive up or down either adrenalin or serotonin.

Being happy is an outcome of habits; being unhappy is also a result of habits. Suppose a person practices daily core routines that trigger a healthy adrenalin serotonin cycle. In that case, they will develop a habit of being happy, and the daily problems of everyday life will not spiral the person down but simply be seen as challenges to overcome. With those habits, the more significant issues that are found in life that may drive others to despair are met with enthusiasm.

There are eight daily core routines that we have identified as common to happy people; therefore, the staff structure the students’ day punctuated with those core routines. Research has shown that practicing these daily core routines changes the structures of the brain. It reduces base adrenaline and increases the base serotonin, making one not only live happier but longer and healthier; another payback is their success.


You might say that those that set and meets their goals of becoming doctors, dentists, stockbrokers, or lawyers are successful. You would probably say that those people that met those goals would reflect on meeting their goals as being successful. You might say that anyone that is depressed about their life sees themselves as being unsuccessful. You would probably agree 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. At Northwestern Outdoor Leadership Institute, we do not measure our students’ success on standardized test scores. We do not measure the staff’s success on how many of our students enter the university or becoming the highest wage earners in their town. We believe the only truly noble measure of a school’s quality is the students’ long-term prosperity as sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, leaders in their communities and companies, and elders in their communities.

Our definition of prosperous: Is the measure of a person to achieve the desired attributes and resources to be happy, to serve their family and community, and, most notably, to prepare their descendants to do the same.

It should be noted, that our hospice patients helped us with this definition.

Emotional Intelligence

We define emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, how our emotional intelligence influences others’ feelings, and how to identify others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is a learned skill, not by lecture and testing but developed by observing others’ modeling and continual interaction with others.


Being empathic is the skill to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is necessary to be a good horseman, good friend, spouse, parent, leader, or statesman. Not having empathy for others will prevent a person from building personal and professional relationships. In those deep connections, we will discover they will prosper in kinship, business, and walking with Christ. To develop the skills of empathy and emotional intelligence cannot be learned from a lecture, reading, or standardized tests but observation and experience. A child will learn more in half an hour of playing tag in a mixed age group or going for a walk with an elderly person than they ever glean from the classroom.

Empathy is only part of what we strive for; we believe that this is only part of the bigger picture. We believe world-class leadership requires a critical understanding of what makes people tick, what people need to raise their bar, and to solve the organizations’ problems that they are leading and do it in a manner that is a good witness to Christ.


Not once in the 706 pages of the law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was ethics mentioned. Over the life of that law, that omission could be seen in how public schools and districts were run. Convictions of district-level and school-level administrators for racketeering were common throughout the country. Cheating on tests, changing scores, changing grades on transcripts, and more were done in the name of NCLB. In many districts forced teachers to teach to the tests. What message did this give a generation that educated in this way? We see the answer to that question in the headlines today.

Our founders put the word ethics in our mission, and our students are reminded of it each morning as they recite the foundational rules of our behavior. Our students’ and staff’s actions, words, and thoughts must be true, fair, foster goodwill, and be good stewardship of the earth. The students, staff, and founders reconfirm our commitments each morning to be responsible for our thoughts, words, feelings, and actions. The students learn that our word and a handshake are as important any contract. Each morning the students reconfirm that our long-range goals are to serve our families, community, country, and Christ.

World-Class Leadership

Our world has always prospered under good skilled, and balanced leaders who truly represent the people they lead. Our own med-range goal is to develop the leadership to continue our work throughout the USA. 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 make great statesmen from the ground up. We create an environment and situations that the skills of leadership develop organically, not starting at age 18 or 15 but as soon as a child can watch and listen.

The US Constitution

Yes, we raise the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance to our US flag each morning, and lower and fold it with respect at the end of each day. We truly believe a fundamental key to a brighter future is to return to our roots of the US Constitution’s framing, we teach the meaning of each word, as the framers meant, the why of its writing, and teach our students to love honor and protect it. We read the US Constitution as well as the founding documents, including the letters and essays of the Framers and Founder, as they were originally written in their cursive hand. This is a part of each student’s weekly lesson plans. It is our goal that our students will lead the way for The US Constitution to no longer be circumvented, hat we will return to having a separation of powers in our government. We can only meet that goal by preparing well educated future citizens, voters, teachers, and statesmen and stateswomen at have the same love for our country and do the founders of NOLI.


When questioning an organization’s agenda, it is always enlightening to track from where the funding comes. With that spirit in mind, we will never accept funds directly or indirectly from the government or any source that conflicts with our mission or tells us what we will teach or how we teach or how we should measure success. We are free to truly tailor curriculums to help the students meet their personal goals for the future as we see fit, not the goals of some unnamed bureaucrat.

Grit, Courage, and Self-confidence

In this age of buildings and cars with environmental control systems, people go through their days and weeks, never venturing more than 2 degrees from 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Too many children today are protected from anything possibility of the slightest injury. Too many people believe children should never have to suffer hearing a simple, “NO!” 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.

Courage is on a spectrum between being a coward on one end and wreckless on the other. Both cowardness and recklessness is a product of lack of experience. Both can develop from a childhood of being overprotected. Courage is learned and developed through free play, exploration, failure, and observation of those with courage you want to emulate. Developing real self-esteem requires getting out of your comfort and working past failures. Rapid growth occurs when failures happen 30% of the time when learning a new skill. Self-esteem is a mindset that stems from the knowledge that “I did it before; therefore, I can do it again.”

Like courage, we learn self-confidence from the experience of taking risks. When kids are little, they take tiny risks with small consequences for poor choices or lack of strength, agility, skill, or knowledge.

Teens will get turned down for dates; to some, it can seem like the end of their world, but with grit, courage, and self-confidence, the teen will take it with stride. Without grit, self-confidence, and courage, small problems are devastating. With grit, courage, and self-confidence, we can pick ourselves up and continue to do what needs to get done when large problems are encountered. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is something everyone understands can be caused by having trauma happen to oneself or seeing trauma happen to someone else. Still, few realize that it can also be caused by being overprotected. Without the daily cycle of adrenalin and serotonin from the daily challenges that humans were given the tools to overcome, the person may fail to thrive. Being overprotected prevents us from having the autonomy to experience a little hurt and grow from it when young. Grit must be developed a little bit each day and grown over time. Our daily chores address this.

Well Educated

Being well educated is broader than simply being well prepared for the workforce, much broader. Our students individually set their long-range goals for their vocation and avocation; their mentors guide them to learn to make midrange goals and daily goals to meet their long-range plans. The students are not given roadblocks to prevent them from following their passions each day; they are given the tools, time, and resources to go beyond mastery in what they pursue. The goal is for them to become leaders in the fields they pursue. Given that they follow that which they have a passion for math, science, history, literature, and art, their goal will be relevant to them yet transferable to other subjects. If and when their passions shift or grow, the skills will still be relevant.

To be true leaders in their vocation, avocation, family, or community, they must also become well educated in kinship, health & fitness, fiscal, and Christ.

Being a well-educated statesman, the student must have a 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 thinkers. As a person raises their bar of mastery in any one skill-set, it contributes to raising the bar in all of the other attributes leading to being well educated. For example, a statesman needs a good knowledge base of history, science, math, and the tools to discern facts from fiction or emotion. Being well balanced in all of those attributes of a well-educated person spirals up to continue making the person better educated.

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


Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, not only especially the production of artistic work but in any problem-solving endeavor, be it engineering, law, or medicine, indeed 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 confronted with challenges.

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

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.”

Critical thinking is applied sound judgment. To solve a problem based on critical thinking, one must have a great breadth and depth of knowledge. Without emotion, it parses out facts from fiction, popular fallacy from reality than 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 awareness to a problem that others cannot 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 stream makes children agile in running and 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, true statesman recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of those that will make up the team. The students will learn to guide the team members to shore up their weaknesses and building on their strengths. They all will learn to use the synergistic effect offsetting the weaknesses of one member with the strengths of another member. A good analogy is the making of rope from randomly combining individual fibers the strengths of one offsets the weakness of others; therefore, the output will be greater than the sum of its parts. When those fibers are put together with mindfulness, making sure that one fiber’s weakness is paired up with another’s strengths, 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 member’s weaknesses.

Our students will have real-time experiences with well-tuned functioning teams defining synergy. Our participants learn to build productive teams that can do 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 the common good. All students will be project managers on little through midsized projects learning project management tools and skills. 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 from the earth are finite, like copper, tin, coal, and crude oil. Others are renewable resources, and through sound management of forests, ranches, and farms, we will feed and shelter us as long as the sun shines, and the rain falls. But with poor management of these land resources, we continue to cause manmade disasters like the mega-fires we are seen in the west every year for nearly a decade. Therefore, it is our responsibility through education and modeling that we create leaders who will make decisions that will positively influence their community, and the legacy of their good work will live for generations to come.


A statesman is an ultimate leader, someone who does everything for the common good of the people he or she represents. A statesman is one of virtue who can make difficult decisions, in difficult times, for the good of the common good of the people they represent.

Best Practics in Eduction

Our mission is to give our students every advantage to become the best leaders they can in their family, community, or field of influence. To that end, we only follow the best practices in education we have identified and proven. We will not waste the staff or student’s time or the parents’ money to do exercises that do not move the student forward in pursuing their goals. These best practices include, but are not limited to the school setting (the default is the outside or in the actual work environment they choose in their apprenticeships), the class size (7), the school size (28), using their long-range goals in our five tenets as the vehicles to teach skills. The daily schedule will be based on body rhythms and the speed the individual student best progresses. Their mentors are masters in their fields with boots on the ground experience. We will follow the best practices in the fields our students are pursuing that our subject area specialists have identified as proven. We do not waste the students’ time or the parents’ money by learning disinformation or methods not used in their field of study.

All learning is the connecting of synapses in the brain and wrapping this connection with myelin. Any practice in education that does not build connects and wrap those connections in wasting everyone’s time and causes frustration to the students, and wast the parents’ money.

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

We strongly believe that our future leaders must protect and serve those who served us. We believe the first step in developing those leaders is forming strong bonds with those who have served and their families. We think it is wrong these very people who 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.


We understand it is hard for soldiers’ families at every step of their journey: boot camp, being deployed, returning from deployment, and retirement. We know 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 correctly and early, it minimizes the stress for all.

Families of the Fallen

We provide a professional 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 the 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. The elderly are institutionalized until death sees little value in their living. These are people with excellent skills and experiences; when the elderly can mentor young adults and children, they have a reason to get up, keep moving, and 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 future staff.

Hospice and Our Mission

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

  • Gone through life and at the end of life had the love and true respect of their family, friends, and community; in short, having built kinship.
  • To go through life and come to the end of life with the funds they need to live comfortably, help their children get started, and help those causes they have grown to see as important; in short, having been fiscally intelligent.
  • Taken the time to enjoy life, making memories with family and friends, and being in nature.
  • Taken the time to pursue other interests.
  • They had the autonomy to follow the path of what they wanted of life, not what others wanted for them, but to have a relevant life.
  • Taken better care of their health and body.
  • They had not hurt others along the way.

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

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

"Qui cessat esse melior esse bono. He who ceased to be better ceases to be good."
—— Oliver Cromwell
"Poco a Poco se anda lejos. Little by little, one goes a long way."
—— A Spanish Proverb