RealTime Resolutions

Models and mentors from Fast Company’s signature event offer ideas, inspiration, and clarity for the year ahead.


Each spring and fall, Fast Company sequesters in-the-trenches leaders and learners with a dozen of the magazine’s greatest models and mentors. These dynamic gatherings tap some of the country’s most intriguing business thinkers for three days of dialogue, decision making, and discovery called RealTime. Here, several former RealTime speakers share their most challenging New Year’s resolutions, their lessons learned in 2000, and their advice for Act II of the new economy.


Thornton May, chief awareness officer, Guardent
Richard Leider, founding partner, The Inventure Group
Nan Crawford, artistic director, Pacific Playback Theatre
Tom McMakin, CEO, Great Harvest Franchising Inc.
Rory Stear, CEO, Freeplay Group

Learn more about RealTime Philadelphia: May 20 – 22

Thornton May

Corporate futurist and chief awareness officer
RealTime Phoenix

“In 2001, I pledge to reduce the mountain of ignorance around privacy issues. The information economy is witnessing overreaction on the privacy front as legislators launch digital witch-hunts — branding organizations that collect and use consumer information as ‘evil.’ CEOs and boards of directors just don’t know how much consumers really care about their digital privacy. I hope to create shared spaces where consensus can be reached in 2001.

“The most painful lesson I learned in 2000 is that pagers, cell-phones, and PalmPilots are the crack cocaine of well-educated high performers. We need to decrease our dosage. As real-time connectivity goes up, the ability to reflect on the impact of our decisions goes down. The total-connectivity genie is out of the bottle. How well people will deal with that genie remains to be seen.

“My advice for Fast Company readers as they head off into 2001 is, Avoid faux busyness. Take more naps. Turn off your digital devices — every day. Put your knees under a table with people who matter to you.”


Richard Leider

Founding partner
The Inventure Group
RealTime Philly, San Diego, Naples, and New Orleans

“My resolution for 2001 is to create a brand-new old job. In the past year, I learned that it takes much more energy to ignore things than it does to deal with them once and for all. Everyone has a calling, something they were born to do. The trick is facing that truth and uncovering your calling.”

Nan Crawford

Artistic director
Pacific Playback Theatre
RealTime San Diego, New Orleans, and Monterey

“My most challenging New Year’s resolution is this: to simplify.

“In 1999, our home was largely destroyed by fire. In the past year, we went from enduring tremendous upheaval and discombobulating chaos to rebuilding a nest that better serves our needs and that offers us even greater sanctuary than before. I would certainly never have chosen that path, but in many ways, the fire strengthened my relationships and transformed my priorities. A palpable lesson in nonattachment, losing my home has made it easier for me to clear clutter off my desk.

“In 2001, I encourage Fast Company readers to articulate and focus on what is most meaningful to them. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Rather than attacking your troubles, focus on what is working really well, and do more of it.”


Tom McMakin

Great Harvest Franchising Inc.
RealTime Phoenix, San Diego, and Naples

“You can have it all but not at the same time. The year 2000 saw me write a book, have a baby boy, launch a speaking career, and oversee big changes at Great Harvest. Combined, it was too much. I forgot something important.

“You know how a dog seems to take on characteristics of his master after a while? Our businesses and our work are like that too. When we are drained, unhealthy, or adrift, so too is our work. The new economy drives us to work more and more on our businesses. But here’s the truth: A balanced life is not some dessert to be eaten after we meet success; it is the very stuff that makes success possible in the first place.

“People smarter than I have taught me that the key to work and business success is to work first on yourself. And that the only way to create space in your life — the kind of space you need to grow as a person — is to first create a business or work that is truly serves that life.”

Rory Stear

Joint chairman and CEO
Freeplay Group
RealTime San Diego

“This year, Freeplay resolves to balance its business needs with its desire to give back to the community. Specifically, we are working to bring self-sufficient energy to the developing world, especially Zambia and Rwanda, two countries torn apart by AIDS and genocide.


“Both countries have large populations of orphaned children who fall outside the education system and continue to suffer. Together with organizations like UNICEF, the Freeplay Foundation — a separate nonprofit mainly funded by Freeplay — aims to empower those children by giving them self-powered radios that will provide them with access to health, educational, and agricultural programming.

“The most painful lesson we learned last year was not to overestimate millennial sales. Our company, like so many others, saw a dramatic increase in demand for technology as the year 2000 approached. But within a few months, U.S. sales settled dramatically and our largest market stagnated. As a result, we had a difficult year ‘right-sizing’ our inventory levels in time for the 2000 holiday season. We learned that success meant returning to our core focus of being a business-to-business technology company that partners with brand-established companies worldwide.

“My advice for Fast Company folks is to remain true to their corporate missions. It’s important to continuously evaluate your company and its practices against its corporate mission. If the two don’t match, something needs to change. Above all, it’s not possible to do good unless you have a self-sufficient, self-sustainable business model.”