The question I get asked every time I present on 12 Buckets is, "But, what are the 12 Buckets?".
I'll let you in on a little known fact about 12 Buckets. For the last 6 years, the 12 buckets have actually represented nothing.
Zip. Zero. Donut.
For the majority of our time, there has been as much reason for the number "12" as there is water in an empty... well... bucket.
Don't get me wrong, at 12 Buckets we have always been clear about what the actual bucket image represented. Still today, it symbolises our philosophy that fullness in life comes, when you pour yourself out for others. And this hasn't changed. Hopefully, this will allay any fears that, all this time, we have simply been wayfarers in desperate search for our organisational moment of existential clarity.
No, the heartbeat of our organisation is clear. What 12 Buckets is to be about in this world has been firmly established.
But 12? Why is there 12?
This year, we can answer the "Why 12?" question. Not only that, but the answer doesn't involve linguistic gymnasts to make it stick.
The 'why' fits as though it was tailored; it's far from being a single season garment or like undersized activewear sold by Red Dot. The answer to "Why 12?" feels ready for a lifetime's wear.
Before explaining the 12, it's important to remember that there is nothing new under the sun. In life, there are times that we borrow, morph and sometimes just straight out copy. Just ask Sam Smith and the legend, Tom Petty (you may remember Sam wanted us to stay with him, while Tom just wouldn't back down). As far as the development of 12 Buckets goes, we'll be up front about the fact that we have been influenced by a number of people who are smarter and wiser than us.
Take, for instance, the work of Joseph Grenny. The work of this social science giant has helped to shape so much of what we do when it comes to influencing the thinking and responses of the children we walk alongside.
More recently, we were introduced to the work and thinking of Larry K. Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg, and Steve Van Bockern. In their book, Reclaiming Youth at Risk, they articulate a framework of thought that is both powerful and effective. The framework is known as the Circle of Courage and it offers a holistic structure for how we think through and talk about wellbeing.
The four areas in the Circle of Courage include: Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity. Our response to this material has been to break each of those four areas into three parts and then imagine what it might look like to have children actively engage with each theme and also consider what can happen when each area is engaged with intentionally. The headings from the Circle of Courage have been partially massaged by 12 Buckets to become: Responsibility, Community, Mastery and Generosity.
What we imagine
We imagine independent young people, contributing to the stability of their community through honed skills and generosity.
Here are the 12 Buckets in picture form:
Every module that we create in our tailored mentoring program now has this framework in mind. So, whether kids are learning woodwork, cooking, magic, creative writing or photography (just to name a few of our modules), our 12 Buckets mentors will be weaving these themes throughout their conversations with the students.
The 12 Buckets Unpacked
In the following weeks, I'll be unpacking each of the quadrants and their buckets with the hope that there may be something in there that helps new possibilities spring to life in your own home or classroom setting.
Travis Fitch is the founder and CEO of 12 Buckets Inc.