Away from or towards?

There are times when we’re just standing or sitting around literally without any real direction in our thoughts, feelings or actions. But most times, if we’re honest and aware, we do have leanings, we do possess strong opinions. And the road we are on may not always be completely clear, but it has a most certain vector.

Is it a path away from or toward compassion and justice?

Is it one that embraces innovation or runs from it to defend the status quo?

Is the destination a place of tolerance, respect and inclusion, or a rejection of it?

Do we see prudent risk as a means of growth or is it our enemy?

In our most important relationships, are we turned toward each other committed to build understanding and connection and work through our vulnerabilities, or have we pivoted away out of fear or self-righteousness.

There are only a few values that really matter, that advance our humanity, that bring us together, that move us all forward, that fundamentally heal the world.

Whether we have complete clarity on all that isn’t the point. Nor is doing it all perfectly.

Knowing which direction we are headed most certainly is.

Pure unicorn dust

Do you know companies that say they are all about growth and innovation, yet completely lack any semblance of a process or a modicum of dedicated funding and resources to support these efforts? Do they even possess a culture that not only celebrates taking risk, but that actually knows how to fail better?

Have you heard brands’ espouse a commitment to omni-channel and seamless integration that still operate with silo-ed organizations, silo-ed customer data, silo-ed systems and channel-driven, rather than customer-focused, metrics?

Perhaps you have a friend or a loved one who say they are full of love and compassion and who constantly speaks of making big changes in their life, but has yet to put any of it into practice?

When was the last time something worth doing spontaneously emerged at your organization? When the last time a major transformation happened without an all-in commitment from leadership and a willingness to take on the status quo? When was the last time you’ve made a big change in your life merely through talking about it?

Intentions are great. Concrete plans are better. But the work that matters is in the doing, in taking the plunge, in taking head-on the things that scare us, in making a ruckus.

Yes, it might not work. Sure, you could look stupid or reckless. And, there is a pretty good chance you’re going to piss some people off along your journey. That’s probably a clue that you’re on the right track.

Get out of the stands and into the arena. Anything else is just really good imagination.

“Actually, I’m the one who deserves an apology”

When someone says this the one thing you can be virtually certain of is that they aren’t owed an apology.

This is the language of the person who lives in the Karpman Triangle. It’s the default mechanism for someone who bounces between bully, victim and savior, who fails to take responsibility and own up to their actions. It’s the go-to-strategy for someone engaged, consciously or not, in a game of manipulation.

It’s exhausting to work with or be in a relationship with people like this. It’s exhausting to be this person (trust me, been there, done that, still struggle with it).

The world is hard enough without our getting stuck in self-righteous indignation or victim-hood. And I’m pretty sure there is no shortage of bullies or martyrs.

I know that when I shift my intention toward taking responsibility, demonstrating compassion, extending grace and simply doing the work–rather than merely talking about it–good stuff happens.

When I go on the attack, when I sit in judgement, when I wait around to be acknowledged for my noble deeds–which, of course, are far too great to enumerate here–well, not so much.

The useless revolutionary

There is something intensely appealing about revolutionary figures.

Their vision of a very different world often has a certain sex appeal that captivates our imagination. The sheer notion of shaking things up, fomenting rebellion, kicking those rascal outs, reinventing an industry or whatever clarion call the revolutionary rallies around can be deeply inspiring and plainly seductive.

The revolutionary may tap into real oppression or the zeitgeist of restless frustration. They may play on our aspirations or merely our desire to eschew the conventional and confront the status quo.

When we think about seismic changes in the world, innovations that redefined the business landscape, breakthroughs in scientific understanding, fundamental shifts in the way we experience the human condition or the redefinition of art, it’s hard not to attach the name of a revolutionary. Mandela and King. Bezos and Jobs. Galileo and Hawking. Gandhi and Pope Francis. Pollock and Cobain.

Of course, some revolutionaries are far more useful than others.

There are the revolutionaries who merely tap into fear. In their world, anyone who doesn’t see things as they do is an enemy who must be thwarted.

There are the revolutionaries who are really just critics re-branded. They find it easy to point out what isn’t working and to carefully label the “idiots” and the “losers” they deem responsible.

There are the revolutionaries who are long on vision, but short on details; whose sails are filled with the bluster of righteous indignation but who sorely lack the power of enduring human connection.

It IS useful to define the opposition and to draw clear lines. Calling out what we don’t like is a start. Throwing down the gauntlet can certainly command attention. Yet while anger may get us started, its utility as a means of sustaining fuel is highly questionable.

To be a useful revolutionary you need more than a picture of what isn’t. To be a useful revolutionary you need more than a list of enemies and a bloviating side-show. And you’ll need a whole lot more than a call to “take our country back” or a pitch deck that has “disruptive” in every other sentence.

You say you want a revolution? Well, we’d love to see your plan.

Mr. Grey will see you now

Right or wrong.

Good or evil.

Risky or safe.

Work or play.

A success or a failure.

Known or unknown.

What the Bible tells us or not.

Loves America (or England or Brazil or wherever) or doesn’t.

Makes money or provides meaning.

Sinner or saint.

It’s a choice whether we wish to see the world as black and white. We can decide that it’s okay to live in the grey.

For me, there is a reason that grey is my favorite color. And it starts with accepting that dualistic thinking is a trap,  that my way or the highway rarely works and that there is beauty in imperfection.

Not to mention, sometimes blog titles don’t mean what you think they do.



Incompetent, but valuable

We may tell ourselves that we know what we’re doing. That we are the masters of our domain. That we’ve got this and everything would be great if others would just get the heck out of our way.

Other times we fight the imposter syndrome, striving to maintain a brave face and hoping against hope that no one figures out how deeply we are struggling.

Or we may not even start something in the first place simply out of fear. We’ll feel foolish. We’ll never be good at it. Others may laugh.

Of course, the reality is that much of the time none of us completely knows what we are doing.  But here’s the thing . . .

We don’t have to be an expert to add value. Often it is the mind of the beginner that uncovers an innovation that matters.

We don’t have to be great to be useful. If I’m just a bit better at something you need than you are, I can be of service.

We don’t have to be perfect. Good enough is often just that.


HT to Aaron White for inspiring this post.

Setting yourself up for failure

If you fly airplanes, perform surgery or work for the Department of Homeland Security, when you have a bad day somebody dies. Avoiding a mistake is all important.

For most of us, however, our success is rooted in finding ways to differentiate ourselves and our brands in a world that is ever noisier, overwhelmingly crowded and increasingly blurry. Without innovation–without nearly constant evolution and change–we risk falling behind, or worse, sinking into the sea of irrelevance.

For the work we do, safety is not found in dogged adherence to a process designed to guarantee a specific result; where variation is inherently what needs to be exposed and eradicated.

For most of us, the works that matters requires that we adopt a process that explicitly recognizes failure as an inevitable outcome. Anything less–anything seemingly safer–is too timid, too boring, too fundamentally devoid of the remarkable, to have a chance to make the impact we need.

Setting ourselves up for failure is precisely what increases our odds for success.