Being Remarkable · Inspiration · Leadership

Nobody should care how much golf we play

Or how many cakes we bake, how much TV we watch, how often we go to the gym or whatever happens to floats our boats or simply pass the time, so long as…

…we honor our most important commitments…

…our words match out actions…

…we take responsibility for our stuff and stay on our side of the street…

…we act instead of complain…

…we are in the arena, instead of watching and judging from the stands.

It turns out individuals, organizations and brands get cut a fair amount of slack and earn many degrees of freedom when they do the work, eschew hypocrisy and can be trusted to show up when it counts the most.

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Inspiration · Leadership · Uncategorized

Lasting peach

The Trump administration’s issues with spelling are “unpresidented.” Here’s a brief history, which doesn’t even include yesterday’s announcement of “John” Huntsman as the new ambassador to Russia.

To be sure, Trump’s problems with spelling and diction are hardly the scariest things about his Presidency.  But any important relationship is built on trust. And sometimes it’s the little things that give us away.

Imagine boarding a plane and as you pass by the cockpit you notice candy wrappers strewn about the floor and that the captain has his shirt untucked and shoelaces untied.

Imagine you are doing some financial planning and your advisor has gotten the time of your appointment wrong the last three times you were scheduled to meet.

Imagine you are being prepped for surgery and the anesthesiologist keeps forgetting your name and can’t seem to remember where she left her glasses.

It’s all too easy to get distracted by small, unimportant stuff. And our obsession with perfectionism often does more harm than good. But some behaviors are small, yet meaningful clues to issues that demand our concern.

As long as we’re dealing with humans, mistakes will be made. We need to let most of that you-know-what go and strive to be compassionate to ourselves and others when the inevitable happens.

Yet a consistent pattern of general carelessness or wanton disregard for others can be another matter entirely and we shouldn’t take such an accommodating stance.

Ultimately learning to discern the types of mistakes to actually worry about is where we should put out attention.

I hope we all can make peach with that.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration · Leadership

The real enemy is delusion

If you are anything like me, you may feel attacked from time to time.

In those moments our enemy is the “idiot” that cut us off on the highway, the boss that doesn’t appreciate us enough, the guy we think is flirting with our girlfriend or maybe just the overall raw deal we think life has irritatingly bestowed upon us.

If we get to play on a bigger stage, perhaps we feel pilloried by our political opponents or the media.

If we work in a struggling organization, maybe we feel slighted by “unfair” legislation or competition that we think gets to play by different rules.

Real victimization does exist, of course. And those cases can be appalling, tragic and deserving of outrage and harsh consequences.

Yet we should be careful to distinguish between substantive and real attacks and those that we make up in our heads in an attempt to protect our egos or to distract us from the real, often challenging, work at hand.

When I blame others for my own struggles I am often avoiding uncomfortable truths about myself.

When the politician spends much of his time lashing out at others, he ignores the reality of his own accountability and power.

While it is convenient for the retail CEO to blame Amazon for her company’s woes, the company’s lack of innovation under her leadership is probably the real culprit.

Much of the time the truth is there if we are willing to look for it. And when we are willing to accept it and act on it, progress can be made.

Ultimately it serves precisely no one for us to fight battles over trivial stuff, particularly if they are with the wrong person. And a fight with reality has no winners.

To paraphrase Ajahn Chah, most of the time our real enemy is delusion.

h/t to Jack Kornfield

Being Remarkable · Innovation · Inspiration · Leadership

The next hill

How many times have we said that we want innovation, change, growth, maybe even a revolution?

Sometimes we express these hopes and desires for our organization or society writ large. Sometimes our intention is directed squarely at ourselves. Whatever the case, too often we talk a good game but actually do very little.

Fear is one problem. Anything truly worth doing involves risks. And putting ourselves out there, sharing our ideas, committing to make a real difference, doing the hard, uncomfortable work, can be scary. Of course much of this is pure imagination. As Mark Twain reminds us: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

The other problem is we greatly overestimate our ability to understand the future. And too often we think that our actions will lead to an easily predictable outcome. Too often we believe that with enough planning and analysis we can control the way forward. Too often without a clear view of all the steps to success we don’t even take the first one. Our illusion of control and our flawed gift of prophecy all contribute to our stuck-ness.

Having a precise map for our next road trip is a solid idea. But being attached to that notion for journeys of innovation and profound change is worthless. The way forward for personal and organizational transformation is fraught with twists and turns, ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. The moment we believe that before we can begin we need to be able to see our way clear to the end is the moment paralysis starts to set in.

Along our path, personal or otherwise, we will be climbing a series of hills. When we reach the top of each hill more will be revealed. What we couldn’t see from the base will now lay before us. We will have the lessons from our trek. We will have a clearer view of the landscape ahead. We will have the confidence gained from having successfully completed our hike.

It’s only complicated if we make it so.

Get pointed in the right direction.

Start moving.

Just make it to the next hill.

Recalibrate.

Rinse and repeat.

Inspiration · Leadership

We over me

The other day President Trump talked about how “my military” was successful in carrying out a bombing run.

Regardless of how one feels about the merits of taking military action, or which side of the aisle you happen to sit on politically, it’s hard to imagine a leader who deserves less credit for the strength and skills of the US armed forces. It’s also shocking in its failure to recognize who foots the bill. Criticism was deservedly fast and furious.

Contrast that with superstar golfer Jordan Spieth (who, by the way, is nearly 50 years younger than Trump). It’s rare for Spieth to not say “we” when talking about his play. In fact, the times when he tends to use “I” or “me” are when he hasn’t played particularly well. In a sport which is highly individualistic, he is quick to credit his team; to value the we over me.

Of course, we drive every day on roads we didn’t pave.

We sit in offices we didn’t build.

We use an internet we didn’t design and don’t maintain.

Almost of all us eat food we neither planted, nor tended,  nor picked, nor hauled to the store.

It’s easy to be selfish, to value the me over we.

And often harder to give credit where credit is due.

Harder still, it seems, to be grateful for all all we have whether we deserve it or worked for it or had it fall into our laps by luck or some measure of grace.

 

 

Inspiration · Leadership

Holy stuckosity Batman!

“Stuckosity” isn’t a real word. It can’t even be found at Urban Dictionary. Well, at least not yet.

But certainly most of us are familiar with the quality of being stuck. Perhaps you’re feeling it right now.

We get stuck telling the same old stories about ourselves that are familiar, but serve no useful purpose.

We get stuck trying to solve problems with the same level of thinking that got us into trouble in the first place.

We get stuck defending the status quo, even when we know it’s not working.

We get stuck in self-righteousness, which almost never changes the other person’s mind or behavior, but frustrates us to no end.

We get stuck fighting reality, re-litigating the past, trying vainly to predict the future.

We get stuck striving for perfection, when perfect is both impossible and, ultimately, only a recipe for suffering.

We get stuck waiting for precisely the right time and to be fully ready, failing to see that those exact conditions will never ever come.

We get stuck in relationships because we fail to speak our truth and ask for what we want and need.

We get stuck unleashing our full potential because we wonder how other folks will judge us if we were to go out on a limb.

And on and on and on.

The key to getting unstuck is to first see it for what it is. And most of the time our stuckness is merely our habitual reaction to an irrational fear; to a fundamental misunderstanding of risk.

Once we become aware that staying in our fear–and being unwilling to let go of our story, our need for control and our desire to be right–is actually the most risky thing we can do, the door is cracked open to change.

Once we we accept that our behavior is simply habit, the debilitating result of a lifetime of bad conditioning, we can work to establish new, more healthy and useful ones.

Once we are committed to take action, we are finally free. Free to start before we are ready. Free to embrace failure as a natural outcome of growth. Free to be okay with our imperfection.

And that’s good thinking Robin.

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Inspiration · Leadership

The magical mystery powers of gratitude

While I am still on a hiatus from this blog for a bit longer, some of you might know that I have launched another blog focused on living a life of passion and purpose. It’s called “I got here as fast as I could.” I hope you’ll check it out. Below is my post on my new blog in honor of Thanksgiving.

For a long time the power of gratitude eluded me.

Sure, there were times when the position of privilege I was born into, or had attained, was obvious. I could appreciate a trip I took, a fancy new thing I bought, a great meal. I’d say “thanks” for a gift or a job well done or some little bit of kindness extended to me.

I suppose I mostly saw gratitude as transactional.

But if I’m honest, much of the time I was focused on what was lacking. The sense that I wasn’t achieving my potential at work and in my life was a near constant. My internal monologue was consumed by thoughts that I should possess more and sexier stuff, dominate my to-do list, achieve greater status, be in better shape, have everyone like me and on and on. I was feeling more than a wee bit entitled. I was rarely, if ever, satisfied.

In 2009, when I was still in the throes of a personal crisis that had rocked me to my core, the therapist I was seeing patiently listened as I recited yet another tale of woe. As I got to one of my favorite (and by then oft-repeated) complaints, he stopped me.  In that somewhat condescending voice all psychologists seem to employ he said “Steve, I wonder if would you be willing to tell me 30 things that you are grateful for right now, at this moment?”

I pushed back. “3o things? I don’t think so.” He encouraged me to just start.

The first few came easily. I had a nice house in a safe neighborhood, a decent amount of money in the bank, a great family. A few more things trickled on to the list with a bit more reflection.

When I stalled at about 8 or 9, my therapist made a few suggestions. “What about the way Charlie (my dog) greets you when you come home? How about the knowing smile on your daughter’s face when you make one of your dumb Dad jokes? How about the fact that you don’t have to worry for even one second whether you’ll have safe water to drink?

He paused to let that sink in. My throat grew tight. “Keep going” he said.

And I did. Spoiler alert: I had no trouble getting to 30.

I left that session feeling better than I had in months. I came, albeit slowly, to see how gratitude is the antidote to my habituated negative thought patterns, the kryptonite to feelings of emptiness and loneliness. I adopted “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough” as a mantra.

My list of things that I’m thankful for is now much greater than 30. The list also includes a lot of actual human beings. It turns out gratitude is relational.

It also turns out gratitude has the power to heal. It turns out that extending gratitude to another person fosters connection–and we all need more of that. It turns out that just waking up today is reason enough to be grateful.

I wish someone had told me that earlier, but I got here as fast as I could.

 

On this day when many are celebrating Thanksgiving I’m grateful to my friend Seth who generously shares his Thanksgiving Reader. Check it out.

I’m also thankful that I have one friend in my life who will tell me the truth even when it hurts and who constantly challenges me to be a better person. And I’m grateful that I’ve been willing to (finally) tell her how much that means to me.

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Inspiration · Leadership

Gone fishin’

After 6 years and more than 500 posts I’m taking a break.

It’s time for me to recharge the batteries, repot the plant, hit the reset button or whatever cliche floats your boat.

For the next several months I’m putting the kibosh on taking on new consulting gigs and generally saying “no” to anything that can be deemed “corporate.”

I’ve begun looking at everything I do–and own–and asking whether it truly gives me joy. It’s leading to a lot of decluttering. I feel lighter already.

I’ve also begun tapping into the power of ‘no’ and the power of ‘now.’ I feel more than a wee bit liberated.

On the other hand, I will be saying ‘yes’ to more travel, to expanding my knowledge of the crazy world we live in, to cultivating maitri and to advancing my work in the social impact space.

It’s fun and energizing. It’s also a little bit scary. Of course that is the nature of anything really worth doing.

So fair warning: if you feel like I’m ignoring you it’s pretty likely to be true. But it’s not personal. Trust me, it will be fine.

Some people that I’ve told of my plans have looked at me like a confused german shepherd. To them I say, well, maybe I’m crazy. But after all, it’s not about you.

Others have said “I’m so jealous, I wish I could do that.” To them I say, well, what’s stopping you?

Anyway, thanks for giving me the gift of your attention. It means a lot.

See you in another life brothers and sisters.

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Being Remarkable · Inspiration · Leadership

It’s easy to vote ‘no’

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~Pema Chodron

It’s rarely the case that organizations utterly lack new ideas or things to try. They just get voted down most of the time.

Many of us when confronted with change are quick to find fault with moving ahead. It might not work. We could look foolish. It just makes me uncomfortable. Maybe I’ll get fired. Best to just say ‘no.’

Most of us are filled with “should’s.” I should finish that novel or start that business. I should speak up more. I should finally make that trip. I should deal with the unfinished business with my family. And on and on. But our fear keeps us stuck and ‘no’ is all too often the seemingly safe choice.

Voting ‘yes’ more often isn’t the path of least resistance and it is far from a guarantee of success. Not everyone will get it, few may have your back and others might shun you entirely.

Stay the course. Be vulnerable. Chase remarkable.

Going out on a limb is where we’re needed, where we’re called to be, where the magic happens.

And your vote counts.

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Innovation · Inspiration · Leadership

The exits are clearly marked

Maybe we’re in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, that has become highly dysfunctional but we’re too afraid to leave for fear of being alone or hurting the other person’s feelings.

Maybe we’re in a job where personal growth has long since ceased or our contributions are not well appreciated, yet the thought of making a major career shift virtually paralyzes us.

Maybe we’re a long-time member of a group that has drifted from its original purpose or lost its ability to make things happen, but we feel an obligation to try to fix it even when we know it’s neither possible, nor the best use of our scarce time and energy.

Maybe we get behind a leader “for the good of the cause” but come to see that the behaviors that rub us the wrong way–or we feel compelled to disavow completely–are revealed to be his deeply held beliefs and character defects.

Our heart usually tell us it’s time to get out way before our brain does its more careful and deliberate work.

When we let go of the past, the need to be right, the worry about what others might think and the pathological urge to fix everything, our burden is lightened and our path becomes far more clear.

The exits are clearly marked. The challenge is to muster up the courage to walk out the door.