I had a long career starting or managing technology companies. I had the privilege or working with some very brilliant people. The dynamic tension of challenging what seemed impossible coupled with engaging collaborators with strong perspectives, expanded my mental capabilities. This adventure always excited me and yet there was a sense that something was missing.
While some would say I was successful, parts of my life were not working well at all. I knew that it was important for me to expand beyond my focus on the mind to encompass other parts of myself. I decided to quit my role as chairman of a technology company and focus on finding out more about myself, particularly my emotions and body.
I had met an inspirational teacher, Will Schutz. Will was a psychologist, who understood better than anyone I know, the dynamics of people in groups and how we can learn about ourselves from these experiences.
After I had decided to focus on the next phase of my self-exploration, I had dinner with Will . We talked about all matters of life and love and joy. He was reminiscing about his most recent book, The Human Element, Productivity, Self-Esteem and the Bottom Line. Will wanted to make sure that this book reached the largest audience possible.
We made an agreement that night that I would work with Will’s team to help them expand their marketing abilities and Will would be a teacher for me. What a wonderful bargain. My work with Will was the start of moving from leading technology companies to finding the life I was really called for.
One of my favorite book of Will’s is Profound Simplicity. I was reading something online the other day and came across this except from that book.
“Several years ago I was on the Tonight show with Johnny Carson, promoting my book Joy. I was delighted to be a celebrity and to bring to the masses the word about the marvelous techniques I had collected and created. I had a whole arsenal of new methods, mostly nonverbal.
Carson was intrigued. He gave me thirty minutes on the program, so I had a chance to show how to express anger by pounding on the mattress along with Carson, Ed McMahon, and the guests—everything I had hoped for. Then we had three minutes left, and he asked me what else I did in encounter groups.
“ We tell the truth,” I replied. I felt the main show was over and now we just would do a short filler and go home.
“ How would we do that here?” he asked.
“ Well,” I said, “it seemed to me your singer tonight giggled quite a lot and I thought it annoyed you. You winced a few times. If this were a group, I would invite you to tell her directly instead of holding back and keeping yourself more distant from her.”
After a few denials, Carson acknowledged he did have a slight feeling of that kind once. At my suggestion, he told her directly.
“ Oh, I’m so glad you told me,” she gushed. “I thought you felt that way and I’m delighted to hear you say it.” With that, they exchanged warmth and the show ended happily.
The next morning, on the streets of New York, I was stopped by at least a dozen people who had seen the show and, to my astonishment, every one of them commented only about the truth episode. At first I was chagrined. Here I had demonstrated all my wonderful new methods and apparently no one cared. Their response was to the simple fundamental of encounter—honesty. “Been watching Johnny Carson for four years, and that’s the first time I’ve seen him real,” was the tenor of their comments. They felt they had come to know their long-time acquaintance, simply because he had been honest.
Reading these words again, I am reminded of the simplicity of Will’s lesson. We long to know each other without masks or hold backs. Yet, we are taught from childhood to not let others know what’s really on our minds. We accumulate a deep fear of revealing our true nature. All the while wanting to have authentic relationships.
What stops us from letting down our guard and speaking engaging each other with true honesty? We have forgotten how and we are afraid if we remembered we might become so vulnerable that something terrible might happen to us.
Yet, if we are fortunate enough to meet someone who is completely authentic, we find ourselves attracted to this inner flame of truth. How ironic.