Heart of a Leader

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Archive for the category “Balance”

Beware of leaping off the cliff

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First, a reminder- I’m writing this blog for myself. I’m a continuous work in progress, and I use this blog as a place to help me sort things out. Even when I occasionally write in the third person, what I’m writing about is something that is in my face and calling for my attention.

Do you ever notice how quickly you leap into something with no consideration for the purpose of your engagement? You may say, “Not me, I’m very cautious”, but as I consider this phenomenon in me and those I know, I have the feeling it’s something that is part of all our lives.

Say I’m walking in the mountains and I’m in the midst of the most beautiful sights imaginable, I can be distracted by a passing thought that has no linkage to what I’m doing right now. More practically, I‘m writing at my computer and a random thought appears. Maybe I wonder about what’s happening with an old friend, or what the weather will be like tomorrow. Whatever the distraction, I immediately leave what I’m writing and Google the area of inquiry.

This non-deliberate distraction is what I’m calling jumping off the cliff. Instead of walking along the path that I’ve laid out for myself, I jump off the cliff into thoughts or activities that don’t have any purpose except to scratch the itch, so to speak, of a random thought.

A word of caution about what I mean by “walking along the path I’ve laid out for myself”. I’m not referring to blindly following a plan set down in the past. I’m talking about the deliberateness of this moment. It’s like deciding I’m going to walk from the living room to the kitchen so I can pour a glass of wine. Sometime after arising from the couch, and before I arrive at the refrigerator, I’ve forgotten why I’m in the kitchen. My attention was placed on random thoughts that arose, and by engaging them, I have now forgotten my path.

Today, I’m going to pay attention to the distractions that take me off the path. Each time I have chosen to focus, I have a calmer, more fulfilling day.

Thomas

P.S. I did not follow a few thoughts to find out what emails I have as I was writing this. You know what?  They are still there now, and the world didn’t dissolve because I chose to finishing writing rather than switch to my email. Imagine!!

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

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Ever hear the ticking of the clock that defines the parameters of your day. This clock tells you to hurry up or you’ll be late. Later in the day, looking at this clock brings up a sense of all that is yet to be done or will be left undone as the day ends.

What about a new relationship with your clock? What if the clock you feel is telling you that this moment is the most important moment of your life. Your clock becomes a constant reminder of the changing nature of life and the only thing that you can truly do is to experience all you can RIGHT NOW.

No longer is the sound of TICK, TOCK stalking you like the alligator in Peter Pan. Instead is the steady rhythm of life as you live fully every moment of every day.

Remembering the Power of Design

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I keep looking around for the key to unlock so many doors of uncertainty in my life. The more I read the more I find momentary glimmers of light, and then I forget. Today I am returning to one of these glimmers of light to remember once again.

One of the lessons of many years of working in the world of technology is the power of design. Too often, I follow the old adage, “Fire, Ready, Aim”. I forget what I learned over forty years ago. The more attention I place on what I am creating up front the better the outcome. Too often I skimp on this vital aspect and spend most of my time “fixing” the things that I could have visualized at the beginning, but in my haste went to work building.

This lesson is much more ancient than my lifetime. I have been reading a book written by Thomas Merton about the teachings of an ancient Chinese master, Chuang Tzu. Today’s lesson was the story of the Woodcarver.

The Woodcarver

 Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand

Of precious wood. When it was finished,

All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be

The work of spirits.

The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:

“What is your secret?”

 

Khing replied, “I am only a workman:

I have no secret. There is only this:

When I begin to think about the work you commanded

I guarded my spirit, did not expend it

On trifles, that were not in the point.

I fasted in order to set

My heart at rest.

After three days fasting,

I had forgotten gain and success.

After five days

I had forgotten praise or criticism.

After seven days

I had forgotten my body

With all its limbs.

 

“By this time all thought of your Highness

And of the court had faded away.

All that might distract me from the work

Had vanished

I was collected in the single thought

Of the bell stand.

 

“Then I went to the forest

To see the trees in their own natural state.

When the right tree appeared before my eyes,

The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.

All I had to do was to put forth my hand

And begin.

 

“If I had not met this particular tree

There would have been

No bell stand at all.

 

“What happened?

My own collected thought

Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;

From this live encounter came the work

Which you ascribe to spirits.”

Time to Remember What’s Important!

Have you ever looked around in your life and wondered, “where did all the time go?” I found myself having that experience yesterday afternoon. I was talking to someone who is overseeing how I communicate in the world of social media. I suggested she attract people to read this blog. While we were talking she said, “Oh, I see you haven’t posted since last October”. Ouch..

I’ve been involved in a “startup” business and falling into my old patterns of how busy I am. The startup mentality (at least the one that I learned) is that everything in your life is put on hold to get the business started.

Now I haven’t quite followed the old script. I have been busier than normal, but my family is not being ignored (althougth I’m sure they are feeling less attention). Other aspects of my life have been taking a hit, though, when I live out of the way of the past.

As I’ve drifted into this pattern, I stopped writing. Sure, I’m writing all kinds of things for the new business. You know, the important stuff like business plans, presentations and marketing material. It’s not the same.

I miss stopping what else is going on and wondering. Wondering about what makes life tick and why I am happy or not. I ponder questions of big and small scope. In these times of reflection and the writing that come from them, I learn so much. I’ve missed both the learning and connecting with you.

So the drought is over. I’m back at the keyboard, pondering and feeling and writing. Some of you have written and encouraged me to resume posting. To those of you who proded, Thank you.

Until tomorrow.

Thomas

More about the cup half empty, half full

We have all heard the adage, the cup is either half empty or half full. If you are like me, you say, “Sure I understand what that means.” What I notice is that the more I study something like this phrase, the more I get out of it. In our modern world, we have a tendency to read something once, hopefully in an abbreviated form, and believe we have extracted the essence of the message or lesson.

This is inconsistent with how we learn. We learn through repetition. If you are learning a new physical activity, I have heard it said that competence is attained at 1000 repetitions and mastery begins with 10,000 repetitions. If you talk with professional or Olympic athletes, and ask about their training regimen, you will see the validity of this. Even the greats, like basketball’s Michael Jordan, are the first to arrive on the practice court and the last to leave.

Today, Twitter has become a very popular means to communicate, albeit in 140 characters or less. Recent surveys reveal the popularity of texting versus email among teens and young adults. I’m not saying any of these innovations in communications are bad. I am suggesting that they not be the exclusive realm of our communication, or the mindset of brevity will exclusively become our way of life.

There is so much richness that can’t be revealed in a single observation, reading, viewing or conversation. One of my favorite books is The Alchemist. I have read this book over fifty times. Each time, I find something new that I would swear wasn’t there the past times I’ve read it. Rather than moving on to the next thing, I am finding it valuable to deepen my understandings with what’s already in my life.

Which brings me back to the cup being half empty or half full. As I was gazing over our back yard this morning, I had the thought that in the midst of this saying is a universal truth that is more profound than I realized. If I take the perspective that the cup is half empty, everything I look at is insufficient – my relationships, my home, my job, my income, my life.

This feeling of insufficiency is the root cause of resentment that can envelop everything. I remember feeling dissatisfied in a personal relationship. As my angst grew, I spent time enrolling others (including a therapist) in why my life sucked, and it was all the fault of the woman. I am particularly persuasive, so I had a number of believers in my story. Now, this support is short-lived, because it’s based upon a false belief. That belief is that you, or someone or something else, are the cause of why my cup is half-full.

Seeing the world as insufficient leads me to the conclusion that I’m ultimately powerless. After all, there are so many factors that are out of my control, how could I possible create anything. I just do the best I can. Feel the despair in that!

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the lessons of the cup is half full.

What do you do when you hit a speedbump at 70 MPH?

I’m having such a great time with the abundance that’s arrived. As each new crop begins to grow or mature, I feel its potential. Wow, what I’ve always wanted! Some of the new businesses that are part of this garden are happening so easily that the little voice wonders, “When’s the shoe going to drop?”.

As I was watching that question arise again today, I realized that there is a deeper wondering that is asking for my attention. It is, “How do you make sure you don’t get lost in all the excitement?” Oh, I can feel my tendency to move around from new creation to new creation. I’m not giddy, but I’m distracted all the same.

Writing has become a sacred companion. It serves my growing awareness of myself and helps me keep perspective of what’s real and not. So, when I let it go without any consideration, I’m abandoning my commitment to remembering who I am and why I’m here. I know, from past experiences, this doesn’t produce very good outcomes.

Good reminder that there’s something more important than the fruits of my garden – ME. If I lose myself while the garden blooms, whose going to be around to enjoy it? Certainly not ME. I’m not going to ignore the garden, just remember its place and feel the joy of allowing my fingers to move across this keyboard and rejoin you in conversation.

Are you Awake?

Some years ago, I was a student of Richard Strozzi Heckler. Richard is extraordinary. He is a 6th degree Aikido black belt, has a PhD in clinical psychology and is one of the founding spirits of modern Somatics. I was in his dojo one summer afternoon with 30 fellow students. Lunch was delicious, and many of us ate more than necessary. Most of the class was in a dozing kind of mood.

Richard entered the dojo, and we assembled around him in a circle. He immediately sensed our inattention. Richard suggested we consider we were sitting on a very narrow precipice. Below us was a long drop. Our sitting perch was only as big as our bottoms. If we teetered in any direction, we were certain to fall to our death.

Immediately the class’ attention went to full alert. In the 15 years since that summer afternoon, I bring that experience back when I feel I’m drifting. Richard’s point that day was that every moment calls us to full alert. When we drift because our body is out of harmony or our thoughts are about something other than the present moment or our actions aren’t deliberate, we are missing the aliveness that is always present.

As a leader, in whatever way you choose, remember you are always called to be alert, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What… Work on a Saturday?

It’s Saturday, and I’m writing. A month ago, when I put my head down and decided to write consistently in this Blog, the inner dialogue said something like, “Five days a week is enough of a jump for you. You haven’t been able to keep up a consistent rhythm of writing for years.” That made sense to me so, I committed to writing five days a week.

A few days ago, I was replaying this inner conversation and realized there was a flaw. I mean, do I breathe only five days a week or eat five days a week (more about eating next week)? Of course not! I do have a mindset about writing being work. It’s what I do when I’m not having fun. Hmm..I thought, “but I’m enjoying writing and it’s as much a part of who I am as anything else. “

That cracked the ice and more beliefs that are like this one have come up for review. For instance, I have the belief that I must spend less time with my family during the “work week” because, well, I’m working and work is a 9 to 5 (or longer) sort of thing”. What a trap that belief is.

I already have my own business and I can set whatever schedule I want. So I’m letting this old programming define my life. That seems ridiculous. I hear a lot of inner noise when I write this. “Don’t let your wife see this. She will want to change everything about what you do.”  (editor’s note: what makes you think that SW)Also vying for my attention is, “How can you take care of your financial commitments with this stupid idea?” There’s a lot more going on, but you get the picture.

Regardless of these distracting voices, I’m going to approach my days (whatever day it may be) with deliberateness. I will allow whatever feels right to be where I put my attention. I don’t know what will happen to the concerns voiced, but I’m going to give it a go and let you know.

Until later,

Remembering

I noticed that I put off writing today. I was very busy, you know. I have important things to do. I heard that story go on for hours and then I asked myself, “what the hell is going on here?” Oh, I don’t want to stop and reflect. I want to be like the robot, who is programmed to be busy all the time.

So stop I did and look out at the stream and the gray sky. The music the family is listening to travels in and I remember there are others in this world other than me. I don’t know if you have the same experience, but it’s so easy to forget what I said was important this morning.

I’m glad I remembered before the day is over, and now I write this poem. Poetry is the music that gives me perspective and a reminder that what’s real is seldom what I think.

Remembering

Sometimes it’s just a few words or a smell or a glance that brings everything to a halt.
I don’t know where they originate or their timing. They surprise.

The only thing is, I miss most of them. I’m cruising along as fast as my mind can travel
and there is so little else that I notice. I move deeper into my maze of thoughts.

I forget the moment when time last stopped. I overlooked your kindness just last night.
I only see the cold when the sun has been shining all day.

I blink and when I next look in to the mirror, I wonder what happened. Who is this
strange man looking at me? He seems so sad.

Is it too late to remember to stop and feel the breeze or taste the rain or feel your touch?
Maybe not; perhaps it just takes remembering what’s real.

Thomas

What is your Compass?

A while back, I found that I seemed to have lost my compass. At the end of my work day, I wasn’t feeling particularly satisfied. Feeling more like I was a cog in the machine of getting things done.

As the weeks unfolded, I was not finding any joy in what I was doing, and it was affecting everything around me. What could I do? I tried a series of self-help programs that did have some impact on my mood and how I felt about myself. Still I felt that something was off.

What I began to realize is that I really didn’t have any purpose. You know, what was the point of this life. I was like many. I wanted to be successful. As part of my self-discovery process, I found that the motivation for my success was to prove to my father that I was better than he was, more than because it would give meaning to my life.

Over the next few years, I was able to clarify my purpose. This became my compass. I use this compass, when I remember, to navigate through the choices I face each day. It helps me determine what’s important and what’s a distraction.

The value of living this way led me to develop a program called Living on Purpose, so that I could help others find their compass as well.  This was rewarding work, and it helped folks bring meaning to their lives.

I also found this program to be just as useful to organizations. One of the challenges in organizations is having a shared framework for decisions. Many businesses have well articulated vision and mission statements. These are good, as far as they go. What they don’t answer is why we are in business.

For many, the answer might be to “maximize shareholder value”. These are code words for “make as much money as we can”. This isn’t sustainable and will always lead to disappointment. Finding the organization’s purpose is the most important initiative a leader can undertake.

It is this purpose that drives everything. It supports attracting great people. It encourages imagination and passion. It serves as a rallying point for its customers and partners.  Two famous Internet companies, Google and Facebook, have very clear publicly disclosed purposes. These purposes are about creating greater understanding between people.

Having clear purposes doesn’t mean that they are followed by the individual or organization all the time. It means that they have a compass to check-in with to see if they are following what they know to be their right path. If they find they are off-course, they can bring themselves back into alignment with their purpose.

If you find you want to know more about how to find your purpose or that of your organization, drop me a note.

Until Later,

Thomas

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