It is What it is!


Acceptance is a challenge. So many things that I experience with myself and the world around me don’t fit what I want or like. My mother doesn’t love me the way I want. My boss doesn’t appreciate my work. The airline is unfair because they overbooked the flight I was on. The driver behind me is a jerk because they are following me too closely.

You know the litany of things that you don’t like and have judgements about. If you are like me, the dialogue is continuous and the outcome is mostly the same – you’re frustrated the other person / entity doesn’t really care about what matters to you!

I end up feeling everything from mild irritation to outright anger. The reaction is automatic and I really don’t want to continue down this road.
So what can I do? As I write this, I’m looking at a small block of wood that sits on my desk. Painted on this block are the words, “IT IS WHAT IT IS”. Simple and insightful, this sentence is key to untangling my long history of judgment and disappointment. At the bottom of my frustration is not accepting things are they truly are.

Not easy, I know. If a friend says they will do something for me and they don’t, I don’t like it. Part of my reaction is irritation with them for not doing what they say, and another part of the reaction is my frustration with myself for also exhibiting this behavior (sometimes I don’t want to see that!).

In the end, my reaction (not my actions, which I will talk about in a minute) isn’t at all helpful. My reaction blocks my ability to understand the situation clearly. Which means that whatever response I have will not be the best response. Also there is often a residue of the experience that resurfaces later, as if the situation happened just a few minutes before.

My reactions don’t change what has happened. The company I ordered a product from shipped it late. The restaurant I was at last night served food that wasn’t up to par. The company I want service from has a seemingly impossible “phone tree” making it damn near impossible to talk to a human.

Whatever I feel, these things happened. It’s more productive to remember, IT IS WHAT IT IS. In the simplicity of this understanding make a decision on what I deliberately choose to do now. Mostly my decision is, “there is nothing to do”.

There are times, though, when I might feel I should speak to someone about the impact their decision or actions has on me. Not because I’m angry, but because my relationship with that person is important enough for me to invest in the uncomfortable conversation we are likely to have.
At other times, I can take action that means I choose to not do business with a company or I choose to, as one of my teachers said, “Love from afar” a friend. When these choices are deliberate and without any judgement, they can be meaningful to me and sometimes to others.
How I know they are the right choice is that I feel at peace, and the reaction I had with the situation doesn’t arise again.
Life is filled with reactiveness. Seems like a good thing to whittle it away a bit at a time.

What bugs you, may unburden your soul


If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?
– Rumi

One of my biggest challenges is a dance with anger or its father, irritation. When I look outside myself and see what I don’t like, I feel an irritation. When I ask someone to do something that I want and they don’t, I feel irritation that often bubbles quickly into anger. When something I expect to happen doesn’t. I am annoyed.

This morning, I was thinking about the limitation of irritation in my life. As I did, the Rumi saying above appeared. Reflecting, I realized irritation was a way for me to strike back at my discomfort. I want to bend whatever is bothering me to my will. This reaction has been part of my life experience so long it is automatic.

Rumi’s words remind me of a quality that I admire in others who plumb the depths of their fields of endeavor. I was reading a story about Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the math world’s most prestigious award, the Fields Medal. This story explored her life and passion for math. She approached each unknown as a world to be discovered. She entered these journeys of discovery knowing that when it was complete her understanding of the problem she was considering would be far different than when she began and it excited her.

The unbridled commitment to exploration without holding on a fixed outcome is my opportunity as well. I can enter a committed exploration of what is at the root of my irritation with a knowing that my discoveries will enlighten and perhaps surprise me. What is absolutely true is that my “status quo” will be disturbed and that is always uncomfortable and good.

So off I go.

What’s your bias?

upordownI had another opportunity to learn a bit more about myself yesterday. I was traveling and had an early start. I arrived at LaGuardia airport and immediately went to the TSA pre line. I just love the easy way through airport security. I noticed that I was, in fact, feeling special because I could go through security without taking off my shoes or belt or jacket. In fact, I didn’t even have to take my computer out of my bag.

I know I like this expedited way of getting through security and have my own little dialogue about it. What I didn’t realize was that this feeling of specialness also uncovered some bias I have.

Let me digress for a moment on bias. Bias is defined as “mental tendency or inclination, esp. an irrational preference or prejudice”. Bias comes from our beliefs, most of which we are unaware. The impact of bias can be as insignificant as not talking to someone because you don’t like the way they dress or as terrifying as ethnic cleansing. Whatever the level of impact from your bias, it starts with the same phenomena. My judgements of someone else cloud my ability to be aware of things as they truly are. Every judgement I have distances me from truth and sets me up for suffering.

Back to my lesson. I saw two young asian adults in front of me in the TSA pre line. Immediately, my little voice (I should name it to have some fun) was saying things like, “What are they doing here? They don’t deserve to be in this line. Why, they’re not so special”.

Then I realized that I have a bias against these young people. People I have never met and, at that moment, had no clue who they were. Not that who they are even mattered. My bias was clear and it got me to thinking of all the places where I’m biased.

Kinda took my breath away. I certainty didn’t want to see myself in that light. Yet, that’s the way I behave at certain times. This experience is having a happy ending, at least I hope so.

Sometimes a lesson keeps on giving. Later in the day, I was attending a conference. When the evening was over, I used my iPhone to request a car to take me back to my hotel. I use the Uber service and had arrived at this meeting in a black suburban. When I went looking for my car, a driver in a Chevrolet Aero (I think their smallest 4 door car) arrived to take me to the hotel.

Again the little voice got very busy. “Where’s my big car? What an outrage this is; I’m definitely going to complain about this.” Recognizing the silliness of this turmoil, I engaged the driver in a conversation. He was very kind man and he asked if I had visited the Baha’i temple in the suburbs. I said I had not, but had driven by it a number of times and it was very beautiful.

From that jumping off point, we talked about his faith, about how he was committed to unifying opposing points of view, his career as a cameraman. He told me he had produced a documentary about the temple. As I arrived at my hotel and we parted company, he presented me with a gift of a DVD of his documentary. WOW… What lessons for this day.

It has left me in wonder about what I will find as I dig into my biases and expose them. I can’t wait to see what I discover.

Busy, Busy, Busy

I was noticing today how busy I felt. I looked at my calendar this morning and thought, “Wow, what a jam-packed day I have planned”. Mid-morning, I received an email from someone I had confirmed a lunch appointment with last week, that wasn’t on the calendar.

My first response was to feel overwhelmed. How was I possibly going to be able to do everything? As I noticed worry arise, I considered that maybe there was another way to consider the balance of my day. Rather than feel like I had too much, I started feeling that I have just the right amount of activity. After all, I had been “priming the pump” of many of these interactions and they were now bearing fruit.

Ah, I realized, this was an old pattern of sowing seeds and then not being present for growing and harvesting. Good, I’ve discovered this early. I settled into the rest of the day wondering, about mid-afternoon, how I was going to find time to write. Without any worry, the time showed up and here I am talking with you.

We all know the impact of the power of suggestion. Knowing this doesn’t mean that I’m always aware of a distracting suggestion when I start to be affected by it. In the past, I would fill my days with activities. This frenetic pace helped me feel important and worthwhile. Yet, when the day was over, I was exhausted and didn’t feel like anything useful was completed.

Today, after my little worry spell, I felt like I was dancing. Things I was hoping to create came to life with ease. For me, efforting is part of the pattern of busyness. “Hard work is a measure of who you are”, is a message I heard from early childhood. This message has led to disillusionment and despair. As today’s results point out, it’s about being present with what’s in front of me.

What do you do when you find your day suddenly appears to be much busier than you expected? Do you feel out of sorts or overwhelmed? Remember there is an alternative. Stop, allow yourself to breathe slowly, and realize all you have in front of you is just what you ordered.

Fathers and Sons

Today is father’s day and I notice I’m kind of grumpy and I’m not clear why. There seems to be a hollowness when I feel myself as a father, always a good time to check those beliefs that warp perception.

Being a father is a sacred trust. It calls forth strength and vulnerability, courage and compassion, giving and receiving. Somewhere along the line, I created a perfect father “picture”. Maybe this was influenced by the television program, “Father knows best.” I know that sounds funny, but I can feel the messages of being a father who was always perfect with this wife and children in every situation. He was never angry or harsh. He always brought out the best in everyone in the family in every situation. What a standard to compare myself to!

In my inner exploration, I have found absolute gratitude and love for my father. Orrie was a great teacher. He loved me, and for many years didn’t know how to say it. I was unable to see his love in his actions. Before he departed from his body nine years ago, we had found appreciation for our similarities and differences. When he was gone, only love remained.

So, I thought I didn’t have anything else to uncover about fatherhood. Today’s awareness reminds me of the difference between being a son and being a father. As a son, I have found peace, but not as a father. I want to be perfect for my sons. I find myself lacking at moments, and my judgments are strident.

Looking at what I am not provides no space to see what I am. I know the power of the inner judge to obscure truth. I suppose I will continue to be offered evidence of this until I no longer judge myself or anyone else.

Now the real picture of me as father is coming into view. What a gift it is to be allowed to be father of all these beautiful spirits. It is I who offers them thanks for this privilege.

Judgments, Stories and Love

Well, I did it. I spent an hour today being interviewed about love in business. I didn’t know what to expect, which was good. The conversation was easy and my decision to bring together love and the workplace was reconfirmed.

The challenges I have, whether they are with relationships or self-worth or trust or finding satisfaction are life issues. They do not live just at home or just at work. If business leaders begin to understand this basic truth, they may become more open to engaging each person in their organization holistically and not through the narrow lens of worker. This almost 2 dimensional  perspective deprives the leader of seeing the true value each person is ready to offer.

I now see clearly that my first step in bringing love into business is to continue to chip away at places where I don’t experience love. What judgments do I have? Tomorrow, I’m going to record every judgment I have. I’m a bit concerned about this commitment. I know that I still judge things. I may not judge people so much, but I still have a grand time comparing things, which is a form of judgment. Like when I see a house that is in disrepair. Often, I will have an automatic judgement of the house, such as I don’t like the way this house looks, particularly when compared to the house across the street.

To raise the stakes even more, I’m also going to note when I fall in to stories about things. I recently saw a notice by one of our town’s folks that they needed to move out of their house quickly. My automatic story machine decided their house was in foreclosure and they were in a time of real hardship. A few days later, I learned the reason they were moving had nothing to do with my story.

Judgments and stories separate me from you. I know I don’t want to feel separated from those around me, and I know they don’t want to feel separate either. Yet, that is often our shared experience. Any separation inhibits my ability to feel love. So, tomorrow, I will chip away at what inhibits me from feeling love and let you know what I discover.

Cost of Comparisons!

It seems I’m forever comparing things. I walk down the street and see a car I like and then hear the inner voice telling me why it’s better than the car next to it. I then see someone who is heavy and that same little voice says, “Hey look, they’re bigger than you, you’re not doing so bad!”. When I listen to talk radio there seems to be a never ending stream of conversation about why the caller has the right perspective and people who don’t agree with him are idiots.This process goes on and on.

What is it that has me need to be better than those around me? This form of judgment has at its root, my concern that I’m not enough. The best way to overcome this nagging concern is to continuously compare things in my world so that I receive  constant reinforcement that I’m smarter, better looking, more successful and, in general, more impressive than others.

“We all do this, so what’s the big deal?” , chimes in the inner voice. The big deal is that all this comparison hides things. In the case of the car I liked, I could overlook some important flaw because I’m committed to this car being the best. In business, we often think of others who offer services or products like ours as competitors. We then favorably compare ourselves to them. Unfortunately, this bias may blind me from seeing why they are well-regarded by their customers. I remember reading a news report when the iPad was first introduced, where Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft, called the product a fad, that would soon pass. This type of blindness is in us all.

What can I do? I can stop comparing things. I’m not suggesting that I look at the world without discrimination. Discrimination allows me to pragmatically see things as they are, not as I want them to be. This unbiased perspective brings clarity to my choices, and radically reduces my surprises. Seems like a good payoff.