It is What it is!

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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.

Losing Perspective

Perspective

Have you ever gotten so busy that you felt the only thing you could do was to work harder or faster. Then you found, like I have, that the hole you found yourself in was only deeper. It is a rather maddening place to be.

Over the past few months, I’ve become more involved in the operational details of my business. To some extent, I love these details. They both make life more tangible and give me a false sense that I’m important if I’m so busy.

This is a trap! Busyness isn’t a virtue. Focusing on what’s important is a virtue. Deliberately choosing what to do next, that’s a virtue. Working more hours because I’m busy is a modern form of insanity.

So what can you (I) do when you find that you have more “on your plate” than you feel you have time for? Put less on your plate is the answer. How do you do that? You start by stopping everything. I don’t mean you go to the beach. I mean you stop for a short while (maybe an hour or a day) and observe the momentum of your life.

You will quickly see two types of work in your “in box”. Work that is something you feel you need to do so that someone who is important to you will be happy.  The other type of work, the work that really matters, is work that moves what’ s important to you forward.

Is it really that simple? Yes and No.  Yes, if you focus on what’s important to you, you will find fulfillment in your day, vast amounts of energy, and those you are working with will want to work with you more. No good comes from the fact that most of our training from early childhood on is that we are here to please others. This is a dead-end street that we spend so much of our life following.

It may seem counter-intuitive that you are doing what’s important to you. We believe that this will be selfish. Just the opposite is true. When I do something because I’m passionate about it and it serves what’s most important to me, it always creates value. I will gravitate to be around those who appreciate this value.

We are just afraid to try this out so we stay stuck in the old pattern of more hard work, rather than the work we love.

New Perspective of the Story of Narcissus

Friday is my day of reflection. I offer this excerpt from Paulo Coehlo’s book The Alchemist, and invite you to allow yourself to see your greatness in the reflection of others.

… when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

“Why do you weep?” the goddesses asked.

“I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.

“Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus,” they said, “for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand.”

“But…was Narcissus beautiful?” the lake asked.

“Who better than you to know that?” the goddesses said in wonder. “After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!”

The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:

“I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful.
“I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.”

Until tomorrow,

Thomas

Limiting Beliefs and their Consequence!

I met a friend for coffee yesterday at our local hangout, the co-op. The co-op is a grocery store that fosters locally grown and organic products. It’s more than a grocery store, though. It’s a place where we see each other and talk and give support and face life and death.

As I sat down to talk with David, we began catching up on this and that, appreciating each other and deepening. At one point, I noticed a book lying in front of David. The book was Ensouling Language written by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I gave the book a cursory look and set it aside.

David thought I might find it useful in supporting a book I’m writing. Now I’ve been writing a book for six or seven years (actually a lot longer than that but, I’m a bit embarrassed to truthfully look at that). I am good at starting things, yet I peter out somewhere after the chapter outline and before the completion of the first chapter.

I’ve been encouraged by teachers and book agents. I have felt the inner call to write, and yet, I have never gotten past this “block”.  When I returned home from my visit with David, I opened Ensouling Language. I was immediately grabbed by the collar and pulled inside. Stephen was talking to me about the soul of writing and it was ringing like crazy.

He offered me a taste of what I had been longing for – a guide to finding the voice within and a clarity about what inhibits it from making its way onto paper.  I’m not finished reading Ensouling Language, but I already feel uplifted.

I teach about the obstacles to creation and have been working on those within myself for many years. As I read this morning, I saw, in a new light, a fundamental blockage that has sabotaged writing for years. I have stumbled each time over the belief that I’m not really a writer. “I am someone who teaches and can communicate verbally extremely well, but I’m no writer”, is how the voice tells the story over and over again.

This voice has a whole room full of baggage with it. Most of it comes from the beliefs I accumulated as a child about what it means to work. Work has been tied to working “hard” at a job. It was a model I witnessed, and then left unexamined as I rebelled against it since.

Already I feel freer and a sense of settlement is sitting with me as I write this. I know we all have deep beliefs that limit what we feel we can create. These beliefs can be elusive, as mine was. What we can do, though, is be alert to their presence.

Each of us has areas of life where we don’t experience the richness of creation in ways that we envision. We are confused about why this happens, and try to think of solutions. The problem is that thinking isn’t the way out. The way out is using the gift of feeling, which many call intuition.

When I allow myself the spaciousness to feel what limits me, I open the door for seeing clearly. Sometimes, I can detect my limitations immediately. This doesn’t happen often. Mostly, I start the process of detecting the hidden beliefs that undermine. There is no magic pill. It’s about a commitment to be engaged in discovery and remembering the joys of its fruit.

I invite you to sit after you read this and consider what may be blocking your full experience of life.

Until later,

Thomas

Reflection – An Essential Leadership Requirement!

I remember the children’s song “Today is Monday” that I often heard, as a child, watching Captain Kangaroo on television. Each day in the song had its special food. So it will be with this blog. Monday is focused on purpose and deliberateness. Tuesday brings the theme creating what you envision. Wednesday, l share conversations I have with others I find to be inspirational. On Thursday, I continue the exploration of beliefs and their impact on our reality. Friday is a day for reflection. I offer something for the heart.

Since today is Friday, it’s time for reflection. I have noticed that the modern leader takes little time for reflection. They are responding to emails, talking on the phone or worrying about the next crisis. These activities, while important, are out of balance. No one can be effective, if they don’t spend time seeing themselves and the external world in a clear way. This reflective space allows the body to relax, the heart to open and the spirit to breath.

Today, I offer a poem that has moved me, and each time I read it, I am again reminded of what is truly important.

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

So I don’t like the cold

I was feeling restless with the cold weather we have been experiencing. You know, its was 16 below and that’s really cold.  I called friends and colleagues to commiserate about my plight.

This morning I began to wonder why I was so irritated by the cold. After all, my house is warm and the car is quickly heated when I go out so what’s the big deal? It was this question that was like a slap on the head.

I don’t like the cold and want it to be different. Hmmm. I live in southern Wisconsin. The temperatures we are experiencing are well within the norms of this area. So what about the winter didn’t I know? Nothing really.

This situation is like a lot of things in life. I look around and find that I don’t like the way things are. So many examples leap to mind. Like, I don’t care for the TSA security procedures at the airport or I am unhappy with the rising price of gasoline.

Whatever my dislikes, what is my approach getting me? Let’s see – I am feeling out of sorts. That seems like a poor payoff. So what can I do? I could step back for a moment and see what I can find that I am grateful for. I could be grateful for the beauty that I see this morning from the reflection of the sunrise off the crystalized snow. I could be grateful for having gasoline so I can drive to the grocery store.

It’s all in the way I look at things. I am in charge of the perspectives I have and it seems this morning that it would be a better day if I look for what to appreciate rather than what I can complain about.

You know, I already feel warmer….

 

Motherhood and What Really Matters in Business

juggling life

Money and the Meaning of Life is the title of a book Jacob Needleman published in 1994. Needleman’s premise is that our obsession with money and materialism has eroded our aliveness, robbed us of our authenticity, and left us spiritually impoverished. I read this book many years ago, and was reminded of its lessons as I have reflected upon my conversations with women business owners over the past few weeks.

I had been preparing for our Business Matters program on women entrepreneurs . For some time, I have had the sense that there was much to learn from women in business that could change for the better the role that business plays in our world. What I found crystallized my intuition and sparked a passion to learn all I can and tell their stories to both men and women.

One of the most poignant lessons came from understanding the purpose these women had for starting their businesses. In no case did they tell me that they started the business so that they could make a lot of money. Their reasons varied a bit; however, in essence, they are the same. They started the business because they thought they could do something that was valuable. They started the business because they wanted to no longer participate in a system that was focused on money first and people second. They started the business so they could channel their passions into something they loved doing.

There is a sense that with this focus these women-owned businesses would not be successful. If success is only measured in terms of maximizing profits, perhaps that is true. Maximizing profits is a code word for making as much money as possible. These women did derive profits from their businesses. That is vital in a world where we are not self-sufficient and use money to secure the resources we need for a healthy life.

For them, though, success was measured in a broader context. Success came from how well they took care of their customers. Success, for them, is measured in how they felt about themselves at the end of the day. Success, for them, comes from knowing they are doing the right thing for their communities.

These qualities are amplified by one thing many of these women share – they are mothers. As a mother, they took care of a sick child through the night while everyone else slept. As a mother, they juggled the needs of all the members of the family. As a mother, they made things happen no matter what resources they had.
All of these qualities and more are what we say we want in those who lead and work in organizations, yet we don’t place a high value on what women, particularly mothers, bring. These qualities of care, determination and imagination are discounted when a woman applies for a bank loan to start her business. They are told their work experience as a “stay at home” mom isn’t relevant. I have to tell you after talking with these women entrepreneurs that that’s just plain wrong. There is no better experience than for leading a business than mom as ‘CEO’ of the family.

What I found in women led businesses can be a roadmap for how we can move from the devastating impact of consumption at all costs. The women I spoke with show us how collaborative work environments produce better long term results for everyone. It’s time for us men to go back to the drawing board with our beliefs about what business is about and take the lessons these women are clearly showing us.

Let me know your thoughts.

Thomas