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

What do you trust?

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I cant’ remember a time when there was such uncertainty. Uncertainty is a condition brought on by not knowing what to trust. We can see this uncertainty everywhere. The banks didn’t trust each other so they stopped loaning money. Companies did’t trust the future of their business so they reduced jobs. People did’t trust their personal financial security so they reduced spending.

All this uncertainty seems to come from not knowing where to look for the answer to the question, “What now?”. In the past, I have looked to numerous places for the answer to that question. As a child, I looked to my parents. As a student, I looked to my teachers. As a writer, I looked to other writers who I felt were successful.

As you can see, all my references points were other people. This list continues when I want to know what is happening in the world. I may look to news sources or Bloggers. I might listen to people I think should know. Again, I am looking outside myself for the answer to “What now?”.

What I have found is that this approach is unreliable. Why, a few simple truths. Each moment is unique. It is different from every other moment. So if moment is unique then the future can never be a replication of the past. Yet, we have this desire to want a guide. We simply don’t like the unknown. It just makes us crazy.

Another thing. No one can be certain what is right for me, except me. I can’t find my answers somewhere else. If I want to know, “What now?”, why not find that answer inside. I know I have been afraid of trusting myself. Trusting that I will know the answer to “What now?”.

What is the fear? It is the fear of, “what if I am wrong.” Then I will be responsible for what happens to me. Wouldn’t it be nice to just let those I look to for the answer hold the accountability for the outcome of my life? We all know that the only real answer to that question is, “No”.

So what do I do? I make believe that I am certain when I are not. I let this notion of certainty guide me and then I am surprised when things don’t turn out like I expected. Yet, I seldom stop long enough to understand what’s going on.

Well, I spend some time over the past few days pondering this. Taking some time out to understand why I didn’t trust myself and what I choose to do now. In a past Blog, titled, Ring or Clunk, I talked about this simple approach that my wife showed me to find out whether something feels right or not.

Here’s how this applies to the question, “What now?” I ask that question and then sit quietly and listen. There are two things that I might hear. I might hear “the voice”. “The voice” are those familiar words that I hear in times of uncertainty. You all know what I am talking about. In my case, it has two faces. One is a soothing conversation that all is well and I need not worry about a thing. The only problem with this “voice” is that it is filled with arrogance. It is that part of my personality that wants to be “right”. Feeling that if I am right then I will be thought of by others as important. The other voice is pretty much the opposite. It is full of worry. It says things like, “you can’t do that” or “you know, you might be making a mistake”.

Both of these “voices” can be very persuasive. So how do I know that they are false? I remember that I can feel the “truth” of the “voice”. How do I do that? I consult that ability we all have that is often called intuition (or the knowing). It is intuition that confirms whether what I am hearing is ringing or clunking. When the “voice” is talking, its always clunking.

If I ask the question, “is this ringing or clunking” and I am unclear of the answer, the best thing is to not act on the voice. I wait until I have a clear sense.

If what I am hearing is coming from “the knowing” it will ring and then I am clear of the answer to the question, “What now?” Pretty simple and I promise you it is a more reliable approach to the road ahead than anything else I have experienced.Let me know if you give this a try what happens.

With love,
Thomas

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What do we really know?

The-Seven-Gates-of-Wisdom-1 4Some continuing comment on the state of the financial markets around the world. For the most part, the markets have

operated in a fairly orderly manner for most of our lifetimes. There is a small group of business leaders in conjunction with government policy makers who have kept the current system in place. Those that have been master of this system have felt in complete control and have reaped vast wealth.

Something changed. I am uncertain when this change happened. This change is a disruption of the normal operating rules. I will elaborate at a future time about what is the cause of these changes and the fallout that is rapidly occurring due to the change.

What we can see as an outward sign of the disruption of the normal flow of things is the lack of a creditable approach to restoring confidence of investors in the value of companies in all sectors of the economic system. Normally, I wouldn’t write about this type of thing in this BLOG, but the impact is so far reaching that I am writing about it everywhere. There are many who have been heralding this change. I have not taken them as seriously as I could have because most of their writing is fear based. I don’t find that useful. I did forget however, that I can gain value from listening to a fearful conversation if I look to the factors that created the fear rather than be caught up in the emotion.

Yesterday as part of the preparation for next week’s radio program on the real truth of the $700B bailout, I was talking with a journalist who was a former Assistant Secretary of Treasury in the Reagan administration. This person is very clear about the factors that are causing the current crisis. One of the things that I took away from the conversation is that the people who created the chaotic system we are trying to change were creators of the system.

As Albert Einstein was to have said, “A problem can’t be solved by the same consciousness that created it”. This situation can’t be solved by those who created it. They are digging deeper and deeper holes that generations to come will be saddled with. The prosperity we have experienced for several generations is crumbling.

What to do? That is a question that is consuming my whole attention. For the walk from here will be much different than the journey so far. I will share with you what I feel are reasonable steps for anyone who chooses to take charge of their situation rather than be at the effect of others choices.

I wish you peace in this time of turmoil.

Thomas

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What are you afraid of?

The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear ItselfFranklin D. Roosevelt

dreamstimeweb_267361 4There is so much news that is, well, frightening. It seems like every day there is more “bad” news and the reaction to this news as reported by the media is a response of contraction or panic. This stampede of fear is not something new in either our history or the history of the world. Often choices are made in times of such gloom that are later seen as misguided and seldom change the circumstances we are most afraid of.

As I was watching this happen, I began to wonder what I do when I am afraid. Fear is an interesting phenomena. Sometimes I am aware that I am afraid and sometimes I am not. Either way, I often act in a similar manner. I have two general responses to being afraid. The first is to strike out at whatever or whoever is closet to me when the fear reaction is engaged. This might be yelling at someone or at least showing them a high level of annoyance. Now my reaction doesn’t have anything to do with the person that I direct my response to. It is really my own need to push my fear out of my body and onto someone else.

pinnochioThe other response I have is to feeling afraid is to fudge the truth (sometimes called lying). This response often happens when I don’t immediately know that I am afraid. I fudge the truth to try to gives others a confidence that everything will be OK. I do this to bolster my own confidence without any real notion of whether what I am saying is really true or not. For example, I can say that I am confident that a certain client contract will close, when I don’t have any real evidence that supports this position I say this to tranquilize myself and others so that I don’t have to engage the panic that I am feeling inside.

I have been working through these reactions to fear for some time. I find that when I can say, “I am afraid”, I diffuse the need for either of the two reactions I mentioned above. What often happens next is that I am no longer feel controlled by the fear. It’s not that I don’t have some residual physical feelings that the fear invoked, but I can begin to consider what actions to take from a peaceful perspective and once I am clear on a course of action, I get busy.

My little microcosm isn’t much different than what I see happening in our financial markets and political system. There are many good reasons to be concerned with the situation we are facing not just economically but with the resources we need to sustain our quality of life. These circumstances didn’t just arise in the past few months. They have been around for some time. Our business leaders and politicians have been trying to keep us all a bit pacified so that we won’t change our economic behaviors.

We are now at a moment when the hiding the facts from us won’t work anymore. We are letting our business and political leaders know that we expect them to act differently. So I invite you to join me in not reacting in fear when you hear the news. If you feel fear, that’s OK. Just don’t let it be the prevailing mood when you decide what is the best response by both you and our leaders. Once you get clear outside the clutches of fear, then do like it do – get busy.

Until later,

Thomas.

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