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Archive for the category “Simplicity”

Disappointer in Chief

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In this aftermath of the 2014 elections, there is so much talk about the reasons for the outcome. I think it’s pretty simple.

In 2008, we elected Barak Obama. Those of us that supported his first campaign felt that finally someone was going to make a difference in the way that government works. Finally someone was going to lead the country into a time of greater pulling together. So many promises were made that would support this vision.

Starting with President Obama’s victory speech in Griffith Park in Chicago six years ago, the unraveling of this feeling began. He spoke of the difficult road ahead. He talked about how it was going to take us all to make the change happen. This was a new message that was never part of his campaign. We listened and still waited for him to take action to change things we didn’t like.

We can look at the severe problems in the economy or the challenges with wars across the globe as underlying factors that inhibited his success, but these issues were known as the 2008 campaign unfolded. Solutions to complex issues are neither easy nor quick. Campaign rhetoric is easy. Turning those promises into reality is hard.

Very few have been able to lead in a way that brings us together and allows the greatness within each of us to be called forth. President Obama had that opportunity and he blew it.

Which brings us to now. We are disappointed. We want more than we are getting. We are indeed disappointed with Congress and its leadership. That’s a group of people without a single individual for us to focus our frustration on. The President on the other hand, is someone we can focus our disappointment on in a very personal way. The Republican party made the best of this feeling and it propelled them to control of both houses of Congress and many state governorships.

Now that they are in power, what will the Republican members of Congress do that they didn’t do in the last six years? What will the President do that he hasn’t done in that same timeframe? The opportunity for doing the right thing is always with us. Let’s encourage our national political leaders to focus on doing something positive for us.

As I write this, I an not feeling very positive. This morning, one of the darlings of the Republican party, Rand Paul started his day with messages under the Twitter hashtag #hillaryslosers. I know this is politics, but we are tired of this. Remember Mr. Paul, the sentiment of the country can change quickly if you, too, disappoint those who believe in you.

Don’t Let Your Day Run Away From You!

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It’s 4PM, and as you look at the clock, you wonder where the day has gone. Seems like only a few minutes ago you began with a large to-do list and great expectations. Now, you look down and few items are checked off and you have a feeling of foreboding. How will you get all that is on your plate done before the next hour or two has passed?

What happened?

For most, the ad-hoc nature of your day has tossed you around. The unscheduled phone calls, the constant stream of emails, a new request from a customer have all arrived and called for your attention. How did you respond?

In our 24/7 world, you had the feeling that you had to respond IMMEDIATELY. After all, it’s what others expect, isn’t it? Maybe… and if you let this constant barrage of incoming communications be front and center in your world, the most important promises you make will lay incomplete.

What can you do? It’s both simple and hard. I know, because I wrestle with this every day. First, start your day with a quiet moment or two and allow your intuition to give you some guidance about what’s most important to you today. Write down whatever you feel.

When that call or email sound rings, ask yourself, do I need to respond now or take care of what I committed myself to today? This will take some discipline. You will worry you are missing out, or that a moment’s delay will create some terrible consequence for you. Unlikely. Stay the course.

I have found that I make great strides day after day with those things that are truly most important when I follow this simple practice. The reason I’m working, whether it be for financial gain or inner satisfaction or both grows in ways I never imagined.

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.”

Finding the Quite

I must be on a fall theme. I’m sitting here in the early morning, enjoying the fire in our newly installed woodstove. There’s something about heating with wood that you can witness burning through the glass doors of the stove that brings warmth that seems unavailable in traditional heating.

The treat for me of this quietness is the feeling of grabbing some precious time for myself. Just the fire and I, sitting here talking with you. In the daily quest for a life filled with service and learning and family and friends and everything outdoors, I seem to have overlooked quiet time.

I know it’s easy to justify this oversight. Sure, I’m busier than I can remember. Physically I feel pretty maxed out, in terms of my capacity. Yet, I know that if I can pry away minutes that have no agenda or mission or task, and just sit with the silence, I feel rejuvenated. Nothing else restores me this way.

I feel a bit selfish. There is so much to do. I know this inner voice of concern is a distraction, and not true anyway. Earlier in the week, when I started writing again, I felt like I had regained a lost friend. For that’s what writing is for me. A friend, that listens patiently, offers reflection if asked, and never complains about anything.

I know that my day has a different music whenI start it this way. I tend to be more patient, more aware and way more peaceful. What needs to get done, does and things don’t, weren’t that important anyway.

So why doesn’t every day start this way, I wonder. Simply put, I get sloppy. I know that being deliberate is so much richer than living in reaction to the stimulus around me. Yet, I forget this simple truth and fall into the pattern of reactivity.  The good news for this morning is, I remembered. I celebrate remembering and sharing it with you.

May you find your own quiet moments today and remember what matters most.

Falling Leaves and Plans

I am surrounded by the most amazing maple trees. This is a new experience for me. Watching them come alive in the spring (which was May where I live), I was amazed each morning by the umbrella of leaves that changed my relationship with the sun. Sheltering me on the long scorching days of summer, my appreciation of the abundant maples expanded.

Now as they transition to winter, and the leaves that so magically appeared are changing colors, I am in awe. I look out my window and see their gold and red leaves drifting to the ground like the snow that will follow. One leave bumps into another, sometimes disturbing it’s hold and together they fall, silently.

The ground is now covered with these remnants of spring that again change. Changing from their vibrant colors to brown. They curl in lifelessness into carcasses of the forgotten spring that will be covered with snow and return the gift of their decomposition to the tree that bore them.

All this happens without one instruction. No grand action plan has been created that guides the trees through their life’s cycle. Yet, I seem to be bound by my need for how. How can I make the program I am teaching work? I need a clear plan, of course. How can I buy the land I desire? A plan is needed so I make sure that I have the money I require.

Attachment to plans is the root of false security and suffering. Plans are today’s music helping to focus my thoughts. That’s good. When I think of plans as more than that, however, I am setting myself up to operate in a manner that is different than the way things are.

Life unfolds in its purity and uniqueness, beyond the scope of my ability to understand, like the unfolding of the trees outside my window. If I use plans to sharpen my ability to adapt to what I am finding before me, then they are fulfilling their true purpose.

So whether you are writing a business plan or today’s to do list, remember not to be lost in the plan, or the most amazing possibilities that are occurring right before you may be missed.

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Always Ready.. Never Surprised…

Like many things in my life, this story originates with a conversation with my wife. She was telling me about a blog posting she just read by Sharon Astyk. If you don’t know her work, check it out at this link. She is a clear writer, that’s for sure. What I appreciate about Sharon’s writing is how authentically she tells the story of her life and the impact of all of our choices on our lives.

The posting my wife was talking about is titled, Always with the Prep. I’ll let you read it to get the full story she’s telling. In essence, the message is that we can prepare for radical shifts in our world. We can do this by going to the essence of what’s involved in sustaining our life. We need water, food, shelter and clothes. That’s what we need. Everything else is not required, however, everything else is where most of our creative attention goes.

Most of us, and I put myself in this category, spend little, if any, time or attention on making sure we have the basics of life if something disrupts the way things generally work. We go to the grocery store and expect that all our food needs will be met. What happens if the power is off in your community for a month? Not so far-flung, when you consider that a million folks are still without power today from an unpredicted storm that went through the northeastern U.S. last week.

Power is needed for refrigeration, lighting and from the perspective of the grocery store owner, to collect your money. When the power is out the grocery stores are closed. What do you do about food for a month? It doesn’t stop there. We also need electricity to power the gas pumps at the local filling station, so no groceries and no gas for a month.

If you are living in an area where heat can be in the triple digits (more and more of the U.S. qualifies), how do you cool your home when it was built for air conditioning as the only way to stay cool in the summer? You can open your small windows but that will only make a dent in what you need.

I haven’t gotten to the good part yet. Then there is water. Water needs electricity too. The pumps to put the water in those towers we see around the town need electricity and the backup generators will only last a short period without more gasoline. Right.. no electricity, no gasoline.. no water….

You get the picture. We are being offered a less than gentle nudge toward preparedness. Sharon makes a good point in her piece. If there was a hurricane coming, you would stock up. Hurricane tracks are becoming more predictable. Things like thunderstorms and earthquakes and tsunamis are not. They happen when they happen.

We could say there’s nothing we can do about these types of “natural disasters” . Yes, I can’t control them. I can, however, be prepared for them. We don’t seem to want to put attention on preparing ourselves for an uncertain future. Let’s face it, the future is uncertain and we can ignore this fact or take action.

The Mormon church is very aware of the possibility of an uncertain future. They strongly encourage their members to have a year’s supply of food and water. Take a look at this excellent writing on questions of Mormonism for more details. What stops me or you from this level of preparation? Many reasons, but at the heart of it is that we are focused on protecting the present form of our life, and live in deep hope that nothing will mess that up.

I encourage you to take a new look at your life. If you are a business owner, you know that nothing is constant. How are you prepared to take care of the basic of life for your business if a major disruption happens. I know, first hand, the impact of not doing this. I consulted for a major company, who represented almost all of my client billings. One day in September of 2008, they called and said, “We won’t be needing you after this month.” Whoops. I knew better and allowed myself to be lulled into the ease of the situation, and totally forgot the truth of how life works.

If you are concerned with the care of a family or elderly parents, how can you prepare, in a reasonable way for the uncertainty of the future? It will require that you put some attention and resources on this. Some of the money you are making is set aside for this purpose.

We live in a society of gratification now. That’s ok, as long as everything remains the same. SInce that’s not going to happen, I MUST focus on preparation, or be willing to accept the consequences of my choices. Which, quite simply, are that I will be putting my business and all that I care about at risk.

Something to consider on this hot, summer’s day.

Applause…. Please!

I was taking care of some paperwork today that required walking through a maze of tax and financial information. In the past, I loved doing that type of work. It was like crawling into my mind and getting lost. Everything around me fell away and it was challenging for anyone to get my attention.

Today the experience was different. I did the work and completed what was required. I even got it done earlier than it was needed. Yet, I was feeling hollow, rather than elated, which was the outcome of my previous experiences. So what’s different?

I wasn’t sure, so I decided to use this writing to find the answer to that question. Ahhh. for one thing, I’m finding that I’m having fewer emotional highs and lows. I can feel my personality wondering what’s wrong. I mean, aren’t we supposed to be filled with excitement when we accomplish something?

Now I can see where this is going. I have an addiction to emotional “juice”. I want to feel the high because I believe the highs show me and others how well I’m doing (interesting, since I know that after the high comes the low, which I’m not so keen about). Excellent! Another clue appears.

I often did this type of work to be well thought of. In this case, I would want my wife to know how well I’m taking care of her and the family. I want to be regarded as a hero conquering this morass of complexity. This is where the payoff is falling flat. I don’t seem to need her appreciating me. I just got done what was required. No fanfare is called for.

This isn’t what I expected. I thought I would experience this inner calm and peace and , you know, the music would play and the heavens would open. As crazy as that sounds, it’s not too far from my fantasy. Of course, that dramatic expectation can only be another product of my personality. A personality that loves drama, especially if I’m at the center of it.

It’s nice to sit in the calm of completion. I can share this with you (and my wife who edits this blog) and if it helps you along your way, great. Things are getting simpler. Authenticity is becoming a more constant companion.

Love and Standing on the Skinny Branches

In our community a friend of mine publishes a twice-weekly newsletter of sorts that lets over 1,000 people know what’s happening and what’s for sale. This email delivered service is a must read for many. I have the habit of reading this newsletter as soon as it arrives. Sometimes there are great bargains that sell quickly that I don’t want to miss by not acting. I also love to see what everyone is doing.

Last night, I noticed that the newsletter arrived in my email inbox and immediately clicked on it. The first part lists upcoming activities. One of these activities was a promotion for an upcoming episode of a local radio program called, “The Heart of Wellness.” I know the program’s hosts and wondered who was on this week. As I read, it began to dawn on me that I was the guest this week. I laughed out loud as I realized that I had the experience of seeing what I was doing without remembering.

What was more surprising was the topic, “Love in Business.” My insides began to cramp up and I felt a bit queasy. It’s one thing to write a bit about this in my conversation here. It’s a whole other thing to talk about it on the radio with other people. It wasn’t panic so much as disorientation.  I felt that an important moment of my life was approaching.

When I first wrote about this topic, I asked, “What would your business world be like if love was out in the open, and guided your decisions and actions?”  Good question, and perhaps not the best starting point. To answer this question means we have to talk first about the question, “what is love?”

There is a library of books that talk about love from many perspectives – religious, philosophical, emotional and physical. We are offered many interpretations of the kinds of love that people experience. It all seems complicated and not quite right. The love I’m talking about is unconditional love – love that is offered freely with no strings attached.

Unconditional love is not something we have much experience with. Our relationships are for the most part conditional. Most of my friends love and accept me, as long as I conform to their perspective of what a friend is. If I stray far from that..well, the conditioning sets in. The same is true with life-partnerships. When things are going well or we want the world to think they are going well, we will say that things are good. Have the apple cart upset by some unexpected betrayal or other breach of trust and that old conditionality comes roaring to life.

Unconditional love can’t be experienced through my thoughts or emotions. Unconditional love requires me to be 100% present. That means that all of my attention is on the NOW, not the future or past. We spend so little time in this space, we can begin to see why unconditional love is elusive.

Since we are not often feeling unconditional love what can we do? We can, first of all, not pretend that conditional love is something it isn’t. We can practice acceptance of whatever we face without judgment. In a business context, this is a very powerful way to act. We all know that when we are judgmental of others or not liking what we are facing, our perceptions are clouded and the decisions we make are not our best.

This is the starting place to understand why love in the workplace is essential. Starting today, I will begin to write more about love and work. I invite you to share your feedback and experiences.

Is A Promise a Promise – Part II

Yesterday, I was talking about when a promise is a promise, and concluded that a promise is always a promise. As I was reflecting more about this, I realized I left one important stone unturned. What about promises I make to myself?

A clear example of promises made to myself are New Years resolutions. I get all fired up at the end of the year about all that I’m going to change in the new year. A popular resolution is losing weight or getting in better physical condition. January is a boom time for gyms. During the first week of January, people charge into the gym, sign up for a membership and buy some new gym clothes. As the weeks of the new year go by, gym attendance drops rapidly.

Other popular resolutions are about money. Maybe, I want to spend less so I can save. I could also want to change my income by getting a new job or cut my debts by paying off my credit cards. Whatever the resolution, I find that by sometime in February, the enthusiasm of the resolution has waned and I’m slowly moving back into my old patterns.

So why do I do such a poor job of keeping promises to myself?  The only way to answer the question truthfully is to tell you about my experiences. For starters, I seem to have a selective case of amnesia about certain categories of personal promises. For instance, when it comes to things like food, I am clear about what’s good for me and not. I promise to only eat food that good for me and then the little voice says things like, “You’ve done so well lately, what’s a little bowl of ice cream?” or “Surely one piece of candy can’t be bad for you.”. What creates this amnesia? It’s my lack of awareness of the automatic nature of how I choose the food I eat. All diet programs that last beyond the initial program phase help the dieter become aware of what they are eating before it goes in their mouth, and whether it’s good for them or not.

The second reason, it seems hard to keep promises to myself is that I don’t see myself so clearly. When I make a promise to you and don’t do it, I have to face you. So to not have you think poorly of me, I’m more likely to do what I promise to you than myself.

This is connected to the third reason I don’t do as well keeping promises to myself as to others, which is that I have a very active rationalizer. I can make up a good story about why something I promised myself isn’t really that important. Since I don’t have to tell that story to anyone but myself, I don’t get a lot of push back.

The irony of all this is that the most important person for me to keep my promise to is myself. If I don’t start with me, how can I know I’ll be reliable with you? Today is another day, and I can start anew. I write everyday. This writing includes some things I don’t publish. In this writing, I check where I’m in integrity and where I’m not. Through this practice of self-reflection, I find that I’m becoming more reliable to myself.

What do you do that helps you be more reliable to the person you see in the mirror?

Bringing Love to Business?

Today I put to bed a new episode of Business Matters. I like my involvement with the program. It puts me in contact with people who are true change agents in the most positive way.

As I pushed the publish button on the web posting for the program, I was thinking about what to share with you today. Wednesday is the day when I bring you a conversation with someone I feel will offer inspiration. Immediately, I thought of one of my conversations with Tim Sanders. Tim was part of the Mark Cuban internet business, broadcast.com. That company was acquired by Yahoo, where Tim became the Chief Solutions Officer.After he finished his Yahoo stint, Tim wrote his first book, Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends. I loved the book, because it brought into a popular context the consideration that love was critical for success in business. Now Tim’s definition of love is too narrow for me, but it’s a good beginning.

Another friend, Deb Robins, wrote in 2010 for the Huffington Post, CEOs here’s one four letter word you need to start using. She said, “When CEOs the world over take the word love out of their closet and use it as their primary driver for success, businesses will experience unprecedented creativity, unprecedented profitability, as well as unprecedented human happiness.” You can read the article where she lays out why it makes good business sense to bring love into the office.

What would your business world be like if love was out in the open and guided your decisions and actions? Kind of makes you stop and wonder, doesn’t it?

You can listen to my conversation with Tim below.

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