Heart of a Leader

Leadership Matters

Archive for the tag “choice”

Dissapointment and the Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box

I was watching a child crank the handle on a Jack in the Box. He was lost in the Pops go the Weasel music. At the point we all know, Jack erupts from the box and the child lets out an exclamation of surprise. The child immediately puts Jack back into the box and begins cranking again. This went on for almost a half hour.

It stuck me that this childhood experience is recreated day after day in most of our lives. I think of a particular situation in my life. I have a colleague who promises to support a project that is very important to me. Every time it’s time for this person to act they don’t do what they promise.

Their behavior is consistent and clear. Yet, I continue to want them to do something different. I want them to honor what they promises and every time they don’t I act surprised. So I’m not much different than the child with the Jack in the Box.

Simple, right? Yes and a life spent in being hopeful that others would do what they say, no matter what their actual behavior is, plays itself out once again. I am the person who is the author of my disappointment, not my colleague. They are as predictable as I am.

I can change my experience by accepting what’s true and acting from that reality. When I choose to do this, my disappointment disappears. The choice is now mine and not that of someone else and that’s real power.

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.

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.

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.

Sacrifice Not Required!

Today was a peculiar day for writing. The weather is perfect. It’s sunny, the temperature is in the low 70s and there is a gentle breeze. My relatively new office overlooks an amazing stream and the outdoor pours in, inviting me to come out and play.

Guess what I want to do? I want to have a temper tantrum, which could look like sitting here staring outside, and feeling angry that I’m here and not there. Yet, I sit here with my fingers poised over the keyboard and wait for writing to pour forth. Surely there is something that needs to be expressed.  I get it, I’m going to share with you my frustration about being at the keyboard, rather than walking barefoot in the grass.

It’s good to remember that distractions take many forms. One that’s very familiar to me is worry. My worries are generally about something that’s either going to happen or should happen, but probably won’t. Today though, my distraction is annoyance. The alternative to writing appears to be so attractive that I forget, temporarily, why I write.

I love writing. When I write, I see things more clearly, I connect with you and I expand my abilities as a teacher. I see that part of the nature of my distraction is the illusion of sacrifice. My little voice is protesting my choice of activity with the warning that if I don’t go outside RIGHT NOW, I will miss out on the best day of the year. The voice is very convincing. I’ve followed it many times.

I realized a while back, that the type of sacrifice the voice is using to induce me to abandon writing isn’t real. I can write and spend some time outside. This won’t be possible if it sit here paralyzed by “writers block”. I decided about ten minutes ago, ENOUGH. I’m going to have some fun writing about my dilemma and not put any attention on the voice’s dire prediction. I know I’ll be outside in no time at all.

How often do you allow distraction to take you away from what’s important? It happens so subtly. One minute you are getting ready to do what you love, and the next you are drifting in thoughts. You discover later (could be minutes or hours or days) that you have been lost.

Remember distraction comes with a high cost, as the present moment will never be here again. OK.. now it’s time to go outside

Willful Blindness

Willful blindness is a term used in the law to indicate when an individual seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting himself in a position where he will be unaware of facts which would render him liable. Willful blindness extends beyond the legal realm. Margaret Heffernan has written a book that expands the context of willful blindness to include the threats and dangers we face and don’t see because we choose to not see them.

In Willful Blindness, Margaret examines the phenomenon and traces its impact on our private and working lives, and within governments and organizations. She asks, “What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of?” Her conclusions start with our fear of being accountable for our choices.

Margaret helps us understand how willful blindness develops, and then goes on to outline some of the ways that organizations and individuals can increase their awareness and deliberateness. It’s time for us all to claim accountability for our lives so the changes we dream of can become real.

Last year, I spoke to Margaret as part of the Business Matters program. You can hear this interview below.

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Simplicity and Choice

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” Henry Wadsworth

I have been consumed today with considering simplicity and it has left me confused. So I must be on the right track. Here is what’s bubbling up:

• Simplicity is that which is essential.
• Simplicity is hard to explain and easy to feel.
• Simplicity requires seeing the world as it really is.
• Simplicity is hidden from those who live in complexity.

I realize that I have more to learn about simplicity. As I have taken on writing as my craft, I take on simplicity as my way of living. The call of simplicity is compelling. It competes with a life of complexity I embraced as a pioneer in the world of computer networking.

I have brought new ideas, new stuff and electronic toys to my life without consideration for simplicity. The result has been that I become distracted in proportion to my lack of simplicity.

I have bought the story that all these time-saving devices are making my life better. Let’s see. What about a good pen, some decent paper and sufficient light? That’s all that is required to write. Every level of complexity I add draws me farther and farther away from that which I love. Seems like motivation enough to me to consider anew all that I surround myself with.

I did promise you words about simplicity and business. A great deal of attention is placed on efficiency. Here’s the truth – efficiency without simplicity is not sustainable. It’s like a wobbly wheel. You can keep it spinning with more and more energy but the cost quickly makes it inefficient.

Simplicity is about choice. Making choices about the best course of action that fits with what’s essential right now. Use the four points about simplicity as your starting place to feel what’s your best choice. These choices are always up for review. That’s simplicity. Anything else is the spawning ground for rapidly growing complexity.

Until Later,
Thomas

On Writing Well or How to Do What you Love and get Paid for It.

images.jpgI am a fan of Sharon Astyk’s blog. She offers a wide variety of wisdom on important global issues. Perhaps more important, she is a subsistence farmer, who offers wit and advice on how to live in a simple, more self-sufficient life. She is also an accomplished author of three books, “Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front” (Sharon Astyk), “A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil” (Sharon Astyk, Aaron Newton) and “Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation” (Sharon Astyk).

One of Sharon’s recent blog postings moved me. As you can tell, she is a serious writer. In the posting titled, The Writing Life, Sharon offers one of the most thoughtful, helpful and inspirational pieces about doing what you.

I work with many folks who are trying to bring together their passions and purpose with work. They often complain that you can’t really do what they love and have a good livelihood. That’s not my experience and Sharon’s piece pokes a big hole in that belief.

Sharon’s personal story is about doing what she loves because it’s the right thing for her to do. She didn’t start out writing so that she would make a lot of money or to have lots of readers. She says that when she started blogging (she recently celebrated her 1000th blog posting), she didn’t know if there would be more than four people reading her blog.

Some will read Sharon’s piece and say she was lucky. I don’t believe in luck. I believe that Sharon is listening to that inner muse we all have. Some call it intuition will others may refer to it as sixth sense. This inner guidance is ignored by most of us because we have been taught that the only real source of direction is our logic of the opinion of others who know more than we do. I guess Sharon missed that lesson.

So whether you are a writer or someone who is wandering around with the question “how do I do what I love?”, this article will serve you well.

Until later,

Thomas


Yin and Yang – Profoundly Simple

yinand-yang

Probably you have seen this symbol before. It’s the Chinese symbol that is commonly referred to as Yin and Yang. As I was reading this morning, I was struck by a realization that everything that is definable is contained in this symbol.

All the experiences of life are either in the black or white. These experiences carry with them the seed of their opposite. We are living in a world that is filled with polarity. Say I am feeling happy. The sun is shining and the temperature is just the way I like it, the air smells fresh and the birds are singing. My emotions swell and my happiness soars. As it soars, the seeds of its opposite, despair, have been cast.

There will be a moment, maybe today, maybe a year from now, when I will feel what is commonly called the dark side. Like the Yin and Yang and its feeling of a wave, I will be fully tossed into my despair and sometime in that experience the seeds of happiness are sown.

A question may arise, “Well, what’s the point of happiness if it is invariably followed by despair?” Good question, for we have accepted that the ups and downs are inevitable. This “in and out” of the wave of our emotions comes from living outside the present moment. For the seed that is planted is a longing for something to continue. We like to live in the familiar. Even when I am in pain, I am often hesitant to leave its embrace because the next feeling is not known. I have made a friend with this darkness and I am afraid to walk away.

What would it be to just experience the moment. Not put any label on it such as, oh, this is good or this is bad or this is beautiful or this is ugly. What if I just feel the moment and not allow myself to label it or put it into a smaller box than is really fitting.

I can also see in this symbol in the fullness of anything that I encounter. For instance, if I am feeling that my current financial situation is totally desperate, this desperation is all I can feel. I can use this symbol as a tool and reminder. I can stop the depressing thoughts for a moment when I realize that all I can see of the Yin and Yang is black. I have come too close to see the whole picture. In my mind’s eye, I walk back until I can see both the yin and yang. I allow myself to see the wholeness of life and where this current moment fits in. As I watch my mood shift, what’s possible will be altered.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? What I find, over and over, is that life is profoundly simple, and it’s me that is running around making it complex and chaotic.

Until later,

Thomas

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The story of the pumpkin seed

pumpkin-seed

This morning I awoke with a nagging sensation that I was not doing all I could for the health of our younger children. Lately, we have been feeding them a fair amount of “store bought” bagels and such like. I know that is not the best thing for them, and I always have a rationalizing story about why that’s the best I can do, such as, “well, at least they’re really good bagels!”.

My resolve as I arose was to begin the process of making homemade breads for them. I started with a healthy breakfast of french toast (ezekiel bread) and turkey bacon. I also began the process of making homemade pumpkin bread.

In the fall, my wife and I loaded up on organic pie pumpkins at a farmer’s market we frequent. My wife stored them in a cool place and they are ready for use whenever we choose. So I took out a very nice pumpkin and opened it lengthwise with my carving knife. The next step in the process is to scoop out the pulp and seeds. As I was about to begin this process, I remembered how nutritional pumpkin seeds were. I decided to separate the seeds from the pulp.

My first impression was, “that’s kinda hard, particularly the way the pulp sticks to the seeds.” Yet, I was in one of those moods that I would do whatever it took to accomplish what I had in mind. I began the process of getting the easy seeds out first. Then I tackled the process of separating the pulp away.

As I was doing this, I wanted to discard a few seeds that were stuck to the pulp since I had so many seeds anyway. As I was about to do this I had a realization. Each seed could produce a WHOLE PUMPKIN. The impact of that hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was about to carelessly throw away something that could provide two loaves of pumpkin bread or an evening meal of pumpkin soup plus all the seeds that came with the new pumpkin.

I pondered this for a few minutes as I finished the pumpkin seeds. I realized the metaphor for this discovery was how easy it is for me to discard something because using it fully is “just too much trouble”. Often I don’t even consider that there may be value in something I have. It either doesn’t fit perfectly with my perceived need, or maybe it’s older and a newer whatever is available. Whatever the inner dialogue, the outcome is generally the same, I buy something new and discard what I already have.

This wastefulness of precious resources, like the pumpkin seeds, adds up over time, and when I look back I don’t even want to consider all the pumpkins I have banished to the waste bin. The lesson is to consider everything that I touch for its value to me and others and to treat it with respect and appreciation. I am sure that I will find many undiscovered treasures.

Happy New Year,

Thomas

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