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 did You Say?

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Do you have the tendency, when you hear someone telling you something they have already shared, to speak or at least think, “ You already told me that”? I do. Last Saturday afternoon, my wife and I were exploring the back roads of our area. She was telling me a story about someone we knew and my response to her was, “You already mentioned that to me.”

In a flash, I realized couple of things were happening. I mentally noted that I knew what she was going to say and I stopped listening to my wife about half way through her story. Not so good, if I’m committed to having a great relationship with her. In fact, this type of “checking out” isn’t a very useful approach whether the person I’m talking to is my wife, friend, co-worker or customer. In all cases, I am not “listening” to the person so I have disconnected from them. I’m sure they realize that I’m not present.

We are so polite in our culture that we don’t ask, “Were you thinking of something else?” when we sense someone we are talking to checks out. Without this feedback, we are often unaware of the impact of our habit of shutting down our listening.

We also deny ourselves a clearer understanding of what they are communicating. We have decided that hearing something one time is the same as full understanding. I know I feel this way at times, yet it can’t be true.

When I’m not fully listening to someone, I have a number of other things going on. I might be thinking about how to respond. I might be thinking what they are saying is either stupid or great and get lost in those assessments. I might just be thinking about dinner. Whatever is going on, it’s unlikely that I really heard everything they were saying.

Why not listen again? Maybe I’ll learn something that allows me to connect with them in a more meaningful way. Maybe I can find out how to be of true service to them, rather than wondering how this conversation is going to benefit me. Maybe I’ll just show them some respect.

So when you think that someone is about to repeat a story you believe you already know, consider how you can connect with them more sincerely and how you just might learn something of great value, both to you and them.

Thomas

What was I thinking?

Do you know what your job description is? I don’t mean the few paragraphs someone in the HR department put together to give you an outline of your job responsibilities. I’m thinking about the job description for your life. What is it that you are here for? Big question that often baffles us and whose answer evades many.

A while back, as I have written about here, I realized that I had the directive, “love yourself”, in my job description. I mean, who wouldn’t want that? For starters, it’s a lot easier to talk about than experience. Sure, I want to feel love. Most of my ideas about love are that it comes from someone else. Early on, it was from my parents and grandparents. Then, god crept into the picture. Although that was a bit confusing, since I was told “to love and serve god” and that he loved me, I did as I was told. I could really feel that love at the time.

As I moved into adolescence, love got to be more about relationships with women with sex thrown into the mix. Then there was marriage and children and the circle started over again, or so I thought.

What I didn’t understand was that love starts with me. If I don’t love myself (meaning that there is nothing about me that I don’t accept), I can’t fully love anyone else. So much good and bad literature and media brings us glimpses “into love”. These perspectives are primarily emotional and conditional. If I do what you want, or I don’t hurt you or something like that, then you love me. God bless grandmothers, who don’t have such conditions.

Anyway, I didn’t understand the absolute requirement to love myself, so I didn’t. I looked in all the wrong places for love and it eluded me. All the while, loving myself was part of my life’s job description. Can you imagine my frustration?

That’s not the worst of it. There’s a second part of my job description. I’m to live in integrity. If I thought I had a clue about that, I was sadly mistaken. I didn’t know anything. I have recognized that integrity requires loving myself, so at least my job descriptions are complementary. I had no idea what a challenge this can be. If it was about being truthful, as we commonly think of it, that would be challenging enough. I find that it’s far more than that. It’s about being aware of everything I do. It requires that every action, word, feeling and thought are in harmony. If you have ever felt confused, you know the challenge of having the internal orchestra work together.

It doesn’t stop there. Not only does my job description include loving myself and living in integrity, it calls for me to teach others love and integrity. At times, this feels too much. I know when I fall down and don’t live up to what I know integrity is. There are plenty of moments when I don’t love myself. So how can I possibly teach others?

The good news is that I can do it because it’s easier to see love and integrity in others than myself. The gift of this job description is that I have the privilege of learning from my wife and children and all those I work with. As I teach about love and integrity I can see where they struggle and find my struggles. I offer them love and see it reflected from my remembering.

In the end rather than wonder, “What was I thinking, when I took on this life’s job description”, I find wonder and gratitude for having the perfect job. Good to remember, at moments when all I can see I believe to be my defects.

So what about you? What is your job description? Not sure? Send me an email (find it in the “about” section of this blog) and I will send you a tool that might help.

What is Integrity?

Much of my day is spent with the question, “What is integrity.” I write, I reflect, I teach, I read, I feel. All in the quest for simple clarity. It’s emerging, and it’s surprising. When I first considered integrity, I was sure it was about being more honest. That’s true, and there is more. In fact, so much more that I then felt overwhelmed.

What I’m discovering about integrity is that it’s about the absolute alignment of my body, thoughts, feelings and actions. It calls me to total awareness.  This understanding sometimes brings forth despair. “How can anyone be in integrity?” the voice inside says. Yet, I know there are moments when I am in integrity. “If that’s so”, I wonder, “what’s happening in those moments?” “I’m present”, is my first response. “So is being present required for integrity?” I ask myself. Yep.

Is the quest for integrity so simple that it only requires being fully present? I’m not sure, but it feels like this could be true. When I’m present, I’m aware of everything I’m experiencing in this moment. I act from this awareness with a deliberateness that is only possible from this complete awareness. I can feel my body without the distortion of thoughts. My experiences are pure as they are not motivated by needs or desires.

This simple understanding doesn’t mean that being in integrity is easy. It requires diligence and practice. It demands self-honesty and reflection.

The question is, “Are you ready for complete integrity?” This question brings to mind our conversation a few days ago about accountability. With integrity, it’s also an all or nothing experience. No need for despair though, we have the opportunity to experience integrity more and more. This is possible if we stop judging ourselves when we are not in integrity. Judgment brings with it so much self-deception. We believe that if we are out of integrity we are “bad”. Nope, we are just out of integrity, like most everyone else. When we discover this is happening, we can stop, reorient to being present, and continue. It’s that simple.

Over the next few months, I will be writing more about integrity, offering ways I’ve found to be present with my body, emotions, thoughts, feelings and actions. I welcome your feedback. No more important time than now to increase the number who are living in integrity.

Culture and Goldman Sachs

I have been receiving notes from some of you about the New York Times op-ed piece shared by the departing Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith. His complaint is that Goldman has become a company that is different than the one he joined 14 years ago. He blames their intense focus on profits, while forgetting the importance of the client, on a shift in the culture of the firm. He lays this cultural change at the feet of CEO Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn.

This whole drama has the feel of the 1996 movie Jerry McGuire. If you have forgotten the theme, Jerry has a realization, early one morning, that the sports agent firm he is a part of has lost its way. Its focus is on maximizing the money, not on what’s best for their clients. He invites the firm to go back to its roots.

There is a misunderstanding about cultures in both Greg Smith’s piece and the movie. Cultures consist of a network of beliefs, most of which are unspoken. These beliefs fall into three categories: creation myths, the rules of the inner game, and the rules of the outer game.

The creation myths comprise the originating beliefs of the founders as remembered and interpreted by the second generation of members of the culture. Myths are never about truths, but about how we want to see ourselves. If you are a student of Apple Computer, as I am, you know that the myths of the birth of Apple often don’t square up with the facts those of us who were around at the time know.

The rules of the inner and outer game consist of the beliefs we have about what’s permitted, excluded and forbidden. Artifacts such as employee manuals and codes of conduct consist of less than 5% of the rules of the inner game. The bulk of the rules of the inner game are handed down through conversations between workers. One of the challenges in changing organizational culture is exposing these beliefs and changing the ones that no longer serve the purpose of the organization.

The rules of the outer games are about how we treat people outside the walls of the organization. The constituencies involved are customers, suppliers, governmental bodies, media, communities and others who we believe have power. While we have at least a beginning framework for these rules of the inner game, almost everything about these rules is anecdotal and passed along informally.

One would think with such a loose framework for these beliefs and rules, they would be inconsistent and oft changing. That’s not how it actually works. These rules are part of the operating system of the organization. As pack animals, we have an instinct for finding out “how things work here”. This instinct enables our quick understanding of the rules and why they so seldom change.

Culture is visible in the actions of the organization. We are often distracted by what people write or speak about their values or beliefs. I suspect it’s to an organization’s advantage for others to believe this spoken or written about virtuous image, rather than a truthful articulation of how things really work.

I also suspect that Mr. Smith isn’t seeing a different Goldman Sachs. Rather, he is seeing Goldman Sachs differently. The concerns he raises are about practices that have been part of the Goldman culture since its inception. The myth and rules of the inner and outer game haven’t changed. People are attracted as clients to Goldman precisely because they believe they can make the most money through this relationship. Goldman’s reputation, for clever financial instruments, has been an integral part of its culture since its pioneering efforts in creating IPOs at the beginning of the last century. They have always been interconnected to the seats of financial power and benefited from these relationships. So you can see, nothing is really different.

I offer this final note in today’s conversation about cultures. In the current issue of The Atlantic, there is an article, Why Companies Fail, that points to culture as the root of business success or failure. That’s true, but what’s missed is why this is true. Cultures are about people, not technology or capital structure or marketplace. Cultures always trump everything, and when this phenomenon isn’t recognized, the only outcome possible is a continuation of the past.

Tomorrow, I will write a companion piece about the rise and fall of an American iconic company, Kodak, from a cultural perspective and what companies can do to transform a culture when faced with the demise of the effectiveness of their current cultural mindset.
Until then,
Thomas

Move your Money!

These is a lot of talking about how mad we are that the big banks are paying out strongBillions/strong of strongDollars/strong in bonuses when they had their hands out just a year ago. Remember, they were telling us they needed the governments help to even survive. In fact, they were so convincing that they scared Congress into doing what they wanted with no strings attached.

Now a year later, they are telling us they made records profits and the executives deserve to be paid for their hard work. Now some folks are calling this one of the greatest frauds perpetrated on the US. Bill Black, a former government official during the Savings and Loan crisis laid this case out on the Business Matter’s program titled, “Cronie Capitalism” . Could be. But it doesn’t look like anyone in Washington is going to do anything substantive about this. Sure there’s hand wavering and lots of talk, but no real legislation and the dollars from Wall Street firms and big banks continue to flow in to the campaign coffers of both political parties.

But don’t despair. Maybe there’s something we can do about it. Something that doesn’t require the President or anyone in Congress to do anything. Something that can have a profound affect. What would that be, you may ask?

Over the holidays a group of people that included Ariana Huffington of the Huffingon Post were talking about what they could do about this clear inequity. They decided to start a campaign to recommend that people move their money from the large banks who has taken our taxpayer dollars to enrich themselves while failing to help homeowners or small businesses.

Take this money and move it to financial institutions that are part of the solution. The movement is called Move Your Money. It encourages people to move their money from the big banks to credit unions and community banks.

I know how convenient it is to have you account at Bank of America or Chase or Citibank, I was stuck in the convenience situation myself. But I realized that I am part of the problem unless I take action personally. So I did, I opened my personal and business accounts at a local community bank.

Some will ask are they safe? When you look at the problems of the financial crisis, you don’t find credit unions or community banks holding Credit Default Swaps or packaging up mortgages into securities and loosing contact with their customer. Sure profits may be down, but they still do business the old fashion way – face to face. They know you and you know them.

I am encouraging you to consider taking action. Find out more about this movement. Go to the moveyourmoney.info website and see what others are doing and saying. See if it this feels like the right thing for you to do. Remember that you can make a difference .

Download MP3

[audio:http://businessmatters.net/fyc/fyc-100108.mp3%5D

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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