Is Integrity at the forefront of your workplace?

Previously on “Making a better past”:

In the last two episodes of Ray Donovan, er (that’s the pandemic binge watching speaking), I mean makingabetterpast I have been looking at the value and absence of integrity in the current theatre of business.

Part one: https://makingabetterpast.com/2020/12/01/integrity-thats-the-ticket-part-1/

Part Deux: https://makingabetterpast.com/2021/01/18/is-integrity-the-black-rhino-of-the-business-serengeti/

In part one we discussed the idea of integrity as an overstated objective and underachieved manifestation in today’s business community. While in part two we looked at the scarcity of it, in this segment we turn toward the challenges and true value of integrity within corporate leadership.

Throughout my career as a consultant, partner and employee, I have been lucky enough to work with several ‘captains of industry’.

Part of my approach has always been to try to understand the human behind the title before I tried to make a contribution toward the success of the business model.

I have found it important to align my own perspectives with what circumstances influenced the pursuit of the entrepreneurial vision and understand what lines in the sand define the character of the corporate leader.

With that said I have never been a “fake it ‘til you make it” kind of guy, and with but one short exception, have not worked with someone I genuinely didn’t like.

It’s not for nothing that the one exception to that was also the highest paying gig in my career.

Nonetheless, I have found that I am simply incapable of bringing my passion to a team that had values that didn’t consistently align with mine and when I tried, the result was self-evident.

For example, in the case of that lucrative gig, the owner was a man who hid his insecurities behind narrowminded, egocentric and misogynistic practices.

We would meet for breakfast and his comments about our waitress at 6:30 in the morning killed my appetite and shattered my respect for his abilities. Yeah, call me judgy but if you can’t order two eggs over easy without making an objectifying comment about the woman who serves them to you -then I’m not your guy.

In another gig, I brought my full passion to the project at 1/3 my usual rate for a guy, who inspired me with the opportunity, and the eloquence of his words. He repeated endlessly “when I win WE win”.

I criss crossed the continent for 3 years developing market awareness and negotiating a license agreement for this previously unheard of technology, and in the end brokered a deal wherein the technology was sold for $10 million to an industry leader. And that’s where part of my story ended up like so many others I have heard- cuz when “we” won, HE turned out to be the only winner.

Now some might say: Did you have it writing?

And to those I respond…

We are talking about Integrity here.

I understand the purpose and place for contractual documentation; it helps people remember the things that were said and sets the expectations of all parties.

However, in my practical experience, for all of us who have paid for the swanky cars and private schools of our lawyers’ children, we know too well that the hours we spent on paragraph 5 of page 4 of said contract, invariably were wasted as the document goes into a file and we forget the negotiated phraseology until the shit hits the fan and our ego fuels the exercise to fund our lawyer’s yacht.

Now let’s not be so cliché as to blame the lawyers, the French have an expression.

C’est gratuit” meaning that’s too cheap an approach.

We need to remind ourselves that if there was no market for slippery wording and opportunities crafted through omission, there would be no opportunity for the slickest of snake oil salesmen to get a law degree.

I have had the pleasure of working with visionary leaders who understood that integrity was the legacy that would follow them long after the office and sometimes even after they left the planet.

They placed that legacy ahead of selling their soul to get to upgrade vehicles.

Speaking of which…my father drove a Cadillac.

In the 50’s 60’s 70’s and 80’s, that was a self-awarded token of achievement! Not my thing, but I was proud of this poverty-stricken depression child who worked his ass off to achieve his dream.

When he broke away from the family publishing business to reach for his dream, he had to borrow the sum of $25,000 to start his business.

No money and no credit, left him approaching another man who made the loan on one condition: that every year until the loan was repaid, my dad would have to provide the lender with a brand-new Cadillac.

Do the math…that doesn’t work unless you’re looking at a credit card company as a comparable business model.

While it didn’t take 2 years for my father to realize he had made a deal that was blinded by his own ambition, it did take 10 years for him to repay the loan.

And while Dad was never the biggest fan of the lender, he always managed to do what he verbally committed to do. Sometimes it took longer than expected, but he ALWAYS honored his word. No contract and lawyers fees were required.

In so doing, his word became valuable – not only to others – but to himself, resultingly he learned he was not so free to make promises one week that the next he didn’t have the integrity to honor.

He understood that integrity was his and his alone, and even if when it hurt him, he didn’t spin the circumstances to renege on a cheque  his mouth had written.

All too often, today’s leaders lean too heavily on the rules created by those who have the most to gain in conflict- enter the legalese.

All too often, the willingness to disguise the shortfall of integrity with the catchall phrase “that’s just how the game is played …anyone else would do the same” seduces men who at earlier points in their career could claim integrity as their only asset

They sooth themselves with false nobility saying: “I get paid to make the tough choices” and then after cutting expenses, go out and get a new car.

But that’s where the rubber doesn’t meet the road ; often those “really tough choices” involve cutting the expense in the interest of making more money.

And last time I checked, we measure success quarterly in the corporate world,  in 3 month periods- 3 MONTHS!!!  Is that really the period we feel comfortably defines a legacy?

Maybe if the rules of business extended deeper into the eternal nature of the spirit (legacy, honor, or whatever term you wish to use to define the intangible) reaching beyond the rush of the quarterly bottom line, the model might shift from a continuous struggle and lament between employer/employee toward actually fostering the loyalty and heartfelt passion of a team.

Now, I’m not saying the captains are the only source of blame, remember the statement “if there was no market there would be no snake oil salesmen”?

The same thing applies if to those who choose to work for someone- if people didn’t mimic the pursuit of more! More! MORE! there would be a much smaller market for lopsided deals that handcuff great talent to the limitations of the vision of the leader or at least perpetuate a cycle of Metro-Boulot-Dodo (DM a Quebecer to translate that for you)

It’s on all who play the game to fearlessly challenge and openly  discuss the brokenness of the capitalism model. To actively invest in moving this vehicle  along its evolutionary path.

The challenge is the balance of power obliges that this metamorphosis must start with leaders accepting to do more for less in the short term by learning and believing that true value comes in the long term. That is super scary and can feel like pulling a rabbit out of a hat within the A.D.H.D climate that permeates the traditional model of capitalism in it’s current iteration.

Now don’t think I am advocating abandonment of capitalism in favor of some mamby-pamby-everyone-gets-a-share-regardless-of- individual-contribution-or-risk.

Not this serial entrepreneur!

I still love the thrill of the challenge of adding value to goods and services to sell for a little more than was paid.

I’m just suggesting it’s time for leadership to understand its role in creating new rules, practices and objectives for business, that extend beyond the old adage “Buy low/Sell high.

For example, I am inspired by increasing presence of “social enterprises”. These organizations that have shifted their raison d’etre from making so much money that they can choose to give some away, toward a new breed of enterprises that start with the specific intention to change some part of this connected ecosystem we all coexist within.

These leaders often savvy in the traditional sense of the game, orient themselves and their talents to make a change in the world and leverage the power of capitalism to do so. And because piety is not the objective, they can exist free from judgment to actually drive a Cadillac if they so choose, because their intention was spawned from a will to use the vehicle to make good for something beyond their own ego.

With this shift they look at every product sold as an opportunity to make an impact on something beyond themselves rather than making that a an afterthought or worse yet a marketing opportunity.

When the union showed up at the shoe factory there was a court appearance for ratification of their presence.

My father drove me down with him to testify.

The union lawyer thought himself crafty when he asked: “Mr. Wallace, what kind of car do you drive?” 

I remember the direct transparency, and shamelessness in his voice when he replied: “A Cadillac- why do you ask?”

 “Mr. Wallace, how many others in your organisation drive a Cadillac?”

I don’t know what they drive at home, but I don’t see any others in the parking lot

The lawyer then went for the jugular- “Are you comfortable with that?”

The room went quiet and I will never forget his answer:

Perhaps a better question might be ‘how do you compensate your employees compared to your competitors, or how many of your employees own their own homes?’. I have tried to create a business that can provide people with a chance to grow and then I get out of the way to let them choose their own path as I did. Now I know, from personal experience, that in some cases my Cadillac inspires people toward competitive growth and in others it fuels collaborative growth but as long as I build a small vehicle for people to grow, my business serves the purpose I intendedto provide a chance for people to go beyond the hunger I felt when I borrowed the money to take the risk and start the company

Afterwards, on the drive home, I asked my father for the answer to the question he referred to, without pause he told me the company paid 18% over industry standard and more than 35% of his factory floor team owned their own homes and three of his top employees had left to start their own competitive business. This was at a time when the gap between management and factory floor was very broad.

But how did he know this? Because his true intention shone through when he had co-signed on several mortgages, when other employees trusted him enough to seek his counsel and to share their moments of joy with him.

And therein, I learned the true value of integrity:

People rarely give their whole heart (and passion) to Leader who changes their word when it becomes painful and puts his own gain and desire to win as the primary objective.

It is about the leaders’ true INTENTION – Is it to see oneself in the fancy car or is it to pave the road just a little more so someone else can drive comfortably on it too?

But how did we get here?

Well…for that you might want to tune in to part 4.

In the meantime if you feel this is shareable I hope you will so we can move this along – together

Is Integrity the Black Rhino of the Business Serengeti?

If you recall when we last left off, we were entertaining the idea of how, despite how we all claim to be consistent, maintaining integrity over a lifetime is a pretty tall order. https://makingabetterpast.com/2020/12/01/integrity-thats-the-ticket-part-1/

Integrity itself is a word that I have filed in my grey matter RAM under A for architecture, as opposed to H for human quality. I wonder if that’s because I have more evidence of it in the linear notion of “Structural Integrity”?

Or could it be because there feels to be an increasing absence of palpable integrity in a world in which one rarely places oneself in the position to express, with the vulnerability of ownership, one’s own failures.

While this is often true with interpersonal relationships, integrity is never challenged more than in the competitive arena of the business community.

In business, we have seen the burgeoning presence of spin doctors, lobbyists and lawyers who have developed the art of deception through omission. They professionally assist “Management” in reframing the situation and the omission typically surrounds a responsibility “Management” wants to avoid the cost of.

The rationale skillfully leveraged by these creative persuaders seems to consistently circle one theme- Entitlement.

They sooth us, saying: “This is your Business/Career/Life… it’s your right to behave as you want. We can redirect you from the responsibility of your actions by leveraging jurisprudence…for a reasonable hourly rate”

To the profit-focused capitalist, this approach is as seductive as a portside peeler bar to a newly docked sailor. Our captains of industry are easily tempted to drift toward this thinking justified by the need and companionship cuz  “anyone else would do the same thing.”

And so, the standard is lowered. But is that the only reason?

When I was apprenticing in the wild world of women’s fashion, I worked in Valencia, Spain immediately before reporting to design class in Italy. While I learned a bunch in Florence, one thing that has given me pause throughout the years that followed, is how I totally lost my ability communicate in Spanish the minute I crossed the border.

For a long time I thought it was because of the complexity of the verbs.

 I now know the reason I couldn’t keep the two languages functional in my head was because of one simple 3 letter word.

Sex!

Now, if you are aware of some little tingle of anticipation of a smokin’ hot story of drunken dalliances in both of those countries and how they ended abruptly because of an unfortunate choice of words, well you can stop reading right now, or prepare for your tingle of disappointment. You see my daughters skim these posts every so often so I can neither confirm nor deny those occurrences.

However, I will tell you that the need to fit in, to be perceived as less of an outsider in the eyes of the sultry Mediterranean women, in my early twenties, was almost as much of a driving force as my desire to learn to design women’s shoes…

…ok, maybe more.

“So, uh…Dude – apart from the name-dropping sex talk, what could possibly be the point of the Spanish/Italian reference?”

I guess I was observing how sometimes our brains seem to block out one skill to build another, and I wondered if that same thing could equally apply to human qualities?

I mean, the forum of business has become more like a WWE championship where the skill of fearless rationalization has replaced the art of true competition. Everywhere you turn leaders are brashly throwing down for their right to behave like an ass.

I wondered, if by developing talent in the art of spinning, justifying and rationalizing our foibles, we have ended up completely atrophying our capacity for integrity.

We have rationalized integrity to the point of losing our true understanding of it in its purist form.

Why?

Again, we have to look at the way the business world often operates behind the slick marketing it carefully crafts to keep us in the checkout line.

Even the most savage are wise enough to not bite the hand that feeds, and so when our business community has blurred the lines of integrity, individuals who live within that community must question the return on the investment of demanding a higher moral standard at the risk of losing the ability to pay the rent.

All too often business owners and leaders handcuff our “trusted associates” (employees) by disguising gag orders as loyalty to the cause.

Those of us who embraced capitalism as a path to independence, have learned that what we as individuals know to be “right” is rarely the easiest or most profitable path.

So, we quietly do the math and realize if we choose the high road and negatively impact profitability, then we may soon be the cutback required to offset the cost incurred, by the team, so we focus the blame elsewhere.

There is a story of a young V.P. in the Ford Motor Company in the thirties, presenting himself to none other than Mr. Henry Ford, resignation letter in hand. He was assuming responsibility for a production error that would cost the company $100,000, in the 1930s that was a whole whack of profit. Mr. Ford took the letter and tore it up saying at the time “I cannot accept your resignation sir; I now have a one hundred-thousand-dollar investment in you!”

Ford understood that witch hunts are far less valuable over time, than the acquired experience of a loyal team member.

But today, the pressure to perform is so characterized in fantasy based media that it seems more appropriate for leadership to turn outwards and “clean house and turn the page”instead of turning inwards and assuming responsibility.

How could this erosion in strength of character, once so valued in leadership, have advanced so rapidly?

That, dear readers is the focus of tomorrow’s post.

Integrity; that’s the ticket! – Part 1

Ask anyone and they will find some single word that best defines a life well lived.

While the average adult has typically more than 25,000 words in her mother tongue, (French or English) invariably, we tend to choose one word that sums the path to “success” and “fulfillment”

Tenacity, Transparency, Honesty, Ambition, Charity, Drive, Enlightenment, Sacrifice, Commitment, Selflessness, Discipline, Flatulence, Forgiveness, Focus, Resilience, Nurturing, Humility, Self-Awareness, the list is endless.

Well not actually endless, as it turns out.

More like about 1,710 words to be more accurate.

This according to “A Hierarchical Analysis of 1,710 English Personality-Descriptive Adjectives” by Ashton, Lee, and Goldberg, as published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004.

Wait -What the…!! Why would anyone spend the time analyzing the adjectives used in the description of another person?

For the same reason, a fifteen-year-old boy would approach his father, on a warm summer night as he vacuumed the pool to ask:

Dad, what the most important thing to you, in life”

We all seek to identify the personality traits required that will orient us toward “success”, and since in my younger view, my Dad was amongst the most successful that I direct access to, I sought his.

Well at least from the perspective of the definition of the term of success, that my 15 years of life experience afforded me.

Is it human nature, hardwired within our genetic composition, to emulate the traits we identify as ‘winner’ in others?

I’m thinking yes.

Yet, that can be argued in the many ways my sister, brother and I are remarkably different.

Which begs the question “Were we three watching the same pool cleaner?” Or at the very least our lives raise further ambiguity surrounding the eternal “Nature vs Nurture ”debate.

While the answers to these questions are more complex than I can begin to answer,  I’m thinking we three were in fact eyeing the very same guide. Albeit through different colored lenses, influenced both by our own baggage and the different points in the personal journey of the man who set the pace for us.

For example, the age difference between my siblings and I resulted in my sister undoubtedly identifying with his more youthful qualities of willful commitment and limitless bravado. While my brother seemingly was more influenced by my father’s aptitude for acceptance and forgiveness.

If each of our lives is nuanced by the moment and personal experiences (at that time), as well our own interpretation of the behaviors of the Sherpa we choose to follow up the mountain, does that explain how, despite being equipped with the greatest potential, all too often many of us end up at the top of a mountain overlooking an unfulfilling panorama? Or worse yet, measuring our lives in missed opportunities as we sit on the sidelines, hat in hand in front of others passing us by?

The words of David Byrne in: “Once in a lifetime” brilliantly capture the moment of emptiness when we realize the destination didn’t result in the feeling anticipated at the onset of the trek:

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”

And now time for our musical break. Here’s the link to get you jostling with this sublime, funny, and existentially questioning tune. Which just so happens to be one of echoing refrains in the soundtrack of the middle part of my own little life movie:

So often, we allow others to identify the target of our limitless capacity. And so often that happens at our most impressionable moments. Like adolescence-the fun years when pimples and values simultaneously surface.

Some of us make the ascension to follow the parents we see as successful, forever setting our watch to the accomplishments of our predecessors to ensure we are “making good time” in comparison.

Others, who may find the influences of an upbringing that left them hangry or alone, choose a divergent path, resolved to never be “that poor”, “that late”, “that mean” or ” that rigid“. And please note, by “poor” I refer to spiritually, emotionally, or financially. They are guided by a not too distant horizon, quite literally allowing the darkness to define the light within them.

Photo credit- Aaron Vincent

Today, in my own journey, I have come to recognize that when the obsession of how to get there superseded the objective of where to get to, it was precisely at those moments, that I felt the least aligned with the flow of life and ultimately my most authentic self.

Which brings us to Integrity.

Ah …Integrity…we all claim it.

We write it into our mission statements. We hope to live a life that we can be identified by it, but in the end how many of us actually are?

Where the rubber meets the road, when we kiss ass because we fear losing our jobs, when we remain silent in the face of racism, sexism or any ism, when we put our thirst to fill the hole we feel within ahead of the work required to fill it, can we really claim we have integrity?

Not me…at least not with consistency, in the earlier base camps along my journey.

I spent too much time worrying that you were smarter, faster, or more of anything I was not. I bit my tongue, wore what you asked, and behaved like the salesman you rewarded me for, as I secretly felt the emptiness of not being aligned with my truest self.

But I did get super good at all! Or so I thought.

I spent a lot of time confusing myself between the value of practicing “Social Graces” and the fine Art of selling out.

I felt I had no choice.

Rationalizing my misunderstanding of – this was the path of a “responsible” adult. Aftercall there were loved ones to whom I had to step up for and for whom I felt I had to provide.

Talk about the walking wrong trail up the right mountain!

More on the ascension, and my Dad’s response to my teenage question in the next episode of “As the World Turns” (Aka my next post).

Oh and btw, no, that wasn’t a typo – I just wanted  to make you smile as you were reading the entire list of adjectives above.😉

3 Movies to remember along the path of Social Distancing :

Cool Hand Luke

I went to a Starbucks with a friend the other day, when asked for ‘my name for the order’ I replied “Wilson, and can I ask you a favor please? I’m a little hard of hearing at the moment, when our coffee is ready would you mind calling my name in your best booming Tom Hanks voice?”

My friend is a therapist and as we waited, I turned and commented:

There certainly is no shortage of crazy going on with all this COVID-19 new world order bullshit eh? Your business must be booming

Her reply made me think “No, but there sure is a shortage of available help!”

Social distancing, confinement and mask wearing has created more than a physical distance between us. It has atrophied one of our most primary needs – to feel a part of -to connect.

Added to these protocols is the change for most of us in our work life – which we all too often allow to define us. Where we do it, how we do it and who we do with, in most cases has been dramatically altered.

Further, the other third of our waking lives- our social life– has equally been turn on its ear.

Closed are the restaurants, decimated are the daily water cooler connections, beer league hockey, even the community of the classroom within Universities has been redefined as 4 people trapped in a basement apartment watching Zoom.

Heartbreak is rampant, as birthdays pass without contact, graduations pass without congratulatory hugs and deaths pass without the closure of gathering.

All this has amped up our sense of isolation and detachment to an 11.

So what?

Is not isolation and detachment the path to enlightenment chosen by wise monks? They seem respected and serene, so, what’s the problem?

‘The problem’ occurs when we do isolation and detachment not in the pursuit of something but when it is forced upon us. Remember “The Box” in Cool Hand Luke?

 “What we have here is a failure to Communicate!

And the “problem” is subversive and insidious.

Many like to call it Covid Crazy- and as we all know it’s raging more epidemically than the actual pandemic itself.

Evidenced initially by the gold rush to buy toilet paper, we all became consumed with a me-first-protectionist-survival-mode mentality. This was followed by an “us versus them” divisive flame -which is further fanned, as we now know, by the “social” media we use to “connect”. Now it would appear we have arrived at the spot on this Country Fair Fright House Ride, I like to call  the “Fuck it! Fork in the road

Cute little euphemistic names apart, the impact on us as individual elements within the blanket of society is not to be underestimated.

Anger seems to surface more freely as a symptom of the frustration with heartbreak we all feel as a result of life not unfolding as we had grown to expect.

The new normal has exiled many among us to spend far too much time in the confines of our own mind, which for most is a dangerous neighborhood never to be ventured into alone.

Let’s go back to the Monks for a moment, while isolation and detachment can produce serenity, they would also tell you that the road to serenity meanders through A Wizard of OZ type of Haunted Forest of the mind, BEFORE arriving at the awareness that the mind and feelings need not to define us.

The Wizard of Oz

Sadly, in detached isolation many do follow the first whispers of the mind and “Turn Back”, or at least momentarily turn away.

The most poignantly clear evidence of which is witnessed within in the escapist solutions that are most readily available to todays’ society:

 In a recent study in Quebec daily substance use have gone from pre confinement levels of 11% to 27%-, https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/substance-use-is-up-but-montreal-health-officials-say-people-aren-t-seeking-help-1.5185068

Online purchasing has shot through the roof, arguably not simply because of the obvious convenience/necessity but also due to the escapist tickle that creates the endorphin rush of clicking BUY online.

Bulk buying is also a new trend. Buying more than we need reflects our will to feel surrounded by supplies pre apocalypse. Ok while this may be hardwired within us to ensure our survival, recently I listened to a report on a new trend “Convenience Store Bulk Buying”

REALLY???  

How many cases of overpriced Sour Patch Kids packs can one consume prior to slipping into a hyperglycemic coma?

Wait don’t answer that- I will let you know in my next post.

The point is, while the pursuit of serenity, may pass through isolation, detachment and even silence, the actual goal can only be achieved through growth of connection. Often as part of a community, be it fraternity, sorority or LGBT cribbage club.

Isolation without a purposeful sense of attachment to a connection greater than oneself will inevitably lead to the autopilot world of “every man for himself”

The good news is that we are genetically coded to connect.

Over the millennia we have been far more successful as individuals within a species when we were genuinely connected as individuals within a community.

Enter LOVE.

I’m not referring to the romantic kind, I’m referring to the Fearlessly SELF-less kind

It’s the other direction of the aforementioned “Fuck it! fork in the road

Only through selfless & fearless love can we have a shot at the ‘monk like’ experience of isolation and detachment as we simultaneously grow from within.

The brilliant light of serenity at the darkest times, shines through the simplest gestures: encouraging the struggling artist in all of us, by acknowledging and sharing the artform of any individual with others.  

This can easily  be done by  telling a friend about a local tea store, giving business to the corner restaurant as they set up a takeout counter, subscribing to the works of an online artist or simply sharing an moment with a stranger that leaves you both smiling.

Upon so doing, we instantly become aware of how much more important our own position is, woven into the fabric of something greater is than our self obsessed attempts at individuality.

Not only will this raise self worth and thus lower anger, escapism and the frequency of finger flips to others, more profoundly when we make this effort to stop self centered scrolling and reach outward, we satiate the most primal need we have, the one that roots itself at the moment of our conception- The need to be connected.

Castaway

I turned to see the Barista reaching out with my coffees-smiling from ear to ear and heart to heart.

3 Questions from late night Red Lights- Part Deux

In our last episode https://makingabetterpast.com/2020/11/16/3-questions-from-late-night-red-lights-part-1/ we found our “Crusading Contemplator” carefully considering the link between redundant traffic lights and Life Lesson Lists for daughters, after a sleepless night surfing the world wide interweb.. and now the exciting conclusion…(or is it just the enigmatic beginning )?

Sleepless, I found myself reaching for the internet, you know – The Land of OZ where dreams and disasters are sold to tickle our imagination and simultaneously lull us into inaction.

Lost in Facebook’s insidious attempts to expose me to “subject matter“, seemingly telepathically presented to distance me further from or closer to, some divergent political extreme, I happened across Frances Vidakovic homespun “37 Rules for My Daughter” .

As I read, I couldn’t help but wonder ” What gets into people to inspire them to share “wisdoms” learned from life experience” …their life experience

For example #21 – “Ask for what you want, the worst thing they can say is no”, # 30 ” You have enough, you are enough” and the old standby #2– “Don’t wear underwear you aren’t proud of in case you’re in an accident and they have to cut your clothes off.”

You can see the whole list here: https://www.inspiringlifedreams.com/37-life-lessons-and-rules-to-teach-your-daughter-today/ and decide for yourself whether Ms. Vidakovic’s lessons are worth sharing with your daughter. I’m not here to judge…(well not in a “judgy” way anyway)

Further down the list, I was reminded of something I scribbled on my beside notepad in the middle of the night and I was reminded of my father.

Weeks ago I wrote the line “As if to side step pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

I had no idea why I wrote that.

Or even how I could use it, until last night, when alone in the big empty home that once housed my family, aching from their absence, scrolling through insomnia, I began to question what is it that compels people to share lessons learned through the pain their life experience has delivered.

The paradox struck me, what is the inspiration of creating cheat sheets for the lives of others…I mean aren’t we always supposed to be chorusing Pink’s anthem “F&*king Perfect” to those we care most about?

The spoken section of the song kept echoing in my mind- “Why do I do that?…Why do I do that!?!?”

Here check it out if you need a musical interlude from this post, I found a beautiful acoustic version of this powerful song …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3GkSo3ujSY

Challenged by the paradox of leadership of those we care about ( I mean they’re perfect right? So why do we feel we need to add something?), I went through a whole list of negative inspirations. For Example: “We think we know better“, “We are seeking to be viewed as a guru“, “We are ‘ whistling in the dark’ -trying to compensate for our own uncertainty“, but these felt dark, gratuitous and slanderous and as anyone who knows me can attest, I have always preferred a glass half full.

Eventually I came up with 3 possible positive (albeit perhaps equally misguided) inspirations behind the default logic of “transferring the answers of wisdom

  1. The obvious one is : We wish to make life “easier” for them.
  2. We hope to provide a reference point for where the wrong turn occurred, when they find themselves in the aftermath of a tough experience and can’t quite figure out WTF! just happened.
  3. Or maybe it’s to prevent them from wasting time learning lessons that have been tried and tested countless times before, thus giving them a leg up to focus on learning more important shit. Something I like to call the Darwin Model of thinking evolution.

All are noble, responsible and even selfless inspirations.

Or are they?

The flaws in all three of these parental/leadership “best practices” are as glaring as a pimple on the porcelain complexion of a budding adolescent.

In the first approach, as far as “making life easier” I found the answer to the reason behind my late night scribble.

Disappointment Hardship, and Heartbreak are not only inevitable, they are a required component of a complete life. When we hurt, we arrive at the red light and are faced with the opportunity to pause and learn. Some of us choose to drift through the red light but almost invariably, if we distract ourselves from a lesson we need to learn, we simply delay a bigger collision down the road.

To divert those we love from their own pain is to deny them the opportunity to grow from and beyond it.

In the second possible inspiration noted above, while “providing a reference point” may appear more altruistic, like wazers alerting other drivers of a police trap up ahead. The truth is, sometimes when we pull up to the red light of pain, we don’t even know how we got there. Consumed all too often by the pain itself or too focused on where we want to go. So at that point we can’t even even remember the 37 wisdoms imparted by some well intentioned tourist, who has already traveled this route.

Case in point: ever found yourself second guessing your GPS?.

And the third option, “prevent wasting time learning rudimentary lessons” Well that dog just won’t hunt.” Because it’s a proven fact … We learn everything from mistakes.

I mean we learn EVERYTHING… Important stuff like:

  • Never mix the grain with the grape
  • Never answer the question “Do I look fat in these?”
  • No matter how smart you may think you appear in short term, the banks always win the long game.

To share experience with the intention of saving those we love a few steps on their journey, is is a lot like expecting the student in grade 3 to skip to post graduate work in couples counseling without the benefit of having a grade 4 heartbreak.– it’s gonna leave that scholar with only a theoretical exposure to the experience.

This type of mentoring can’t provide some evolutionary leap in our gene pool (or pool of influence ), on the contrary, it will limit the life experience of others to, at best, the limitations of our own.

So dude what’s the answer ?!!?!

Really?!? Have you not been listening…did you not read the title ?

I can’t give you the answer…I’m just sitting here asking questions, waiting for the light to change .

For more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here or @ http://www.richardwallace.ca

3 questions from late night red lights -Part 1

My father got to grade nine before he had to quit school to get a job to contribute to his family’s much needed revenue. At the time, the financial hardship of the great depression made this common place.

Often, that reality divided people into two camps. Judgy perspectives formed between the two schools of thought. Those who harbored resentment to shield the insecurity, from the abrupt loss of the innocence the classroom provides and those who accepted their lot hungrily pursuing life’s other more “self directed” channel of learning.

Dad fell into the latter category.

But he didn’t resent those who had achieved higher academic milestones, instead he placed great importance on the value of formal education as a compliment to the school of hard knocks.

As often was the case he backed up his values with action. On one occasion, when learning of a friend of mine who was financially unable to to make tuition, he quietly wrote a cheque covering the year, to ensure no opportunity to fully evolve was incomplete.

However his legacy extended beyond his accomplishments and material generosity, in that he was one of the best teachers I have ever known.

He read biographies voraciously and shared with those he loved the benefit of his experience through the lens of those he saw as “more educated”. Often quoting Dale Carnegie, cautioning “That’s not the way to win friends and influence people” when I appeared to be ready to take a wrong turn.

Yet his mastery of the skill set required to truly enlighten, never shone so brightly until his mentoring morphed from occasional lecturer to thoughtful questioner.

It’s four AM, you’re at a red light, on your way to work – as opposed to on your way home – and you come up to a red light.

WAIT! Hang on, are either of these options even relevant examples in a covid world?

Anyway, there’s no one around, do you furtively glance in all directions and then slip through the red light to continue on your way?

Why not – right?

No one will see, there are no cameras (maybe), and c’mon, the red light was designed to protect those who needed to cross the intersection at busier times-No?

Besides, isn’t there a rush of freedom when you make your own set of rules?

Damn straight there is!

So you break the rules, feel like a rebel and with that you feel in control of your life, sipping that extra dry soy flat white a few minutes earlier than expected, you start your day with a win.

Or did you lose a moment to just pause and exist outside the rat race?

I was surfing recently and I came across a list of “Rules to Share with My Daughter” (interestingly, there was no mention of flexible morning red light laws).

As I read the list of 37 rules I was to share as a doting patriarch, I was reminded of an early morning thought I recently scribbled about the paradox of imparting lessons learned on those we care about.

I reached for my bedside notepad and sleepily scrawled the following:

As if to sidestep pain we believe we can deny it’s existence”

What does sidestepping pain have to do with red lights and sharing life rules with your daughters?

Well that my friends, is a question, that if not comically obvious already, will be evident in my upcoming “3 questions from late night red lights-Part Deux

And for more obtuse observations, rambling social commentary and unanswered questions, please follow me here by leaving a comment below or clicking follow @ http://www.richardwallace.ca

Stay Tuned…

Natural selection

Darwin’s vison of the evolution of a species has always been of fascination and inspiration to me.

To oversimplify his life’s work I would summarize his brilliant view as follows:

Individuals within a species who present genetic mutations dramatically inconsistent with the population, that provide a competitive advantage, are more likely to survive to the age of reproduction and thusly possibly transfer the successful, albeit mutated, genetic code to one or more offspring

My man Charles

For years now we have been told that the countless prescriptions of antibiotics issued by doctors, responding to our species insistence for immediate solutions, has created the possibility of a super bug. Now as we face a pandemic, I can’t help but wonder if Covid19 is further evidence of this.

When you really consider it, Nature has a spectacular way of wiping the slate clean when any particular species gets out of hand. Taking up too much place in what needs to be a perfectly balanced ecosystem.

The slow, the weak, the aged and the vulnerable invariably are the first selected in the culling that evens the scorecard, so that all species may co-exist in an environment with limited resources.

When one species’ success runs wildly out of control, destabilizing the delicate balance required to maintain a harmony, some catastrophic event typically hits the reset button. Often eradicating the entire species forever.

In a recent speech Joaquin Pheonix called on us to reflect if “…One nation, one gender, one species has the right to dominate another with impunity

Historically the signs of over dominance have included a species becoming so successful they mistake of interpreting the absence of visible predators for invincibility.

Can you say “Ice Age” Mr T Rex?

This self obsession ironically accelerates the species demise, by taking them off their competitive toes, letting them grow fat, slow and oblivious to threat.

You don’t need to look further than the device in your hands to be reminded of just how isolated from reality Homo Sapiens have become.

Mr Jobs invention, designed to bring us closer together has done the opposite by driving us into a world of chasing “likes” instead of working on being genuinely likable.

And walking through the aisles of the local grocery store, the absence of toilet paper, confirms that while diarrhea is not a symptom of a respiratory virus, it may indicate how our attention to the facts has dropped to Neanderthalic levels.

Even our compulsion to consume without consideration reflects our dog like nature.

A friend tells a story of his big dog jumping up on the counter and chewing through the packaging of three pounds of fruit cake one Christmas. When my friend got home, on the floor lay the dog with the most regretful look on his face, as if to say “ Dude!! What was I thinking ?!?”

The dog survived but my friend had the biggest Boxing Day clean up ever.

In recent weeks we have seen that this same animalistic behavior lies beneath the surface of some of the most fortunate members of our species.

And not even very far beneath the surface !

Witnessing behavior from Televangelists selling coffee, to use for barter in the post apocalyptic world,

Yup, Jimmy Baker is back giving credence to the idea that the most reviled members of any species may in fact survive and thrive.

to fist fights occurring outside grocery stores only days after the first cases were announced in Canada and you witness Homo Sapiens behaving like Lemmings racing toward the edge.

Profiteering and barbarism surfacing so rapidly it leads me to question: What truly lies beneath the thin veneer we paint on before we walk out into the world to spend most of our days noses buried in our devices?

Ironic isn’t it?

Now that we are being told that social isolation is the only hope we have to “flatten the curve” from resembling a hockey stick (Hey! I’m Canadian-eh), we, who spend our days obsessively distancing ourselves from any traditional form of communication- like talking, listening, smiling at a passerby and even eye contact – are now defiantly questioning the epidemiologists on how this unprecedented pandemic can be controlled through social distancing.

Oh sure… we will wear a mask to protect ourselves against illness – but too many of us are so cavalier, we think this won’t affect us! We are too powerful, rich & healthy to succumb to anything!

Uh… hello?

It’s not about you Monsieur T. Rex.

It’s about the fact that while this pandemic is projected to touch at least half of the human population… we don’t actually have the resources to attend to all three and a half billion of us in one waiting room at the same time!

So we won’t stop it’s onslaught but collectively we need to slow its pace.

Enter my hero- fellow twisted thinker & Scotsman Charles Darwin!

Darwin postulated that while the original default color of an Arctic Hare may have been a taupey beige, that didn’t serve the species so well, given the backdrop in which they frolicked was most often snowy white.

Predators could see them miles away.

So the species didn’t do so well.

Until, through some genetic mutation some mama hare popped out a couple of albino hares and those Wiley Wabbits actually got to make woopie with a couple of lighter beige members of a neighboring …(wait for it) …harem… (come on! I had to!)

Ok poetic license on Darwin’s theory aside, you get the picture.

So where the f&*k am I going with this?

I was thinking about how this may just be nature taking care of the overpopulating of our overly self consumed species by introducing a virus that will by all accounts slam our advanced healthcare.

And of course I was thinking about Mr Darwin’s theory.

I began to wonder …

What mutation at this point would be the genetic advantage for members within Homo Sapiens?

Looking around there seems to be one trait that is as scarce as a Black Hare in the arctic:

Altruism.

The selfless consideration of others.

The only way we can possibly flatten the curve and have the greatest opportunity for limiting the strain’s impact on fragile healthcare systems, is if we can all get past our egocentricity and consider the unseen vulnerable individual who may be connected to someone to whom we inadvertently pass the virus.

Not SELF preservation … but actually the selfless preservation …of someone we don’t even know.

Woa!

In a world of orange men making this an “us versus them” issue or amazon snake oil salesmen jacking prices on Purell, this is as much of a genetic mutation as any Duck Billed Platypus or a black and white donkey on the Serengeti.

Now I’m not sure if Darwin’s theory considered individual or collective social evolution … but I’m thinking we are about to find out if the principle holds.

In my tiny sphere on this planet, I see fledging businesses take leadership positions by making the socially conscious choice to close instead of squeezing out much needed revenue, in the early days of this crisis:

http://www.hockeylab.ca

I see established businesses, making the choice to go beyond governmental guidelines because the risk is too high to just take half measures:

http://www.monklandtavern.com

I see corporate leaders shifting the focus of resources from strategic goals to employee support.

http://www.lovepac.com

Most encouragingly I see the next generation of Homo Sapiens choosing to self isolate while reflecting on higher ideals like empathy and mindfulness.

http://www.morganwallace.ca/home

I see tough choices being made by those who very easily could confuse “never give up” over “doing the right thing”

These outliers, deserve our acknowledgment. And further our “Natural Selection” of support because they are mutating against the previous definition of “survival of the fittest”

Their choices introduce a possible alternative to the threat of extinction.

Ok, perhaps not the extinction of a species but certainly of a mindset that can only lead us further beyond nature’s balance.

This may be a stretch in Darwin’s theory but it certainly gives hope to the Origin of a (new) species.

(Editors Note: While I posted a couple of examples of outliers here, I would love to hear of the altruism you are witnessing… please share them with me in your comments)

Tourist Trap!

Light of Dawn

Recently while on vacation, a woman looked over my way and waded across the pool. I panicked. My first thought was “uh oh! Some drunk traveler is going to commandeer my moment in paradise”

You know how some people are all too willing to share their personal pain long before you even ascertain whether or not they are teetering in and out of lucidity?

I figured this is what I was in for, when within 90 seconds I learned she was heartbroken. Her wound, while not visible was palpable.

Three months earlier she had lost her second husband to whom she was married for 23 years – within 3 months of being diagnosed.

I also learned that her first husband was also a 23-year marriage. Eventhough the first didn’t die, she seemed to have a twenty-three year best before date when it came to matrimony.

At first I was trapped in that awkward place of way too much info, way too quickly. But also just as quickly, my initial reaction was eclipsed by awe as her light shone through her pain.

She elaborated on the time she shared with #2 and how he supported her as she had gone back to school to get a degree after her first marriage, to become part of the support network for the abused and disenfranchised.

She spoke so lovingly of her man “he raised my son… without ever trying to replace his father” and how “he had washboard abs well into his fifties”

Then the tears came.

Now it is me who is seeking counseling to move through all this… imagine that? After all I’ve seen and heard on the job- I need a therapist!”

She seemed almost surprised by the fact that there really was a benefit within her own profession.

My therapist says I’m engaging in a little excess … but given the situation he completely understands and he even said he’d be doing the same

Loss of all kinds beats the shit out of our sense of “I got this!”

Loss of love, loss of health, loss of self.

These things, when handled individually are challenging enough, but when they roll into life all together like an oversized KISS tour bus, the most natural response is to run.

And run we do.

Distracting with substance … or worse – with less recognizable dalliances like work or sex … or even tears.

Tears at first are natural and can be cathartic. They change our body chemistry, attempting to provide a release from whatever it is that is saddening us. Tears are such a well designed distraction they even have the built in ability to make us laugh!

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror while in tears boo-hooing?

Check it out!

I remember being a kid and noting just how my contorted face made me pause and marvel at how weird my scrunched up mug mirrored.

At the time I decided to scrunch it a different way and before long I wasn’t thinking of whatever got me started … I was looking at how f$*ked up my face looked.

The tears actually became a distraction from my sadness, in the same way that the sadness itself was a distraction from the pain behind it.

When we are sad, often the first thing we share with anyone who might listen is “I’m sad” and therein we get distracted and resistant. Inspired by the voxpop refraining how we “aren’t supposed to be feeling that way”

Oh ?

Who promised us that?

Tears, booze, work or sex all are great in moderation but they can become even greater avoidance vehicles for actually experiencing through the pain.

Given that at some point we all feel pain wouldn’t we be better off exploring it beyond its discomfort inspired by seeking to answer: “Why has this tourist wandered over to me here in Paradise?”

What if we explored the neighborhood and asked:

What’s on the other side of pain?”

How could we know???

Most of us avoid it like the corona virus. Using hand sanitizer and steering clear of travel just to avoid the possibility of pain. And here’s the kicker – just like the virus, many of us actually carry the virus but never revealing a single symptom!

Similarly most of us feel heartbreak and just stay the hell away from exploring it as if it was our entitled right to never ever feel it.

But just like the virus du jour, emotional pain is for most of us, just temporary. A portal to a place within ourselves that needs our attention.

Not avoidance.

Not obsessive focus either.

Not even the search for a solution.

Our attention.

It invites our investigation, it calls for exploration.

But through some Facata reasoning we typically hope to explore pain…pain free!

Wtf ?

When my son announced he wanted to play hockey, the last thing I wanted to do was get up for 6 AM practices in minus OMG Celsius to drive and sit in a damp cold arena with bad coffee and hangover.

So how did I respond to his request?

By enrolling him in Sunday afternoon library studies !

Naw … (though admittedly the thought did cross my mind as I hoped to escape the inevitable).

No, I remember saying “ well if I’m gonna be there I might as well distract myself by yelling at the kids”.

Ironically, it didn’t occur to me that I could do that from the seats with the other parents.

Nooooo, I was thinking from “behind the bench ”

This full on swan dive into a sport I had not really played was counterintuitive, frightening and sometimes quite literally painful.

Picture unbalanced kids with a long stick right about waist level and you will catch my drift.

Yet dive I did, and through that pain I was lead to a love for the boys caught up in their struggle to learn and grow. And in some cases, just stand up.

That love, my light must have shone through because before long my daughter asked if she could play and then if we could coach her team.

Which I did … for nine years.

Nine years of cold drives, late for practice after work, countless moments of elevated heart rates and nine years of pulled muscles.

Nine years of screaming, cheering, bellowing love!

Love for my son… the young athletes and spirits I coached and love for my role as a coach.

It was Love that was on the other side of the pain from which I was so ready to run.

Love that I would have missed if I had listened to those who said “Oy! That’s a lot of work” and “You really don’t know shit about hockey dude” (we’re in Quebec)

We are hard wired for flight or fight.

A binary code that suggests the only two options are to run or resist.

What about pause and explore?

What lies on the other side of the pain we feel so entitled to avoid?

Why do we feel so compelled to run…(or swim) away from what looks like an overbearing tourist, briefly visiting us, with the gift of ultimately revealing the light that lies on the other side and of our fear?

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others
.”

– Marianne Williamson

What I learned from designing women’s shoes about manifesting desires.

Early in my career I worked with my father in the creation of women’s fashion footwear.

I started that journey in Florence, Italy, where I studied design under the tutelage of a middle aged charismatic fashion footwear designer.

Massimo would roll into class around 10 and give the assignments for the day. He had a disheveled look like Nick Nolte but his flair was effervescent.

“ Toodaya you weel create a plain pump weet a fiva eench heel”

And off he would slip into the Piazza Del Signoria to chat with his other designer buddies over espresso, coming back in time for lunch!

Back in the day, CAD software was not available to facilitate the conception for a 3-dimensional shoe from a 2-dimensional piece of leather.

The designer had to use masking tape to cover the surface of the 3-dimensional form that was used to mimic the foot (called a “Last”). Once the wooden last had been given a surface skin of masking tape, the lines of the shoe were drawn.

“Taping” a “last” required precision because if there were overlaps or folds in the tape they would create inaccuracies in the final look and, more importantly fit of the shoe.

Methodically I would tape the last and then set about drawing the lines of the shoe I imagined on the tape over the form.

When the shoe was drawn on the last I was then required to carefully peel off the tape in one full piece and lay it flat on cardboard to create a 2-dimensional pattern from which a sample could be cut.

Gone is that process today …all is done with the click of a mouse! But you can well imagine the connection footwear designers had with their collections as they repeated this process hundreds of times, twice per year for each collection.

Holding the last in my hands as I would outline the ornamentation really allowed me to feel what I was trying to draw.

While there may have been others who had more of a natural ability to draw, there were none who were more passionate, even obsessive, about details of their collections than I was.

In so many ways this process is coming back to me now – it’s the alchemy of manifesting the imagined into life.

The first similarity between shoe design and life design is that every great creation starts with an inspired thought.

We all have our share of inspired lightbulb moments, in fact while the scientific community still struggles with the exact number, it’s been quantified to be between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day.

That’s a lot of ideas to sift through to arrive at the one that has legs.

Add to that, some people seem more adept at transforming a thought into a physical reality which has lead me to believe that those who are great at manifesting their dreams must have a heightened ability to focus on the one thought amongst a myriad of others.

Now here’s my little hack for that challenge.

The thought focus ability can be at least partially simplified by remembering a couple of other mental fun factoids: up to 85% of those 12,000 thoughts are from the negative view, and 60% of those are repetitive!

The brain then turns the 12,000 total thoughts into roughly 60 original positive thoughts an hour. Conversely, this also means I need wade through 510 negative & repetitive thoughts per hour.

If so many of my thoughts come in the negative form, clearly the first place to uncover my next full life enriching experience may simply be by fostering a clear awareness of the flavor of my reflections as I watch them surface, remembering that only 1 in 10 thoughts won’t be some version of the same dream killer that I already came up with yesterday (and those thoughts will come at a relentlessly feverish pace).

“ I’m gonna be late”

“ Sales will not come in the second half”

“ This job is making my toes curl upward”

“ I’m fat.”

Hotels are so impersonal…Many people just want a neighborhood experience when they travel … you could use the Internet to bring people with rooms to rent and travelers together”

“ I’m not phat”

I suck at math”

We are going to be late”

Now here’s the tricky part – you can’t make a better past by trying to disown your very own negative thoughts.

Contrary to the folklore, it’s not about silencing the negative thoughts… it’s not about whistling the “Happy” tune by Pharrell Williams and having a shit eating grin on my face 24/7 as the world circles the bowl.

Nope, it’s about being the Observer, the witness of ALL those thoughts and recognizing each one for what it is BEFORE I allow it to inspire action from me.

Talking with a friend lately, he shared that during a recent busy period in his life his wife offered the insight “Focus on what YOU want”

I could see that he felt liberated from trying to figure out how to avoid all the negative outcomes and instead had more energy to focus on the outcome he envisioned, by simply focusing and acting on the non-negative thoughts.

This made a lot of sense, just as in design I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying that my “Fiva eench heel” would end up a loafer.

The point is: a lot of our time is spent circling the same old negative thought patterns, so if we can develop the ability to discern and release the negative preoccupations, we stand the best chance of focusing on our truly limitless potential.

Ok so what’s this got to do with taping a last to design a shoe?

Not much.

And everything.

Sometimes in the cycle of fashion there are pointed toe shoes, sometimes the trends demand a more rounded look, other times there’s a squared toe look (think Frye boots), whatever the shape of the form required to create the design, the last must receive a micro thin layer of tape, perfectly mirroring the form beneath in order to create an accurate final prototype.

It was the designers’ responsibility (and no small measure of his talent) to see how flawlessly the tape could be stretched over the form to best represent what lies beneath.

Each new season brought new styles and shapes with influences from around the world, and with each season the process began again.

I never got tired of trying to perfect my pattern skills because each time I held and taped a last I got to understand its complexity better.

I knew what styles would be good fitters on a particular last and what would not work.

But the only critically important aspect of the entire process was how effectively the tape mirrored the form beneath once it was peeled off and laid flat on the cardboard.

Equally, what will next be manifested in my life is a direct reflection of how accurately I represent my truest self to those around me.

It’s only when I really know who and where I am today, and where I envision I can be tomorrow, complemented by the courage to fearlessly represent all of that, that I stand a chance to be “in the flow” amidst all this chaos.

How can I be expected to be recognized if I’m not prepared to commit to – and reveal myself?

It’s only in so doing that life ever seems to fit like of a comfortable pair of well designed shoes.

How to get through the scary, painful disturbances.

“Mindfulness is the handbrake for thoughtless behaviour”

In some of my previous posts, I have written about the benefits of actually going through painful experiences.

We are all of the mistaken belief that our job on the planet is to avoid pain and to pursue happiness.

I’m not so sure.

I’m thinking that the uptick in alcohol and drug use is indicative of the intensity and pace of the world today, not some reflection of the legalization of pot or social acceptance of “Shots! Shots! Shots !”

No one feels it’s their birthright to experience sadness, hurt, betrayal, anger or any of the other so called “negative feelings”.

Ya, I said birthright TO FEEL those emotions, but those emotions are part of our time on the planet and with good reason.

When we allow ourselves to feel those emotions, there is discomfort…hell, sometimes in the last couple years it really felt like my chest was gonna fold inwards because my heart ached so.

But like the Tinman said “now I KNOW I have a heart because I can feel it breaking”.

Imagine the Timman’s loss if he had gone off to get wasted with some of the less scary flying monkeys in order to avoid Dorothy’s departure.

Yes, he may have avoided the pain, temporarily, but he would have learned less about his heart and his strength, and his life experience would be, in part, just an illusion.

Emotionally tough times give us the opportunity to see what we are made of if we allow the experience “to be”, without trying to avoid it or escape from it.

And if we truly desire for these times to pass quickly, (who doesn’t) the practice I have found helpful is to LEAN INTO the pain, rather than try to distance myself from the experience and feelings.

To me, “leaning in” means sitting with the feelings, and often leaning in involves opening my heart fully to a loved one or a friend. Invariably the simple exercise of the transparently sharing my challenge provides me with the perspective needed to work through it.

There is a power in vulnerability.

When we practice this instead of trying to distance ourselves from the feelings through anger, alcohol, drugs or some other distracting behavior, we fully experience life and, more importantly, we wake ourselves to the growth and lessons that the pain is meant to expose us to.

Periods of transition or stress come with the natural desire to distance that pain but the emotional short fuses that ensue will inevitably just end up creating more pain… hence mindfulness.

A willingness to mindfully experience the process may be tough, but it certainly will be our best path to growth.