Remembrance

Light at the edge of darkness

When I forget that I am but one seven billionth of my species on the planet that life itself has existed for more than a few days, it is easy to get endlessly caught up in the pursuit of immortality.

As are the other 7 billion.

Can it not be said that at some point in life we all seek to be identified?

Why would that be?

Perhaps the most innate nature in us all is to be recognized.

In some way.

For some thing.

But by who?

Our peers? This would explain the chaos in our pursuit to amass …stuff.

Doesn’t that kinda foreshadow sharing immortality with your stuff?

Many, seek immortality in the memories of loved ones. Could it be that this is why we say that family is all that really matters?

In the end our children bring with them whatever they can leverage from our folly to move beyond.

Others, will seek the immortality of a reputation. Years doing their life’s work behind the scenes or at the spearhead, inevitably result in the observation and assessment of others.

That sometimes unspoken definition of one is all that survives their passing.

Leadership, tenacity, unsurpassed work ethic are all environment specific recognition.

Therein is the problem with attempting to seek relevance beyond a lifespan based on reputation.

This kind of focus limits the true life of one human to only one dimension.

It’s no wonder we seek the fountain of youth….figuring out the path to extending life is hard work, it’s way easier fooling ourselves with boltons and Botox that we are not actually aging.

Upon reflection the whole immortality thing is complex. I mean the mere fact that more and more people are dying every day means achieving memorability is an increasingly competitive market.

My father went to the enlistment office in Montreal on his 18th birthday.

Why?

Was the obvious choice of question from an inquisitive 13 year old. I had seen enough of the Vietnam war on the nightly news to know that it was not a fun thing.

Also, I wanted to know everything about the life choices my dad made…why he did what he did.

And for his part he always did share.

He was always transparent with me. When he felt the query wasn’t an age appropriate question he was clear to set boundaries. He always did his best to spare me the gory details but when asked he would tell me what he knew. And so, in his shares I learned.

Because it was the thing to do. To be of service to my country.

That was it.

My father had his deployment averted by an injury, days before his departure. He never got overseas.

I was thinking about that, today with Remembrance Day occurring tomorrow.

Those who gave the greatest possible “service to their countries” not only achieve immortality on a given day, but moreover in our very actions and expressions. Their service allows us to be who we are and perhaps achieve our potential.

That sounds a little like the objective of immortality – no?

If we are tirelessly of service to others (let alone a country) will we not live on in the hearts and actions of others?

Contrarily if we focus on ourselves and all that we can acquire how will we be remembered by the inanimate objects that are the object of our desire?

It would seem to me that rocket surgery is not required to discern that our best shot to live on in the hearts and minds of those who will outlive our physical existence here, is to leave them feeling supported in their path.

I remember the really hard times but moreover I feel the hope and encouragement I received from those who stepped in shoulder to shoulder and offered me a companion, guide or rescue.

Those feelings I am sure will outlast my memories and in those feelings I root my stories to those around me of the men and women who will remain immortal in me, and I hope in the feelings I transfer to those close to me.

Lest we Forget.

Graceland

There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I’m falling, flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
“Whoa, so this is what she means”
She means we’re bouncing into Graceland
And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Well, everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

Paul Simon

Whenever I hear Simon sing that iconic song I am momentarily paused by his enunciation at the point:

whoa, so this is what she means

As my interpretation of the lyric is the she to which he refers, is the one who calls herself “The human trampoline“.

To me it is lyrically and existentially an “Ah ha moment within an Ah ha moment”

I see Simon paused in reflection at some particularly challenging moment contemplating his options.

He wrote and sings not of the pain of “losing love” but rather what the experience was like.

Interestingly, he speaks of the position of what he sees losing love is like and refers to it from almost an observers perspective. Which BTW is the perspective from where all stories and all experience is shared, I guess.

When we then, as third party listeners, observe Simon’s own third person’s view, we are instantly able to connect with the song because we are capable of understanding the perspective.

For who among us has never had the view of our lives where we witnessed oursleves “Falling and Flying” ?

And isn’t it almost always at that moment when we imagine “Everybody can see you’re blown apart“?

Yes … and no.

For sure, we have all had moments of pause, be they joy or grief, where we sat back and looked at our “selves” and not experienced that perspective of:

“WTF! This is not how I imagined….”

However our feeling that these moments only occur when the future hits the present is simply also a matter of perspective.

Perhaps our real fear is that we are most exposed and “vulnerable” when we are unaware of something.

None of us likes to look stupid.

It’s as if appearing out of control will almost certainly manifest our worst fears.

I understand where this comes from…its in the fiber of our DNA.

These fears are deeply rooted in our evolution of our species to appearing out of control.

Think back to the days of yore when the need for environmental control was of primary benefit at the dawn of our species. Back then we needed to make sure we avoided certain mistakes that would ultimately result in really icky shit.

The idea that we lost “control” or even full awareness of our surroundings made us very much vulnerable to a bigger meaner and hungrier creature that was looking to make “a menu of one”.

However, the value we place on “all knowing” today is creating a pesky little subculture wherein we are seeing interlopers who “Know a little about everything giving the impression of knowing “a lot”.

They bamboozle us with the idea that if you know a lot about everything you are much less likely to be vulnerable at any given point in any given situation right?

Maybe…and No

What about the knowledge of experience? What about the divining rod of intuition? And how about grace?

One act of grace is the experience where tremendous pain and challenge serves to dispel the idea of limitations. Inspiring us beyond past challenges to greatness beyond even previously imagined boundaries. Which enriches one with both intuition and experience.

Grace has the opportunity to occur when we witness our lives from the perspective of the Observer/ Narrator … we actually are aware of where we are.

Aware when when we achieve our dreams and aware when we fall short but grace is also present when we experience something we never imagined.

In all of these moments of grace we are given the choice to witness it.

Whether discomfort or bliss exists it will always be best experienced from the perspective of the viewer. In that from that perch we can observe and learn how often we far surpass our limits physically, mentally and emotionally when we truly surrender ourselves to the experience rather than the outcome.

Even further it is from that perspective, that each gut wrenching heartbreak we wake up feeling, every consecutive 2 week pay period that you just can’t quite make ends meet, every hangover we endure, we can have a moment to see “our selves” facing a new day.

Which surfaces my question… Is it grace that provides the moment that we marvel at our ability to rise once again?

Isn’t it at the precise moment when we realize “ouch, I bloody well woke up again with this issue“,that we have a momentary reprieve to view ourselves. When WE are not consumed in the issue, can we not see ourselves from the place of observation concluding “I’m here again“.

With that moment I am Graced with an opportunity to take a different view and perhaps ultimately a different response to the issue.

Consider the fact that if I find myself aware that “I” am aware that, my head is pounding and my mouth feels like ashtray sand, actually means by extension that “I” survived to witness the aftermath of this particular train-wreck and that if I don’t limit my view to that of of the “suffering fool” I just may have the opportunity to choose from what perspective I want to view the next moment. Assuming, my arms are not still wrapped around porcelain at that moment.

All of which reminds me that when I shift my view from what is happening to me to what I am witnessing, I have seated myself next to Paul Simon on my way to Graceland, which is a very cool ride.

What did “HE” do next ?

I remember as a kid we were inspired by a “Voice Over” style of TV show where the Narrator seems to be watching the same story unfold from the benefit of a different view. Unheard by the characters, the Narrator is free to make observations without impact or consequence on the story .

So my close friends and I thought this was cool and begun narrating every aspect of our stories in the third person…

Donald is such a cool guy” said Don, to which Richard replied;

He would be a radical, way cool guy if he made Richard, a grill cheese sandwich, try

Ya …the language of youth is often peppered with a vernacular incomprehensible to the traditional interpretation.

Or put more succinctly:

Ya … we had a heavy nerd quotient.

I was thinking of this bizarre ritual the other day, when considering how sometimes we see stuff happening in our very own lives, that looks like it is appearing on a screen before us.

Sometimes it feels like witnessing our lives in the third person .

And it just may be from that very perspective, is a place from where some of my best work comes.

In that place I become surgeon like.

I am not drawn down the rabbit hole of my emotional judgement surrounding any given experience .

Consider an event that evokes an emotional response for example.

The third person view allows one the opportunity to reflect on, not only the sensation of the pain experience itself but also where and perhaps even why the pain exists.

It affords the “Watcher/Narrator” the view to identify the underlying perceived threat that is at the source of the pain at the surface, and therein really provides the opportunity to grow or heal.

But, just like the TV show of my youth, growth and healing only happen when the noise of Narrator’s negative observations are muted to the main character.

Another bonus of taking the third person view with me when I go into an emotionally charged experience, is that from the seat of the Narrator, the observed me can first express himself freely, albeit silently, without the threat of manifesting any negative consequences in the world directly in front of me.

Wait … what?

Only our actions – Reactions– to any given circumstance- are our ways to manifest our thoughts into the real world.

Imagine this scene: It’s Wednesday afternoon there are people around a boardroom table, you pitch an idea, for some as yet, unclear reason someone laughs, you feel the flush in your cheeks that usually signals “ someone’s about to be ripped a new one

only….

this time….

From the snipers view, the Narrator intercedes and gently places a question in the your mind:

Why is that guy across the table making your blood boil in beneath your suit… I mean what magical power over you does he possess?” The Narrator questions above unfurling scene in the boardroom.

If I. can manage to be aware and consider that question, from the grassy knoll view, for a moment, I will have necessarily lifted my finger from the hair trigger emotion precisely prior to manifesting my own possible misinterpretation of the laughter.

For the possibility of manifesting our minds misinterpretations into real actions in the world around us, occurs only when emotion lures all our available resources to the scene … will, strength, power, and focus to rally us into action.

Action which is all too often summoned to the scene to combat some romanticized transgression which almost certainly lurks in the past or awaits in the future,

By assuming the less Trumpian position of “a fly on the wall” and viewing the experience from the third person, one actually has the power of viewing and considering all the players and options and thus really being the “best deal maker ever!”

Conversely when we allow emotion to draw us further into an issue we are succumbing to the beauty of a painting by Monet.

Because we cannot help but see our own emotion in the most poignant or gripping color schemes all with the soundtrack of our most heart touching musicians.

Where we are the artist.

By nature … our very own nature… we are seduced deeper into the story our emotions want to tell us, using our very selves as the illustrator and narrator.

And the story will without question occur in one of two places ..the past or the Future

It is incredibly hard to resist our own emotions as once drawn in slightly we become further engaged in the problem and slip further down the rabbit hole of emotion into a completely self absorbed view.

This is not to say that “pain does not appear in life” or that “life’s challenges should never make us emotional.”

No.

The idea is that the less time we spend in problems and pain, the more time we can spend in other parts of life that we perceive as joyous.

However this is not advocating rushing through problems with a stopwatch.

Problems are really opportunities to learn and there is no way to sustainably accelerate the passage of time in any one persons life, so why set the KPI solely on problem processing time.

For example ineffective conflict resolution does not address the conflict it focuses on the damage caused.

So here we find ourselves … doing our best work from the seat of detached observation while simultaneously we are seduced into life’s distractions by the very best temptress our minds can create

As stated earlier the Key Performance Indicator should not be problem solution time alone .

But rather considering solution time as a function of growth experienced, would yield a better measuring stick.

The slowest thing about problem solving is our resistance to acknowledging the problem and that can only come from the third person view.

The weird and quirky view of freedom through the perspective of youth.

And so he started his day …

Even Superman has Kryptonite

My mother had a little quote on the wall that may have contributed to my restless identification of what is missing/wrong.

“When you’re through improving yourself – you’re through.”

I work with a guy and over the years we have both witnessed an evolution in our leadership styles but recently I was repositioned to gain an interesting insight from my colleague’s journey.

He truly lights up a room.

If you asked a dozen people I bet the common theme would be the “positive general demeanor this guy brings to wherever he goes”.

Over the past couple decades he and I have used each other as a sounding board for our next big thing.

I always focused on the area of most vulnerability.

He focused on the areas of most opportunity and what could be.

For the longest time this drove me bonkers.

I actually leveraged this “What If” approach in several complex spreadsheets which later also evolved but more on that later.

How could he avoid leaving the backdoor open to threat unless we considered every possible what do we do if ?

One day during a particularly stressful period of change, I found myself thrashing through ideas.

After I finished my view he asked me for an equal number of positive outcomes possible if we were to leverage our strengths instead of focusing on the risks .

Some might call that clichè

Some might call it naively oversimplified.

But what most recognize in my friend is a positive luminescent creative personality .

A guy who gets things built.

Conversely even attempting to consider the countless negative possibilities that might result, requires reflection, analysis and strategic preparation… all of which when done thoroughly are very demanding in terms of energy.

This time when he said “focus on your strengths not your shortcomings”,

I heard:

“Invest more time in leveraging what you you do well and less time focused on how your shortcomings may be limiting you”

For the longest time I thought the smartest guy in the room was the one who saw the train coming before the crash.

Being aware of the potential vulnerabilities while still moving forward is the benefit of experience and belief in self. Both are good tools to have. Assuming the carpenter has the energy to use it.

And like any tool, experience can only be used if :

A) You can locate it.

B) It’s not all wrapped up in a bunch of past projects

Experience can only be truly leveraged when it’s value is untethered from any past outcome.

The past is not the best predictor of the future, an individuals ability to evolve is.

I thought about it and I contemplated about how my friend is seen by others.

I began to wonder if his perspective of “building from his strengths” affords him the energy needed to get things done.

When we move with confidence in the direction of our dreams we are fully experiencing life.

And that is energizing!

Perhaps the mindset established from a strong proven foundation of strengths is one that lights up the room.

The latest fashion in the Blame Game…

Dame Anna Wintour DBE is a British-American journalist and editor who has been editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and artistic director for Condé Nast, Vogue’s publisher, since 2013 was recently quoted on the topic of leadership.

Photo: Wallace Footwear

In my view, “leadership” for Dame Wintour has, in no small way, been been established by remaining effective and efficient in making extremely nuanced decisions.

Hundreds of times per day.

Within a highly influential, visible and competitive arena.

For decades.

How is this accomplished?

“Own your decisions”

-Dame Anna Wintour, DBE

So prevalent in our culture is the tendency to find someone else’s behavior at the source of our shitstorm that the courts are clogged with people seeking retribution.

Consider the old story that McDonald’s actually made someone a millionaire because they drank (too) hot coffee.

The claimant was reported as saying the company should have “warned him”,

And yet what should we warn of ?

….” sip don’t gulp hot beverages?

……That hot coffee, comes… hot ?

Or perhaps the warning should be:

“That the McDonald’s experience is not actually responsible to come through on any expectation to make everything perfect in the lives of their patrons.

Ok, there may be anothther side to that story but in inarguably this kind of reward for blame casting perpetuates the myth that someone else is responsible for our choices.

The skill required for the transfer of responsibility to blame, is subtle and one of the first lessons we learn. Learned before we speak when we point to our little sister as her diaper painting critics examine our latest mural.

Parents aim to wean youth off the habit with less than extremely effective parenting memes like:

“ And if Mitchel told you to jump off the roof would you?!?!?”

Well actually I did .. but that’s another story, though we did have a garbage bag as a parachute!

The point is, casting blame is insidious and almost primally wired .

Seeking or averting blame draws us backward into the problem, ironically misguided in some righteous pursuit of the truth.

The truth is – most often people did their best at the time with what they knew and were capable of.

Besides feeling morally, or intellectually superior what makes the blame game such a seductive mindset?

Think about it how useless and exercise it is:

Say for example, you’re driving to Prince Albert and the highway sign blew off at the point where you have a choice to go to Moose Jaw or head toward Prince Albert.

You end up in up in Moose Jaw .

Does identifying the individual who bolted the sign together help you get to see your peeps in PA?

No.

Does locating the exact mile marker of the fallen sign ensure this catastrophe never occurs again?

Non.

The pain in any choice is directly proportional to the resistance in making it.

So how are we served by applying the principles of a binary justice system across all events in our lives?The idea that there is a correctable error that can change our past, fuels the obsession that better choices can be made today that will undo past pain felt from choices made at that time.

That’s like arriving out of breath at the top of a mountain to see a full Panorama and missing the vista because you’re too preoccupied looking down the path for an easier route.

The delusion of blame totally eclipses the lessons we learned through the pain learned as we journeyed through all the experiences that brought us to where we are today.

One cannot feel the ownership or accomplishment until one defines in their own life. Through choices accomplished or even mindfully attempted.

As ignorant, unenlightened or obviously wrong those choices appear retrospect and how challenging and unpleasant the consequences may feel.

It is only when our perspective shifts and we acknowledge that any given event is actually an event that is occurring in our life -can the light of our true self be revealed as is free to color the event in real time.

Photo:Talia Dezso photography thanks Talia!

And brighten the path that lies ahead.

So I concur with the words of Dame Wintour:

Whether it be JC Hammer pants or a weird personality, from the lips of the Editor of Vogue: “Owning your decisions” would be my right choice for now.

Not only will it make tomorrow’s past better but that image never goes out of fashion.

Light defined from darkness owned.

I recently watched a LinkedIn video discussing failure as a learning opportunity.

The challenge with failure is that it can really sting…

…My ego.

When I publicly stumble, I am reminded of my own limitations. I instantly find myself saying:

Damn I really am not who I think I project”

We imagine we look uniquely incompetent or worse, we feel we look deceptive or stupid or like we don’t actually know everything there is to know about everything.

Ok, maybe that last part is a stretch, but my failures certainly remind me not only of my practical shortcomings but also of the shortcomings in my self image.

They make me feel vulnerable in that I just might not be all that I secretly hope I might be.

Or want to be.

And then there is the surprise of failure.

I think surprise is why failure really stings- cuz it’s most often like your brother hiding in the closet waiting til you come into your room to jump out and scare the shit out of you.

It shocks us with the painful reality that at any point in time we are exposed to the startling alternate reality that things may not work out as we planned.

That’s because most days, typically we don’t start out with failure as an intention.

Most days I start out somewhere between “I’m gonna knock this outta the park” and “I will not strike out today.”

Failure reminds us that the self delusion of “I got this” precludes an infinite number of alternative outcomes. Each of which, though not resulting in what I imagined, may take me to an as yet unimaginable different experience.

Under one condition.

That we own our failures.

I have had more than one less than private full on cataclysmic f*ck ups.

In business, in relationships and in health.

But none have been more damaging than the one failure that kept me lashed to the past.

My greatest failure has been my failure to own my mistakes.

I spent decades trying to make a better past by rationalizing my mistakes, or worse, by not even acknowledging them.

Missing the obvious point of – how is it possible for me to leverage the insight I was to learn from any given experience if I failed to say “ ya that’s on me”?

I cannot possibly truly benefit from something that I don’t own.

If I fail to acknowledge that my mistakes are mine, then I can never use them to climb up from.

I was at the helm of a business when I allowed my love for the business model to blind me to the shifts in the macroeconomic forces that were part of globalization.

The business tanked.

More than a 1,000 people were affected.

And my heart broke.

For years that pain proved more than I could assume and I ran from the ownership of that failure.

I saw the failure like a prison tattoo claiming a pledge of eternal love …to a one night stand.

And in so doing I failed again. I brought the past into my present for more than a decade of my life.

I let it define me. I listened to the imagined voices of all of my critics limiting me to only one moment in my life.

And by doing this, I was blinded to any value in the lesson or even in myself at times.

I was just like Carrie Anne Mathison at the beginning of the series Homeland, muttering “I never want to miss something again”.

The irony of that perspective was that no matter how proficient I became at creating growth strategies based on “what if” scenarios for my clients, I failed to experience growth myself.

I remained tethered to my past.

It was only when I fully owned my past, that I became clear on how I might see and use the benefits of the experience to create a present moment that I am increasingly pleased with.

Not eternally pleased with.

Not always pleased with.

Not even consistently pleased with,

But definitely increasingly so.

Thank you Alain Guillot for sharing your thoughts on failure on LinkedIn it reminded me once again of the futility of “makingabetterpast” and that the purest form of failure is when we fail to own all of our lives.

Note:

If you would like to see Alain Guillot’s video I will share it on my LinkedIn page, I found it simply courageous and insightful!

The Drunk and the Spiritual Capitalist

I have a friend who is a drunk.

Even though it’s been a very long time since his last drink, that’s how he refers to himself.

One day I had to ask why.

“I recovered from my disease but it’s like it’s in remission, only unlike other fatal illnesses, I have the opportunity to keep it from rearing it’s ugly head ever again”

In my mind a ‘drunk’ was a guy without a home looking for change to buy his next bottle of Golden Nut sherry.

Some poor dude with questionable willpower and a weakness in character.

But my friend raised 8 kids and was loved in his community.

Ya, I said 8 kids!

No shit he drank!

“Disease?” I questioned

The ignorance surrounding the alcoholism is limitless“ he said subtly pointing out that I was once again acting in judgement prior to investigation, and he continued;

“In the sixties the American medical community acknowledged the genetic component of “alcohol use disorder” resulting in many like me finding a path to recovery.”

While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the disease idea, in my experience a lot of the opposition and steadfast refusal to see addiction as a disease comes from people who have suffered greatly at the hands of active alcoholics.” he shared.

In any case I just choose to remember that once pickled you can’t go back to being a cucumber”

Finally! Now he was speaking in a way even I could grasp – with analogies!!

Yet I was unconvinced. I mean I have known this guy since high school and let me tell you he could drink! So I decided to see how convinced he was.

“So you will never ever have another drink?” I asked.

“Not if I want to stay sober no” the answer came quickly and he followed,

Look, you know how you are with cookies ?

Now that wasn’t fair …though I have been known to pilfer twelve at a time while at his place watching the playoffs, he does make a crazy peanut butter cookie!

or chips?” He added leaving me completely defenseless.

Well that’s how I am with booze … One leads to five. Then five calls on eight and eight invites my inner asshole to come to town. It’s like posting a house party on Facebook …I lose the ability to choose!

Its kinda like an allergy-once I have one I really can’t say where it will end but we all know it doesn’t bring out my best self so why would I want to go there?”

It is true …he really became a dick at the end of his drinking days.

But I had to press (that’s what friends are for right?)

“ So what if they told you that you were dying?”

He looked at me and framed my question back to me.

“ If you somehow knew that tomorrow would be your last day what would you change ?”

Would you stop wearing those stupid Hawaiian shirts ?

Would you finally quit trying to prove your value to others?

Would you really continue to give a shit about winning the business game?

Would you really want to be identified in your last hours as a great strategist with business acumen?

Is that what would you draw your attention to if you knew this day was going to be your last?

Check mate.

In a flash my true heart values surrounding those I love that I would choose to spend my last hours connecting with came to mind.

With this awareness all past pain and current fears from past harms endured retreated, laying bare the activities I was so consumed by.

From this perspective I saw that all the things that I mindlessly let define me were truly minutia in the big pic.

No” I replied “I see now most of that shit is just for sheeple

He uses that word for humans who mindlessly follow the flock – not by choice.

And IPhone users. Then he gently went for the jugular of the debate

“Me too… but we don’t really know when our last day is do we?”

So when I put drinking into the right perspective the only solution I could adopt was to try to focus on one day at a time sometimes one moment at a time”

We went back to the playoff game in progress yet thought about what shared for a long time .

And I thought about how he said that when he had his first drink he lost his choice over having the second third and tenth.

Then it occurred to me that while I enjoy the thrill of business I can’t let it overshadow the simple fact that it is not my sole choice for what will not define my life.

Just like I can agree that a glass of red wine may go really well with a plate of penne puttanesca, a bottle before and after will make the meal less memorable.

I admire my friend’s awareness that his ultimate gesture of power is surrender.

Inspired by the lessons of that day I surrendered to the truth that I have no idea which will be my last and that all I can do is remain focused on a grateful heart for the time I have been given.

Which left me practicing gratitude (while often failing) for the most important things to me in my life.

Remaining mindful as I move through my day of the following paradox:

Is there really any other way to practice gratitude for all the days in our lives- other than living each as if it was the last we might live?

High school dances and life lessons in negotiation.

When I was growing up one of my closer friends suddenly lost his father.

It really rattled me at the time, because his dad was really cool and one of those people who deeply connected with young people.

He did so by being open to them.

I remember one night in high school we sat at an event and while all the other teenagers were doing their thing, he quietly revealed to me a couple of secrets that unfortunately took me a few more decades to incorporate into my life.

Firstly, Pat helped me see that my self comparison to the other “kid’s coolness” had no place in establishing who I was.

In so doing he fearlessly contradicted the social norm of the time, where it was most often all about worrying what others might think.

Yet that was not the most important thing I learned from him that night.

My time with him also taught me something that I wouldn’t recognize as invaluable until I was blessed with children of my own and became very comfortable in my place as an active participant in their audience.

He taught me how transparently being your “cool” self can bridge the generation gap (or actually any gap between two people).

In those days the gap back was much wider.

At that time parents were “cool” on the golf course, and maybe at cocktail parties”.

But almost never in front of their kids.

Put another way when I grew up, there were not very many parents who shared tattoo sessions, edibles or Childish Gambino concerts with their kids.

Lessons learned from the previous generation were often at the root of defiance and protest.

Hugely differing ideologies anchored in fear, materialism and frustration often made the gap between my gen and the one before, appear unbridgeable to both sides.

But Pat chose to ignore that view, as he sat listening to the challenges of a socially awkward teenager, while the other adults were gathered in a corner exchanging insights on the challenges their kids created for them.

I remember, as he listened Pat didn’t trumpet solutions or speak from “on high“.

He identified with me.

Through empathy, he left me feeling less alone in my awkwardness and this was because he made himself approachable.

He did so by describing the lengths to which he went to, attempting to be cool.

I remember him telling me about how he would let his wet jeans dry on him after the wash, so they would be tighter fitting until the subsequent lack of blood flow made him faint.

And as he identified with my awkwardness he gained more credibility as a possible source of influence in my world.

Remember that in those days, parents established and maintained a sort of distance as a way of creating authority.

They did so both mimicking how they had been raised and in response to a world where the youth was rebelling in alarming ways.

In the end Pat’s legacy in my heart will always be, the thrill that I had taking a very active role in the activities my kids chose and even in the lives of their friends as they grew up.

He taught me a powerful lesson by openly expressing his passion for life and though the fragility of his foibles.

He identified with and then leveraged that commonality to see passion in others, so he could then share the benefits of his own experience.

Leaving me with a very key takeaway lesson in the art of connection- in order to bridge any gap one must first start by relating to the landscape on the other side.

Leveraging the vulnerability of what we have yet to learn.

Remember the Wide World of Sports?

It was on Saturday afternoons on ABC, in the days when you actually had to sit down in front of a box in your living room at a particular time to witness something outside your hood.

The tag line in the introduction of each episode,centered on sporting events around the world, was “The thrill of victory the agony of defeat

One of the first statistics I recall learning was that the average life span in Canada was 74 years.

It has crept upward since I was in elementary school and as of 2016 it is almost now 83 years.

Is that like overtime?

Do I now get 9 more years to make a better past and score the winning goal?

For more than half my time on the planet I operated with blatant disregard to the idea that there would be a final bell and only when it rings the sum and substance of my existence here will be defined.

In some ways I see a real value in that approach, in that when we focus too heavily on the final score we typically miss the thrill of the game.

Back in school, I remember weeks inching by toward Friday. I would mentally break down the week every morning in anticipation of Friday’s arrival, waking with the thought: ” Only three more days til the weekend”

Later when we join the labour pool we all know that person who counts the days to retirement.

To what end? (Literally and figuratively)

To make things worse, we seem to readily accept the idea that the acceleration of time as we age is truly unavoidable.

Or is it ?

Hugh Montgomery is one of those people who seem experience a full life by jamming in way more than most of us would call mentally healthy .

At 56, as a practicing clinician he acts as head of an intensive care unit in the UK, he runs 3 ultra marathons a year, skydives (naked for charity), is an author and lives life like he just might die today.

Recently a friend shared an article with me, from The Guardian about Montgomery.

Naturally, I just skimmed it.

No time to read the whole thing,..I’m too busy!

Plus, in any case I’m not a great reader -it takes me a long long time to get through a three panel comic strip.

The one thing I did glean from the article was that Montgomery claims the way he calms his obsession about the possibility of imminent death is through an insistence to immerse himself continuously in learning something new.

He may just be on to something here.

Remember how painfully slow time progressed in grade 10?

Mr. Tetreault droned on about the colonization of New Mexico and it took everything I had to not lose myself staring at the sweeping second hand of the clock over his bald head.

Perhaps that had more to do with the subject matter than it did the answer to putting more life in our years.

Nonetheless the point holds.

Upon further reflection, it seems to me that every new sport or activity I tried actually did slow time to a point of inconsequence.

Perhaps I became so consumed by trying to keep my balance wearing steel blades on on ice, that the minutes stalled and life slowed.

Montgomery suggests that life begins to surprise us less as we age because we allow ourselves to mistakenly perceive we have seen it all.

Been there done that” becomes the mantra of the “old”.

I wondered out loud “why does this happen?”

Could it be because society rewards us based on the experience we have accumulated?

Ted has 27 years of counting beans he knows everything there is to know about the industry

I have previously mentioned that I backed into consulting career, working with a wide variety of businesses, from commercial coffee makers to cooling systems for hydro electric dams as well as a few more really obscure gigs in between.

Interviewing for one mandate the owner was asked the following question by a trusted member in his entourage:

Why on earth would you hire someone who knows nothing about the industry?”

Often we make the mistake of trying to correlate the template of a past to define the value of someone in the present.

Photo by Don Quarles.

We forget that the darkness does not eclipse the light – it defines it .

Just like not wanting to lose my balance on skates, the presence of vulnerability in our lives can bring our most brilliant light to shine.

And when exactly are we most vulnerable?

I would agree with Montgomery – when we are learning something new.

For it is both in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat that we truly learn and thus truly live.

Conversely it stands to reason that it is when we stop placing ourselves in a position to learn, that we more rapidly move toward death

I got the gig in the industry I had “no experience in” and my mandate was a judged a success by all.

Despite it being later in my career, I attribute this entirely to 2 things:

1) I was enthralled by the learning

2) I wanted to show that advisor how quickly I could learn!

Neither of which could have been achieved if I had not been willing to embrace the vulnerability.

The pain in the ass that sent me on a Caribbean Vacay

Until I change the way I look at things, the things I look at will not change

At various points in my career I have been fortunate to work as a consultant to businesses in rapid growth.

The primary asset that I leveraged was not industry experience, it was perspective.

Often, I would find clients consumed with a focus on what/who was wrong when problems arose, resulting from the demands growth places on corporate systems and processes.

Time and time again, I sat in boardrooms where owners and team members independently focused on two different :

“When will they see this is no way to operate?”

Or “Do they not see this will kill our business model!?”

The response and the meetings were driven by fear and darkness.

Often, I could feel the energy within the boardroom spiral downward, until the communication between team members was at a frenetic pace, bantering between blame and defense.

At the beginning of the consulting stage of my career, I would find my passionate self engaged by this energy.

I, too, would focus my attention on trying to solve the riddle of who was at the single source of the problem in any given anecdotal issue.

Soon my problem solving “to-do” list became endless.

Eventually, the very passion that I brought to the projects led me to resent the organizations, systems and even the clients I was seeking to be of service to.

My career options became:

1) The classic consulting model: Deny my passion and detach from giving a shit about the outcome of my client’s problems. Choosing to simply focus on getting more clients for myself, while milking the revenue of the existing mandate, one systemic issue at a time:

Or

2) Reposition my view of the role I was engaged for.

At first, I thought the best model was option one.

I reasoned that the traditional approach taken by so many “professionals” (consultants, lawyers and accountants) seemed to be a very lucrative business model!

Often, I would hear the leaders in these professions justify big egos based on their bank accounts and cars, which they claimed were a direct result of them selling “brilliant solutions” to their clients.

Then one day I saw behind the curtain.

I came to understand that this model didn’t sell solutions, it sold dependence.

Just like my bartender who used to listen to my stories while serving me copious amounts of expensive single malt scotch.

Whenever a client was consumed in the grip of fear a call was made to the consultant to provide a “solution”.

At the beginning of this post I qualified with “at various points in my career“. I guess now I ought to provide a little more insight.

At other points, I enjoyed the opportunity to leverage my experience to earn a living both as as an employee and a business owner, in addition to a consultant.

In retrospect, it would seem as though the what I did to earn money was much more about my passion for lifelong learning than it was about some sort of predictable career path.

I would spend time in the employ of an organization after which I would satisfy my entrepreneurial yearnings and start/buy a business.

Sometimes it grew and I sold it and sometimes there were less ideal results.

Yet, whatever the outcome, it seemed that the experience repeatedly earned me mandates as a consultant.

It seemed like prospective clients were interested in benefiting from what I had learned, both positive and negative

From where I sit now it looks a lot like a one extended MBA ,wherein I had the good fortune to learn from different teachers on different campuses around the world.

What fascinates me now is I always seemed to end up in a “class” with a teacher, who offered me precisely the training in the area I most needed to work on within myself.

Sometimes the lesson was “not trusting blindly“, other times it was “learning how to take direction” etc.

Then, when a particular chapter was over, I would move into another role where I had the opportunity to live and practice the lessons of the previous “class”.

At several points in my career as a business owner or as an executive under the full time employ of others, I found myself seeking the services of external consultants

One day I found myself writing a check for an outrageous amount to a firm of lawyers, accountants and big thinkers who had a reputation of supporting owners with solutions to business issues.

Thing is, they didn’t actually solve anything.

They typically simply provided me with a list of the risks, outcomes and possible strategies that might be applicable.

At that moment, I had my first awareness of the difference between problem-based thinking and solution based thinking.

I have come to believe the different views come from different parts of our being.

I saw how focusing on anecdotal situations binds us to the “what is wrong” : whereas being untethered from the fear allows us to leverage our capacity to imagine what could be.

We’ve all attended those meetings where the entire room is focused on the minutiae of how things were not right: circling the bowl, analyzing “what if” scenarios and how stakeholders are currently challenged or might be impacted by the negative outcome of any given problem.

Soon, depending on the hierarchical positon of the a leader caught up in problem based thinking, the rest of the team finds itself caught up in picking at the wound.

During one career stage when I was in the employ of a powerful young man, I sat in on one of these meetings one afternoon, and it hit me:

How is it possible to arrive at a solution when I am concentrating all my energy on the problem?

I find myself lowering my energy to a level of frustration and even questioning my choice to work with .?!”

On that day, despite having participated in countless similar meetings, all of a sudden it was like I was viewing the same room from different seat.

It became clear to me that I needed to then shift the perspective of the entire team toward “solution-based thinking” in order to get free from problem.

You know,” I began,

I’m really actually happy we have this problem”

The room stopped bickering, blaming and went silent while all eyes turned to my direction.

The company president looked a wee bit pissed and said ” WTF!?

Ya, the way I see it now, this problem is not a threat but actually an opportunity for job security.

When we figure out the solution we will have a unique competitive advantage, and that’s precisely what you are paying each of us for.

So let’s figure this problem out and while we’re at it could someone bring us another clusterf*ck please?

Then I went on

We’ve all been sitting here exhausted by the endless stream of problems. It’s like they never stop coming.

Yet once solved, we usually end up saying problems are just a part of doing business- right ?

So rather than wish we didn’t have them, why don’t we welcome and embrace them?

Taking the view that solving problems is how we feed our families.

Then the more problems we solve, the more practiced we will become at solving them and the better we become at solving them, the further we will leave the competition behind us.”

The room looked at me like I had two heads for what seemed like an eternity.

And then the crustiest shop foreman in the room says

“So, um, are you saying problems are actually our livelihood?”

Nervously glancing at the owner I replied,

yup … in a manner of speaking that’s exactly it

More silence … and I feared I may have ended that job and maybe my current career choice prematurely.

Then from the corner, the next voice to speak proposed a solution with such clarity that the rest of the group quickly agreed and we were out of the boardroom in about 5 mins.

The owner approached me months later and said,

“I was afraid you were gonna introduce a culture where people would actually create problems as part of a ‘make work project’ but in fact that’s not what happened at all.

What has happened is that the team now acknowledges dysfunction is part of the reason they are employed and embrace them like they would a new client.

They have developed such a systematic and methodical process to problem solving that they spend no time distracting themselves by seeking to scold or blame, they just embrace dysfunction and the solutions then almost seem to surface more freely

He then handed me two tickets to St Lucia.

I now view “problems” and dysfunction with gratitude.