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.

What doesn’t kill us …hurts!

The idea of emotions colliding with the physical self is nothing new.

It is often said that the greatest influence on the onset of chronic illness is stress.

Another ‘silent’ killer is again, emotional:

Lonliness.

The heartache of being alone kills more relentlessly than cigarettes and obesity.

“Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.

Douglas Nemek MD chief medical officer for behavioral health Cigna.

If anyone wants to figure out what kills you it’s the insurance Companies.

So life without heartbreak equates to a longer life ?

Think about the heart- it’s that mystical place where the physical and emotional merge.

There is a palpable pain in the chest unlike any other when one is sad. Yet under further medical scrutiny there appears no acute physical source.

So is the goal in making a better past to duck, dip, dive and dodge heartbreak at all costs ?

Not according to the Tin Man in Oz:

“Now I know I have a heart; I can feel it breaking”

After 23 years of being centered around the growth, education and development of our three children, their mother and I have been battered by the emotional impact of something we never saw coming – they have all left home within the space of 30 days.

All three off to begin their lives after a minimum of 20 years of preparation.

This might seem like a time for celebration, but instead I seem to be exclusively aware of the hole in the middle of my chest where the center of my world used to be.

Never saw it coming ?!?

How does that happen ?

The most challenging aspect of life’s changes seems to be my resistance to the change and this one is no exception.

I saunter (sometimes sprint) through thoughts of – Will my I fuck ups impact their lives ? Will they be ok? Will I be alone? And the biggie- Does this hole in my chest ever heal?

The answer is Yes.

And in particular the return to a less painful pressent will occur, however, Yes can only happen tomorrow , if I say NO! to trying to make it all pain free.

I can make that choice to let go or I can hang on until my formidable strength fails and all medical evidence suggests that one day it will, at which point the past that I am trying to make better-by fixing what has been done-will slam into my present.

So why then am I so hell bent on fixing the past? Because I am entranced by the delusion that I can!

And further- if I fix the the things I am ashamed of in my past, by in some mystical time travelling way, then perhaps I can avoid future heartbreak.

Heartbreak like children growing into adults and leaving home.

YA ! That makes sense right ?

If, on the other hand I can take the view of the Tin Man and embrace heartache as a natural byproduct of love, therein lies my only hope of diminishing the impact of heartache, in that the sadness will not be the only emotion I am aware of.

The other will be gratitude.

To be grateful for all of life is so challenging on days when it’s minus twenty Celsius and you have to bend to scoop the poop of the little dog that shares your space. Bending over with warm shit in cold hand is one of the “joys” that accompany pet ownership in Canada. So is euthanasia and everything in between. Like when that little guy rushes to the door to greet you because you are everything to him.

Embracing the frozen shit of life seems counter intuitive …but the alternative is to live alone… and apparently that’s not good for your health.

Embracing the practice of being grateful for heartache is also one of those paradoxical truths that when accomplished, makes tomorrow’s past just a little less painful…and the path to that can be seen as Dorothy boards the balloon to sail off into her future and the Tin Man finds and accepts the only view that will get him through:

To have a heart that is breakable is the very best “proof of a Life worth living

Mad Men at work

In a recent LinkedIn post this Simon Sinek short video on how to express emotion had close to a half million views, and tens of thousands of reactions and comments.

This is LinkedIn people … is it not supposed to be all business?

In another post Sinek spoke of actually replacing the judgement of an underperforming employee with empathy.

Suggesting that leadership is far less about terminating under performers than it is about understanding them!!!

That post had shares in the tens of thousands.

WTF?!? Are we running a day care here?!

Back in the day men lead, employees followed and secretaries served.

If your buddy wasn’t performing you had him into your office for a scotch or two and a smoke and you told him to get his sh*t together and shook hands with a commitment to do better.

Feelings were simply not on the agenda.

Then the damn hippies got involved and all of the sudden we had Foosball tables, hammocks and cappuccino bars. Industrial psychologists and off site bonding – once reserved for the senior execs was made available to the rank and file.

Was it coincidence that the Mad Men leadership soon became passé and “cool” companies like Google and Facebook, with their environments and culture eclipsed the former icons of Wall Street?

The pendulum had swung and those left in the former culture stood judging from across the room.

“It will never last”

“Ya it’s fun to work there but will they really accomplish anything?”

“I’d like to see their revenue model!”

I bet they get a lot done sitting around talking about their little feelings- NOT!”

Like all those who judge, there is but one practice that prevents them from greater accomplishments – contempt prior to investigation.

And what typically causes that?

The fear that arises our “reptile brains” when we see visible differences in leadership and success.

Enter the female CEO.

During my career I have had the privilege of working with and for several women.

Some were great leaders and others were a&$holes.

Just like men.

But different.

The primary difference was the women I worked for, as a group, focused much more on emotions than their male counterparts.

They did NOT focus only on emotion but they were more intuitive toward and ready to address emotion than men, who often completely overlooked or worse consciously ignored the influence of emotion on a team members performance.

The conclusions of an article in Scientific American suggested that women convey the emotions of Happiness and Sadness more effectively then men who typically have a narrower emotional repertoire.

Men are great at expressing – wait for it- Anger.

Surprised?

Nor should it then be surprising that people don’t know how to confront owner/bosses, with less than favorable comments about their leadership and areas they need to improve upon.

The corporate culture is rife with the “egos of accomplishment” which fuel the fear that if a boss/owner is questioned and truly confronted then mutiny is just around the corner.

So they create an artificial culture that confuses respect with infallibility and iron fisted leadership. Which then cycles into repressed feelings and resentment. Followed by employee theft (of both time and objects) and corporate politics.

But I am not suggesting a case here for male entitlement or feminism.

In my view, this is about recognizing what the behavioral scientists confirmed in the aforementioned study.

Women have a skill that is a competitive advantage and worth emulating.

And rather than sitting on the other side of the boardroom table in judgement and designing a corporate structure with a glass ceiling, those currently in power might consider another option- learn how to leverage fearless vulnerability to express a broader range of emotion.

I wonder if the race to artificial intelligence is about efficiency or avoidance?

We have tried to mask the avoidance of listening to how are employees feel with a culture that espouses “this ain’t a daycare we need to make widgets -I have a family to feed”.

But avoidance is never authentic and clearly employee turnover disillusionment, office politics and an “us versus them” are all examples of the results of that approach.

So maybe the dot coms are not the utopian corporate cultures we once hoped they would be – the pendulum movement rarely ends at it’s fullest arc– but perhaps we can stop avoiding our feelings by encouraging leaders to have the courage to learn the emotions skills they struggle with and be open to being confronted.

After all, though it wasn’t day care, it is said we learn everything we need in kindergarten .

Here’s that Sinek post:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dCkxgICCVWU

And here is the Scientific American article:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-women-more-emotionally-expressive-than-men/

2 Loves

My Father was known for saying “I have had 2 loves in my life- my shoe factory and my family – and not in that order

I guess he said it once in the company of my mother and he had the presence of mind to add the last part before he sat back down beside her after receiving an award, to avoid losing one of those loves right there!

To be sure, Dad had a profound influence on me in so many ways, but these days upon reflection, I have come to realize that none greater than in these words I heard countless times.

While the words inspired me in so many ways, what Dad failed to share was that the limitations of the focus of one’s love in this way will also lead to crushing heartbreak.

There have been moments where my family and career have not evolved in the direction I had aimed for.

I don’t for one second believe this to be unique, it happens to us all and I know it happened to him.

However depending on the perspective I take, those episodic detours are rarely more than Montreal potholes, and thankfully by comparison, fewer and farther between.

Unless of course, my perspective is oriented from the view of perfecting family and career as my destination. In which case the journey will feel more like permanently driving along St Laurent in the spring,

Dad got that part right, he understood the “journey not destination” idea.

He focused on the principle that yesterday’s damage could be the source of regret or the inspiration of learning and growth. So as he remained focused on his two loves, he evolved and learned

The heartbreak I speak of is more along the lines of limited focus colliding with the advancement of years. And further the identification of one’s self uniquely through these pursuits.

Another thing he used to say was ” I can only do one thing at a time”

While this seems like sound advice, the challenge for him came when the 2 things he focused on naturally and organically ran their course.

There is a life cycle to everything and one day “children” leave and businesses change.

Anything left in a state of perpetual growth soon overshadows the realities of natural selection and becomes a threat to itself.

Whether ego, lust or greed is at the source of the quest for more, so often we witness how, what was once simply the desire to do our best refracts our light into the warped and self blinding delusion of endlessly more.

Thankfully I never witnessed this in my father.

What I did learn from his heartbreak was lost on me until a recent conversation with my eldest.

When the shoe factory closed and the family scattered my father’s “2 loves” became only memories.

His passion for people and his joie de vivre faded.

For the longest time I blamed the natural results of the aging process. But in truth that was an unsatisfying answer for decades.

Because by contrast I saw one of his friends lit up well into his eighties.

Morty and Dad were close because they shared the values of work ethic and family.

The difference was Morty prepared for the natural changes in focus, that life forces upon us. And he did so prior to their arrival. Yet Dad chose not to be distracted by the inevitable, thinking he would muscle through it.

On the other hand, long before he handed the reigns of a thriving retail concern to the next generation, Morty made sure he had another “love” into which he could invest is passion.

My Father’s “two loves” definitely defined his focus and ergo his life. And doing “one thing at a time” certainly made him the best father I have ever met and successful in business.

However neither of these roles were destined to be lifetime positions in the way he hoped.

My eldest is moving out on Monday.

The void I feel already reminds me of the hole my dad left us in my world.

The feeling is similar but the reality is that the stark difference between the source of the similar feeling, is my father’s life ended and in many new ways my daughter’s is just beginning.

Nonetheless one of “my loves” is now changing.

Prior to her departure she and I have been getting together in part fueled by my fear of “who will I be in the absence of my family?”

As we sat for lunch this week she helped me understand that work ethic may be a competitive advantage in the labour force but cannot be leveraged to avoid life’s twists and turns.

I agree dad, that loving what you do for work is the ideal career path- but where we differ is the ideal career path is not a replacement for love” she shared.

She went on ” I want to leverage my career skills to live life to the fullest, I want to use my career to experience all I can of life”

My dad’s paradigm shifted in my head.

At that moment I saw my father who lived life through his career and I saw my daughter who wants to use her career to live her life.

I understood the heartbreak I saw in my father after he retired and his family left the nest.

For me it instantly became about seeking to experience other passions, memories and lessons.

We are inundated by media and politicians about the nobility of lives focused on Family and Career. Yet based on everything we know the integrity of media and politicians should be out first clue that this is a dangerously limited influence.

So perhaps once again i should call into question the source of my perspective and ask myself the question- why would I want to experience only those two loves when the options are limitless ?

Anticipointment

A while ago I spoke of a cousin who realized a dream by writing and directing a great film titled “Moments Of Clarity“.

Check it out!

It’s a very cool story about a sheltered young woman, an agoraphobic and a porn star and if that synopsis doesn’t get your attention then check your pulse!

Anyway, in her film Kristin Wallace coins the term – Anticipointment.

Which is suggested in the film as one of the perils of planning…anything.

Recently, a moment I had long since looked forward to came to pass, and I collided into the face of disappointment.

As the event ended, I found myself snapping at a person very near and dear to me.

” I was disappointed in you that we didn’t watch the credits roll or go for coffee and discuss it, and the whole performance wasn’t long enough…ok…maybe it was a couple hours, but the author could have put more effort into developing some of the players … anyway, why do we need to rush off now ?

Later, I was alone, thinking about, and feeling, disappointment.

Then it struck me, how incredibly ridiculous it is to express disappointment in someone or even some thing!

To say I’m disappointed in any thing clearly limits that very thing in the possible influences it may have in my life.

And as far as disappointment is concerned, the path by which I am most often disappointed is the one where I attempt to manage the outcome of a particular moment by gambling on the actions of people, places and things – both human and beyond – like say even weather!

The idea is, that by the end of the event I become so caught down the rabbit hole of outcomes anticipated, that I become oblivious to any other perspective other than mine.

Other non rabbit hole views might include: maybe those accompanying me were simply not feeling well and wanted to go. Or shockingly to me, maybe they had different outcomes planned.

Furthermore, I was so “bought into the illusions of my fantasized outcomes” that I allowed the imagined outcomes to become the only benchmark to which I would identify the event as “A success

Clearly, this promises to manifest an extremely narrow vision of success and will by exclusion result in a shallow life experience.

Of course, it’s natural for me to have hopes and even to visualize an outcome, but where I get into trouble is when that outcome becomes the only outcome that will satisfy me.

When that happens I am limiting myself as to how any other outcome might even be better for me or those around me that I love.

Some of us get this, “going with the flow“.

Is it coincidence that they who seem adept at this flow thing, are also the ones who seemingly enjoy each moment?

Could their serenity arise because they choose to position themselves into a witnessing perspective, even in the balcony seats, rather than insisting upon experiencing the performance from the conductors rostrum.

Often we are told “it’s alright to be disappointed- its perfectly natural”

I guess …if disappointment is your goal.

But from where I sit expecting a bunch of people to respond to an experience in the same way I anticipated leaves me with the image of herding cats.

However, if I could learn a life hack that might help diminish how the misdirection of my disappointment impacts others,than perhaps I could stem the contagious epidemic of disappointment!

Bad news is- the only source of disappointment truly lies in my habit of confusing the manifestation through visualization and the illusion of attaching myself to one exclusive outcome for any particular moment in time.

This only results in chaining all participants to my outcome and crossing fingers and toes that they all walk on the stage and play the roles as I choreographed in my limited view.

And rarely does this manifest an award winning moment .