Do the Work

“You can’t microwave emotional intelligence.”
Chip Conley, author of Wisdom at Work

There is no “fast forward” button. There is no shortcut, no “work around,” no Cliff’s Notes.

You have to do the work. And there is a hierarchy that can be learned, can even be mastered, but only over time and through experience, persistence, patience and a deep commitment to continuous learning:

Self-awareness: you accurately notice yourself, both your inner state and your behaviors – especially under stress.

Self-management: armed with your awareness of what you feel and how you act – again, especially under stress – you are able to anticipate and redirect yourself into more positive and beneficial behaviors.

Social awareness: perhaps the greatest gift of self-awareness and self-management is that it makes you keenly, empathetically aware of other’s feelings. Once you become fluent in your own emotional state you are capable of acknowledging the emotional states of others.

Relationship management: because you notice more you are prepared to respond well. You are prepared to stay present with another person as they experience a difficult emotional state and help them to work through it constructively.

As I ask my students: You will be a great accountant. So great, in fact, that you are promoted to management. And in your first week as a manager, an employee, formerly a peer, comes to your office to tell you that his mother has died suddenly. She had been sick but was expected to recover. The loss is sudden and your employee is shattered. He breaks down in tears standing in your doorway. What do you do?

What do you do?


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Poem for a Sunday Morning

I didn’t paint the fence today.
The rain ruined my plans.

A pile of exams instead;
Rake-less man among fallen leaves.

From my window, dark skies
Give way to a ribbon of blue.

I may paint the fence tomorrow,
Or I may invoke the Sabbath.

Some decisions are best made in the light of morning.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

At the bottom of the stairs

IMG_5757I had some time between appointments this morning so I decided to head to the beach for a stroll. I haven’t had my toes in the sand for a while and on this beautiful October morning it seemed the perfect way to use the time.

I arrived at a favorite spot and began the long walk down the steps only to notice that the ocean seemed a lot closer than usual. And a lot louder, too. It was, indeed, high tide. And there was no beach to speak of, at least in the walkable sense of the word.

I stayed on the steps for a few minutes, watching a swarm of surfers make the most of an impressive swell. And then I turned to go.

But something made me pause and turn again. And I went down another flight of steps. And then another one. There, one short flight from the bottom, I encountered surfers leaving the water, having simply paddled up to the base of the stairs. That’s when I noticed, right below me now, the sound the water makes as it recedes over the rocks and back to the ocean.

Here’s a snippet, if you are so inclined to watch and listen:


I didn’t find what I was looking for this morning. I found something unexpected, a natural reminder that I don’t get to decide the conditions. I only get to decide how curious to be about what I find.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

 

12 Words

We celebrated a life today. It was a remembrance worthy of the life she lived. It was whole, real, fully formed and fully experienced. It was gut wrenching.

A father was humble. Sons were true. Sisters were emphatic. A niece was clear, and brave: “I was better when I was with her.”

When we honor the dead it is easy to forget that they needed us as much as we needed them. I know that she would be first in line to proclaim that as true.

I couldn’t stop thinking about these five statements, these twelve words.

I love you. “You saw me, heard me and understood me. You made me something I didn’t know I could be. My heart is broken and it will keep on breaking. And I will go on.”

Please forgive me. “I hurt you. I could have done more. I’m sorry.”

I forgive you. “You were human. You did your best. And you were human.”

Thank you. “You changed everything for me. You made a difference. You mattered. You always will.”

Goodbye. “I will never forget you. Impossible. Never.”

{For Paul}


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Worth the Wait

If you want to ice skate on a frozen pond it’s best not to attempt it after the first frost.

A reliable surface, one you can trust to sustain your weight and the carving of your skates, needs time and consistently low temperatures to get to a solid state.

The same is true for new relationships or those that are recovering from a difficult passage.

We want to believe that our initial best efforts to repair the damage will be sufficient. But it takes time and consistency for someone to believe that we are worthy of their trust, once again.

Do not ask me to skate with you on the early, brittle ice. Invite me, deep into winter, to join you on the solid ice that will hold us both.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

A Midweek Thought Experiment

Imagine that it’s five years ago. If you could meet yourself on October 10, 2013 what advice would you give yourself for the coming five years?

Five years ago, my advice would have been (1) trust yourself, (2) open yourself, (3) express more, more often.

Imagine it’s five years from now. What advice can you give yourself today that will help you wake up on October 10, 2023 satisfied that you lived the last five years with intention?

My advice to my future self is the same: (1) trust yourself, (2) open yourself, (3) express more, more often.

Maybe it’s unrealistic to separate my present and future selves. It’s a tough thing to be objective about. Or maybe it’s that, having landed on these themes, I recognize that the work never really ends.

I suppose that could be frustrating, even defeating. But I find it inspiring, an invitation to keep learning.

And what about you? What did you discover?


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Something funny

One afternoon last spring, while waiting for class to begin, I clicked on a list of “stupid clean jokes.”  Somewhere mid-list I came across one – see below – that made me laugh out loud, and which kept me laughing for a while. I was so taken with it that I sent it to my wife, Theresa. The ensuing text exchange, in which I attempt to build the joke while she makes clear her disinterest, is one of my all time favorite exchanges with her, text or otherwise. It captures who we are individually and our relationship so precisely, so specifically, that I took a screen shot so I wouldn’t forget it.

I could make some interesting connection here about the necessity of surrounding ourselves with people who challenge us, push us and help us to grow. I could further discuss the benefits of “difference” vs. “same” or explore the needs and wants we all carry around, waiting for others to notice and satisfy.

Or I could just let you know that today I needed something funny, remembered this screen shot, and took a quick dip in its refreshing waters.

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DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

I don’t know

“The human ego prefers knowing and being certain over being honest. ‘Don’t bother me with the truth, I want to be in control,’ it invariably says. Most people who think they are fully conscious or ‘smart’ and in control, have a big iron manhole cover over their unconscious. It does give them a sense of being right and in charge, but it seldom yields compassion, community, or wisdom.”

– Richard Rohr


If you want to encourage more compassion, start with “I don’t know.” Your vulnerability will signal to others that their vulnerability is ok, and normal. The other day, not knowing what to say to a sick friend, I somewhat shamefully Googled, “what to say to a sick friend.” It turns out that there are some very compassionate people in the world with more practice than me in being in those tough situations. My “I don’t know” led me to the help I needed.

If you want to establish a stronger community, start with “I don’t know.” You will signal to others that it is the combination of your perspectives and experience that form a strong community. You will become an invitation for others to share what they have to offer. The leader of the band I’m a part of consistently asks for the group’s ideas about what music to perform and is always open to suggestions about how we can most successfully sing and play.

If you want to discover more wisdom, start with “I don’t know.” A momentary pause leaves space for more thoughtful consideration, for a deeper learning to take place. Early in my work as a leadership coach, I felt self-conscious pressure to fill in any gaps in the conversation. I have learned to pause and allow brief silences to serve as catalysts for my curiosity.

It’s tough to remove the manhole cover, and I’m not sure I will ever be rid of it entirely. But I have enough encouraging examples of ways I have learned to let go of being right, to let go of being in control.

I am reminded, again and again, that they all start with “I don’t know.”


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Back to Basics

I spent about four hours today applying a fresh coat of stain to our fence. I completed about 25% of the job. We have a lot of fencing and I’ll spend a good part of Sunday knocking out another big section.

But today, what I felt with each pass of the brush, and as each foot of board went from dull to bright, from dirty to clean, was the pleasure of being present to something so common, so basic.

I have been glued to the news these past few weeks, relentlessly refreshing and devouring the latest take on the latest twists and turns. I didn’t realize how consumed I was by it all until I was outside in the breeze of a mild October day simply, steadily painting my fence.

Today was both reprieve and reminder. I don’t know if I have enough fencing or enough stain to reset myself completely but I’m going to make the most of what I’ve got. And I am reminded how quickly I can get out of balance and how necessary it is to find simple ways to reconnect to what is, in fact, within my control.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

A Single Match

Don’t ask the mountain
to move. Just take a pebble
each time you visit.

– John Paul Lederach


I dream of big changes, of sweeping reforms, of the overhaul of corrupted systems. I dream of the satisfaction of a slate wiped clean, no residue of past mistakes or missteps. I dream of a straight path from “A” to “B”; plans made, strategies implemented, goals achieved. I dream of linear, direct, complete; of steady, ascendant, uninterrupted growth.

I wake to the sobering remembrance that it is only through small, specific, purposeful acts that I will constructively bring about the change I seek; achieve the vision I hold.

And I think, further, that alone I can only do so much. My job is to start a small fire, to breathe life into the contribution I am able to make. And in doing so to trust that you will start and tend your own.

What I imagine and what I hope, is that our fires will soon connect, growing into an even bigger force for change.

Our combined fires, and the many more that we will meet along the way, will burn a path forward, refreshing the ground beneath us for something new to emerge.

It starts small: a single match and a well-tended flame.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.