How Should I Not Be Glad?

I sat to write the other day and the words came effortlessly, as if I were simply transcribing something already written. As I brought the piece to completion I overheard myself utter the words “the poems flow from the hand unbidden,” a line from the Derek Mahon poem, Everything is Going to be All Right.

Hearing myself speak these words made me smile. I happily recognized that the poem had sunk in, after many readings and “listenings,” most courtesy of David Whyte who references this work of Mahon’s in many of his talks.

I felt a strange sort of kinship with the author, his work helping me to connect with the feelings generated by my own work; a quiet mind and a more open heart.

Even more, I was confronted by my own commitment to welcome all that comes to me; to reconcile myself to his opening question: How should I not be glad?

Everything is Going to be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon, from Selected Poems


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.

Confirming Humanity

In further evidence of my idealism, or perhaps my (un)realism, I subscribed to another email newsletter, this one promising encouragement and inspiration for the transition from this year to next.

Once I hit ‘subscribe’ I was taken to the “Confirming Humanity” page, that now familiar landing-place where the computers filter out other computers in favor of humankind.

Having satisfied the computer’s request for said confirmation, I thought about every other real-life, in the moment opportunity I have to confirm my humanity. And I thought about how routine it is for the computers to ask that of me but how often I forget to ask that of myself.

It seems that the computer programmers built a function that obeys the basic laws software architecture: when this button is hit, this confirmation is requested.

It would be tempting to observe, given my occasional faulty outputs, that my programmer wasn’t nearly as reliable. Of course, that’s not the case. I have been programmed for “FULL HUMAN CONSIDERATION,” also known as “LOVE.” It’s just that my programmer included a ‘kill switch’ called selfishness, defensiveness and avoidance of potential future pain.

It’s funny that this was included since it seems so blatantly oppositional to my primary programming mode of LOVING CONSIDERATION, aka CONFIRMATION OF HUMANITY. And then I remember, as I so often do, that once I’ve rebooted my system after another ‘kill switch’ moment, and the generosity of FULL HUMAN CONSIDERATION takes its place at the front-end of the algorithm, I feel better for having falling down and gotten back up again.

It seems that the programmers have given us forgiveness as well.


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.

Just Because

When the highlight of your family outing is a full-group admiration of the mesmerizing qualities of large floating bubbles; and when that admiration turns into a spontaneous chase to capture, propel and pop those bubbles, all the while encouraging their maker to make another good batch, you remember the genius of children who don’t think too hard about ‘why’ but revel instead in this moment, just because.

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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.

Try Again

“All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier. . . much heavier. With each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher. . . . Long ago, the defenses I built to withstand the stress of my childhood, to save what I had of myself, outlived their usefulness, and I’ve become an abuser of their once lifesaving powers. I relied on them wrongly to isolate myself, seal my alienation, cut me off from life, control others, and contain my emotions to a damaging degree. Now the bill collector is knocking, and his payment’ll be in tears.”

~ Bruce Springsteen. (Esquire, November 27, 2018)


The Boss writes of his inner work like he writes his music: “Now the bill collector is knocking, and his payment we’ll be in tears.” Are you kidding me? If that’s not a song, I don’t know what is.

I started negotiating with my bill collector at 35 years old. He had extended me all the credit I was going to get and it was time to reconcile…with interest.

Considering the freedom paying that debt has brought to my life – freedom, connection, openness – I only wish I had started sooner. And I know, cutting myself some much-needed slack, that I started when I was ready.

“Started” is an important term because it brings with it the implication of an ending. And with this work, there is no ending. There is only the opportunity to get honest about it, make friends with it, and in that friendship find a way to recognize those moments when the impulse to regress is so strong that you want nothing more than to say, “Yes, the old ways are easier and much more satisfying. I will revel in being wounded, resentful, fearful and isolated, wrapping myself in the comfort of that old tattered blanket.”

And then you remember that giving in to that impulse requires the endurance of a hangover so miserable that you feel as if you will never face the light of day again. So, you decline that option and decide instead to live a healed, generous, courageous and connected life.

You decide to try again.


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.

 

This is a Season

This is a season, not a permanent condition.

Just because the sewage pipe split due to 25 years of attack from palm tree roots and allowed waste to flow backwards into our downstairs bathtub last spring;

And just because both the heater and air conditioning had to be replaced this summer;

And just because our dishwasher leaked A LOT and caused so much damage that half of our kitchen was “demoed” today, down to the studs;

None of it means that 2019 will be another year of domestic catastrophe. Sometimes, quite literally, shit happens.

This is just a season and it’s a season in which we have learned the true cost of being rich. Not wealthy but rich, in the sense of having far more than we need, the luxury of complaining about inconveniences and the ability to pay for them and get on with our lives. That kind of rich.

As simpler and wiser cultures know far better than ours, the more attached we are to conveniences, the less convenient life can sometimes be.

Here’s to a season of simplicity, perspective and appreciation. Here’s to a season of falling in love again with what matters most.


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.

Life Lesson #19

Never doubt that the amount of random, difficult and unexpected stuff that enters your life is directly proportional to your ability to deal with it.

The more you grow, the more you can handle.

Keep growing.

More is always coming.


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.

On Solid Ground

My friend and thought partner, Molly Davis, published a great piece on Monday in which she talks about the earth beneath our feet as the best source material we could ask for to live lives of hopeful expectation. She writes:

“That sense of the solid ground upon which to stand is the place from which we can dare to hope. And we can dare to hope because it isn’t our feet firmly planted that hold us up, but the holy ground upon which we stand.”

The imagery conjured up by her writing took me back to a talk I gave a couple of weeks ago. I was invited to keynote a gathering of undergraduate students who were assembled for an academic competition and convocation.

During the Q&A that followed I was asked about my preparation for a talk like the one I had just given. These students were going to stand in front of a room of judges the following day to deliver their prepared findings so effective presentation-making was very much on their minds.

I suggested to them that once the rituals of preparation and planning are complete; once you have done your research and your homework, collaborated with your partners on a design and gone through as many rehearsals and critiques as you can stand, that once all of that is done the final and most important thing you can do is to get out of your head and back into your body.

To have cognitive awareness of what you will present is the starting point, but to have somatic awareness is the place from which you can truly deliver the goods. Until you feel it in your body, what you present will just be a collection of words coming from your head.

I suggested a few things to help them get into this more robust kind of physical presence. First, that it is important ahead of time to spend some time in the space where you will be speaking. I told them that the reason I was already in the room when they arrived was because I was getting a feel for the space. It was not a room largely different from those I have presented in before but I had not presented in that particular room and wanted to build up my awareness of what it felt like. (Incidentally, I noticed a strong and very pleasing floral aroma in the room, as if the janitorial staff had used the greatest cleaning products ever made! This contributed to my sense of positive affect and energy. It was a perfect support system for my physical awareness.) 

Second, I suggested that it is important to just feel your feet on the floor, on the ground, on the earth. This kind of intentional inhabiting of space creates in me a grounded and humble confidence. It reminds me that “I am right here.” It reminds me that “I am supposed to be right here, right now with these two feet on this ground in this room.” It reminds me that “There are no mistakes or coincidences but only the truth that I am here and ready to share readily and generously with those kind enough to listen.”

Third, I suggested that it is important to feel your body. Amy Cuddy advocates for the “power stance,” hands boldly on the hips or raised high in victory formation. Others recommend scrunching the shoulders up to the ears and holding them there before a big, vigorous release and shake down of your entire bodily form. All of this physical effort is designed to join your head to your body, your head to your heart, more importantly. It’s a physical way to trick yourself into a “ready” position, a place the rest of us will experience as presence.

Finally, to bring it all the way back round to Molly’s contribution today, this work of physical readiness for real presence is the only stance from which it is possible to be the ideas, the possibilities, the hopefulness you are trying to convey. You want us to believe you, to believe in you. We want to believe you, to believe in you. You’ll get us part way there with your thoughtful preparation and articulate delivery. You’ll bring us all the way home when you convey the power that can only be made real when you start with two feet on solid ground.


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.

Your Blank Canvas

IMG_4307You can write any story you want to today. You can write it on this sprawling empty canvas and watch as it fills with the wind that carries you into your new reality.

As long as you continue the narrative the sail remains full, stretching outward and upward against a perfect sky, your boat true to that heading.

Whatever story you write, the sail will fill and pull the boat of your experience in the direction you choose.

You can write any story you want to today.

What will you write?


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.

Ready the Way

Shovel in the dirt the day after a storm.
Saturated clay soil shot through with palm roots; not easy going.
Finally, just enough amended space to receive five gallon trees and shrubs.
I spread the mulch, kneeling down to smooth it around the thin trunks,
damp and dirty jeans seasoned by direct contact.
An act of prayer as rain clouds recede.
A season of waiting begins today.


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.

The Getaway Car

I meet my friend Jeff Gibbons once a month for breakfast. Today’s encounter got off to a funny start.

As I turned left on the street of our regular spot, I noticed plenty of parking on both the left and right sides of the street. Knowing that I would be headed back the way I came, I passed up the spots on the right, flipped a u-turn and took one of the spots on the other side of the street, making sure I was headed in the direction I would be going next.

Since I was early, I sat in the car for a few minutes to finish up a radio interview. And then in my side view mirror I noticed Jeff’s car approaching on the same side of the street I was on. I assumed he would pull in to the open spot behind me.

And just as I was sure he was about to do so, he flipped a u-turn and took a spot on the other side of the street, headed back from where he had come. Like me, he had planned his exit strategy.

I emerged from my car laughing, approaching Jeff and saying, “Apparently there’s a masculine need to make sure we have a getaway!” and explained to him that I had done the same thing just 10 minutes earlier.

We shared a knowing laugh and then proceeded to talk it over. I am grateful to say that when Jeff and I meet we don’t spend a lot of time on the surface. We get into stuff that we don’t talk about in many, if any, other places. It is an open, honest, thoughtful and candid discussion of manhood, fatherhood, marriage, faith, politics and anything else we might throw in.

We talked about the fact that men are always looking for a way out, regardless of the threat level. We have inherited the bias for action and reaction and, as such, equip ourselves for a ready response. This is painting with a broad brush, I know, but seeing the two of us act this way in quick succession made me think that it might not just be me, or Jeff, but that maybe lots of us operate in this mode.

We men need other men in our lives. The science backs up the health benefits of long-term male friendship and it doesn’t hurt to have the occasional reminder that we’re not the only one dealing with, working on, trying to get better at…whatever it is.

I appreciate male friendships that provide the space for intimate and vulnerable conversations. I also recognize that it can be tough for us to stay in those conversations for too long. We dive below the surface for a little while and then bob back up to the surface for some fresh air and a check of the weather, often literally. We use that moment to pinpoint the location of our car, confirming that it it’s still pointed in the right direction.

Just in case.


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.