Freedom to Choose

Freedom

– William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems

I have to choose my freedom. It is not given to me by role or position. It is not taken from me by oppression or circumstance. My freedom is exercised in the present moment when I choose how to respond to what’s happening rather than to let’s what’s happening make the choice for me.

I am reminded of a quote of unknown origin: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

I imagine what would be different if I learned to take the pause in that space…to consider the options before me and to then make the most positive, constructive choice possible. I imagine that because so many days…so many times per day…I cannot see the space and so I cannot make the choice. I just react.

I am called – as all leaders, all parents, all spouses, all colleagues – are called, to dedicate and rededicate myself to personal responsibility; the responsibility to remember that my freedom is a choice.


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 Living System is a Learning System

“In biology, living and learning are synonyms, indistinguishable processes that keep life growing and moving forward. A living system is a learning system.”

 – Margaret Wheatley, “Who Do We Choose to Be?”

Living and learning are synonymous. What is so powerful, so remarkable about this statement is its utter obviousness. Of course they are synonymous! You can’t live if you can’t learn. You can’t grow, you can’t fulfill, you can’t become, you can’t materialize, you can’t evolve. You can’t be.

What is so challenging, so frustrating about this statement is that we need to be reminded that it’s true. Not at the biological level, of course, but at the rational, executive-mindset level of being. We get stuck, entranced, entrenched, enchanted, enamored, beguiled, bewitched, completely consumed by what we’ve done before. And so we do it again. Even though it doesn’t work. Even though we know better. Learning something new simply overwhelms our distracted, safety seeking selves.

I am having a very hard time preparing to teach a new course this semester. I am not seeing how the pieces fit together. I am not comforted by an organizing principle. I only see fragments, ideas and concepts floating around my head. I want it to feel – to be – a replica of what I already know how to do but it can’t be that because I’ve never done it before! What’s required then, is the slow and steady discomfiting discipline of learning.

I could say, “How frustrating!”

Or, in the words of Ben Zander I could say, “How fascinating!”

“When thinking falters, a living system is at risk. If it continues unchecked, the organism dies. Think about it. Now you know what to do.”

 – Margaret Wheatley, “Who Do We Choose to Be?”


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.

To be powerful

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

– Audre Lorde

There is liberation in this quote: you don’t have to conquer your fear, you just have to make it less important.

How? By using your strength in service of your vision.

So then, if you want to quiet the voice of your fear, two other voices must be amplified.

The voice of your vision. Where are you going? Why are you going there? What is it that is yours to do?

The voice of your strength. How do you demonstrate your best self? What do you do that brings you fully alive?

Speak your vision. Speak your strength. Let your fear become a fading whisper.


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.

What do you recycle?

We recycle cans, glass, paper and plastic because they can be put back into circulation, made useful again.

We recycle resentment, fear and control for much the same reason.

And the same is true for kindness, respect and generosity.

It seems that what we use most always has more to give us.


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.

Can it wait?

If you send an email to a team member this weekend – someone who works for you, reports directly to you – what do you expect them to do?

A} respond and take action immediately

B} respond and delay action until Monday

C} don’t respond, just read it and be aware

D} don’t read or respond…until Monday

Most leaders I talk to say that they send emails on the weekend to simply clear their mind of pressing things. The email serves as a handoff that the team member will receive on Monday morning.

Most leader I talk to do not intend for their team members to read, respond and act on the substance of the email during the weekend. And yet most employees I talk to feel obligated to do exactly that.

Leaders, if you are a weekend emailer – or a late night one, for that matter – will you please make it clear to your team if you expect A, B, C or D above?

Also, before you hit send, pause for a moment and ask, “Can it wait?”

They deserve a weekend. And you do, too.


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.

Today, at work

Today, at work you can spend as much creativity, energy and initiative as you want.

And if there is anything getting in your way of spending every last penny, today is a very good day to sort out why that is.

My guess is that one of two things is true:

1. Your boss has failed to create an environment worthy of your considerable investment.

2. You are playing it safe.

My life’s work is to make a small dent in #1.

Your life’s work is to make a big dent in #2.


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.

Go Do It

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

—Dr. Howard Thurman (1899-1981), theologian and civil rights leader

We are living at such an extraordinary time when it comes to career options and opportunities. It’s a time when the cliché, “You can be anything you want to be” is truer than it has ever been.

Long gone are the days of slotting into a certain professional track or working your way up in a business to enjoy a lifetime of employment. Long, long gone.

In my capacity as a college professor I have the opportunity to formally and informally advise students about their career paths. Inevitably, even those with a pretty good handle on the degree they want to earn are beset by the question of what they want to do with it, what they want to be. And it is, of course, a vital question to answer well. But it is not the most important question.

For years now I have published the same post on Labor Day in which I talk about my personal journey of vocation seeking and finding. It took me a good long time to realize that I was asking the wrong question about how to discover and participate in my life’s work. Those were days made harrowing by feelings of inadequacy and a deep fear of wasted potential…unfulfilled expectations. I bounced around to roles and organizations that sounded good, sounded like me but that weren’t at all for me. I did this enough that I finally sunk into what today would be called a “quarter life crisis.”

I spent an awful lot of energy on “poor me” because I was stuck on that wrong question of “what.” I needed a concrete, black and white answer so badly that the harder I tried to figure it out the more elusive it became.

And when I finally stumbled out of another failed opportunity and sent my plea for meaningful employment into the freshly minted ether of cyberspace, a single response about an unthought of opportunity helped me begin to shift the question.

That most important question, that right question is not “What do you want to be?” but rather “Who do you want to be?”

When I started to ask “who” I was reminded of the best of myself. I was reminded of the times, places, roles and experiences when I felt most alive. And the sensation I felt was not the satisfaction of having an answer, but the appreciation of finally having discovered my compass and my map.

{An enormously grateful hat tip to Cathy Earley for helping me connect the dots.}


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.

It’s Not Working

“When a paradigm no longer provides reliable guidance for how to live in the world, the most common response is to grab hold of it more firmly. As it dawns on us that we don’t know how things work – that it’s not working – we become more insistent that it has to work just as we thought.”

Margaret WheatleyWho Do We Choose to Be?

It can be difficult to assess what I need to let go of. It’s tough to be objective when approaches, practices, behaviors and relationships that have worked so well for so long are past their expiration date. Few of us find this easy.

So I’m working to develop another point of reference, a way to guide me – gently and directly – to the knowledge that it is time to let go.

That point of reference is the amount of pressure I apply to make something continue as before even though it is time for it to become something else or to end altogether.

An example: my son is leaving for college next month. I’ve seen this coming for 18 years but of course that’s only cognitive awareness. My emotional awareness kicked in somewhere around February and I began exhibiting a grab-bag of behaviors that could generally be described as “emotionally charged.” I was holding on more firmly – fighting with reality – to ward off the certainty of what was to come.

Another: a client relationship was at an end. From a small, insecure place I didn’t think it had to be, that there was more to be done. So I offered up a suggestion that I didn’t believe in, that I didn’t have any interest in. Mercifully, it fell on deaf ears.

Everything ends. A good definition of wisdom is not only acknowledging that truth but accepting it as well.

“Lightly child, lightly” said Aldous Huxley. We are well advised.


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.

Forgiveness

You can’t do it. It’s impossible. Enough already. Please. Just. Stop.

You cannot be perfect.

You cannot be a perfect mother or father, son or daughter, girlfriend or boyfriend, boss or employee, colleague or collaborator, friend or teacher or innovator or anything…you just can’t.

So, please stop expecting that of yourself. And stop expecting it from others.

Your life, your work will be so much richer, so much more fulfilling, so much more productive, so, so much happier if you focus instead on forgiveness.

{Hat tip to Alain de Botton and Krista Tippett for this conversation}


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.

“I’m feeding the fish.”

You may have heard about the letter Mr. Rogers received from a young blind viewer expressing concern about his fish. Since she couldn’t see him feeding the fish she worried that they might be hungry. From that point forward Mr. Rogers made the effort to say out loud, “I’m feeding the fish.”

Every day in your organization your employees have questions and concerns about what’s going on, why it’s going on and where you/they will go from here.

And you know that they have these questions but you say to yourself “I’ve already told them SO MANY times!” and you feel frustrated and slightly insane. This is also known as being human.

I am not suggesting that you attempt to become “Super Human.” What I am suggesting is that there is a single, completely underrated and undervalued leadership behavior that can make or break your organization: redundancy.

You’ve said it and so you think they’ve heard it but they have not. And if there’s any component of that information that contains a threat, a risk or some other uncertainty, they absolutely haven’t fully heard you because they are also busily being human beings and are concerned about their personal and family welfare.  It’s just what we do.

Mr. Rogers thoughtful response to his blind viewer was an act of compassionate consideration born of his inherent wisdom that people – children and adults – do not attend to the present, do not attend to learning, if they are fearful or concerned.

Leadership then, is so much about responsiveness, as best you are able, and redundancy, as often as you can.

As often as you can…as often as you can…as often as you can.


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.