What to Say

The next time you are asked to give career advice to a young professional, please just provide them with this quote by the late, great James Michener:

“We all worry about wasting time, about the years sliding past, about what we intend to do with our lives. We shouldn’t, for there is a divine irrelevance in the universe that defies calculation. Many men and women win through to a sense of greatness in their lives only by first stumbling and fumbling their way into patterns that gratify them and allow them to utilize their endowments to the maximum.”

Come to think of it, you might just consider making up some cards so you always have one handy to give away.

Come to think of it, you might read the quote again and realize that it’s even more appropriate for you – that refreshingly pesky divine irrelevance phrase – than for anyone you might share it with.

Perspective is a priceless thing. As is curiosity and experimentation and the relief that comes when we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else and choose to follow our own path.


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Poem for a Sunday Morning

The Panther
{Rainer Maria Rilke}

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else.
It seems to him there are a thousand bars;
and behind the bars, no world.
As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.
Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly — .
An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

{translation by Stephen Mitchell}


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Culture

Culture is not mission, vision, values. It is not architecture, design, product or snacks. It is also not the lighting, furniture, games, attire, or flextime.

Mistaking any of these things for culture is to confuse the map with the territory.

Culture is how you and your colleagues come together to solve problems under the pressure and stress of change.

If any of the items above help you to do that well, use them. If they don’t, let them go as fast as you can.


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No Qualifiers

How about this?

How about you stop explaining what you are about to ask or say or state?

How about you just go ahead and say it?

I’m projecting that onto you because it’s a huge development opportunity for me.

And I’m already getting better.

Because I decided to. And because I have a good friend helping me.

Be direct. Be clear. And don’t go it alone.


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Not the Same

Today did not go how I thought it would.

When I went to bed last night, I had a clear idea of how the day would unfold. It did not go that way.

When I woke up at 3am I tossed and turned about how today would go. It did not go that way.

On my walk this morning I knew just how the rest of the day would go. It did not go that way.

It never does.

Professional people understand this and accept it.

They understand that no plan, however well-imagined or articulated, survives contact with reality.

Plans are a useful, if temporary reservoir for our anxiety about the unknown. Reality is the landscape on which we learn and grow.


 

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A Drop in the Ocean

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa


Our workplaces are communities. Each day people come to them, bringing all of their experiences, feelings, joys and losses. They come to them because they must, of course. They come to them to fulfill responsibilities, obligations, to earn a living.

They also come, over and over again they come, to be a part of something larger than themselves. They come to belong to a community of people who work to bring about something worth making or doing or providing.

They come for the celebration of shared accomplishment and for the consolation needed when life turns to disappointment or tragedy. Our workplaces, where so much time and energy is spent; where people are in an eternal conversation about the competing demands of full and challenging lives, are the places where we are first to know, first to learn and first to experience so much of what life has to offer.

There is so much we can do for one another in our workplaces. There is so much we can provide with a simple “hello,” with a sincere “how are you?” and the thoughtful listening that must follow.

Today, let’s remember that the people in our daily lives are hurting too.

We need one another. We need one another more than any of us cares to admit. Our workplaces are a conduit for those needs, a channel through which they flow, seeking to be met on the other end with graciousness, patience and love.

Let’s do that. Let’s greet one another in the spirit of graciousness, patience and love.


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Simultaneously Whole

“Nothing in the cosmos operates independently. We are all holons, which are simultaneously whole in themselves, and at the same time part of a larger whole.”

– Ilia Delio, Center for Action and Contemplation, 2014


I was just wondering how it might shift someone’s perspective about another person if his or her starting assumption is that that person is whole.

What would it do for a team if the leader’s starting assumption about that team is that it is made up of whole people who come together to form a larger whole?

What would it do for an organization, regardless of how large, if its value system centered on the inherent wholeness of each individual as central to the wholeness of the enterprise?

This is not whole as “complete” or “finished.” This is whole as in an independent entity that is connected to and integrated with every other independent entity.

I think there would be more respect and more reliance. I think there would be more generosity and more reciprocity.

I think it would both scare us and thrill us to learn how much is possible when we embrace the depth of our connection.


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Poem for a Sunday Morning

Shipwreck
{Kay Ryan}

I was shipwrecked beneath a stormless sky 
in a sea shallow enough to stand up in.

Fernando Pessoa

They’re laughable 
when we get there—
the ultimate articulations 
of despair: trapped 
in a tub filling with 
our own tears; strapped
to a breadstick mast
a mouse could chew 
down; hopping around 
the house in paper shackles
wrist and ankle. It’s
always stagey. Being
lost is just one’s fancy—
some cloth, some paste—
the essence of flimsy. 
Therefore we 
double don’t know 
why we don’t take off
the Crusoe rags, step
off the island, bow 
from the waist, accept 
your kudos.


ship wreckage

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Unique Human Needs: Contribution

I am energized to spend this week reflecting on Tony Robbins’ list of unique human needs. Here’s the list in its entirety followed by a brief reflection on the quality of “Contribution.”

Unique Human Needs

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others


Part 6: Contribution

One of my clearest childhood memories is of riding along with my mom as she delivered food to the elderly and shut-ins in San Francisco as part of her volunteer commitment to Meals-On-Wheels. I remember that one of our stops was adjacent to a market from which I always got a few cellophane-wrapped sesame candies. I remember the smell of the food as not exactly enticing but certainly distinctive. I remember feeling purposeful, that we were doing something important.

Thirty years later I was looking for a way to engage my 6-year-old son and our family in some community service and I came across a Meals-On-Wheels flyer at our church. Those memories of Saturday mornings along 19th Avenue in San Francisco came rushing back and I saw the gift of being able to establish that same tradition with my own child.

I’m proud of the fact that we’re still making those deliveries thirteen years later. Duncan is off to college now and his sisters have since taken his place as co-pilot and navigator. It’s a Berry Family “thing,” a small but important piece of fabric that binds us to one another and to our community.


Tony Robbins classifies the core human needs of growth and contribution as the “needs of the spirit.” What I can’t stop thinking about regarding this final installment on contribution is that it carries within it the possibility of satisfying all of the other needs as well.

To make a contribution is to experience the pleasure of helping others avoid pain, or at least to alleviate it just a little bit.

It is also the manner by which we can immerse ourselves in new circumstances and conditions in order to satisfy our need for uncertainty.

Giving back is clearly a way to feel special and needed, and what better way to achieve that than in service of others?

It is also a means for us to satisfy our need for connection and to express love. To make even a small sacrifice so that another person’s life might be better is a pretty good definition of the everyday goodness of love when you think about it.

In addition to satisfying these core needs there are some other very real rewards of giving back. Among them are happiness, good health, cooperation and gratitude.

It may feel out of place to think of making a contribution as personally rewarding, that we should only give from a place of self-sacrificial concern. But that intention is so idealistic that it becomes restrictive.

What if we could just agree that making a contribution, giving of ourselves freely and generously is the most potent and compelling way to satisfy the needs that we all share?


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