Why Stories Matter

“In the particular is contained the universal.”
{James Joyce}


We tell stories to create connection. We create connection because it builds trust. We build trust so that we can rely on one another. We rely on one another because we don’t – even on our most selfish, ego-bound days – want to go it alone.

Most of all, we tell stories because they remind us that our humanity is not only shared, but bound up together, inextricably linked for all time.


silhouette of person holding glass mason jar

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Change

Change

change
change
C
hange(!)
CHANGE
CHANGE?
change!!!
egnahc
ChAnGe
cHaNgE
change
changE
!!!CHanGE???

It takes as many forms as we can imagine but what is consistent about them all is that they don’t stop coming.

It’s never “if,” it’s only “when.” This means that any effort to be ready, to be well-equipped to stand tall when others are blown sideways, will pay off handsomely.

You have either reached the fourth stage of enlightenment, have become a Jedi Master or you are like the rest of us, with plenty of opportunity to learn how to work with the reality of change.


red and green tree leaves on a sunny day

Photo by le vy on Pexels.com

 

Frustrated Idealism

“There are teachers, social workers and clergy who work incredibly hard until they are 80 years old and never suffer ‘burnout’ because they have an accurate view of human nature, of our potential and limitations. They don’t over-romanticize people, so they don’t feel the great psychological stress when people let them down.”

{Peter Senge quoting Bill O’Brien in The Fifth Discipline}


It is said that if you scratch the surface of most cynics you will find a frustrated idealist.

I am re-reading The Fifth Discipline right now both for an independent study project I am supervising and as a refresher in preparation for a new project kicking off this fall. When I read the quote above I find myself both encouraged and humbled. That is to say, my “frustrated idealism” has come a long way and still has a long way to go.

I so appreciate O’Brien’s and Senge’s matter-of-fact commentary about this. “Yes, people will inspire you beyond your imagination,” they seem to say, “and they will also leave you banging your head against the wall and tempted to give up.”

The great gift – and this can only come to us through a deep dive into our own development – is to find the space where we maintain a positive, even soaring commitment to what is humanly possible while also steadying ourselves for the reality that elevating to those heights regularly results in some tough and painful landings.

We best support others and we best support ourselves by remembering Wilferd Peterson’s admonition to:

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…”


boy child clouds kid

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Boring, Predictable Humans

One of the most glaring mistakes of modern corporate leadership is the use of metrics to motivate performance.

“Our vision for the coming year? To make a gajillion dollars!!”

No.

Do everyone a favor. Tell a story instead.

Of course, we all want the gajillion dollars (and for it to be equitably and appropriately shared) and all of the opportunity it creates, but that will never replace the boring, predictable and completely fundamental human need to be a part of something larger than ourselves; to be part of a story that is worth the telling.

Leaders, be boring. Learn to tell a story.


photo of a boy reading book

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Poem for a Sunday Morning

This week’s poem is the song Most of All by Brandi CarlileI hadn’t heard of her until a friend showed me her epic performance of The Joke at this year’s Grammy Awards. I finally bought her most recent album – one that she describes as being about “radical forgiveness…an ugly but ultimately rewarding act” – encouraged that it would contain other gems. It does, this one among them. Enjoy her beautiful writing, and take some time to listen, also. I think you’ll find it to be a powerful meditation on love, presence and, again, forgiveness.


Most of All
{Brandi Carlile}
I haven’t seen my father in some time
But his face is always staring back at me
His heavy hands hang at the ends of my arms
And my colors change like the sea
But I don’t worry much about time lost
I’m not gunning for the dreams I couldn’t find
‘Cause he taught me how to walk the best that I can
On the road I’ve left behind
But most of all
He taught me to forgive
How to keep a cool head
How to love the one you’re with
And when I’m far into the distance
And the pushing comes to shove
To remember what comes back
When you give away your love
Give away your love
When you give your love away
Give away your love
I haven’t heard my mother’s voice in a while
But her words are always falling out my mouth
My mind and spirit are at odds sometimes
And they fight like the north and the south
But I still care enough to bear the weight
Of the heaviness to which my heart is tethered
She taught me how to be strong and say goodbye
And that love is forever
But most of all
She taught me how to fight
How to move across the line
Between the wrong and the right
And when I’m turned out in the darkness
And the pushing comes to shove
To remember what comes back
When you give away your love
Give away your love
When you give your love away
Give away your love
Give your love away
Oh, give your love away
And remember what comes back to you
Give your love away
Oh, give your love away
And remember what comes back to you
I haven’t seen my father in some time
But his face is always staring back at me
His heavy hands swing at the ends of my arms
And my colors change like the sea

61st Annual GRAMMY Awards - Inside

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter

 

Quiet Power

When the power went off unexpectedly today, the washer and dryer stopped, the dishwasher cut short its cycle and the lights clicked off. The TV and its attachments were disabled, and there would be no charging of phones or computers for over four hours. Dinner plans were made, “Plan A” if the oven was functional, “Plan B” if not. And under no circumstances was the refrigerator or freezer to be opened.

It was a brief, not unpleasant, but wholly conspicuous reminder of our dependency on effective sources of power. When power is present and available to us, it is an invisible force that allows us to go about the day secure in our focus on matters of creativity and connection rather than on contingency plans for keeping food cold.

Human power, when capably and humbly applied is a source of reassurance and possibility. As you have no doubt experienced, when it is applied with arrogant insecurity, everything that worked seamlessly before comes to an abrupt and disruptive halt.


windmills on seashore under white clouds

Photo by Jem Sanchez on Pexels.com

 

The First Domino

download-1July 5, 1776 must have been an interesting day for the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Righteous cause or not, there had to be some intense ambivalence among that group about the repercussions of their act. To many, the justification of the airing of grievances and the proposal for independence that came with it must have been shadowed by the real possibility of imprisonment and death at the hands of the British.

That said, the domino was sent tumbling forward and all who pushed it had to wake the next day to face the consequences of what they had set in motion.

What makes the founders so admirable is that they acted on their convictions in the face of overwhelming odds. Would that you and I might act so boldly when filled with our own convictions, and in the face of consequences which seem revolutionary but are, in the clear light of day, more the artful imaginings of our fertile minds.

What is your first domino? Is it an idea for a process change that you fear might be rejected, leaving you embarrassed and on the outside of things? Is it an invitation for a first date that you fear might be rejected? Is it your intent to start a blog, the purpose of which you fear will be misunderstood if even read? Is it simply a necessary conversation, the repercussions of which will be profound and likely beyond your ability to control?

You have a basketful of “first dominoes” to set up and push forward should you choose to do so. Are you so certain that you cannot live with the consequences of those acts? Are you prepared to wake on July 6 wondering what might have been? Or would you rather rest tonight with the satisfaction of making a start while summoning the resolve to follow where it leads?


 

Freedom to Create, Freedom to Lead

Those who allow themselves to be challenged and changed will be the new creative leaders of the next period of history.
{Richard Rohr}


The disciplines of creativity and leadership require freedom from the limitations that stem from our undeveloped, unexamined selves.

You cannot be creative if you are continuously second-guessing yourself, consumed by concern about other’s opinions or stifled by perfectionism. It just doesn’t work that way. And the same goes for leadership.

To do either effectively demands agility, flexibility, exploration and the ego strength that only comes from robust self-awareness.

Creative leadership, then, exists when the leader engages the team in an open and ongoing conversation about what is working, what is not, where we are going and what we can do to get there.

Creative leadership, then, requires a dedicated effort to normalize change as the best friend of our future effectiveness.

When we celebrate our freedom, the independence gained from breaking old constraints, we are also called to celebrate the opportunity to be stewards of a new creation.


bird animal freedom fly

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Lazy Vines, Lousy Wine

It is the hardness of the struggle to adapt to change that brings out the best in us, not the predictably generous comforts of the known. Change and struggle lead to incredible things for those who are willing to dig deep and figure it out.

As I pondered this idea for a while today, looking for a “hook” to help make the point, I came  across the following passage from an online British wine journal:

“More modern methods of growing grapes…take advantage of the fact that making the vines struggle generally results in better quality grapes. It’s a bit like people. Place someone in a near-perfect environment, giving them every comfort and all that they could ever want to satisfy their physical needs, and it could have rather disastrous consequences for their personality and physique. If you take a grapevine and make its physical requirements for water and nutrients easily accessible, then (somewhat counterintuitively) it will give you poor grapes.

This is because the grapevine has a choice. Given a favourable environment and it will choose to take the vegetative route: that is, it will put its energies into making leaves and shoots. Effectively, it is saying, ‘This is a fine spot, I’m going to make myself at home here’. It won’t be too bothered about making grapes. But make things difficult for the vine, by restricting water supply, making nutrients scarce, pruning it hard and crowding it with close neighbours…it will sense that this is not the ideal place to be a grapevine. Instead of devoting itself to growing big and sprawling, it will focus its effort on reproducing itself sexually, which for a vine means making grapes.”

When you find yourself asking for comfort, for the chance to simply “vegetate,” remember that you asking to absent yourself from learning, growth and the chance to make your very best contribution.


Selection from Wine Anorak

green trees

Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on Pexels.com