That’s Not My Job

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Imagine that your job is to paint the stripes down the middle of the road. And not just any stripes, but the double yellow ones that create a powerful visual safety barrier on a well-traveled two-lane road.

Imagine that you’ve reached the line that demarcates city from county and you are told to stop painting the stripes because “That’s as far as we go.”

Imagine that you look up and see that you’ve only got another 150 yards to the bottom of the hill.

Imagine how it must feel to not finish a job that in just a few more minutes of thoughtful effort would be so easily completed.

Do you finish your workday with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? Do you go home and announce with pride, “I striped some of the road today! I made some of the road safer for the residents of that neighborhood!”

“What do you mean ‘some’?” comes the curious reply.

“Oh, well, we’re only responsible for striping the part of the road that is maintained by the county.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Then why do you do it?”

“Because the rest of the road is someone else’s responsibility.”

Look of disbelief.

Shrug of shoulders.

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When we allow the red-tape of bureaucracy – be it in our government institutions or our private enterprises – to replace common sense, we also replace the qualities of autonomy and agency that make work the most noble human enterprise.

To be told that “almost” is “good enough” is an insult to the human spirit.


 

The Story Continues

A week ago I had the privilege of introducing “Storytelling for Career Success” to a group of young professionals who were generous enough to say “yes” to an invitation to test drive my new workshop. By their energetic participation they taught me what worked, what needed help and, most importantly, that what I shared with them is both practical and valuable.

This past Saturday was Round 2 and again I was inspired by a group of open and dynamic participants, each one willing to step into the unknown and share their story. It was an outstanding day, one I am smarter and better equipped for having led.

What I know beyond a doubt is that when we connect through story we break into a new world of possibility. It’s a world where we become known for more than the 12 point font of a resume, where we live into David Whyte’s affirmation that, “we shape ourselves to fit this world and by the world are shaped again.” (Working Together)

One participant put it this way: “The highlight for me was figuring out how to tell an emotional, vibrant story with structure and organization. I was amazed to find that past experiences I never thought applicable in an interview can be used in an amazing, powerful way.” 

Another said this: “Before this experience, I was pretty confident in my story. What I realized throughout the experience is that I haven’t been telling it in the most effective, powerful way. This experience took my story from a little, shaky tale, to an intense, powerful testimony. Not only do I feel more confident about going into an interview, I feel more confident in myself.”

With humility and gratitude – and a powerful sense of purpose – I am committed to author, and be authored by, the unfolding of this new story.


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The Human Paradox

The need for certainty. When we meet this need too well, life becomes predictable, routine and stagnant. We end up sort of dying in place.

The need for variety. When we meet this need too well, life becomes chaotic, an endless chase for the next, the more interesting, the more stimulating. We end up sort of dying on the run.


It’s been a strange summer around our house. Since I set up my business and a home office 6 years ago, summers are always a bit strange – and stressful – for me. Mid-June arrives and the kid’s schedules make a hairpin turn into late nights, later mornings, and just a whole bunch of them being around…like all the time. This summer we have the addition of a college student returning to the nest for a few months. It’s an adjustment for all of us, needless to say.

On top of that, we had no plans for any kind of family trip this year, nothing that required reservations or flights or extended planning, anyway. And with some extended getaways on the calendar this fall an implicit agreement was made to stay put this summer.

But I don’t stay put very well. After a couple of months of the certainty of my daily routine being displaced by the variety of summer’s randomness, I heard myself saying that, “If we don’t plan a getaway, I’m going to take one of my own.” Not as a threat, simply as a statement of need. The familiar has become too familiar and, with the squeeze of three teenagers, the fine attributes of the “staycation” no longer seem so fine.

We’ll be making our way north soon, some expected spots on the itinerary and a few unexpected ones as well. Really, it’s the going that’s the thing. It’s the chance to experience the chance encounters that rarely come unless we set out to meet them. And it’s the knowing that, all being well, we will return to the certainty of a home ready to hold us as we settle in again, anticipating what comes next.


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Photo by Lukas Kloeppel on Pexels.com

Commencement

Here at the end of the school year I’ve been thinking about what I would say to a class of graduating seniors to mark their commencement. There’s nothing here that you don’t already know. The question is, for all of us, at what point does the reminding help us finally decide to take action. At what point do we say, yes, there is another way?


Social media is for sharing, not comparing. We are the most connected we’ve ever been and it’s an extraordinary thing. It’s also a trap that can put you into a “downward spiral” (see “The Art of Possibility”) really fast if you aren’t careful.

You are creative. Beautifully, richly creative. Saying you are not is a lie you tell to protect yourself from the fear of failure.

Everything you find lacking in someone else you find lacking in yourself. Be kind, starting with yourself.

Bullies and other junkie people are in pain which is why they take it out on you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. And, if you can, help them.

The kids who dress weird and are into art, music, tech and other creative pursuits will likely be your boss someday.

Learning is the only path through change. Change will never stop so learning can’t either. Once you finish all of the academic stuff, turn that attention on yourself. Be your own best subject.

There’s no such thing as “ready.” If you’re ever “ready” you’ve waited too long.

If the path ahead of you is clear, you are probably on someone else’s path. Yours is the tough one and even though you will be tempted many times to give it up for some “greener grass,” stay on it and make the most of it.

The vast majority of the world’s population is worse off than you in ways that are sometimes hard to believe. Astonishingly those same underprivileged, underfunded and under appreciated people tend to have a perspective on what matters most that too often eludes the rest of us.

The quality of your relationships determine the quality of your life. Be generous with those you care about. Love them well.

The world is not waiting to laugh at you when you mess up. Everyone else is too concerned about their own stuff. So, mess up often, learn from it and get better. Living intentionally is where the action is.

If it can’t be done playfully it’s not worth doing. Find what you can play at and just keep playing.

Finally, borrowing the simple wisdom printed on the side of a coffee cup:
There is no secret. Keep going.


 

Help is on the way

Not only is help on the way, but it’s also surrounding us all the time.

In my experience, to find out for sure, you just have to ask for it.

Years ago, I longed to attend a leadership conference but the tuition was far greater than I could afford. I asked the organizers for a reduced fee and they said, “yes.”

Recently, one of my students cold-called a contact on LinkedIn and asked for an informational interview. The response was, “Sure, how about right now?”

I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to line up a speaker for one of my classes. She referred me to a colleague who, on short notice, said “Yes!” right away.

Maybe these are exceptions, anomalies in a cynical and selfish world.

Maybe not.

I believe that they are accurate representations of the truth that most people, most of the time will be of help if they are able.

Our job is to ask for it. And our job, when we’re on the other side of the equation is to be the ones who say “yes!”


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.

Circular Logic

The more I learn about myself, the more empathy I have for others.

The more empathy I have for others, the stronger my relationships will be.

The stronger my relationships are, the more risks I am willing to take.

The more risks I am willing to take, the more I learn about myself.

The more I learn about myself, the more empathy I have for others.


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.

 

Someone Else Will

If you don’t give them a chance to show what they can do, someone else will.

If you don’t give them clear and comprehensive feedback about their performance, someone else will.

If you don’t paint a compelling picture of the future, someone else will.

If you don’t speak candidly about your own goals and challenges, someone else will.

If you don’t explain what you’re thinking and why, someone else will.

If you don’t share what you’re feeling and why, someone else will.

You don’t have have to do it “right,” you just have to do it.

Because in the age of connection and compassion, if you don’t, someone else will.


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.

Ordinary Time

I’ve always found these late January days to be tough on my energy and motivation. The holidays are a faint echo and the exuberance of the new year has given way to the disjointedness of human plans put in motion amidst a natural world that paces itself to a slower, hidden metronome.

I feel myself attracted to that more thoughtful tempo, one of deepening and reflecting, even as the human landscape teems with economic, strategic and achievement-focused energy.

I am contemplating how to be faithful to both the work I am committed and expected to deliver and the innermost signals I notice, the ones urging me to replace “just do it” with “just observe” and “just consider,” just a little longer.

Knowing that I cannot dictate the demands or the pace at which they come, I wonder how I might bring that internal desire to the foreground as I meet the expectations before me.

How might I honor both the appeal to act and the call to be still?

How do I hold this tension lightly enough that it will inform new awareness rather than strengthen my resistance?

What is trying to emerge in the space between action and reflection?


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.

 

 

Mature Idealism

The summer after my sophomore year of college I stayed on campus to work on the conferences and events team. We made beds, hauled supplies and were continuously “on call” for the many groups who used the university’s facilities between May and August.

One large group proved to be especially challenging for our team. Between their ever-increasing demands and our inability to meet them, frustration mounted quickly on both sides. As we approached the boiling point our boss called an emergency meeting to determine next steps. We were worn out, frustrated and short on ideas about how to meet this client’s demands.

The boss asked us for our ideas and I blurted out, “They just never should have come.”

I’ve seen some withering stares in my life but the one I received from my boss that day tops them all. Incredulous, he moved on to someone else, someone with something useful to say.

The danger of youthful idealism is that when things don’t work out as you believe they should, an immature response seems all there is to offer. It’s a place of victimization rather than agency, one of stagnation rather than creativity.

A mature idealism suggests that our highest aspirations are always tempered with the acceptance of reality, with respect for the vicissitudes of change. From that place we can responsibly say, “”We knew this was possible. It’s not what we wanted, but we knew it was possible. What’s the best we can do in this moment?”

That’s a position of possibility, an opening up to what the moment has to teach us and a chance to practice the resilience necessary to make the most of it.

As the saying goes, the only way to survive keeping your head in the clouds is to have your feet firmly planted on the 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.

 

 

Move toward aliveness

“…anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.”

– from “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte


Move toward aliveness, in all ways and at all times. It’s the only way to stay present, to stay vital, to stay engaged, to stay young…in mind, heart and body.

We are pulled, pulled, pulled to the middle…miles from the edge of our experience. The edge of our experience is where aliveness lives.

It waits for us like a loyal dog, wagging with exuberance when we come into view, jumping into our laps with only possibility on its mind. It begs us to step out, once again, into the field of play.

When we decline, it curls into a ball at our feet, resigned to our disinterest, ready for another try tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.

Move toward aliveness, in all ways and at all times.


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.