Stone | Water | Throw

It’s easy to obsess about the impact of our efforts. It’s easy to wonder if it matters. It’s easy to get stuck in the cul-de-sac of frustrated idealism.

That extra effort, that thoughtful gesture, that unplanned conversation, that slice of empathy, that pause to bite your tongue, that project you worked so hard on?

Did anyone notice? Does anyone care?

(Note to self: Stop)

You don’t control the ripples. The ripples are none of your business.

The stone is your business. Your job is to throw it.

After that? Pick up another one.

Stone, water, throw.


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.

Burn the Boats!

It is said that Cortez ordered his men to burn their boats so that they had no choice but to conquer or die.

This is not true. He ordered that the ships be sunk, not burned, to prevent a second mutiny of soldiers who were still loyal to their Cuban home (and conceivably wanted to return there).

Isn’t it fascinating how a major historical event has been romanticized and mythologized to the point that to “burn the boats” represents the ultimate metaphor for negative motivation to change?

And it’s a seductive one, too. “Burn the boats!” is so much easier than providing substantive, thoughtful, clear and consistent explanations for the necessity of change.

Maybe when you’re leading the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, or parenting unruly children, negative reinforcement is the best way to go. Maybe.

I am comfortable asserting that professional adults who come to work each day hoping to engage their hard-won skills in support of something worthwhile deserve better than “burn the boats.”

Don’t you think?


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.

Equipped for Contact

Internal development – the decisions and actions you can freely take to dismantle the dictates of your past experiences – will always precede external awareness.

Your capacity to gracefully and constructively accept and engage with the external changes that come into your life is positively correlated to the degree to which you’ve done your internal work.

This is crucial to understand because every day you do not act upon this knowledge is another day you employ an operating model that was once relevant but is now obsolete.

Think of it this way: people were driving and crashing their cars for a long time before seat belts, safety glass and air bags showed up. Those inventions don’t prevent the crashes, they limit the human damage. What was once a sure fatality is now a few bruises and an insurance hassle.

Your internal work will equip you, just like those safety features, to make contact with change without it turning into a wreck. If it’s good enough for your car, surely it’s good enough for you.


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.

An Inside Job

I applaud every single person who says they want to get better at dealing with change.

I respect their acknowledgement that doing so will make a big, positive difference, not only to their peace of mind but in their ability to move through the world with greater ease, composure and confidence.

To those stout-hearted souls I offer this recommendation (if I am briefly allowed the presumption of having something of value to offer on the subject):

First, start within.

Begin with the assumption that your resistance or difficulty with change is a byproduct of your personal, necessary adaptations to life.

And then question those adaptations with vigorous curiosity;

“Is it still necessary for me to control every situation or is that a leftover from feeling out of control for so long?”

“Is it still necessary for me to dominate every conversation or is that a leftover from my not being heard?”

“Is it still necessary for me to shrink into the corner at the first sign of conflict or is that a leftover from being exposed to too much conflict?”

Your history is your history and it has deep, inherent value. Until it is reconciled in terms of who you are now and where you intend to go next, however, it will always remain an anchor on your forward progress.

Yes, yes, yes…devote yourself to greater capacity for both the quality and quantity of the changes you will face. And, please do not lose sight of the basic truth that there is no skill you can learn, seminar you can attend or guru you can follow who can capably replace your honest declaration of what you alone must first address.

It is always an inside job.


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.

 

 

What do you mean, it’s over?

Didn’t we just get here?

Well, yes, but there’s been a lot going on.

It just seems too soon.

Yeah, to me too. But this is it.

I gotta tell you, I just don’t feel ready for what’s next.

I know, it’s hard to feel ready when things are moving so fast.

I really mean it, I’m not ready.

I understand. It’s hard to go from knowing to doing, but this really is the time and we’ve got to go.

I wish I felt better, like I knew what was going to happen.

Someone once told me, “If you’re ready, you’ve waited too long.” I didn’t like it when I heard it but I realized that the thing that keeps me from acting isn’t my lack of ability but my negative opinion about my ability. Anyway, the clock is ticking…

Ok, then…how do I start?

Oh, that’s the best part: you say “thank you” to what’s been and “yes” to what’s to come.

I can do that.

I know you can.

Thank you.

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.

 

Movement is Life

Every time I see the movie, World War Z, I am struck by the scene in which Brad Pitt’s character implores a small family to join his own in escaping the zombies. “Movement is life,” he says, pleading with them to go. He leads his own family away and they survive. The other family stays and dies. 

World War Z was on again tonight and I thought, I should write about that line, “movement is life” and then remembered that I already had, last June. I also thought it was timely that just yesterday I wrote about how “winter” can lull us into stagnancy, getting stuck rather than getting ready. Here’s what I wrote in June. Please take heed: the zombies are closer than you think!


You’re not stuck. You’re just not moving. It’s a choice.

We know that physical movement is essential for a healthy life. And the evidence is mounting that short bursts of activity are just as valuable, sometimes even more so, than long workouts.

The same goes for your project, book, program, idea, concept or initiative.

Its viability over time is wholly dependent on you breathing life into some piece of it, some small piece.

You will never create a facsimile of what’s in your imagination. It just doesn’t work that way. But what it does become may just delight and inspire you in ways you can not predict. The sooner you get moving, the sooner you’ll find out.


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

Right now, under your feet

Under the winter sun, beneath the cold, hardened ground, spring is already hard at work, getting ready, ready, ready to grow.

It is our responsibility to stay present to the lessons and possibilities of the current season while also preparing for the one that is to come.

“Winter” officially began just one week ago and reminds us to come back to ourselves, to conserve, to evaluate. It is an active rest, not a stagnant one.

The roots of the trees are busily storing water and nutrients for what’s to come. If not, there is no spring.


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.

My attempt to interpret this poem

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

By William Stafford

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

We have to get our act together on this self-knowledge thing or else we’re going to get lost chasing someone else’s ideas about who and what we are.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

All that old stuff we haven’t dealt with, all those old ways we are used to being, aren’t much good for us anymore.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

We can keep going in the circles of our ignorance or we can finally break the cycle and be brave enough, kind enough to name what is true.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

Even though I don’t and can’t fully understand it I am asking for help to be real, to be open, so that I have the best chance of being found, of being seen, as I am.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

I desperately want to shut down, to go away, to go to sleep…but I know that if I help you and you help me we can stay awake right until dawn, and maybe even a little after, and that by doing so we can avoid the easy deceptions, the counterfeit connections that keep us from being who we really are, alone and together.


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.

Again, and again, and again

It is not because you do not know the truth that I write to you, but because you know it already.
– 1 John 2:21

People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.
– 
Samuel Johnson


I am not writing this piece for you, I am writing it for me.

I am not trying – though it often sounds that way, I’m sure – to convince you of anything, to make you change anything, to swing your vote to my side.

It is through writing that I remember what I care about, why I care about it and what I need to do every day to live out those beliefs.

I care about self-knowledge and personal accountability for acting on that self-knowledge as consistently as possible.

I care about building relationships that are based on love more than fear, respect more than intimidation, and open-hearted vulnerability.

I care about learning, the relentless exploration of the frontiers to which each of us is called.

Every time I write I am inviting myself back to those three themes, checking on my integrity, exploring my commitment. Every day I bake a new cake of those beliefs, combining the ingredients once more to find out if I have them in the right proportion, to see again if I am living out what I so easily espouse.

If what I put down moves or shifts your point of view in any way, that’s the frosting, but I am not concerned with that.

I am concerned with the cake. If it’s not right, nothing else matters.


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.