Try Again

“All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier. . . much heavier. With each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher. . . . Long ago, the defenses I built to withstand the stress of my childhood, to save what I had of myself, outlived their usefulness, and I’ve become an abuser of their once lifesaving powers. I relied on them wrongly to isolate myself, seal my alienation, cut me off from life, control others, and contain my emotions to a damaging degree. Now the bill collector is knocking, and his payment’ll be in tears.”

~ Bruce Springsteen. (Esquire, November 27, 2018)


The Boss writes of his inner work like he writes his music: “Now the bill collector is knocking, and his payment we’ll be in tears.” Are you kidding me? If that’s not a song, I don’t know what is.

I started negotiating with my bill collector at 35 years old. He had extended me all the credit I was going to get and it was time to reconcile…with interest.

Considering the freedom paying that debt has brought to my life – freedom, connection, openness – I only wish I had started sooner. And I know, cutting myself some much-needed slack, that I started when I was ready.

“Started” is an important term because it brings with it the implication of an ending. And with this work, there is no ending. There is only the opportunity to get honest about it, make friends with it, and in that friendship find a way to recognize those moments when the impulse to regress is so strong that you want nothing more than to say, “Yes, the old ways are easier and much more satisfying. I will revel in being wounded, resentful, fearful and isolated, wrapping myself in the comfort of that old tattered blanket.”

And then you remember that giving in to that impulse requires the endurance of a hangover so miserable that you feel as if you will never face the light of day again. So, you decline that option and decide instead to live a healed, generous, courageous and connected life.

You decide to try again.


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.

 

Life Lesson #19

Never doubt that the amount of random, difficult and unexpected stuff that enters your life is directly proportional to your ability to deal with it.

The more you grow, the more you can handle.

Keep growing.

More is always coming.


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.

Ready the Way

Shovel in the dirt the day after a storm.
Saturated clay soil shot through with palm roots; not easy going.
Finally, just enough amended space to receive five gallon trees and shrubs.
I spread the mulch, kneeling down to smooth it around the thin trunks,
damp and dirty jeans seasoned by direct contact.
An act of prayer as rain clouds recede.
A season of waiting begins today.


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.

Earning the Delight of Solitude

“Solitude is painful when one is young but delightful when one is more mature” — Albert Einstein


It feels good to have more in common with Dr. Einstein than I realized.

For years now I’ve been contemplating why it is that I am increasingly comfortable with and even possessive of my time alone.

For a long time, more or less between the ages of 18 and 35, I could fairly be described as an “insecure extrovert.” I didn’t want to be around other people, I needed it in an unhealthy way.

I didn’t know how to be alone and it made me restless, anxious and uncertain when I had to be. Since this was still the pre-Smartphone era I didn’t have an easy form of escapism to dull the pain. I just had to feel it. And I hated it.

Other people served as a distraction from the unresolved questions in my heart and mind and the difficult feelings that accompanied them. In many cases I used other people to escape those feelings leading to unhealthy and short-lived relationships. It was a pattern broken by marriage but not resolved by it. In fact, had I not sought help in reconciling my inner life I’m sure my marriage would have suffered great damage, becoming an even more painful casualty.

Doing the work on myself not only made me a better friend, colleague, husband and father but it gave me the peace of mind and heart to be better with and to myself. That made it easier to be with myself and allowed me to transform from an “insecure extrovert” to a thoughtful and even loving one.

This is possible now because the time I spend in solitude refreshes me and heals me. It equips me to be more positive with and more generous to those I care about, instead of requiring them to feed my insatiable insecurity.

Increased comfort with solitude as we age makes sense because our experience of life is simplified. We’ve found our place and way in the world and the comfort of that leads to a quiet sense of security within the known certainties of change.

In my personal experience that increased comfort is also the equity earned from an investment in reconciliation; binding old wounds and enlarging my heart.


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.

Redwood Homily

Modern pilgrims wander into an ancient cathedral.

They bear witness to the crescendo of a timeless symphony that began with a single note of fertile earth.

Modern faith fails to note that these pillars haven’t always splintered the sun.

It must learn this one thing: that every living thing is called to find its tallest point, and then to reach further still.

It’s what we are made for.

IMG_5968

Humboldt Redwood State Park – November 19, 2018


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 Week of Thanks: Day 6

I am thankful for friendship.

I have more than my fair share.

I tell people all the time that we are lucky in life to have just a few “closest” friends – the kind you can count on one hand – but I humbly realize that I have more than that, two hands full at least.

They are diverse and extraordinary. Some from childhood, some more recently formed. I’ve learned that true friendship is determined by the ability to have a real conversation with another person, and then to be able to see that person again within a few days or weeks and only feel more affection and appreciation. And then to add another real conversation, the quality of which becomes another band in the strengthening fibers of connection.

Great friendship is also light and fun, of course, but the best ones always circle back to meaning. Lightness and fun serve as vehicles to get back to what matters most. True friendship helps me live in that meaningful space in a way that is both sincere and playful, strong and vulnerable.

A couple of recent friendship highlights: three of us meet once a month by video conference. We take about 30 minutes each to share the highs and lows of personal and professional life and then provide some form of coaching and advising to support that person in thinking through their current circumstances. It is deeply trustworthy and encouraging and I am fortunate to benefit from their open hearts and wise counsel.

Another friend has recently invited a small group of men to a “Pints & Podcasts” meeting which he describes as “…a book club with a shorter time investment. And beer.” He appreciates, as I do, that strong male relationships are essential to our well-being and is looking for a way to satisfy that need. I am grateful for his initiative and looking forward to getting started.

As a longtime married person with children still at home, friendship is a tricky thing. It is easy to take a pass, to disconnect, to focus only on who is “here and now.” Sometimes it is a legitimate question of bandwidth, sometimes it is the lazy preference to stay close to home. As grateful as I am to be able to call my spouse my dearest of all friends, I recognize that it is only within the friendships of those outside my immediate circle that I stretch out far enough to be able to come back to the center with the equanimity and  perspective that benefits my family.

To my friends who continue to invite me into deeper and more challenging exploration I offer my deepest thanks.

I will strive to offer the same to you.

I am thankful for friendship.


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 Week of Thanks: Day 5

fullsizeoutput_1a86I am thankful to walk among giants.

I am thankful for my teachers.

Only a cursory mental review yields too many to name, too many to count, even. The guides, mentors, instructors, influencers who have shaped my life, both head and heart.

Each made a mark at a key moment in my development that was some combination of generous, challenging, loving, corrective and insightful. Each made me stop and reconsider, often with deep resistance, but ultimately with appreciation.

Jim Shepard, my high school choral director, shaped my raw talent into something that I could offer as a soloist and, more importantly, as part of an ensemble. His kind encouragement prepared me for a very different kind of teacher, Paul Salamunovich, for whom I sang in college and of whom, at least in the early going, I was deeply afraid. Paul was demanding in a way I had not experienced it. He was also exceedingly generous because he lived in service of making the most beautiful music possible.

These early experiences as a team member were essential for someone whose learned inclination is to go it alone. They showed me what was possible when preparation, listening, attention, awareness, feedback and practice were fully lived. They gave me the tangible, concrete evidence I needed that any group of people, wholly committed to both the journey and the destination, can create something of soaring significance and meaning.

This learning in my teens and early twenties, was the ignition point for what would become my vocation. Jim and Paul co-planted the seeds that would bloom into not only a desire but a need to see the disciplines of choral music lived out in leadership and organizational life. I couldn’t have told you that then and I barely appreciate now how true a statement it is!

This is why the work of David Whyte found such fertile ground in me. I was prepared, having been shaped by music, to receive his application of poetry and philosophy to the corporate landscape in his book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. It so arrested me that I remember reading it and having my ‘Eureka!’ moment. “This is it,” I said to myself with the turn of every page. Like borrowing a warm winter coat when all you’ve got is a wind breaker, I took his teaching and made it my own. When I finally had the chance to meet him a few years later, I approached with caution as if trying not to break a spell. I handed over my copy of his book for him to sign and as I did, expressed as best I could just how much it had and was continuing to shape my work. It was a ‘coming full circle’ moment and his graciousness and appreciation lifted me even higher.

In the everyday work of inexpertly applying David’s ideas to my particular organizational experience, I was shaped by the guiding hands of a quartet of ‘advisors’ on whose intellectual and emotional generosity I feasted. Blake McHenry, Cal Harrah, Marlene Laping and Gary Heil kindly and earnestly pushed, pulled, cajoled, enlivened, and exasperated me. I can only imagine their own exasperation at once again encountering the face of my ignorance, struggling to catch-on and keep up. But they never showed it and were steadfastly kind and supportive. Whatever we accomplished in those years is directly attributed to the guiding hands of their influence.

All of this provided me with enough equity, eventually…slowly, to move on to the new experience of starting my own business. And is it continues to grow, taking on dimensions I did not imagine it could, I look back at just this short list of teachers – there are so many more – and offer my deepest appreciation for taking me by the hand and leading me to the deeper water.

I am thankful to stand among giants.

I am thankful for my teachers.


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 Week of Thanks: Day 4

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”
– Henry David Thoreau

I am thankful for trees.

Towering, shapely, steadfast, timeless.

Toxic gas-eating, oxygen-generating, shade-providing, forest-creating, habitat-protecting, fire-fueling, immovable yet changeable, calm-inducing, perspective-enhancing, trees.

From trees I learn to stand my ground, deepen my roots, provide shelter, heal my wounds, rely on others, turn negatives into positives, understand my surroundings and continue to grow.

I am thankful for trees.


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 Week of Thanks: Day 1

fullsizeoutput_1848I am thankful for the many “edge” experiences I have had in my life – some chosen on purpose, some chosen accidentally, and some thrust upon me. These are moments and commitments that shaped my experience, my perspective and my confidence. I can still feel the fear, anticipation and anxiety of each one. And I can still feel the blessed relief of coming out the other side in one (vastly improved) piece.

In high school, during our production of the musical “Camelot,” I strode out onto an extension of the stage – between the audience and the orchestra pit – that had me nearly standing in the front row. In the middle of the song I forgot the words and spun backwards as if doing so would make me disappear. It’s right there on film.

Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Chicago after college graduation to start my first job. From the edge of the country to the middle. Unknown, vast, foreign. Friends along the way. New friends and experiences waiting for me.

Standing in front of a group of admirals and generals gathered for an executive education program on leadership and culture at which I was a featured speaker. Actually, the night before the speech when I was hyperventilating to my wife over the phone that I had no business being there, none whatsoever, and that I had no idea what I was going to say. But it wasn’t that, it was the fear that what I had to say wouldn’t be good enough.

Sitting across from a therapist because “this will make me a better coach.” Learning, over hundreds of conversations that the work was about becoming a whole person.

Standing on a bluff above the ocean, strapped into a harness and parasail, contemplating the stated fact that the only to go up was to step off the edge. And then, stepping.

Thank you God, family, colleagues and life itself. Thank you for the invitation and the push. Please keep inviting and please keep pushing. I will do my best to meet you there with a full and willing heart.


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.

 

 

 

Small Voice / Big Voice

Small voice: There’s not enough.
Big voice: There’s plenty, and there’s more on the way.

Small voice: I’m pretty sure they owe me something.
Big voice: What can I do for them?

Small voice: I’m keeping score.
Big voice: I learn something new every time I play this game.

Small voice: I deserve better.
Big voice: I will keep working hard. The right things will come my way.

Small voice: Nobody cares.
Big voice: Somebody cares. I’m going to find them.

Small voice: I wasted my time.
Big voice: I made a choice.

Small voice: It has to be perfect.
Big voice: It has to be the very best that I can do.

Small voice: I’ll do it myself.
Big voice: Do you want to learn this?

Small voice: I’m embarrassed that I can’t do this.
Big voice: Will you please help me?


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.