What falls away

 

Here in Southern California you’d be forgiven for missing the memo that fall is here. In this monochromatic land of perpetual summer, the natural world provides only subtle indications. We are helped along in our perceptual understanding by the roadside pumpkin stands and the oddly sporadic harvest and (premature!) Halloween decorations.

Nonetheless, I’ve had a few moments of simplification recently that are either coincidental to the season or representative of a subconscious biological attunement to its central theme: what falls away makes room for the new.

The first came a few weeks ago when I realized my email subscriptions had superseded my ability to keep up with them. I started hitting “unsubscribe” with relish. A few minutes of pruning brought my attention to what I care about most. And, practically, it is saving me time each day by allowing me to be fed, rather than stuffed, by my choices.

I also led an incursion into my closet and dresser, discarding items now rarely worn. All of a sudden a handful of lonely hangers as well as a sock drawer organized so that I can see, well, my socks. That was a particularly gratifying harvest.

These simple, concrete actions feel like practice for more substantive opportunities. They remind me to consider the clutter in my own heart and mind and how it might fall away to make room for something new.

Forgiveness not yet given?
Opinions too strongly held?
Perceptions frozen in time?
Assumptions too easily made?
Vulnerability not yet expressed?
Habits ready to be broken?

There’s more than enough to work with. More than enough to consider as I move deeper into a season whose demands are the required down-payment on all future growth.


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.

Get Moving

“I realized that – in spite of all the risks involved – a thing in motion will always be better than a thing at rest; that that which is static will degenerate and decay, turn to ash, while that which is in motion is able to last for all eternity.”

– Olga Tokarczuk, Flights


You don’t have to go anywhere to be in motion. And you can go everywhere and be frozen in place.

What counts, what matters, and what I subject to you for consideration on this first Sunday of autumn, is that you move forward with that which moves you.

Get to work. Make your mark. From your chair, your home, your neighborhood, school or workplace. From the most remote island on the planet. It doesn’t matter where. All that matters is what.

The leaves are going to fall. But that’s an act of living, not of dying.

Whatever it is you’re here to do, get moving…go do it.

In spite of all the risks involved.


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.

No End In Sight

I have this feeling that 30 or so years from now, should I still be kicking around, I’m going to be wrestling with the same existential crisis: the joy and the dread that learning never ends.

The dread: How is that I’ve come this far and still have so far to go?

The joy: How is it that I am so lucky to have the opportunity, the invitation, the opening up, the chance to live into an even more complete understanding of my experience?

No one, not a single person, said it was going to be easy. Just that it would be possible.

And no matter how uncomfortable it is to admit it, they were right.


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.

 

 

The Next Right Thing

“The purpose of life is not to maintain personal comfort; it’s to grow the soul…’The work’ does not need to be grand, only fitting. It is guided by asking ourselves over and over: What is the next right thing?”

~Christina BaldwinThe Seven Whispers: A Spiritual Practice for Times Like These

My daughter auditioned for a high school theater production yesterday. This cannot be classified as “typical” or “expected” behavior. As she grows up she leaves behind some old fears about risk, exposure and failure. It is her “next right thing.”

My son moved into his dorm today and starts class on Monday. This is his “next right thing.”

A friend says “yes” to a call to serve his church. His “next right thing.”

A client turns his belief system into concrete actions for his team. His “next right thing.”

A friend commits to a daily writing practice. She’s going strong a month and a half later. Her “next right thing.”

As for my next right thing…something fitting…I am trading, piece by small piece, “competent composure” for “human presence.” It sounds abstract but it’s concrete as can be. It means to feel what I’m feeling instead of lifting the shield.

It means that when I am terribly sad and reach for the phone seeking consolation via text message, I say instead, “I’m terribly sad and I am just going to feel it.” That feeling has something to teach me and my challenge is to learn.

My life is not a competition to be won through sheer force of will. It is not a race to be run at full sprint.

It is a quest to grow my soul by asking over and over again, “What is the next right thing?”


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.

Leaders Go First

“…the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.”

Jim Yong Kim
President, The World Bank


As I was preparing to facilitate a meeting this week on strategies for providing effective feedback I came across the quote above. It provides a framing for the feedback endeavor that successfully dis-associates it from the stereotypical, hierarchical, “done unto” (as opposed to done together) approach that still dominates so much of the corporate leadership point of view on performance improvement.

It puts the onus on leaders to start within, focusing first on their own improvement as a continuous exercise of genuine humility. That practice of humility creates a space for a deeper empathetic sensibility that can then be applied to the leader’s team.

When feedback comes from that place it demonstrates a universal commitment to getting better (We are all in this together!) while also reenforcing the most basic truth of leadership, that leaders go first.

If you are not willing to go first, you are not a leader. If you are not willing to learn continuously, grow continuously, question your personal status quo continuously, you are not a leader.

But when you do, it changes everything. And no longer are you dreading the discomfort of providing feedback to your team but relishing the opportunity to be a catalyst for their growth. Once you normalize it for you, you normalize it for them.

Leaders. Go. First.


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.

Make Room for Wonder

“Everything is explained now…sometimes I’d just as soon continue wondering.”
– Tom Waits –

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

I think about that every time I compulsively reach for my “phone” to look up the answer to the latest question that has shown up in conversation. I get consumed by the feeling that I “have to know!”

What if instead of reacting impulsively in that moment I could pause to simply state: “I wonder what it could be.” and then ask “What are the possible explanations?” and then take some time to consider them!

If the building is on fire I need to find the exit right now.

And since the building is rarely on fire, I might stop acting like needing to know is a matter of life or death. (I might.)

{Hat tip to Duncan Berry, who at 18 years old continues to ask questions as if he’s never of Google!}


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.

Here to there. There to here.

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“We’re constantly saying as human beings,
‘Over there is slightly more important than here, where I’m standing.'”
– David Whyte

“Real change is best understood by staying in one place.”
– Andy Goldsworthy

I am pulled to exploration and adventure, the discovery of elsewhere as a tonic for here.

I am pulled home again, for the reassurance of the known and the rediscovery of here as a tonic for there. (And the trustworthiness of my own bed!)

Each day this push and pull.

Each day a journey into the labyrinth – into the center of my experience – that foreign land of familiar monsters where I left them and the prospect of new ones around the bend.

Each day a journey out again, the retracing of steps, slightly more knowing than before, slightly less defensive, better equipped for the “here” that awaits.

Here to there. There to here.

Always coming back. Always coming home.

{Hat tip to Molly Davis}


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 Child Again

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“Getting Out of Our Heads” – David Berry, 2011

…See with every turning day,
how each season makes a child
of you again…

– from Coleman’s Bed by David Whyte

“What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.”  

from Eleven by Sandra Cisneros

I asked my students, third and fourth year undergraduates, if they considered themselves creative. They do not.

I disagreed.

I said, “It’s impossible to be alive and not be creative. Living is the purest act of creativity there is.”

They stared back at me.

I said, “Living equals learning. Learning equals creativity. Therefore, you are creative.”

Some nods. A lot of blank faces.

They don’t see themselves as creative. Few mature people do. At around 7 or 8 years old our spontaneous creativity dries up and we learn to devote more time to comparison than to creation.

And, the great news? The great news for every enterprise that needs to evolve, shift, change and grow to survive and to thrive? (That is, all of them.)

The great news is that the 7 and 8-year-old version of every single person you meet is still there, right there inside of them.

And your job…my job…as teacher, leader, parent, supervisor…is to help them reconnect to that kid and activate his or her inherent creative genius.

They will fight you. Maybe even vigorously. Because that pure creative expression is a scary kind of power. It’s chaos unleashed. But only for a little while. Only until you learn how to work with it again. And then, like all good positive disciplines it becomes an extraordinary, reliable source of opportunity and possibility.

Become a child again this weekend. Go get dirty. Go build something, paint something, construct something, play something, learn something. Forget “good enough.”

Your creativity is an alarm clock with no snooze button and it’s going off right now.

Wake up!


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.

Duc in altum

In my ongoing effort to attract a hip and progressive audience to my blog I decided to finally employ the aggressive outreach strategy of using latin phrases as post titles.

I know, I know, I’m way behind the curve on this one but I figure better late than never.

So what about it? What about duc in altum?

It means, “put out into deep water.”

The story goes that Jesus not only hopped into Simon’s fishing boat (referencing Jesus is also a crowd pleaser, by the way…) but that he started giving orders. And once they were under way he said something like, “Look, Simon. Here’s the deal. If you want to do this. If you REALLY want to do this, hanging out along the shore line is not good enough. You need to go all in. And going all in means taking on all the risk so you can receive all the reward.” (That’s not a direct quote.)

I think about the time we took our daughter’s fishing at a mountain lake. It wasn’t going well. And a man saw that it wasn’t going well and offered to help. He said, “Your bait is fine, you just need to put it where the fish are.” Surprise, surprise, they were in deeper water.

I think about the time a boss said to me, “If you want to become a good coach, you should really consider going to therapy.” So, I did. At first for him but soon enough, for me. Much deeper water.

I think about how I stayed on the fringes of our church community. Not a Roman Catholic, but doing a good impression. Our new priest asked me to join and I said, “I’ve thought about it a lot but I have too many questions, too many concerns.” And he said, “I’d like you on the inside to help us wrestle with those questions and confront those concerns.” And so I joined. And I was in much deeper water. And, with each devastating heartbreak, it keeps getting deeper. And I’m sticking with it.

I think about a conversation with my wife, Theresa, on the eve of our wedding anniversary: What’s going well?, How are we stuck? What do we need to do differently?” We took a deep breath and swam out to deeper water.

And I think about my friend, Jim and his beautiful vessel, Shamrock, that lies directly in the path of Hurricane Florence. He has her anchored upriver but he tells me, “that will not provide any assurance that she will weather this one unscathed.”

In deep water, there are no assurances. There is only the truth that until we go we will never know.


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.

 

Waiting to be asked

The line of students was snaking from the front of the room, up the main aisle and out the back door.

I wondered what they were all sticking around for. I was confused.

Turns out, they were patiently waiting to sign a piece of paper – the one piece of paper I had provided – to indicate that they had participated in class that night. It’s an honor system thing, an experiment.

When I saw the line – so many of them – and that single pad of paper they were inching towards – I shooed them out of class, promising full credit for everyone and a better process next week.

That evening I sent a note to the class asking for their help. It said, “My idea was good but the execution was lousy. Sorry about that. I want to find a better way so please send me your ideas.”

And a number of thoughtful and creative responses came my way, responses that will be put into action this week. And do you know why? First, because it’s not their first rodeo. And second, because they are thoughtful and creative people.

Something tells me that this goes for support staff, service agents, sales reps, technicians, installers, packers, shippers, processors, recruiters, analysts, coordinators, planners, etc.

Most people are thoughtful and creative. Most people want to be helpful.

And most people are waiting to be asked.


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.