Now. Here. This.

Every day – and I mean EVERY DAY – I spend some time thinking about and feeling the emotions related to the following:

1. Some event or person in my past that hurt me or that I perceive as having hurt me.

2. Concern/anxiety about the future. Will there be enough? Will I be able to provide? Will I have the courage to do what I most want? Et cetera, ad nauseam.

3. What I am doing right now that excites and energizes me, the contribution I am making, the purpose I am living into, the possibility I am fulfilling, the lives I am changing, starting with my own.

A good day is one in which numbers one and two are kept to a minimum and number three ascends with vigor. A bad day is when I let the past and/or the future determine the quality of the present. And, more importantly, my presence.

Replaying the difficulties of the past – especially by casting oneself as a victim of circumstance – as if doing so will yield a different outcome only robs you of the opportunity to create something new in the present.

Anxiously anticipating the future – especially through some story about insufficiency or inadequacy – when all you can control is your own behavior, your own choices, is energy lost to fear of the unknown.

There is nothing you can do to change the past. There is nothing you can do to predict the future.

What you can do is decide in this moment, at this place and with these people, that you will become as clear as possible about these things:

  • Who you are.
  • Where you are going.
  • The next step you can take.
  • And how much you are willing to love and serve the person in front of you right now.

Thanks to Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. who, in his talk with Krista Tippett referenced the musical “Now. Here. This.”

DAVID BERRY is the founder of RULE13 Learning. He writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world, especially the parts where he doesn’t handle it very well. If you enjoyed this post someone else might, too. Please pass it along.

Essential Listening

Not too long ago I shared a list of books – fiction primarily – that I have found to be essential reading in my development as a person, a leader and a teacher of leadership. Since then, to my great satisfaction, I have discovered the world of podcasts; the world of essential listening. It has been revelatory.

The channels by which we can learn today (and by learning I mean: inspire our creativity impulses, give us confidence to pursue our ideas, give us space to laugh, think, cry and connect more readily with the broadest context of our shared human condition) are so numerous and useful that it is both energizing and, sometimes, overwhelming to figure out how to take full advantage. As I attempted to make sense of all that is on offer in this “new” space of podcasting I was fortunate enough to stumble across a site called Podcast Thing. They organize their podcast recommendations by category and recommend a “where to start” episode for each one. In that spirit, a few recommendations for you:

For Meaning:

On Being with Krista Tippett

Where to start: Seth GodinParker Palmer

For Storytelling:

This American Life with Ira Glass

Where to start: Hit the Road

For Mindfulness and Meditation:

Tara Brach

Where to start: Four Week Introduction to Meditation

For Science and Education:

Radiolab

Where to start: The Golden Rule

For Politics, Culture and the Arts (and a fun “insider” vibe)

Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin

Where to start: Jerry SeinfeldGeorge WillDavid Letterman

A final thought: education is being revolutionized before our very eyes…it is not even remotely farfetched to think  that with a reasonable investment of time and energy you could create both a curriculum and a community that would make some of our more formal and traditional learning avenues obsolete, or at least seriously antiquated. If you want to create, define and engage your own path to learning there has never been a better time to do so.

Feedback? Thoughts? Recommendations from your experience? Always invited and eagerly accepted…

Getting to 30: The Pursuit of Clarity, Brevity and Meaning

“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.”

– Francois de La Rochefoucald – 

The last two weeks have presented me with the welcome challenge of getting clearer and more concise in sharing my message regarding the kind of leadership that leads to sustainable change. I gave a talk to a group of graduating seniors, business students eager for experience and application, and it went well enough but I can’t say I was elated about my efforts. The constructive feedback I received from the good friend who invited me to give the talk was that I was simply trying to do too much. It was a welcome confirmation of what I consistently notice about myself in those situations: my energy and passion for the subject is so high that I cram in as many ideas and angles as I possibly can. Part of that, of course, comes from not trusting that a simplified message, of course more powerful because more easy digested and more memorable, will not be sufficient to the task. That if I somehow manage to pare it down to its essence it will just not be enough. Rationally, I know this is a story but emotionally it’s a legitimate concern.

Fortunately I have two perfect opportunities in the coming few days to practice the power of clarity and brevity; a couple of 30 minute presentations that require me to deliver my essential message. This couldn’t have come at a better time because, a year into my adventure as an independent speaker and professional coach, it is obvious to me now what so many already understand: it is easier to say “yes” when you understand what you are saying “yes” to!

As this question and this process have been bubbling up and brewing within me I have been feeding it by taking in ideas and insights from a number of different sources: podcasts, articles, talks, fiction. Finally, with thanks to Krista Tippett’s program, “On Being” and her two outstanding interviews with Seth Godin and Parker Palmer, my thinking clarified and simplified.

Seth Godin reminded me that our shifting economy – and the shifting landscape within organizations – is less and less about the accumulation of “stuff” and more and more about opportunities for connection and meaning. The quote above and the others I have recently shared and written about all get to what I see as the essential leadership question of our time: in a connection economy doesn’t it make sense that we should have more connected leaders? And the leaders who are going to be more connected and connective are those who are not “disguised to themselves” or others; they are those who are willing to know themselves and be known.

Parker Palmer, in his interview, shared a framework developed by Marshall Ganz for organizing Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for the presidency. In the two years prior to winning the White House the Obama Campaign organized a series of volunteer trainings called “Camp Obama.” The core of this effort was to teach and practice storytelling and it was done in this way:

1. Tell the STORY OF SELF: What is my heart connection with this work? The hopes of my heart that bring me to this place?

2. Tell the STORY OF US: How does the story of self connect to what is going on in the hearts of people in this society as I know them?

3. Tell the STORY OF NOW: What might be done in this moment that would help us advance our hopes?

As I heard this methodology described I felt for the first time a way forward in my efforts to create a personally compelling message that would withstand the limits of time and the challenge of trying to do too much. It is personal and therefore connective. It is inclusive and therefore energizing. It is an invitation and therefore an opportunity for others to rise to the occasion of our current challenge.

Most importantly, for me, it is a fresh way forward in the definition and delivery of what I care most about. I don’t have to share it all, just the part that earns me the right to continue the conversation.