I Got Knocked Down Again

I watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special, The Call to Courage, for a second time today and her call to get into the arena, to be willing to get knocked down – to embrace the certainty of getting knocked down – reminded me of a post I wrote last October. Here it is again, truer than ever.



“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
— C S Lewis


You know the feeling of being lost. You know what it’s like to start out with a sense of direction, a heading that makes sense to you. And then, after a wrong turn or missed signpost, that sense of direction evaporates into confusion as you can’t get your bearings. And you stumble around a little bit hoping it will come back to you. “This all looks familiar,” you might say, “but I just don’t know how to get going in the right direction.”

I got lost in the forest that way, not once but three days in a row. Each morning I set out with clarity and purpose and within 15 minutes I was not where I intended to be. I made wrong turns. I missed the signposts. It was dark and I was stubborn, a troubling combination.

For three consecutive days I failed to get the beginning right. For three consecutive days I was able to change the ending and get myself back where I needed to be.

I didn’t want it to play out that way but it was how I needed it to play out to help me understand my developmental pathway. That trail in the woods was always leading me back, not to what I wanted but to what I needed. And what I needed was the reminder that I am least in control when I am the most controlling; that I am least capable when I am blindly confident; that I am least connected when I focus on competence, arrival and completion.

Me against a dark and unknown forest trail wasn’t close to a fair fight. And each time it knocked me down I got back up to test it again. And I got knocked down again. Until, until, until I was ready to accept what it had to teach me; that the construct of “me against a dark and unknown forest trail” was only the latest manifestation of my familiar developmental path.

Me against. Me against. Me against. An endless, un-winnable fight.

Me with the unknown trail. Me with the scary conversations. Me with the deepening relationship. Me with the new opportunity to stretch, learn and grow. Me with the unknown future.

Connection is the pathway I continue to walk.


mountains nature arrow guide

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

Both Shattered and Made Whole

There is something extraordinary about witnessing someone’s vulnerability. To see, hear and feel another person summon the courage and the clarity to reveal themselves without artifice or ego, is raw in its truth and pure in its beauty.

A friend revealed herself in this way not long ago and I remember feeling equal parts shattered, experiencing the heartbreak of her brokenness, and then made whole again, by the way in which she owned her experience and allowed it to make her stronger.

To be trusted with this kind of expression may be the high water mark of our shared human adventure.

To be shattered and made whole, again and again. This, I think, is what it means to live.


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Learning to Ask For Help

Among the most important – and most difficult – realizations I had to contend with on my path to becoming a person is that of learning to ask for help. My life is littered with instances of persisting in a state of futility when engaging with someone else, sometimes something else, would have made the difficult thing an easier thing.

The roots of it have to do with perfectionism/fear of failure and a persistent voice in the head asking questions like, “What if they find out you are not as good as you think? What then?”

I have stood on a lakeshore for over an hour, fruitlessly trying to catch fish while everyone around me was having success.

I have gotten lost on a forested trail three days in a row because of my stubborn unwillingness to slow down and notice the actual signs that marked the way.

I have avoided sharing my written work with talented writers and editors whose thoughtful and helpful criticism might just sting too much.

And the list goes on. Or it went on until I turned a corner and began to practice, albeit imperfectly and sometimes haltingly, some alternative ways of engaging with the sources of help that surround me.

Most recently, I took up the piano. After years of avoiding a hard thing that would make me feel all the painful feelings of being a beginner, I decided it was time to get over it and get on with it. My daughter, an accomplished player at age 13, has been exceedingly helpful to me. My piano teacher, with whom I just recently had my first lesson, is genuinely interested in my success. I am saying “yes” to their quite visible forms of help.

I also spend time with two different peer groups on a monthly basis. These are people in similar fields and with similar aspirations for learning, growth and impact. Our conversations consist of inquiry, revelation and support and just being present with and for one another is a form of deeply important help.

My daily writing on this blog is another way I am seeking and finding a helping hand. Basil King said, “Go at it boldly, and you’ll find unexpected forces closing round you and coming to your aid.” Though I sometimes doubt the value of sending yet another post into the dark void of the internet, I am reminded that the practice of doing so is less about where it lands and more about helping myself stay attuned to my own thinking and my own voice. It is a practice in self-help, I suppose.

One final example of saying yes to help: A few weeks ago as I was scrambling to get my things together and get out the door on time for my full day of teaching and office hours at the university, I asked my wife Theresa if she would make a lunch for me to take along. My campus schedule doesn’t allow me the time to get something between classes and on this particular day I didn’t have time to prepare ahead of time. She said yes, of course, and has done the same for me on each Thursday since.

It’s a simple and loving kind of help, the kind that can be taken for granted. But I don’t because it reminds me that I have someone in my corner who is ready and willing to help me as long as I let her know how. And that’s what makes it such an important example, that she – someone who implicitly wants to help me – can’t do so if she doesn’t know how. Which means I have to ask and risk the vulnerability of doing so.

These examples, large and small, remind me that in spite of a deeply rutted pattern of assuming that people will be judgmental or unkind or bothered – a clear projection of my vulnerability – there is another assumption, by far a more accurate one, to be made: that most people, most of the time, want to help.

The unknown variable in the equation, as it turns out, is 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.

 

 

Take the path of vulnerability

I hand out an assignment to my class. There are a list of options from which to choose, one of which is “Emotional Intelligence.” Perusing the list a student raises his hand and asks, “Will you please tell me what ‘Emotional Intelligence” is?

An act of vulnerability in service of learning.

A friend says to me, “I would like to get to know you better.”

An act of vulnerability in service of relationship.

A leader asks his team, “How can I be better for you?”

An act of vulnerability in service of…service.

Small acts that point to an essential truth: there is nothing we care about that won’t require us to make ourselves vulnerable. If we don’t care, we don’t bother.

The link below will take you to a 12 minute clip (which inspired this post) of one of my favorite teachers, David Whyte, speaking to the truth of vulnerability as the access point to real conversation.

David Whyte — Poetry from the On Being Gathering (Closing Words) https://onbeing.org/programs/david-whyte-poetry-from-the-on-being-gathering-closing-words-oct2018


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.

Getting Started

IMG_5694How many times have I dreaded even the thought of getting started?

I have an old story about household repairs. It involves the image of a half-dozen trips to Home Depot. This image is not conducive to getting started.

I have an old story about relationship repairs. It involves the image of finding out I was wrong all along. This image is not conducive to getting started.

I have an old story about giving feedback to employees. It involves the image of tears, defensiveness and discomfort. This image is not conducive to getting started.

I have an old story about learning something new, something that is hard. It involves an image of frustration, impatience and incompetence. This image is not conducive to getting started.

How many times have I dreaded getting started only to re-discover that getting started is the beginning of getting there?


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.

Human. Resources.

“Human”

Merriam-Webster definition #3-b:  representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature (human kindness; human weakness).

“Resources”

Merriam-Webster definition #1-c a natural feature or phenomenon that enhances the quality of human life; and #1-e a source of information or expertise.

“Human Resources”

Merriam-Webster definition #1: personnel.

What? Personnel?

How did we get from words like “sympathies” and “frailties” (read tenderness, vulnerability, transparency…as in the real human experience) and “phenomenon,” “quality of life” and “sources of information and expertise” to personnel, a scraped from the bottom of the barrel word that fails in every way to describe who we are and what we’re made of?

It is, regrettably, an accurate characterization of the state of the “modern,” and so often dehumanizing, organization.

Let’s do better than that. Here’s a new definition for your consideration:

Human Resources (plural noun): (1) those living, breathing, dynamic and creative persons who cherish nothing more than to come together in support of a cause worth fighting for; (2) Any number of individual persons who collaborate with dignity, respect, safety and in a spirit of service to breathe life into an enterprise that is worthy of their presence. 


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.

Field of Dreams

“Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: It comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur.”  – Henry Miller

A man hears a voice that tells him to plow under his corn and replace it with a baseball field.

He obeys.

The “ghost” players come to play and only those who believe can see the action.

Belief is a daring word, an “out on a limb” word. Vulnerability is its price tag. And you must decide if you’re willing to pay.

What do you believe in? What are you willing to pay?

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.

Take Cover

IMG_2115Moss is a simple plant that needs plenty of water and lots of shade. It mostly grows on the north side of trees and buildings in the northern hemisphere because it is hiding from the sun.

Sometimes you are a simple plant, hiding from the torchlight of your reality in hopes that it will pass you by.

Sometimes you are a complex, vascular being who grows boldly into the light in pursuit of bigger things.

Sometimes you take cover to hide from the things that scare you.

IMG_2113Sometimes you take cover to replenish and restore so that you can meet those very things with a new resolve.

The good work is to stay clear about the difference.