Poem for a Sunday Morning

Dear Mona
{Naomi Shihab Nye}

Dear Mona, do you know
how your old stucco building
marks the spot of Something True?
Your hand-lettered red sign rises up
like a crooked, friendly flag.
I can guess the menu:
bean & cheese, potato & egg,
maybe a specialty of your own making,
avocado twist or smoky salsa.
Your nombre is nice.
One taco might be enough.
You feed the ranchers who just lived through
the worst drought and flood back-to-back.
They touch the brims of their hats
when they see you.
Don’t we all need someone to greet us
to make us feel alive?

West of town, soft fields
ease our city-cluttered eyes,
There’s a rim of hills to hope for up ahead.
Mona, mysterious Mona,
I don’t have to eat with you to love you.
Every morning I think, Mona’s up.


three purple plastic chairs

Photo by Rebecca Swafford on Pexels.com

Playful

“We have no empirical evidence that being more serious leads to greater insight into the human condition than being playful. There is, however, growing empirical evidence that being playful opens toward the ever-elusive, supple heart.”
John Paul Lederach


There is only one thing I miss…that I truly miss…from going to work every day at an organization, from being an employee, on a team, responsible to deliver what’s been promised.

That thing? The fun of it. The playfulness, the messing around, the good humor, the connection and camaraderie. Enjoying myself at work – playing at work – is something I never got tired of and that I miss very much.

As a “sole practitioner” I have to work very hard to create the kind of playfulness that, inside the walls of the company – in the right conditions, of course – happens organically. I have regular and irregular phone calls and email/text exchanges with friends and colleagues that help me keep perspective, have a laugh and enjoy the experience of my day-to-day work. And that’s essential because I can take my work much too seriously on far too many days.

I am reminded today that the intensity of my furrowed brow suits my work only insofar as it moves me toward lightness and freedom. I realize that I can measure this by checking whether I am inching myself closer to the playground than to the principal’s office.

That the seriousness of my endeavor can be for the purpose of creating more playfulness – rather than just more work “product” – seemed an irreconcilable difference to me for far too long. That my work is and always needs to be playful, given all of the best effort I can muster, is what makes it worth doing. And what makes those on the receiving end much more appreciative of what I offer.

I love my work. Some days I love it so much that I squeeze the life right out of it. Some days, better days, I hold it lightly…so lightly that it just starts to float away. And I can sit back and smile as I watch it go.


This is for my friend, Alia.

IMG_6416


I’m a Dog Walker

Wouldn’t it be great – and a little weird and maybe even fun – if you had to answer the question, “So, what do you do?” based on the most recent thing you’ve actually done?

If I just cleaned the house, then I’m a house cleaner.
If I just prepared for class, then I’m a professor.
If I just went on a date with my wife, then I’m a husband.
If I just had a great workout, then I’m an athlete.
If I just wrote a poem, then I’m a poet.
If I just made dinner, then I’m a chef (well, maybe “cook” is good enough for that one!).
If I took the dog for a walk then, yes, I’m a dog walker.

We are ritually, blindly obsessed with narrowing our self-disclosure about what we “do” down to what we get paid for and I think that’s a shame.

You are not what you get paid to do. What you get paid to do is, I assume, something you have deep expertise in and truly enjoy. But is that all that you do? Not even close.

You are, of course, the sum total of how you spend your time. All of your time.

Not only our conversations but our workplaces would be significantly enriched if this was both recognized and normalized. What happens when we get a larger and clearer picture of how another person spends their precious time is that they become more human to us. They take on the complex, dynamic qualities of a person that we easily recognize in ourselves but conveniently ignore in others.

We are not here on a fact-finding mission. We are here to connect, and in our connection support and sustain one another’s doing so that we can relish in one another’s being.


english cocker spaniel puppy sitting on ground beside grass

Photo by Johann on Pexels.com

 

Labor Day

“Work isn’t to make money. You work to justify life”

Marc Chagall ~

When I was 17 years old I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I just didn’t know that it was possible to apply what came naturally to me to a formal educational and professional pursuit. And so began a 14 year journey to find what it was I was supposed to do with my life. When I finally landed on my vocation I was shocked to find that I had known the answer so many years before; that the answer had always been in me, just waiting to be unlocked and reintroduced to the world in a new and more profound way.

Of course, had I not wandered in the desert, searching in vain for the perfect fit; had I not been tested and molded by so many “roads to nowhere” I never would have found the road to somewhere. It was because of the work that was not my work that I was able to find the work that is.

James Michener wrote, and I’m paraphrasing heavily, that until we find our “thing” everything else we do along the way is creative. It’s all part of the process of learning who and what we are and how we are meant to use it in and for the world. Another sage, Joseph Campbell, said this:

“If the path ahead of you is clear, you are on someone else’s path.”

In other words, your path – the work of your life – is the one with all the obstacles. You have to fight for it, up and over, through and around; clawing, scraping, racing, pushing, pulling. This is how you know it is yours. And, in my experience, while all of that is happening you are deeply gratified by knowing that this fight is your fight, this labor is your labor; the work meant for you and you alone.

And what a joy it is to find that work. Truly, it is an exceptional thing to realize that this is my offering, my contribution. And with it comes a deep and significant responsibility to fully explore, fully realize and fully practice that which I am meant to do.

I am grateful on Labor Day to have found my work. More than that, I am grateful to have the resources, support, trust and well-being to fully express it.

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Albert Camus ~


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.

Workshop

The bees set up shop under a piece of plywood on the side of our home. At first I thought it was just a swarm that would move through quickly enough. As they lingered, I got curious and found them hard at work.

I don’t love the idea of a beehive so close to the house. My first inclination was to get rid of it. But we decided to wait and see what would happen and, so far so good.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: they don’t mind having me around. They go about their business and I go about mine.

They value family, hard work and making a contribution to something that is much, much larger than themselves. If I can play a small part in supporting that value system, I will only be the better for it.


fullsizeoutput_270f

The Wisdom of Simplicity

“Is he a good hang?”
{Cal Harrah}


One of my professional mentors, and one of the finer human beings I’ve met in my life, is also one of the smartest.

And so, when it came to making a hiring decision for my team I was confident that Cal would provide me with the kind of thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary necessary for such an important choice.

In other words, I assumed he would have a lot to say.

He did not.

Instead he asked a very simple question: “Is he a good hang?”

As in, is he the kind of person that you want to be with, that makes you better, makes life a little more interesting, a little more fun, that helps you learn at least a little – maybe a lot – more?

If we are, as is often said, the sum total of the five people we spend the most time with (and some have suggested that it’s an even larger group than that) it’s worth taking that group – and how we add to it – much more seriously.

Work is full of enough challenges to stress our days and invade our nights. The least we can do is make sure that we surround ourselves with people who help us keep our perspective and who help us smile once in a while at the craziness of it all.


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.

I have work to do

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

 – Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings


I taught two classes today. The university is back in session.

I feel like a rider who’s been thrown from her horse. She’s back on now but she’s feeling it.

Just because I asked for this doesn’t mean it’s easy. The rhythm of the work comes with time.

I’m not “miserable.”

I’m also not an ocean.


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.

A Week of Thanks: Day 2

I am thankful for my work.

My day job allows me to interact with thoughtful professionals – leaders and team members – who are curious, energetic and determined. They are people who want to do good work for a cause they believe in. They want to learn and grow, challenging themselves to get better in the ways it is hardest to get better: self-awareness, emotional agility, relationships and working with the dynamics of change.

My side gig allows me to interact with undergraduates on the state university campus near my home. For the most part they demonstrate curiosity, energy and determination. They are people from diverse circumstances with all of the challenges you can imagine who have decided to make their education a priority. They want to learn and grow and I am privileged to facilitate and witness some of their discovery.

I bring the lessons and experiences from my day job into the classroom of my side gig. I bring the questions and revelations from my side gig into my discernment about how to be more effective in my day job.

Independently, each is a gift of challenge and growth. Together, they provide a dynamic interplay of realism, idealism, theory and practice. I am a better person and professional for the opportunity to play in these environments. I don’t take it for granted. I am determined to keep learning so I can serve them well and I will continue to relish the ways they are making me a better human.

I am thankful for my work.


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 Work More Human

The following post was written by Renee Smith and first appeared on the Make Work More Human blog on 10/24/2017. In it, Renee explains the origins of the Make Work More Human movement which she leads as the Director of Workplace Transformation at ‘Results Washington’ for the State of Washington.

I am posting it on my site for two reasons. First, Renee is an exceptional leader and her work deserves to be widely known, understood and replicated. Second, she was kind enough to speak to my Management class at Cal State San Marcos this week while in town for another speaking engagement and I want to publicly thank and acknowledge her for doing so. 

To be “human” at work is to be in our natural state. It is neither an exception nor an abstraction. It is the best of us. And the closer we get to integrating our complete humanity with the necessary demands of organizational process and efficiency, the closer we will be to building workplaces that have the ability to become unstoppable forces for positive change.

Not only do we deserve this, but it is in our power to create it.

– DCB


Chris Liu and I were deep in discussion. Chris is director of the Department of Enterprise Services, our state’s central services agency, and I direct Lean Transformation Services for DES. As an agency we are pursuing a human-centered way of working that trusts employees to make things better for customers every day. We want every aspect of the organization to be coherent with that philosophy. This is a big undertaking, and we are committed to pursuing this.

Chris and I were preparing for a short talk, an introduction really, at the state’s annual Lean Conference. We would be introducing two of our teams to share their inspiring stories to an audience of about three hundred. I was helping Chris nail down a clear focus for our introduction.

“Chris,” I asked finally, “what is the most important job of a leader?”

Without missing a beat, he replied, “To eliminate fear from the workplace.” 

Thunder boomed! “That’s it,” I thought, stunned. “That sums up exactly what we’ve been trying to do these last few years at DES. That’s why our teams have stories to share. Chris has been on a quest to fulfill this job as a leader and to show others how as well.”

We named the workshop session “Eliminate Fear.”

But this one conversation with Chris raised more questions for me than it answered. Reflection and dialogue with others made it clear that eliminating fear to create safety is only half the story. What is it that increases to create safety? Some insisted it was courage. Others freedom. All worthy ideas but they did not ring true for me. The thing I now believe that eliminates fear and creates safety at work?

Love.

That’s right, love.

Psychologists sort human emotional experience into two primary categories, fear and love. All other emotions cascade from either fear or love. Understanding this helps us make more sense of and respond more effectively to any of the other emotions we either experience ourselves or encounter in others. An angry or violent child’s emotions can be sourced back to fear. The limbic root of belonging or respect? Love.

At the conference, we opened the workshop with Chris proclaiming that leaders must eliminate fear if they want to see results like our teams are getting. And then I brashly declared that increasing love will help eliminate fear.

Could have heard a pin drop. Nervous laughter. Shuffling. Had I really just said the “L word” in a government sponsored Lean conference?

I reminded the audience that love is human. We all need to know we belong, that our contributions matter. We need to know that we are safe to step out and take risks to improve. When people feel loved at work, they can love their customers and respond to their needs with improvements to safety, cost, time, and quality. A more loving workplace creates the conditions for a Lean culture.

And then…spontaneous applause! And later, comments in the halls, and emails of thanks. People stopped me weeks later to discuss this idea of love at work. I was on to something important.

Since then I’ve sought to understand this outpouring of love for the idea of love at work. There’s research. There’s writing. There’s work with leaders and teams. There’s a community.

And now there’s you too. Welcome to the conversation.

I love that you are here.

Please follow Renee Smith and her work at Make Work More Human. And please work to eliminate fear in your workplace and replace it with love.


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.

Does it pass the test?

Do you remember what you felt as a child when you were going to do something special?

Maybe a visit to the park? The movies? A sleepover at a friend’s house? The last day of school? A road trip to see relatives…favorite cousins?

Do you remember that feeling of anticipation, energy, happiness? That surge of possibility? Those pangs of being in love with life?

Do you remember?

Does your work feel like that? Does it pass the “child about to go to the park” test?

Yes? On most days? That is outstanding! Congratulations!

No? On most days? That stinks. I’m sorry about that.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Now here’s the tough question, the awkward one: what are you going to do about it?


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.