Leadership

Courage is action in the face of fear, not fearlessness.

Greatness is the consistent pursuit of self-improvement, not perfection.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel good enough. Success often isn’t what you think it is. It looks a lot like just giving it your best shot.

It’s likely going to be messy.

Too many people go through life without seriously considering the perspectives of others. Our snap judgments are particularly detrimental to youth. So many kids are labeled troublemakers and bad apples because they act out. They are seen as needing to be chastised or requiring a lesson rather than someone to be thoughtfully listened to.

It’s possible in the immediate intervention that they might not be able to articulate their perspective. Don’t get upset or feel like it was a wrong approach. Striving to be more understanding is almost never the wrong approach. A lot of people lack the self-awareness to eloquently articulate trauma or abuse or their general source of self-destructive tendencies. Therefore, it’s necessary to be patient and to try to get a sense of the context to eventually help guide them toward insight. In this regard, you become someone slowly shepherding toward greater understanding rather than a part of the problem.

A last important element in this process of perspective taking and helping is the notion of fundamental attribution error. This is a common bias. It’s seen when we believe someone is behaving some way because that’s who they are rather than because of their circumstances. If we can remember that someone is behaving some way because of the accumulation of their circumstances, we can be more empathetic.

I know that what I’m saying is easier said than done. Some folks, especially bratty kids, seem to just be totally self-centered and terrible. But remember that it’s almost never okay to treat someone badly just because they’ve treated us badly. Showing kindness, forgiveness, and understanding when we’ve been mistreated can be immensely powerful. If it’s not immediately, it might be later. And if it’s not, oh well, it’s better to be kind than to be mean – even if it’s just for our emotional health.

 

Please accept my apologies for not getting the daily blog out lately. I have just returned from an intense conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  I am back now, though! So back to it. In the future, if I’m about to head out for a conference, I’ll give a heads up. I had no idea my networking activity would be so demanding.

A consistent theme I saw while networking was competition. The entire time I was there I witnessed it – competition between schools for ranking, between journals for prestige, between students for job placement, and between colleagues for publication. (I’m preparing to go into academics.) The takeaway: I’m about to set forth into an incredibly competitive climate.  But I have a secret weapon; that is, the awareness between the difference between hierarchy and territory.

In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art it’s said that “In the animal kingdom, individuals define themselves in one of two ways – by their rank within a hierarchy (a hen in a pecking order, a wolf in a pack) or by their connection to a territory (a home base, a hunting ground, a turf).”

To sum up Pressfield’s argument, most of us define ourselves hierarchically, and it’s likely that we don’t even know it. This is because school, advertising, all of the materialist culture tells us that we need to define ourselves by others’ opinions.

He says that this definition of our identity, which you will notice breaks down in places with a ton of people like Manhattan, is detrimental to our creativity. You will witness the development of the following characteristics:

  1. You become caught in a vicious cycle of trying to elevate your position in the hierarchy and defending against those beneath you.
  2. You come to define your happiness by your rank in the hierarchy, feeling satisfied at another’s defeat.
  3. You treat people differently based on their rank rather than other, more important, factors.
  4. You act, dress, speak, and think for others.

So we must live territorially.

What’s a territory?

  1. It’s the place that gives us sustenance, the core element of our soul’s nourishment.
  2. We love our territory alone. We don’t need anyone else to claim it. The work itself satisfies.
  3. It is something that takes work to be claimed. It doesn’t give, it gives back.

I’m going to leave his line of reasoning here. There’s more to it, but for the rest, I suggest you read the book.

In close, don’t get caught up in the competition. Just do the work you’re passionate about. Try not to think about the competition. Just have fun. Don’t care how praised someone is or where they stand in whatever fabricated pecking order exists. Just search for two things. First, who has interests that overlap with you? And second, are they a good person?

 

 

 

Yesterday I may have gotten some things wrong. Bloggers often speak about topics they may not have the qualifications to speak about. But I think that’s okay.

It’s okay, at least in this instance, because I admittedly don’t have the answers. I have my best guess, but that’s all I can offer. I can provide you with my best educated shot at what’s going on in the world. It’s likely not much yet, but I’m really, really striving to make it something. And that should count for, well, something.

I made a lot of assertions. I realize some of them might be controversial. They might even damage some career prospects. But I think that’s okay, too. Because there needs to be more people willing to give a thoughtful perspective. There needs to be more of a meaningful dialogue about important issues of our time.

A lot of folks keep their head down. That’s all right. I worry, though, that it might stop them from reaching their full potential. I fear it might cause a life of mediocrity.

I really care that people are judgemental and that their behavior is antithetical to a more connected, inclusive society. And I really care about global inequity. History is riddled with exploitative practices, and we aren’t given the personal toolkit to have a considerate conversation about the real implications or normative principles undergirding them. To not share that perspective would be a disservice to humanity.

I want to be clear that I’m not opposed to different perspectives. In fact, I sincerely welcome – even crave – them. The day I allow myself to live in an echo chamber is the day I’ve died intellectually and philosophically. It’s the day I’ve let myself down for comfort.

I think a part of living rightly is being willing to take a stand on some issues, particularly ones with such far reaching externalities like corporate greed. If everyone stood idly in fear that they wouldn’t get hired, the bad guys (and girls) would triumph unopposed.

I hope that we can foster a culture where professionals can be more than replaceable cogs in bureaucratic machines. I hope we can create a culture where they’re considered well-versed facilitators of cogent values. Not necessarily champions of a cause but moderaters who offer thoughtful lenses or ethical paradigms with a keen eye toward the disenfranchised.

We must consider the human. And professionalism needs empathy.

 

Take care of yourself. You can’t help the world in the best way until you’ve helped yourself. Some might say it’s selfish, but it’s necessary. Take care of your body through exercise and a proper diet, set aside alone time to play and experience joy, and reflect on what brings you happiness.

No one you meet in your life will be what you expect from them completely.

There will inevitably come a time when you find they come up short.

They might not show enough attention, give us love in a way we feel we need, offer us advice that is helpful or insightful, take care of themselves in a way we respect, or might not always practice what they preach. The list could go on indefinitely.

We’re all just human beings just trying to find happiness. We’re all dealing with things, and we all have our own struggles.

Here’s the thing: is this person giving it their best shot? If yes, then accept them and just let them live. The time will come to help if you love long enough. It’s vital to your overall life’s happiness to understand the dangers of pressing too hard. It’s easy to be too heavy-handed and to cross the line from caring to judgemental.

But what if they don’t seem to care or really be trying? Well, then move on, forget about it.

This quote will serve you well: the greatest thing a person can be is easily forgiving and satisfied.

Yes, it’s important to care and to want to change things. People tend to hate change though. They tend to see themselves in a good light and take criticism poorly.

So, change systems, change institutions, change the freaking world. Just don’t worry about changing people you care for too much. It would really stink to lose them.