Archive | 2004

The Struggle of the Moth

Isaac Cheifetz poses the following question: Can the principles of evolutionary biology be used to guide our careers?

In his article, he compares the “stop and go” path that some middle managers find in their journey to executive management to the evolutionary development theory of Punctuated Equalibrium popularized by Stephen jay Gould. In Gould’s theory, evolution tends to be characterized by long periods of inactivity that are “punctuated” by environmental forces leading to rapid, revolutionary development. Further in the article, Cheifetz clarifies what differentiates punctuated career development from a stagnant career path.

It reminds me of an episode of Lostwhere Locke talks to Charlie about the moth’s transformation and struggle to change. While he could help the moth escape from its cocoon with a slight cut of the knife, he would be doing it a disservice by robbing it of one of nature’s essential lessons. Struggle is what nature imposes in order to make things stronger. Without getting too Darwinian, there seems to be something there about our careers. Sometimes, there are lessons to be gained from struggle and if we give in and move on too quickly, we’ll rob ourselves of those necessary learnings.

When our careers seem like they’re stuck in low gear, maybe we need to be there for a reason. And maybe there is a rapid, revolutionary development on the near horizon if we’re open enough to look for it.

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There Is More Between Heaven and Earth

I keep coming back to this story and find myself amazed by what happened. It’s the recent story about the 17 year old girl who drove over her car into a ravine in Washington state. Two things are absolutely miraculous: one, that she survived (we learned today that dehydration may have saved her from dying of a blood clot in her brain); two, and the point of my post, is how she was found.

A volunteer searcher who said she had had several vivid dreams of a wooded area found the wrecked car in the trees Sunday…Hatch’s parents organized a volunteer search Saturday, and that night Sha Nohr, the mother of Hatch’s friend, said she had dreams of a wooded area and heard the message, “Keep going, keep going.”

This absolutely amazes me, as well as inspires me because there is so much that we still do not understand about ourselves as humans and our capabilities. What would you call Sha Nohr’s experience? To me, it relates to a second conception of “intuition.” There is a more rational view of intuition which is the mind’s ability to take various bits of information and fill in the blanks on a subconscious level. But this goes beyond rational. Another view of intuition is that it is an act of receiving information from a deeper level of reality. Deepak Chopra might say that it is communicating with the quantum level, that space which exists between physical reality and the spiritual reality of God.

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Intentional Grounding

I attended an inspiring workshop last week based on the idea of living an intentional life. Many of us experience everyday life as a series of events that the world does to us. We have no control over the traffic woes, the weather, the state of world affairs, the surly salesperson…these things are out of our control. They are external and they can seriously foul up our day or week or even month. So what do we do about them? The easy thing (and often unconscious action) is to allow them to direct our thinking and behavior. The affects can be souring relationships, declining work performance, increasing isolation from others.

It reminded me of a recent personal experience. I needed to get to a meeting and I was running late. I raced out to my car and drove out of the parking lot when I noticed that my wife didn’t replace my SmartTag (a little box that allows us to move through area toll booths quickly). I drove back to retrieve it and then drove out of the parking lot again when I realized that I didn’t have my cell phone. I let my wife borrow it while hers is being replaced. By now, I was fuming. You can see from the way this is going that I seem to be blaming my wife for being really late to an important meeting. Yet, there were so many other ways to view this incident at the time.

A more powerful option is to decide to live a life of intentional choices. While we can’t control most, if not all, of the external forces in our life, we can control our reactions to them. We have the ability to make intentional choices that, while not always easy, have the potential for great power in our lives.

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How My Children Have Influenced Me

During lunch a couple of days ago, a friend asked how I came to be a coach. As I recounted my winding career path since graduating from college, I realized there was one critical milestone in the journey: the birth of my first daughter. Her coming into this world wasn’t quite planned and it forced some replanning of my proposed future, as well as my wife’s future. Yet, in this period of reconsidering what I was all about as an individual and a professional, I asked myself one deeply soulful question that has continued to guide my life: What kind of father do I want to be?

The answers have provided a foundation not only for my personal life, but my professional life. I remember the first week of knowing that I was going to be a dad; I was terrified by all the changes that were going to need to take place…getting a solid job with health insurance (I was in graduate school at the time), finding a good place to live, etc. Then, this experience was further deepened when I started to consider all the changes that I would need to make as a person. At one point, the anxiety of it all was just too much and I started to run (physically) as hard as I could. I ran out of my basement apartment and kept running along street after street, through park after park, until I couldn’t go any farther and fell into the grass. From this exhausted state, I asked myself what kind of father do I want to be and then the answers started to appear.

I wanted my child to know love, to know integrity, to know playfulness, to know commitment, to know that this world is a good place filled with good people, to know that we can love our work. And the way for her to know these things are to see them modeled.

The process of asking myself this question did not end prior to her birth, but continues to guide me today. As my children grow, so do I as a father. Being a dad has provided another powerful layer of purpose to my life.

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Are You Getting Enough Oxygen For Yourself?

A great article at the Parentalk Working Parents Naturally Savvy site. The ‘Oxygen Mask’ Principle relates that familiar airplane safety reminder of putting on your own oxygen mask before trying to fasten your child’s mask to taking care of yourself as a parent. So often, we take care of everyone BUT ourselves and in the end, we not only cheat ourselves, but those around us. Sometimes, it’s essential that we’re selfish. Then, we can be fully present when our children, spouses, and other loved ones need us.

What are you going to do this week to get your oxygen?

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It’s All Invented…So Have Fun with It

One of my favorite books is The Art of Possibilityby Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. It speaks to me both as a creative individual and as an impactful leader. One of the things that I prefer in books of this type is a mix of insight and suggestions for taking action. The best leadership and personal development books help you use what you’ve learned in new and dynamic ways. In this respect, it is a coaching-centered resource.

The first chapter forms the foundation for the rest of the book and centers on the notion that we perceive all that happens around us in very individual ways and then interpret them accordingly. Reality and truth are then very subjective. Once you understand and accept this notion, you have an incredible capacity to act in fresh and powerful ways. They call it “It’s All Invented” and go on to suggest since we have the ability to create new stories, we might as well create ones that enhance the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.

So, what stories are you creating right now? Do they involve you as the lead character who lives a life of drudgery, misfortune, bitterness? Hopefully not, but perhaps its just a blah life in which you yearn for more. What if you decided to create a new story today, one that involves passion, excitement, laughter, [go ahead, fill in the blank]?

Remember, it’s all invented so have some fun with it. What do you think?

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