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These Pretzels are Makin’ Me Thirsty!

Posted on 21 June 2012 by admin

Do you remember this classic Seinfeld bit where Kramer is cast in an upcoming Woody Allen movie as an extra who delivers a line in the movie.  As Kramer so often does he slides into Jerry’s apartment to share the news and Jerry, Elaine and George each take turns hearing, interpreting and delivering the line with varying degrees of success.  If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about check out the clip here, because by no means am I doing it justice.

Now, in a lot of ways I’m like Kramer.  I’ve got this line I was given and repeat it to myself again and again trying to get it to sound just right. I think too, if we’re honest, we all have these lines that play in our heads, you know those lines that seem seductive and true yet rarely lead to nourishment or life giving activities. Many schools of psychology have studied these types of thoughts- Alfred Adler would call them mistaken beliefs, Albert Ellis might call them distorted cognitions, and in spiritual terms it might be seen as spiritual warfare.  No matter what you call it there’s a pervasive voice inside that just seems to whisper innocuously crippling phrases.  When I’m in the midst of these types of thoughts I’m really in a bind.  Logically I know they’re not true and really don’t hold all that much weight, but when they are spinning around trapped in my head, they seem to take on a life of their own.

A dear friend of mine once said that until you name the fear it has a power all to its own.  Once named, that same looming fear shrinks to a manageable size; it loses some of its venom.  To put it in Adlerian terms, once I recognize that the belief upon which I’m operating is likely a mistaken belief- one borne out of fear, scarcity and insecurity, I can then choose to re-write the script and shift to a belief that is more nourishing and empowering.  My classic line, said in a pouty voice is, “nobody gets me.”

I have historically felt like a victim with the thought running through my head that nobody gets me, no one understands me, no one believes me or in me.  (I wish there was a font for whining so you could hear the point I’m making) I have been trained as a master complainer and learned to get attention by whining instead of more nourishing means.  I am just now beginning to learn the life-giving tools of personal responsibility, of aliveness and telling the truth.

A part of taking personal responsibility for my life has been in revisiting some of these old lines that run in my head and looking at them with a fresh set of eyes.  Just as Jerry, Elaine and George all emphasize different parts of the pretzel line, I’m beginning to see that as I expose my mistaken belief to more and more people I am allowing for different interpretations on what I had taken to be fact.

Now when I hear that voice inside whisper nobody gets you.  I hear it very differently.  Whereas I once thought it meant that no one understands me, I’m seeing very clearly that it could just as easily mean that I don’t give much if any of myself to other people.  So in that sense nobody really does get me, my aliveness, my energy, my strengths, my weaknesses, my personality, my emotions, me!  In fact the more willing I am to share me in relationships the more I find that people truly get and understand me! It turns out that moping and whining about what I didn’t have (understanding) was really just a charade that was keeping me from giving myself more freely in relationships!

At some level it was easier to believe that no one gets me than to instead add the last part of the sentence saying, no one gets me because I don’t give that much of myself.  Owning that last part has made all the difference for me in wanting to be more authentic and wanting to be more open in relationships.  Now while I still have work to do in this area, I like the corner that I’m turning and the sense of control that comes with taking responsibility and ownership for my runaway thoughts.  And just like Kramer who is using the support of his friends to help him with his line, I am using the support of a truth-telling community to help me test and re-work my mistaken beliefs.

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Nice Honkers

Posted on 29 September 2011 by admin

Do you know what it means to be a good honker?  I was at a weekend training that focused in team development, leadership and empowerment.  With the personal and introspective focus my current growth work has taken, using this weekend to focus outside of myself was a nice change of pace.  I was re-learning how to really work with my teammates for the best outcome.  One of my stated goals for the weekend is and was to continue to learn how to be a better support for the leaders of a team and to learn how I can continue to lead and contribute with or without a title.

I’m learning to be a good honker.  In the training, hosted by the Wright Leadership Institute, we talked a lot about geese, flying V formations, and being a good honker.  Here are the top two things I learned about myself, my leadership, and my servanthood by looking at geese.
  1. Geese fly in formation for a reason.  I’m sure your all familiar with the concept of drafting, and how the lead goose in a V formation breaks the wind resistance so that the other geese can rest and regain their strength and stamina for the long cross-country migrations.  What I learned that was different was that in addition to the lead goose supporting the other geese by being at the tip of the V, the other geese, by simply flapping their wings create an updraft that actually lifts and supports the lead goose in return.  The two exist in a balance of synergy and mutuality as the rest of the V needs the lead goose to steer and lead, the lead goose needs the rest of its flock to literally lift him up by flapping and following behind.  For me it was a beautiful metaphor for leadership.  A good leader needs both a strong sense of direction as well as a strong flock behind.  Think of the teams, groups, and organizations that you are a part of, in what ways are you an empowering part of the flock and in what ways are you a leader who is empowering their team.
  2. Geese honk for a reason.  If you’ve seen a flock of geese fly overhead, then you’ve heard them as well!  The unmistakable honking serves a purpose much larger than to annoy the rest of the world.  Honking is an auditory way that the geese encourage one another.  They literally are honking things like keep it up, or you can do it, or keep flapping, or you’re doing great!  The geese know instinctively that in order to reach their destination, they need to intentionally support and encourage one another to keep going past the point of fatigue and exhaustion.  There’s not a lot of thought or drama around it either, its just understood that in the flock, this is what we do.  We honk.  We honk supportive, affirming, and honest things about our experience.  Think of the teams you have been a part of.  The most successful and empowered teams are engaged with a constant buzz and chatter that is positive, growthful, purposeful, and intended to support and not thwart the efforts of the leadership and overall direction of the team.  Honking creates a positive growthful experience on any team.
What other metaphors from the animal world have touched your approach to leadership, servanthood, and life?  Are you a goose, do you honk, or are there other animals that you relate to or have gained insight from?  Continue the conversation in the comments section.

I know, they’re ducks, but listen to them Quack (honk)…

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Goals are for Suckers!

Posted on 21 September 2011 by admin

I am in a sales training class in which the leaders continually challenge me to set goals for how much I want to sell and consequently how much I want to make.  What they don’t know about me is that I secretly think that goals are for suckers!  I mean really, who spends all their time planning and writing down what they’re going to do.  Its a waste of time and is really only a distraction from getting the real work done!  How am I going to make the calls I need to make, or set up the appointments I need to set up to meet the people I need to see my practice grow- I don’t have time to sit and day dream what my life might be like someday.

I’ve got to say, this is really what I believe(d) until I realized that despite my best efforts to seem unplanned, haphazard and aloof, I am actually quite goal-oriented.  My one lab leader affirms me for being coachable because I set a goal, go for it, achieve it, rinse and repeat.  The first time he gave me that feedback I thought he was crazy.  He hadn’t gotten the memo that I don’t plan things like that out.  I held onto that belief until he said it again, and then again, and then again, until finally I began to put together what he was talking about.  I wasn’t even realizing just how goal-oriented I am, and how even despite the fact that I tell myself that goals are for suckers, my actions are showing one of two things.  Either I’m a sucker because I set and achieve goals, or that my belief about goals and people who set them are off.  I think its the latter, because, lets face it- even if I’m a sucker I’m not going to own up to it, that’d be a classic suckers’ move!  I’m coming to see that being a goal-oriented achiever really isn’t a bad thing at all.

When I am on my game I put a lot of thought into what I am doing and where I am going.  What I didn’t realize previously was that while I was having reactions to people who would put these goals and ideas down on paper, I was doing it all internally and making a mental checklist of where I should be and what I should be doing.  I liked being able to keep my goals to myself.  That way, wether I met them or not, I was only accountable to me.  Until recently, I had grown accustomed to giving myself passes and letting myself get away with a lot.  I think what I was reacting to is not the people who make goals, but rather the fear and potential to feel hurt, failure, and loss that could come with making my goals public and then not meeting them.  Not always, but when I’m in a dark place, I think that I am a failure, destined to a life of mediocrity and dissatisfaction.  From that space, putting a goal on paper is seems like an indictment on what I already know I can’t achieve.  I only saw goals as ways to point out my flaws and weaknesses and not a way to also measure success.
As I continue in my sales training lab I am encouraged to put my goals out on paper and to share them with the rest of the class.  In doing this, I began to notice something happening that was quite different from what I imagined.  The more I put my goals out there in the company of others, the more they were able to support me and cheer me on as I was not only meeting, but exceeding what I thought I could do.  I was surprised by my success, and began seeing that I was mistakenly selling myself short by not sharing my goals and ultimately my self with the people on my growth team.  I had been previously so caught up in my internal drama about my image, attempting to control how others saw and perceived me, and lying to myself, that I completely missed the point of goals.  Goals are for me.  They are a measure by which I can notice my own performance and make the necessary adjustments to get back on track and to celebrate as I achieve and exceed it.
My old way of viewing goals and goal setters is changing, because like it or not- I do it and I’m one of them!  I’m choosing however to like that about myself, to embrace that and with it my drive for achievement and success.  As a result, I am learning to do what it takes for me to create and live the type of life that I want to live.  I am learning as well that the more concrete and clear my goals are, the more I am able to enlist people on my growth team to empower me to go for more than I even thought imaginable.

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Lifelong Volley

Posted on 05 July 2011 by admin

I stepped tentatively onto the court.  I knew I was out of my league- or at least that’s what I imagined.  I was scared and intimidated.  They looked stronger, appeared taller, more athletic and physically superior to me in just about any way that I could think of.  As I stood there in terrified anticipation waiting for the volley to begin, I was desperate for my competitive nature to kick in and snap me out of my scared yet delusional place.  I was shell-shocked as I let my fear of being beaten take control.  In effect, I was taking myself out of the game before the game even began!

As the volleyball was served, my body instinctively went into action.  I was bumping, setting, and spiking with out much intent.  Fear was driving me, and each time I made a mistake- missed a ball or hit it in the wrong direction- I would get really down and be hard on myself.  I was scared that they guys I was playing with would discover that I wasn’t a pro volleyball player and laugh me off the court.  About a third of the way into the first game I realized that though I had come to North Avenue Beach in Chicago with the intent to have fun, I was making myself miserable.  Beating myself up was far more tiring than playing hard, and it left me feeling powerless, victimized, and exhausted.

I realized though I was on the court going through the motions.  Instead of orienting to my own satisfaction, I was orienting to being unsatisfied and miserable.  This realization rebooted my brain, and I got back in touch with my vision for having fun at the beach.  With that I shifted and began taking responsibility for my own satisfaction on the court; my eyes were opened to a whole different reality.  I was able to see the ‘better’ players making mistakes too.  They missed balls, had bad hits, and scrambled to recover just as I was doing.  When I was able to see that, I didn’t feel so alone, I actually felt like we were on the same level.  The giants from the beginning of the game became my peers.  I was able to not only hold my own but able to contribute to the team.

Once I shifted and realized that I was a value-add on the team, I began to engage more fully.  The more I engaged, the more risks I was willing to take.  I went for shots I would normally shy away from, dove, and was willing to get messy.  I started to notice too that as I engaged more fully I was able to hear my teammates comments as coaching and not as indictments.  They weren’t pointing out my flaws to take me out; they were coaching me to be more effective.  I began to see that as I played and performed better it meant the team would play better, and as the team played better we would win more games.  The fear that had been crippling me had vanished, it was in everyone’s best interest to support one another, coach one another, and really invest in each other’s success.

Being in that team environment felt both foreign and familiar at the same time.  I was reminded of my football team in high school and in college.  I was reminded also of the team at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment.  I am currently working on reminding myself that try as I might to see the world this way- I am not alone, I am not isolated, and I have not been abandoned.  Instead I am coming to see that there is an abundance of people I have chosen to be in relationship with who want to support me, who may even be eager to support me.  When I allow that to happen I am blessed with far more support, challenge, nourishment and encouragement than I thought was possible.  I become that person on the court who is risking, learning, and constantly improving instead of the one who is cowering in fear intimidated by his circumstances.

I am coming to see that I can play big in any arena I find myself in, the only one holding me back from being more authentically me is me.  As I continue my own personal growth work I am reinforcing that positive growth-focused mindset and choosing to step out of a fixed rigid place of insecurity, fear, and persecution.  Besides, living in a world of abundance and possibility is far more satisfying.

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