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Archive for April, 2012

WAVES. . .SHALLOWS. . .WHIRLPOOLS

I catch my self riding the waves of the next best thing or idea; I forget that waves crash and the it is the deep currents that have the true staying power.  I also get caught up wading in the shallows, fearful of the dark that holds the deep currents that are always calling me to ‘go deeper still.’  I also experience being in the whirlpools.  What others do and think and say can quickly suck me into the vortex.  I am so busy riding waves, wading in the shallows or swirling in whirlpools that I become lost.  More than lost, I am in danger of disconnecting from my soul; that part of me that can only be accessed from the depths of my being.

When I am lost this way I know I must re-find my soul, my sustaining spirit.  I know I must leave the waves, the shallows, the whirlpools and dive into the depths.  Here, in the solitude I am able to renew so I can reenter refreshed and reinvigorated.

Another option I have is to go, not into the depths, but into the desert, to enter into the wilderness.  To be still.  To reconnect with the divine within.  To listen for the whisper of the spirit that guides and sustains me.  It is hard for me to hear the soft whisper when I am distracted by all of the noise, my noise, and when I am distracted by all of my ‘doings,’ my busyness.

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THE TEAM. . .THE PERSON

Creating effective teams is challenging.  If the members are clones or ‘toadies’ of the leader [team, department, division, organization] they will become a ‘herd’ not a ‘heard.’  Teams will not work if everyone is the same sort of person as everyone else.  I remember a mentor of mine sharing this story with me many years ago.  He was working with a large university and he set up a ‘team challenge.’  There were three teams, one comprised of ‘designated leaders,’ one comprised of instructors and one comprised of students.  The designated leaders finished dead last, actually they never finished the exercise for they spent their time talking strategy [this was their gift, it was not implementation].

We do seem to know that effective teams [we do need to define ‘effective’], need people with a variety of gifts, talents, intelligences, personalities and abilities. This is good news for us, individuals.

The diversity required means that there is a great deal of room for who I am and who you are.  Given my and your gifts, talents, intelligences, personalities and abilities there is bound to be a team that needs me and you.  Some of us easily find these fits and some of us struggle for years; the latter requires great patience and perseverance.

When I doubt myself, which seems to occur most mornings, I take a few deep breaths, imagine my self living a day where way will open – and way will close – and then I commit myself to looking for way opening.  I don’t know what way will open, but I do know that one will and then I will have to decide whether to cross the threshold and take a step onto the way.

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I cannot remember how many times I have been advised to not sweat the small things.  I cannot recall how many times I even said these words to others.  Perhaps this admonishment is a helpful guideline. . .perhaps.  I am sitting here in one of my not so favorite coffee shops which is located close to where I am going to have a good thinking session with a thought-partner.  As I attempted to settle into a quite uncomfortable chair – one of many in this shop – one of my initial responses was to say, this is a small thing, you will only be here for an hour or so, don’t sweat it.  Then I paused.

Small things can, and often do, make a difference.  I remember my mother being hurt by family members not sending thank you notes – I was, at times, one of those who did not.  Internally I also remember saying, mom this is a small thing, don’t sweat it while externally I attempted to put balm on her wound [which probably never did help her].  These past few years I have become aware of the power of those little thank you notes as I experience a type of ‘wound’ that is inflicted when a niece or nephew, and now grand niece or nephew do not take the time to send a note or send an email and thank me for their gift [I am blessed in that my two children, now adults, continue to respond to me with great gratitude].

I remember spending time twenty years ago with a remarkable man; he was insistent on learning, retaining, and using people’s names and each day he would make sure he learned of employees who were ‘struggling’ with a work issue or with a family issue and he would send them a note; he would write out the note early in the morning or late in the day and send it off.  I asked him why.  It’s the small things that matter!  That was his reply.  I felt a story lurking behind his response so I asked him if a story did exist.  He paused and told me that when he was a young executive the ‘big boss’ stopped by his office and said, ‘John, welcome to the firm, I hope the wife and kids are fine.’  Then the ‘big boss’ turned on his heel and departed.  Bill said, he didn’t even know my name and I was not even married at the time.  He then added, it was a small thing in the big scheme of things, but I never trusted him again.  

We all know, at some level, perhaps at several levels of our being that the small things do matter. . . no perhaps about it.

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A DRESS REHEARSAL YOU SAY. . .

Last week I was providing some good thinking to one of my thought-partners.  He is struggling with whether to remain in his current executive role or to move on.  As we were searching together he asked me, Richard, what do you want to do when you grow up?  I woke up this morning with this question embedded in my brain.  As I was settling in at one of my favorite coffee houses it occurred to me that my life is not a dress rehearsal; this is it.  Legally I am considered to be a senior citizen; personally I like the concept of being an ‘elder’ better, but I digress.  I hold a concept that ‘old age’ is ten years older than I am.  I have seldom thought of ‘retirement’ and yet I know many who do.  What I do find myself doing, however, is postponing stuff.  This I find many folks also do.

We all know people who live lives of deferred gratification, waiting until they are. . .who knows, pick an age or a situation. . .so they can. . . live where they want or do what they want or be what they want.  How many really get to do ‘it?’  I remember having an afternoon conversing with five ‘movers and shakers’ in the Netherlands.  We were in a villa in Hilversum [as a consultant you know you have arrived when your office is a villa] and my host, an intriguing consultant, had invited these five folks to engage in a long conversation.  They knew one another and relished the time to be together for an afternoon.  What I learned, what they risked to share with me, was that each of them held a vision of what they really wanted to do.  As I recall, one wanted to be a concert violinist, one wanted to be a baker, one wanted to be an auto mechanic – these were their passions; what they were living were their ‘duties.’

People who are given twelve months to live find themselves living differently and are often quite serene as they do so.  They often find themselves to be much nicer people and more forgiving; not all achieve this as we well know, but enough do and they capture our attention.  They are, it seems, experiencing ‘heaven.’  So I ask, why wait?  Why do I wait?  Why not seek a taste of heaven now, today and tomorrow?  This play, my play, is real; this is not a dress rehearsal.

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INTELLIGENCE. . .NO, INTELLIGENCES

In our culture we tend to ration intelligence; yet our human potential is not one dimensional.  I celebrate the research that confirms multiple intelligences.  There is intellectual intelligence, that we know, but there is also musical intelligence, creative intelligence, the practical, and the physical, the social and the psychic.

In this sense there are those who have difficulty with math and are great auto mechanics or those can’t spell well but wow us as master wood workers.  It intrigues me that it appears as if the intelligences are not connected.  I remember my daughter describing one of her really bright friends, he’s really book smart but he couldn’t change a light bulb if his life depended upon it. 

It seems that St Paul was making the same kind of point when he told the worldly-wise Corinthians that the gifts of the Spirit came in different forms to different people – call them ‘talents’ if you will – but all were necessary as the different parts of the body are to health.  Life would be dull if we were all the same.  I look at the people I know and celebrate their individual intelligences.  I do believe that each of us is gifted with our own particular intelligence and our challenge is to discern what it is, to develop it and to use it to meet a need that exists in my/our world.  We also have an obligation to discern the specific intelligences present in others – especially the ones they don’t know they have but we can see them – and to call them forth.  I like to think that there is no need for anyone being labeled ‘stupid.’

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