Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

"There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do."

-- Freya Stark

Friday, September 12, 2014

You Can’t Take Someone Where You Aren’t Willing To Go

His big, tear-filled eyes looked across the table at her. I thought my heart would explode from the cuteness.

Mom, I don’t want to eat my broccoli. Please don’t make me.”
Mom replies, “Honey, I told you if you want ice cream for dessert you have to eat all of your vegetables.”
But you didn’t eat any dinner and only had ice cream.”

The kid had a point. We laughed from the irony.

I see a bigger lesson for myself in this, and not just about broccoli or ice cream. For most of my life I think I gave people advice I wasn’t willing to take or I challenged them to do things I had never had the balls to do.

I don’t think I’m alone in that, I think it’s quite normal.

I wonder how many times we make judgments about what someone should do or say, or offer advice we have no experience in. Don’t we tend to believe we are an expert when it comes to someone else’s life? On the other hand, how often do we get challenged to do something the other person has never done?

How many books do we read where we question if the author actually lives what they write?
How many teachers have we had who teach something they’ve never lived?
How many speakers do we see where they sound good but somewhere in our gut we smell bullshit?
How many parents tell their kids something just to make them feel better or avoid conflict?

Brene Brown turned this idea on its head for me, truly. That woman is one of the strongest people I can imagine, not because she’s super badass and puts people in their place but because she actually lives what she preaches: vulnerability. I see it in her work, I hear it in her podcasts and talks, and her examples continuously expose those parts of myself I try so hard to cover.

Simply put, her biggest gift is that she gives permission to be messy.

See, the overarching problem with us is not that we judge others but that we don’t share openly and without fear, which then teaches others to shield themselves and the cycle perpetuates itself.  If we had no fear of what people thought, we’d all be living life very different. Social media wouldn’t be a competition, every conversation would be honest and exposing, and we would hold fewer resentments because the air between people would be clearer.

We muddy things by hiding behind our personalities and resisting vulnerability. It's hard. 
Vulnerability is a practice, a lifestyle... an art.

I gave a talk at a conference last summer titled “The Art of Vulnerability." As the Universe so humorously does, I had a lesson in vulnerability before speaking it. I battled through writing the talk because the desire to appear strong, collected, and together was significant. I didn’t want to show the soft parts of me. I wanted to sound competent and articulate...  I wanted to ‘wow’ the audience. Well, when the topic is vulnerability I think we have to throw all other layers of ourselves aside and be uncomfortable in our truth. And that’s just what I did.

I shared about my life’s journey, my brokenness, my wholeness, and a bunch of honest stories that related to the idea that we cannot take someone where we aren’t willing to go. Wouldn’t you know that a hundred people came up to me after the talk to ask about more conversation about vulnerable living?

I am by no means an expert in this, but I spread some goodness there. Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

Relate this to work, school, business, leadership, or relationships. You have no foundation for an experience you’ve never had. Start experimenting and growing and inviting others for the ride. And eat your vegetables. I do.

On Safe Spaces

I have always been a believer that spaces and environments affect people and vice verse. It turns out that whole idea is an actual, real thing, which must mean I’m very smart. Environmental psychology studies the interplay and affect of individuals and their surroundings.

Wikipedia describes environmental psychology as “encompassing natural environments, social settings, built environments, learning environments, and informational environments.”

My hypervigilant, obsessive nature of observing my surroundings started soon after a significant childhood trauma, which makes a lot of sense. Trauma creates deep, unnatural grooves in our brain that form our personalities and mode of operation over time.

I became a young expert at knowing where every article I owned was placed and if it had been moved, I was keenly aware of how physically close people were to me and where the nearest exit door was located, and I attempted to control every aspect of my environment as a way to self-soothe.  I wasn’t protected from harm as a little girl and from that point on I have sought to protect myself in my environment on physical and metaphysical levels.

I don’t see this as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Reality is that this has served me well in a lot of ways. For example, I’ve been complimented on the arrangement, color scheme, and decorative nature of my home for years and years. People consistently comment that they feel safe or relaxed in my living space. I’ve created a safe haven for myself and that translates to others.

In my work as a producer, I get to create live events that incorporate the whole audience/attendee experience – a sensory exploration. What do they see, touch, taste, hear, feel? That’s a niche that I don’t know of many other producers of my type playing in. It sets me apart.

As an adjunct professor of public speaking and communication theory, I get to create a classroom energy conducive for multi-level learning. As an organization coach, I get to assess and rearrange ideas and people-energy for maximum productivity and effectiveness.

Perhaps you could call me an Energy Specialist. Only no one would know what that means.

Whatever the case, I’ve done enough inner healing and work to release fear that has been associated with controlling spaces in the past. Now I get to create spaces that are freeing, peace-filled, light, and calming because that’s me.

One of my projects last year was redecorating my office. This was particularly important for several reasons:
1.     I spend more time in my office than my own bed. Sad.
2.     I have a lot of hard conversations in my work and I wanted an environment that supported a higher, positive nature.
3.     If I didn’t spend the budget money I would have lost it when the new fiscal year started.  

So here is one example, one snap shot of my work life that embodies the idea of safe spaces. Other than the terribly designed chair on the bottom left (that I couldn’t get rid of), I think I did okay.