31 January 2017      

Hello again, and thank you for being here on the last day of this month.
We'll be moving into February tomorrow, and hopefully the way things
are going in our world are still allowing you to have a bit of peace and
hope in your life.  Hang in there, for the conflict that we're witnessing
will play itself out, and with many of us focused on the positive, it will
play itself out in positive ways.

 Harmony
Gary Zukav and Linda Francis

How Do You Get Back Up?
Steve Farber

The Balance between Work and Play
tom walsh

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If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles, and kindnesses, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.

Humphrey Davy

Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead.  Fill their lives with sweetness.  Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them and while their hearts can be thrilled by them.

Henry Ward Beecher

  

Harmony
Gary Zukav and Linda Francis

In order to create harmony with another person, you must care enough about that person to hear her story, share her struggles, and be with her while the parts of her personality that are frightened come to the surface.  Harmony requires that you accept another individual as a personality whose life is as complex and difficult as your own.  You cannot open yourself up only to the parts of a person that are loving, and expect to create harmony.  You must also be willing to interact with the parts that are angry, jealous, vengeful, and violent.  It is easy to create harmony with someone who cares for you, but it is difficult when that person is angry, disdainful, or judgmental.

Harmony only with those who look, think, speak and act like you is not true harmony, but the maintenance of a clique.  Sometimes, the clique is small, with only a few people to re-enforce one another's beliefs and perceptions.  For example, they all ride motorcycles, have children, or are artists.  They are harmonious because they limit their interactions to mutually acceptable areas of interest.  Sometimes the clique is very large, such as the cliques of people who feel comfortable only with those who attend their church, synagogue, or mosque.

A nation can be a clique of millions of individuals who feel superior or entitled to what others do not have because of their nationality.  Skin color, sex, education, and economic status are all foundations of cliques.  Within the clique, harmony exists only as long as interactions remain nonthreatening.

Your soul wants harmony with all of Life--with those you consider your friends and those you consider your enemies.

It is as difficult to create harmony with friends as it is with adversaries because friends bring the frightened parts of their personalities into their interactions, just as you do.  That makes it difficult to say no to a friend and to hear no from a friend.  When you try to please another person, you distort your behavior in order to make that person comfortable, and you put yourself in a position that is not authentic.  When your strategy works you become resentful, and when it fails you become angry.

Harmony requires integrity.  You cannot control whether other people are authentic, but you can decide whether or not you will be.  In other words, harmony with another is not always possible, but the in-tention to create it is.  For example, when a friend asks for a favor and you do not feel comfortable saying yes, you must choose between your discomfort and your integrity.  If you say yes, you are not truly a friend to that person, because you do not care enough about him--or yourself--to say what is important to you.  Not only do you fear losing your friendship, you fear asking yourself if it is, indeed, a friendship.

On the other hand, when you are not willing to accept an authentic answer, your relationship is also based in fear.  You keep a record of how much you have done for her and how much she has done for you, and when the record becomes unbalanced, your relationship breaks.

An in-tention is not an expectation.  Harmony and expectations cannot coexist.  An in-tention does not depend on what others do, but an expectation does.  When others do as you expect, you are pleased, and when they do not, you feel disappointed, betrayed, or devalued.  Relationships are intimate arenas in which you encounter frightened parts of your personality and frightened parts of the personalities of others.  Harmony is the in-tention to heal.

How you express integrity is important.  If you need to become angry in order to say no, or reject before you can be rejected, you cannot create harmony.  Harmony requires the ability to say no, yes, or perhaps with the in-tention of creating a caring, constructive, and joyful relationship.  Some circumstances call for a direct, or blunt response, while in others, a more gentle communication is appropriate.  When your in-tention is to create harmony, you become like a deeply rooted tree that can stand in the strongest wind.  You do not hold expectations, but rather do what you do because you have chosen that course for yourself.

Harmony requires courage.  For example, if you care for another, you will not allow him to speak to you disrespectfully, even though looking the other way or making excuses for him may appear to be the easier route.  Speaking from your heart, without judgment and without expectation, is not always easy.  At other times, the in-tention to create harmony without speaking is appropriate.  At all times, courage and integrity are required. . . .

Creating harmony does not require you to become a doormat for others.  In fact, it demands that you do not, because when you make yourself a doormat, people will clean their shoes on you.  Creating harmony requires the courage to fail the expectations of others, to object when you feel an objection is appropriate, and to say no, yes, and maybe, without expectation.

The creation of harmony is spiritual activism.  You devote your energy to what you believe, but you do not make others wrong, tolerate violence, or contribute to it, nor do you confuse kindness with weakness, or need with love.

The parts of your personality that object to harmony object also to your spiritual growth.  They judge, condemn, and refuse to forgive.  They forget that others exist.

Harmony is a conscious creation of a loving world.  The in-tention to create harmony is medicine for deep pain.  It opens you, illuminates your dark places, brings peace to them, and allows you to develop your greatest gift--an open heart.
   
  

The Mind of the Soul describes with easy-to-read text and practical exercises how each moment in life presents a choice: whether to persist in old, limited patterns or to experiment with the unbounded, liberating potential ahead. Whether your choices are large -- concerning work, marriage, parenting, divorce -- or appear small, such as whether to show annoyance when angry, they carry consequences for which you must assume responsibility.  The Mind of the Soul shows you how, in every situation, one choice among the many that present themselves is the optimal choice -- to create harmony, cooperation, or reverence for life.

   

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How Do You Get Back Up? A Counterintuitive Approach to Thriving in Challenging Times
Steve Farber

A while back, I received a distressed email from Ken, a young manager at a high-tech company.

Ken and I had never met, but he had read my first two books and had done his best to apply the ideas and practices of Extreme Leadership to the way he'd led his team.  To their culture, their work ethic, their camaraderie.  When necessary, Ken told me, they would band together and work hard -- 10 to 20 hours a day at times -- to solve a problem or meet a pressing need.  Ken's wife would cook food for everyone and bring it to the office.  They felt like a family, he said, committed to doing great work and devoted to one another's success.  No one ever complained, least of all Ken.

And then something happened.  A downturn, a re-org, a shift in the management structure -- we all know the drill.  Ken still had a job, but his position was eliminated.  New management full of old ideas came in to oversee the department's function and the emotional fibers that connected Ken's team to each other and to their work unraveled.

"Now," Ken wrote, "for the last four weeks I sat at my cubicle, web surfing for eight hours a day at the same company where I once worked 39 hours straight with my team to make things right, never going home.

"I'm not a quitter; I don't want to leave.  But -- just or unjust -- I feel stripped of everything we've done," he said.  "So the advice I'm looking for is this:

"How do you get back up?"

I admit that I was loath to hand out that kind of potentially life-altering advice to someone I'd never met.  After all, I had only the sketchiest of details about Ken's situation, and it seemed way too presumptuous to represent myself as the all-knowing answer man.  But I did have an idea for him, and I really felt that it could make a huge, positive difference in Ken's life -- and in the life of those he worked with.

And it wasn't the kind of advice you'd expect.

It's already become a cliché to say that we live in unprecedented, challenging times.  We all know it.  But the truth is, the world of work is always challenging.  That's why they call it "work."

No matter the industry, market, or type of company you work in, you've had to deal with some combination of the classic work-place obstacles, issues, and barriers to a satisfying, fulfilling experience.

At some time or another, for example, you've reported to bosses or people in positions of authority who were self-centered at best, and idiotically egotistical at worst.  They took all the credit and none of the blame and could care less whether or not you succeeded or failed.  Or worse, they preferred that you'd fail, and took great pleasure in your struggles.

Or perhaps you worked in a company that, even though populated by terrific human beings, was so obsessed with the bottom line and shareholder value that they made executive, strategic decisions that compromised the employees' ability to serve the customer.  And the customers, therefore, exited in droves.

You may have been in an environment that was hyper-competitive to the point of paranoid, risk-averse to the point of stifling, or so political that it made you consider running for local office just to get some relief.

We've all experienced some combination of these themes with varying levels of intensity.  And we've all spent some amount of time and energy navigating our way through the personal challenges that the organizational pitfalls present.  It's just the price we pay for hanging out with other human beings.

Now, add to that the current, sucking implosion in the economy, and it's easy to see why, with all our efforts to be positive, productive leaders, we still get knocked down from time to time.  Sometimes way down.

The problem is in the way we typically deal:  Our knee-jerk reaction in times of crisis is to hold on tighter, to be more cautious in our actions, and more protective of our resources.  We think that our way out -- or up -- will come by virtue of shoring up and hoarding what we have.

There is, however, a much better, far more powerful alternative.  A counterintuitive course of action based on this ageless reality of true leadership:

Your own greatness as a leader (or in just about any other role you take on, for that matter) lies, paradoxically, in your ability to cause others to be greater than yourself.

Said another way, your (and my) best way out of a challenge or crisis is not to focus on your own peril or rut, but, instead, to reach out and try to boost someone else over your head.

The idea should sound familiar.  It's really just a variation on the "do unto others" sentiment of the Golden Rule, a philosophy that exists in virtually all religions, schools of thought, and philosophies on the planet.  And in none of those versions -- not one -- will you find a footnote saying, "Does not apply Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 to 5 or any time you find yourself in a jam."

So the solution I offered to Ken was this:

Pick someone at work to invest in, with the intent of making that person greater than you are.  Be a coach, guide, or mentor in the truest, most personal sense of the words by choosing someone to be your GTY (Greater Than Yourself) project, and see what that does to your own predicament, your own state of mind.

Maybe it was out of desperation, but as surprised as he was by the curve ball I'd thrown him, Ken took my advice and agreed to the challenge.

Two weeks later, Ken wrote to say that he'd thought deeply about our conversation and had come to realize that before he could lift someone else up by sharing his knowledge and experience, he needed to be sure that he had learned the right lessons from the recent team trauma.  So he'd met with his boss, and asked for feedback on how he could have acted differently, what he may have done to contribute to the problem, and how he could be a better leader in the future.  The "30-minute meeting turned into a two-hour confessional," said Ken, which resulted in him learning some hard, "gold lessons" about himself.

"Now," he continued, "I've already started to work with a tech on my team who wants to be a manager.  And I'm taking a vow," he said, "to make the people around me better -- as I continue to grow myself.  I'm going to teach my children about this, too."  Ken, it seems, has gotten his energy back, and he's well on his way to getting back up.

We're all human, just like Ken.  And just like him, we all get bashed down from time to time.  So, the next time that happens to you, resist the temptation to pull yourself up by the proverbial bootstraps, and reach out to pull someone else up, instead.  Go find someone to be your GTY project.

Come to think of it, why wait?

*   *   *   *   *

©Steve Farber.  Steve Farber, author of Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership, the president of Extreme Leadership, is a leadership consultant and speaker, and the author of the national bestseller The Radical Leap, and The Radical Edge.  He lives in San Diego, California.
   

Raising someone up does not
reduce your stature—in
fact, it exalts you in ways
you have to experience
to believe. Greater Than
Yourself
shows how you
can begin improving the world
by giving of yourself. It’s
a wonderful message wrapped
in a highly entertaining,
well-written story.”

--Ken Blanchard

   

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Do not compare yourself with others, for you are
a unique and wonderful creation.
Make your own beautiful footprints in the snow.

Barbara Kimball

   

 

The Balance between Work and Play

I think it's important to keep in mind as time goes on that any discussions of balance are necessarily going to be a bit artificial.  One sets up two extremes and then looks for a way to balance those extremes, while the fact of the matter is that if we talk about work, we could also talk about the balance between work and rest or the balance between work and education, or even the balance between work and time spent with friends.  Likewise, we could discuss the balance between play and rest, the balance between play and study, or the balance between physical play and mental play.

That said, though, there can be a great benefit to exploring single balances at a time, as the discussion gets much more focused and one isn't trying to discuss everything at once.  And work is an element of our lives that so many of us share that it makes sense to examine it, just as play is an element of our lives that we all used to share, but that many people have given up as something just for kids.  Many of us have built artificial dichotomies that don't allow play to be involved with work or vice versa--there's a time for work and a time for play, and never the two shall meet.  Unfortunately, this idea brings a lot of people down and doesn't allow them to see the fun sides of life because they've decided to focus their attention and energy only on the work side of life.

But the two concepts most definitely are not mutually exclusive.

There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that those people who still play in their lives also work better and more efficiently overall because they approach work from a rested perspective--they're not burned out from focusing only on work.  Play in this sense is much like a nap in that it allows you to recharge your mental and physical batteries in order to be able to tackle the necessary tasks at work.

   

The beauty of work depends upon the way we meet it, whether we
arm ourselves each morning to attack it as an enemy that must be
vanquished before night comes--or whether we open our eyes with
the sunrise to welcome it as an approaching friend who will keep
us delightful company and who will make us feel at evening
that the day was well worth its fatigue.

Lucy Larcom

   
Problems arise usually for two reasons:  first, some people simply don't know how to find the balance or when to employ it.  They may start playing at an extremely important moment when play truly is inappropriate, thus sabotaging others in their efforts to get things done.  I've witnessed this over and over, when one person isn't taking things seriously at a moment when things truly need to be taken seriously, as the outcome of the work is very important.  While play during a down time when things aren't so busy can be very helpful, play during a busy time when everyone needs to be focused can be very damaging.  That's part of the balance:  learning when to play and when to work.  And if you're getting paid for the work you do, making sure that the play is a very small part of it.

The other time I see play being ineffective is when other people react strongly to is, usually with the attitude that the person who's playing really should "grow up" and "take life seriously."  When two attitudes are at odds like this, play can be less effective and even damaging to a relationship.  Of course, the person who thinks like this is completely unable to see any benefits to play in "older people," and his or her perspective is a bit skewed.  But take five minutes to throw around a football in the office and this person is going to be irate, and that's a very sad thing to be when other people are just enjoying themselves.  Sadly enough, this is a person who often doesn't mind that one person takes a ten-minute smoke break and another spends twenty minutes in the bathroom, while others spend five-ten minutes every hours on social media, but if someone dares to play for five minutes in order to re-focus, it seems to be a crime against humanity.
    

The major work of the world is not done by geniuses.  It is done
by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have
learned to work in an extraordinary manner.

Gordon B. Hinckley

    
It's important that we find this balance, though, because it's dangerous to let play slip out of our lives.  Play helps us to stay creative, and it helps us to see the world in different ways.  If I'm throwing and catching a ball, I'm using my brain in completely different ways than I am at work; if I'm playing tag with some kids, I'm using my brain and my body differently; if I'm flying a kite or roller-blading or playing softball or jacks or even Monopoly or cards, I'm focusing my attention fully on the present moment and developing strategies for the moment and reacting to things that happen in the moment--play is one of the most effective ways of practicing being in the moment that we have.

Work, on the other hand, has us thinking of potential problems down the road and dealing with problems that may come up tomorrow or the next day or next month or year.  The strategies that we develop at work are generally for the future, not for the present, and the more we spend our time thinking this way, the less time we have for living in the present moment.  Work is important, and sometimes work can be the best thing in our lives--I love teaching and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else, but I also love the time I spend playing because it makes me a better teacher to often get my mind off of the classroom and the students so that I'm refreshed when I get back to them.  I take my work very seriously because I know that the stakes are high for my students, and it's because I take it seriously that I make sure that there's plenty of play in my life, too.
   

To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as
though nothing of consequence will happen.  On the
contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate
as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise;
everything that happens is of consequence.  It is, in fact,
seriousness that closes itself to consequence, for
seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of
open possibility.  To be serious is to press for a specified
conclusion.  To be playful is to allow for possibility
whatever the cost to oneself.

James Carse

   
I know that my students appreciate it when I'm a bit playful in class, as long as I don't let that get out of hand.  It lowers the stress level and it makes people much more comfortable asking me questions and challenging any ideas that I share with them.  I also don't get burned out on the subject matter because I spend time enjoying myself, doing something else.

It's important that we remember that play is what we define as play, too.  For me, for example, a five-mile run is extremely enjoyable, and it qualifies as play.  For someone else, a five-mile run may be their own special slice of hell.  Play to me is never enjoyment at someone else's expense--teasing or tricking or mocking--I never want to laugh at someone else's pain or confusion.  Play can also get ruined if people take it too seriously, as you'll see in many adult sports leagues--when it's no longer fun and winning is the only goal, then it's no longer play, but just another source of stress.  Some people enjoy that sort of thing, but I certainly don't.  I want play to be fun.

Balance in life is extremely important, but something that we don't talk about enough in our society.  Talk about it with your loved ones; figure out how to make balance a high priority in your life.  And as you think about it, consider how to make the balance between work and play one of your highest priorities, for your work will benefit if you find your balance, as will your spirit and your overall mental and physical health.

   
More on play.

   

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Choose to have fun.  Fun creates enjoyment.  Enjoyment invites
participation.  Participation focuses attention.  Attention expands
awareness.  Awareness promotes insight.  Insight generates
knowledge.  Knowledge facilitates action.  Action yields results.

Oswald B. Shallow

  

The Paradoxical Commandments
Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.  Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.  Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.  Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.  Give the world the best you have anyway.

   
  

Faith is the centerpiece of a connected life.  It allows us to live
by the grace of invisible strands.  It is a belief in a wisdom superior
to our own.  Faith becomes a teacher in the absence of fact.

Terry Tempest Williams

    

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