Max Out Our Humanity

Oprah Winfrey to Harvard graduates:

It doesn’t matter how far you might rise — at some point, you are bound to stumble. Because if you’re constantly doing what we do — raising the bar — if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages predicts that you will, at some point, fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure — failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. [emphasis added]

Now, when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like failure. . . . And when you’re down in the hole, when that moment comes, it’s really okay to feel bad for a little while — give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost — but, then, here’s the key: Learn from every mistake. Because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are.

No matter what challenges or setbacks or disappointments you may encounter along the way, you will find true success and happiness if you have only one goal — there really is only one, and that is this: To fulfill the highest, most truthful expression of yourself as a human being. You wanna max out your humanity by using your energy to lift yourself up, your family, and the people around you.

I find Oprah’s comments in the first paragraph to be profoundly true in my life. Sometimes life moves us in another direction before we are conscious of the shift, before we have words to describe the inner transition, and before what is going on with us makes sense to us. We might feel confused, befuddled, and may worry about our sanity. We are not failing; we are evolving. We lose what was part of the old reality of who we are and gain more of who we really are.

One key to life, I believe, is to stay true to my purpose, values, and vision for my life in times good and bad and trust in the process of life.

Birthday Fun

On her birthday, Melanie decided to collect all the free  birthday gifts/food offered to her in emails everyday.

She had a plan:

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iHop was the first stop:

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That’s a lot of free food. She tipped the servers at each place the amount the bill would have been.

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Granddaughter Saige was happy!

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Einstein Bros Bagels is next:

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Nice people at Einsteins: Melanie received an offer to pay for her food by a complete stranger when he heard it was her birthday. Then the server wished her happy birthday in Russian. A great stop!

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Off to DQ for a smoothie for me:

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Gigi’s  is next for a free cupcake:

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Noodles and Company is around the corner:

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Across the road to Smash Burgers:

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The server wasn’t as friendly at Arby’s: the manager would not give the free 12 oz shake without the printed coupon, even with the offer of seeing i.d. to show it was the right day. So we moved on with a lesser opinion of that establishment.

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Off to Caribou for coffee:

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Panera for a free dessert: the server was on autopilot.

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Bruegger’s Bagels is next: The server was alive: chatty, smiled, and wished Melanie a happy birthday.

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Green Mill Inn for free pizzas: the best servers of all: friendly, accommodating, and flexible.

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Desert at Cold Stone Creamery:

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And, our final stop for the day:

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The most interesting part of the day was not the free food, but how the servers interacted and who liked being part of the day and who simply didn’t care at all.

Parents and Children

Kahlil Gibran:

Your children are not your children

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not

even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

Wise parents accept their responsibility to evolve as human beings and their sacred duty to create the conditions for growth for their children.  The freedom to become ourselves that we want from our own parents, we must give to our children. We must not ask them to live our unlived lives; we must live the lives we want for ourselves. If we are afraid to grow, we will pass our inability to risk to our children. If we seek out our own development, we will pass that model on to our children.

There comes a time in life when our children leave us. They are supposed to leave. If they didn’t it would mean we did not give them the inner capabilities to care for themselves. If we have done our work well, we will have supported the uniqueness and authenticity of each child, and they will be ready to move on into another stage of life.

Parents must be responsible for themselves after the children are gone; that is our job. The children’s task is to find their own way in life with the foundation their parents gave them without the burden of taking care of their parents─emotionally or materially. Letting go is necessary for parent and child alike as relationships change.  Parents and children say goodbye to the various stages in their relationships — not to their love for one another.

As our children compose their own lives, we can recreate our lives over and over again. We will model how to live for our children at each stage of life and we may well teach them how to die. Hopefully we will live full and authentic lives with high ethical standards for ourselves that our grown children will see and emulate. We  can delight in seeing the more mature children who come to visit us.

As children gain their own lives and their own histories, the mature ones will see their parents less as idealized gods and more as imperfect human beings each taking or refusing their own journey in life, just like them. Children, aware of their own imperfections as people and parents, will grow more compassionate toward their parents and will forgive their shortcomings — real, imagined, exaggerated, and sometimes contrived by others. Courageous and authentic parents will be revered and respected by insightful adult children.

This is hard work. Tough love is required. Some suffering along the way is to be expected. We–parents and children–will have disappointments. We go boldly forward each step of the way with full knowledge of our imperfections as people and as mothers, fathers, and children.

This is to live.

Art on the River

Art inspires, informs, and illuminates.

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This looks like a fun way to get to the Stone Arch Bridge Art Festival!

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Where should we begin?

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Melanie found the day’s purchase:

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We will stick these in the ground and in flower pots instead of flowers. No maintenance; grow year around; only buy once.

I couldn’t do that.

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I could do that.

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Hey dad, put the umbrella over the kid’s head.

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I am in awe of the love, care, and dedication artists put into their creations.

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They’re having fun.

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There is justice. Two cars in no parking zones got towed. The owners are going to be surprised!

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Which should I do? I think I’ll do the Segway–next time.

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It’s getting hot and busy.

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That whipped cream looks good.

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I’m thinking that sitting in a cool theatre would be nice.

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I feel sorry for the dogs. They are hot. I think taking dogs to art fairs is attention seeking by the owners.

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Gotta toot your own horn once in awhile.

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We got our miles in. Time to head back across the Stone Arch Bridge.

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After a good time, we head for home.

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Resist Change? Or Resist the Changers?

A recent conversation with a senior vice president of a company prompted these thoughts.

Note to consultants and folks in organizations who fancy themselves change agents:

People resist change for all kinds of reasons. But did you ever think it was you employees were resisting?

When you denigrate everything people did before you arrived, you demean them.

When you brag and try to impress people with all your past successes, people smell b.s.

When you manipulate people’s emotions to get them to buy into what you are selling, people resent you.

When you criticize other consultants and vendors the employees use, they want to defend them and resist you.

When you try to bully people  to get them to do your bidding, people will sabotage you.

When you “Monday Morning quarterback” everything that goes wrong instead of asking, “What happened and what can we learn from it,” people will quit telling you about problems.

When you then blame the employees for resisting change, you are mindless of your impact on others.

I’m not innocent. I did most of  those things at one time or another as a leader and as a consultant.

How about some simple rules for consultants and change agents:

  • Treat people like adults,
  • Tell the truth,
  • Be honest about your agenda,
  • Share information openly and widely,
  • Listen to employees; they know what is wrong and how to fix it,
  • Lead with your values, not from your need to collect a fee or desire for a promotion,
  • Insure that people feel valued, involved, and informed, and
  • Involve people because they will support what they help create.

If you do these things, you won’t have to motivate people to change, they will motivate themselves and you will be a good leader of change.

A Review of “Learning to Live: Essays on Life and Leadership”

A reader wrote at Amazon:

“It’s like a map wherein each chapter contains a pearl of wisdom that can help the reader/seeker to find its better self to live as Tom does: an authentic life!”

Thank you Olivia Hemming!