Build Your Leaders

Archive for November, 2009

Holding Space

November 27th, 2009

Would I rather be tight or right? We found the perfect spot. Only blocks from the apartment where we were staying. Our ideal space was five people in from the street. All of the people in front of us were shorter, and the sidewalk sloped up, allowing us unobstructed views. We agreed it was worth showing up an hour before the big Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to stake our place.

Within minutes of settling in, a woman with a foreign accent pried herself in next to us. She talked loudly into her cell phone while trying to claim more space. I was furious and determined to hold my ground. This proved more difficult than I had thought. The woman was aggressive. I braced myself and didn’t give an inch.

I had forgotten that when I react this strongly to a person, I need to pay attention. The person is most likely displaying a negative characteristic that I also possess but don’t like – or refuse – to admit. The reverse is also true: If I respond favorably to a person, I am reacting to a positive characteristic I also possess but don’t claim as my own. Psychologists call this principle “projection.”

I left the parade angry. Was I angry at the woman or myself?  If I am totally honest, I have to admit I am also overly aggressive, to the point of being rude, when I am hyper-focused on a task or goal. Worse, I don’t have a clue that I’m doing it. I have to hear about it from friends, loved ones, or colleagues.

I wish I had stepped aside.

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The Adventure Begins

November 24th, 2009

Live your way to the answers. The adventure begins at 1:30 today. This afternoon, I fly to Manhattan where I am renting a studio apartment in Chelsea for three weeks. If I had a nickel for each time a friend asked me the purpose of my trip, I could buy a ticket to a Broadway show. My answer? “I’m not sure.”

My extended stay is something that I feel I need to do. I am following my gut. I’d love to stumble on a burning bush at 21st and 9th, but I’d settle for something far less dramatic.

This I do know: I am seeking to integrate more “New York” into my life. No, I’m not thinking about moving; a lot of people have asked. But, I am seeking to bring more New York energy into my Asheville way of life. I’m ready to turn up the volume, take more risks, and shake it up a little. What that looks like, I don’t know.

I’ve been unsure for a long time. The world around us in changing, and I’m struggling to find new ways I can be more relevant and of service, and at the same time make a living. I am impatient, and yet I know the answers will come in their own perfect time.

The Persian poet Rilke writes, “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is live everything. Live the question now. Perhaps then, someday in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

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The Wounded Golden Boy

November 18th, 2009

Loving Our Imperfection. Dumbfounded, I stared at the gaping hole in horror. My cleaning crew had inadvertently poked a hole through the leg of my treasured antique papier-maché mannequin. This piece is more than a pretty artifact; it’s a metaphor for my life.

Four foot tall, it depicts a young man, and it’s painted gold; I call it “The Golden Boy.” To me, it represents the young man I felt my parents wanted me to be: Eagle Scout, altar boy, straight-A student. I was none of those things, and I felt I disappointed them.

My mannequin also represents the part of me that strives to be what I think others expect of me: smart, successful, empathetic.… The list goes on in my mind. The truth is, at times I am those things, but at other times I’m not. In fact, I’m just as capable of being the opposite. I can be empathetic and insensitive. Generous and stingy. Insightful and clueless.

The Golden Boy reminds me that our image is a fleeting façade, and that True Self is strongly wedged in the tension between opposites. As my dear friend Ruth likes to say, “We are ‘both-and’ people in an ‘either-or’ world.”

I’ve already called an art restorer to repair The Golden Boy, but I’m worried the patch will show. Then again, maybe it would be a good thing if it does. Maybe I’ll learn to love my golden boy, wounds and all.

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Holding the Tension Between Opposites

November 11th, 2009

A secret to living a full life. My business is steady, but it’s also slow. The extra time I have on my hands is heavy. As a “three” on the Enneagram being busy helps me stay safe in my comfort zone.

Sometimes we grow most when we are uncomfortable. What can this slower time teach me? I think about it a lot.

Jungian writer Robert Johnson wrote that one of the primary tasks of life is to hold the tension between opposites. These days, that’s all I seem to do.

Right Brain                                           Left Brain

Businessman                                       Artist

Doing                                                   Being

Work                                                   Play

Productivity                                          People

I struggle to find the right balance in my life. While I am still anxious, I know that I am growing. I know that holding the tensions between these opposites will help me live a richer life.

What opposites are you now balancing in your life?

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