Build Your Leaders

Archive for the ‘authentic life’ Category

Getting Goals Wright

May 6th, 2013

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright liked to share a story from his childhood that he said helped shape his philosophy of life. When he was nine years old, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his rigid, reserved uncle. When the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him and pointed out their tracks in the snow. The uncle’s were straight as a line while young Frank’s tracks meandered all over the field.

“Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle observed. “And see how mine aim directly at my goal.”

Years later Wright would say, with a twinkle in his eye, “I determined right then, not to miss most things in life as my uncle had.”

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Become a Better Person: The 90/10 Rule

January 2nd, 2013

Nothing spotlights sagging self-esteem stronger than when people judge others. Growing up, I was the supreme judge. A fat kid (I had to wear “Husky” brand pants), I constantly put down others in an attempt to pull myself up.

Looking back, I had good teachers; my family members were masters in the art of judgment. Around the dinner table, we would take turns picking on and judging one another. It got so bad during one Sunday supper that my brother’s new bride fled the dining room; our cruelty had reduced her to tears.

Teachers used to preach, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.”   Even when I don’t verbalize judgments, I subtly communicate them and damage relationships.

I now know that judging serves me poorly. My judgments separate me from others, and above all I want connection in my life. I also know that self-esteem is an inside job; it must come from within, not by putting people down.

When judgments bubble up, they must be examined. Writers Carol Kurtz Walsh and Tom Walsh recommend applying “The 90/10 Rule.”  When judgment rears its serpent-like head and we experience a strong negative emotional reaction to another, assume that only 10 percent of our reaction is based upon the situation, leaving a whopping 90 percent that belongs to past.

When we consider the psychological principles of projection and transference, the Walshes’ counsel makes sense. A projection is something that we don’t want to accept about ourselves, so we bury it and then observe it someone else. Years ago, I was in a men’s support group in Atlanta. One man in the group drove me crazy. He was so emotional; he cried at the drop of a hat. Several years later when I began to experience my own shut-down emotions, I was able to reclaim my projection.

Transference occurs when we assign traits to someone that really belong to someone else, and nowhere is transference more apparent than in our primary relationships. I used to transfer negative traits belonging to my mother and father onto my romantic partners until I read the eye-opening imago work of Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. Hendrix’s research shows that we seek partners who have the predominant character traits of the people who raised us. He believes that we do this subconsciously in an attempt to heal old childhood wounds.

Old habits are hard to break. Although my self-esteem is much stronger than it once was, I still catch myself becoming judgmental toward a person or situation at times. When I do, I try to remember the 90/10 Rule and these wise words: “When you point your finger at someone else, there are four fingers pointing back at you.”

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A Question of Legacy

October 2nd, 2011

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We were an eclectic group with one thing in common: we collect art. As we shared a meal around a circular table, I posed the question: “Is one of the reasons you collect art to create a legacy?” All responded, “Yes!”

“I have to be honest, I love seeing my name under a work of art I’ve donated to a museum,” one collector candidly confessed. Another agreed.

“Like you guys, I like seeing my name,” I said, “but that doesn’t feel like legacy to me. I believe the collector makes a statement not by an individual work of art, but by the collection.”

“If that’s true, how can a collector create a legacy?” a woman asked.

“She could give her entire collection to a museum,” a gallery owner and collector suggested.

“Even so, the work won’t be seen all together, unless there’s an exhibit,” I replied, “and that feels fleeting.”

“If the museum puts on an exhibition and prints a catalog, then doesn’t that create a more permanent legacy?” the gallery owner countered.

“Not a lasting one,” I returned.

My dinner companions were unconvinced. “I disagree. The catalog will live on,” a woman said.

Later that night, I continued to think about our conversation. Perhaps amassing an art collection is like Tibetan mandala sand painting where monks painstakingly create elaborate paintings using colored grains of sand. Once the masterpieces are completed, they destroy them as a metaphor for the impermanence of life.

An art collector builds a collection, enjoys it for a time, and then lets it go. I have often looked at an exhibition catalog and discovered a piece of art that was once in my collection. It’s strange to see your piece with someone else’s name under it.

I remind myself, art is never truly owned by the collector. Rather, collectors are only temporary custodians. Maybe collecting art is an exercise in non-attachment. It’s an opportunity to allow things to flow through our lives.

As I thought about it further, I concluded that legacy cannot be created by physical things such as collections. Lasting legacy is not built on “what” but “how.”  We won’t  be remembered for building the fire, but for keeping people warm, I read once.

When I take a 50,000-foot view of legacy, I see that my collection is only a small piece of the legacy that I hope one day to leave. Maybe it’s enough to continue to use it as a teaching collection.

My collection is figurative; almost every piece is a portrait. When people view it, I often challenge them to select the piece that speaks to them and tell me why. Art, like most everything and everyone in life, is a mirror when we ask ourselves why we respond either positively or negatively to a particular piece.

My passion has always been self-discovery. Maybe my true legacy is helping people (starting with myself) remember our true selves, because when we get to know, understand, and accept our true selves, we stand in our power. We become the full expression of all we are.

Then again, maybe I need to heed that lesson of the Tibetan mandala sand painters and realize that nothing is meant to last. Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.

I’m not sure.

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Dualing Roles

September 19th, 2011

Befriending the roles in your life. Most of you know that I paint. In addition to being a leadership and communications trainer, coach and writer, I am a painter. All of us play a variety of roles in our lives, and two that are particularly prominent in mine at this time are the artist and the businessman.

A while back, I hired a coach, Alfred DuPew. Alfred is a big fan of journaling. In fact, he wrote a wonderful book on the subject, Wild and Woolly: A Journal Keeper’s Handbook. Like me, Alfred is an artist as well as a coach, trainer, and writer.

Alfred suggested that I journal about my inner businessman and artist. As I have, images have begun to emerge.

The artist and the businessman are in the car together. They are partners. I am not sure whether they are partners in business, life, or both. Regardless, the artist is driving; the businessman sits in the passenger seat.

I recently asked the businessman if he was okay being a passenger. He surprised me by saying he was delighted. It was nice to sit back and let someone else drive for a change. He is tired.

I asked them both where they were going. All they would say is that they had a common destination.

As I look out on the road, I see my life has shifted over the past months. Nothing dramatic, a subtle shift.

I am more comfortable with less activity and fewer accomplishments. I am spending more time painting. Just yesterday, I sat by the river outside my studio and watched the river flow by.

I am not sure where this shift is leading, but I am sure of this: life seems a little gentler than it did months before.

Questions to ask yourself:

What roles are most active in my life today?

What is the relationship between those roles?

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