“As Yourself:” The key to engagement and life.

the-golden-ruleSome call it ‘the golden rule.’  Others see it as a Biblical command.  Many people hold it as a basic moral principle.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, also known as “love your neighbor, as you love yourself.”  These timeless principles seem to be a part of many of our various cultural narratives, however, we are living in a time where we seem surprised when someone consistently lives out the principle in their everyday life.

How can this be?  A principle we’ve heard since we were in grade school, and yet we are amazed when we actually see it in action.  I believe there are many reasons why we don’t live this principle in society and leadership, but the most significant reason of all has nothing to do with the external forces we might assume. I believe that most people live the golden rule, the problem is that, most people live the golden rule.  The reason we are often disappointed with people who don’t leave us feeling ‘golden’ has everything to do with them.

From the time we were children, we were told all of the things that were broken, incorrect, dysfunctional and wrong with us as individuals (remember spelling tests?).  Without healthy families and support systems to help us, there was no counter-argument to the self-doubt we picked up while living out our childhood sensibilities.  The systems that we grew up in were not trained nor equipped to teach us all of the wonderful things that  are actually right with us, and many of us never took the opportunity to enter a space to learn what makes us great, nor were we invited to that space.  Therefore, we run into adults who for a myriad of reasons are living in a world where they do not like themselves. A bi-product of this epidemic of self-doubt and hate is the aforementioned ‘broken, incorrect, dysfunctional and wrong” treatment of our fellow human.

We can never live or lead in a way that uplifts humanity and allows us to go ‘further faster’ without an understanding and appreciation of who we are as individuals.  I cannot love you well, until I love myself.  I cannot do for you, until I’ve done to and for myself.

I’ve met some people who have done an analysis of themselves and have walked away celebrating and claiming their heaven-endowed gifts and talents.  There are some common themes I have observed among those people:

  1. Recognize the wonder of their uniqueness.  There is a sacred and never-shaken truth that suggests that all human beings were born unique and gifted in some fashion.  These enlightened leaders and healers of our environments not only stand in humble awe of their own unique talents; they recognize, celebrate and stand in awe of other’s gifts as well.
  2. Keep ‘short accounts’ with themselves and others.  Leaders who get the “as yourself” approach to leadership and life understand that happiness with yourself is directly connected to the health of the relationships you have with other people.  These people understand the power of forgiveness.  They don’t leave space in their relationships for petty grudges and eye for an eye justice.  Moreover, they are mindful that all of life’s greatest challenges are to be met in concert with others.  We can’t solve problems together if I am holding you and me hostage with unresolved issues.
  3. Drive with Love.  Love is both the accelerator and the brake for people who seem to live the golden rule. They clearly understand that it takes a transcendent power like love to drive through all of our past and present hurts and challenges to a place of self-acceptance and appreciation.  They also understand that it takes love to slow down and stop when life’s various off-ramps drive us to feel like diminishing ourselves and others.  Love is in the driver’s seat, and believe me; love is DRIVING in all of the small interactions that make or break relationships.

I am attempting in my life to be a person who surprises people with my capacity to live an “as yourself” approach to life and leading.  I am holding out hope that over time, living like we love who we are won’t be such a surprise.

Peace, Blessings and Love,

T2

The art and practice of interjection

One human phenomenon that drives me absolutely bonkers, and quite frankly moves me quickly toward disengagement is “interruption.”  The more conversations I have with adults, the more floored I am by the struggle we have with having effective communication interactions.  We all have experienced it: we are in a conversation at home or in the workplace and before we can finish articulating our thought, someone abruptly interrupts us with their own story or opinion.  It’s like they have an internal bomb that was activated and set to detonate as you were speaking, and just like that, right in the middle of our sentence…BOOM here come the “I statements.”

Why do we do that?  My guess is because in this highly pressurized, competitive world we are constantly under pressure to assert our relevance and significance. In conversations where we are passionate, we cannot help but try to prove our worth.  Another reason could be much more simple, yet uncomfortable; we as humans can be self-absorbed.  I don’t know about you, but for me, when people interrupt and dive in with their story, I ask myself “how did this become about you?”

When we interrupt people, even when we are not meaning to, we immediately diminish their worth and value, and have decided that our thoughts are more important than that of the other.  This approach to human communication may seem advantageous in the moment, but the truth is, we simply disqualify ourselves from future opportunities of others wanting to share their gifts and ideas with us.  If every conversation is about you, eventually the only authentic conversations you will have, will be with YOU.

As a way to avoid this common communication faux pas, I submit another approach that will help defuse the bomb of self-serving communication that is ticking away inside. AND it allow us to live out our communication in a way that is competent and effective.  This idea came from my friend and colleague, Brian Lam of Improv Effects.  Brian stated there is difference between “interruption” and “interjection.”  Interjection is a way to engage in a dialogue without making the conversation about YOU.  The following table highlights the differences we see between mindful interjectors and seemingly selfish interrupters.

Interrupters Interjectors
Seeks to affirm themselves/their ideas Affirms you
Seeks to assert information Seeks to clarify information
Fascinated with being understood Actively seeks to understand
Easily distracted from conversation Ensures eye contact
Listens until they are ready to talk Actively listens until completion of statement  (The 8 second rule applies here)

Effectiveness and impact move at the speed of trust.  When we interrupt, we lose trust and as a bi-product we lose the people we need to accomplish our life’s greatest objectives.  Let us ‘interject’ our positivity into the lives of those around us so we will be included in the transformation that is sure to take place because we did.

Peace and Blessings,

T2

The H3 Leadership Guy and I talked…

H3

A good friend of our organization, and a brother in leadership to me, Brad Lomenick just released a new book entitled H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay hungry.  Always Hustle. I have not read the book yet, but I know Brad. I’d encourage you to grab a copy soon! Brad’s book is not the purpose of this post; however, a conversation I had with Brad about life and leadership is.

Brad and I were blessed to have a conversation about leadership in front of my teammates at our recent leadership retreat. We covered several topics that are important to the ways in which we live our lives. However, my world was rocked at a particular moment in the conversation. While I was channeling my inner Oprah Winfrey, I asked Brad to define leadership. His answer sharpened my view and blew my mind! He said:

“Leadership is all about building platforms for other people to stand on.”

WHOA! My mind was overwhelmed with questions:

  • Who is standing on the platforms that I’ve been blessed to build?
  • Why do I build platforms?
  • With whom am I building the platforms?
  • With what tools and resources am I building the platforms?

All of these questions flooded my mind in that powerful moment. I was both humbled and hungered by the aspiration that our world would be a much better place if leaders built platforms for others with the sole purpose of improving the human condition.  What if “paying-it-forward platform leadership” was the norm? What if it was really about lifting up others?

I believe much of what embarrasses us about our nation’s culture is a direct result of decisions made by individual people who did not even consider others and their improvement in their process. What if we figured out a way to live our leadership in a way that provides platforms for others?

In order to live this type of leadership, I believe, we must be inclined to accept these two assumptions:

  1. We all have the capacity to build platforms. I firmly believe that each of us is hard-wired with gifts and talents (given to us at birth) that can be used to create something that the world needs. No human being is exempt from this gift.
  2. It’s not always about us. Humility is key to transformational leadership.  If everything is about me and for my own pleasure; how do I expect to have anyone else want to join their talents and gifts with mine to create a platform that is greater than anything we could ever do alone?  In order for us to experience abundance in leadership, we have to help others with their platforms and BELIEVE that ours will be a platform of influence and impact because we activated humility.

Talks with Brad are always refreshing. I’m thankful for him and his leadership.  Now its time for me to get back to platform building and watch others soar!

Here’s to a new lens through which we can see our leading. Let’s go build platforms and seek out people to put on them.

Peace and Blessings,

Tim

The Healing of a Nation (or so I hope).

“What doesn’t heal gets passed down.” – Steven Furtick

Let me begin by confessing that I am a proud black man (been one my whole life), living in an intercultural home where relationship has trumped race.  I have two degrees and an amazing job.  I have spent nearly my entire adult life attempting to lift up humanity.  From urban education to economic development, I have endeavored to “defy the statistics” that seem to be presented to me everyday, ageless and ever green about how my demographic is becoming a permanent underclass.  Even though some would say that I have in fact, defied the odds,  and find myself able to interact and engage with people of every hue and from every background, I still find bigotry and racism in its various forms (both covert and overt) every day of my life.  And when I’m not looking for it; it finds me.  I also must admit that I believe that we can do something to change the human condition in America, which is why I write this post.  I refuse to be among the silent majority whose silence has become deafening.

Our Nation has a critically deep wound.  Throughout the history of our beloved United States we have cut and punctured, slashed and gouged, stabbed and sliced the fabric of our National culture and conscious over one issue: race.  Although not necessarily in school, we all have heard about the atrocities that this Country has inflicted upon people of color, more specifically African-Americans.  We hate to talk about it, and we should.  The genesis of our Nation and its subsequent track record is horrific at best on this issue.  There has always been, as Dr. King stated, “two Americas.”  One America is flourishing with the ‘milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity.’ While the other America has a ‘daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair.’  It’s been like this since the founding of our beloved Nation and remains that way today. Sad, yet true.  The history is REAL.  The present is REAL.  And the connective tissue of unhealed pain is also VERY REAL.

I am a huge fan of those who have given their lives to attempt to cover our Nation’s wound with the scab of love, truth and inclusivity.  Their work has NOT gone unnoticed and should be honored as nothing short of selfless heroism. However, in a real human sense we as people are a metaphor for a human body.  When your get a significant wound in your arm, you immediately grab some kind of cotton material that is soft enough and pure enough to relieve the pain.  Next, we seek out some type of antiseptic to clear the wound of any lingering harmful bacteria that could worsen the situation.  If we skip this step, our efforts toward healing the wound could prove futile.  Finally, we look for a covering* that binds the skin and covers the wound so that it has the opportunity to heal.  (*by the way, band-aids have come a long way in multi-cultural options for people who aren’t tan; I’m grateful for that)

Much like a wound in the body, we as an American family have deep wounds about race that are full of the bacteria of fear, ignorance, bigotry, systematic inequality and prejudice.  The more ugly truth is that things in our life that are not healed are typically passed down.  Let’s tell the truth; we pass our attitudes, fears and world views on to the next generation.  Maybe not explicitly, but we gain our sense of self through our interactions with other people.  Conversely, we gain our sense of others through our interactions with them (or not with them).  Think about our circles of friendship and influence, do they look like our values of inclusivity and equality?  We learned more about race from our families and communities of origin than we realized simply through the way our lives were lived.  We live those values and histories whether we admit it or not.  You see, every time there is another clinched purse in a store, or joke at the water cooler, or job promotion denial, or youth on youth killing, or police/citizen interaction gone wrong, or fatality from violence, or fatal choking of a young man selling cigarettes, or visual of the disparities in education, health, household income, prison population, referrals into the special education system, mediated public crucifixions of one group and the simultaneous excusing of others in the same scenario OR God forbid, a church bombing…we rip away another piece of the scab that attempts to cover our National wound.  That’s just sad.

Sadder yet?  WE sit back and watch it happen, and say NOTHING.  We sit in the rooms with the jokes in silence.  We join the locker room conversations and even suggest that “people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” like we did. Knowing full well that it is a bit disingenuous to ask a bootless person whose never had boots to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  We join in the foolishness and hatred in the stands at our children’s games when the ‘suburban’ school plays the ‘urban’ school. We allow political talking heads (not to be confused with the true public servants fighting to make a difference) to make decisions that we KNOW are unjust, unfair and nefariously created to not only become the law of land, but we keep re-electing them and empowering them!  Every instance, every opportunity missed, continues to put the healing process in reverse. So much in so, the newest TIME magazine cover put up a picture of a horrific interaction between law enforcement and a young black male.  You literally did not know whether that picture came from 1964 or 2014. That tells us that there’s something more to solving of the race issue than the election of an African-American President.  The healing of our Nation and communities requires the very same thing the healing of a human wound requires:

Cover: just like the cotton ball we use to cover our wound and relieve the pain, we need to lead with love in our lives.  I’m not talking about the touchy/feely platitudes or Kum Ba Yah moments at diversity training; I’m talking about LOVE.  The force that requires you to ask the question “how is what I’m doing or saying going to impact ALL of those around me?” The power that makes us inquire as to whether or not ‘it’ would be ok if it was me and my family? It is NOT the love that people have been blaming on Jesus lately.  Love (Jesus) was found sitting with the woman at the well demonstrating a heart of compassion and invitation, not damning and discriminating people to hell.  Love compels people to healing, hate and bigotry repels people to tribes and silos, each one set to destroy the other.  This is the LOVE that forces us to love ourselves enough to care about the ways in which our actions bring healing or destruction.  We need an immediate covering of love in our daily interactions with one another.

Antiseptic: In order to move into healing a wound needs to clean out the particles that have been infecting the wound.  We need to have the courage to close our eyes, take a deep breath and poor the antiseptic of truth on this issue.  Things are NOT as they should be.  This generation did not create the problem or the system, yet we must admit (with tears in our eyes) that through our silence and indifference we have allowed the problem to persist and the wound to deepen.  We are called to have REAL, solution-focused conversations about the disparities in every major measurable area in our communities, and courageously work toward the closing of those gaps, TOGETHER.  Even if it means, being unapologetically intentional about working with a specific group of people (no matter what proposition 2 says).

Binding: Much like the band-aid, inclusivity serves as our protection.  We’ve been actively allowing for segregation, separation and confusion permeate every generation of American history, and it has gotten us to this sad place in our history.  Why not try inclusion? I want to endeavor in my life to err on the side of inclusion.  The moment I fall into the trap of elitism and bigotry, I am admitting that my life and my God are too small.  By falling for the bacteria of hate I am confirming that there is not enough grace for every American soul.  Without ALL of us (yes, I’m talking about YOU and ME), we will never be able have the kind of environment necessary for healing.  We must commit to coming together, even when its easy to run away. The truth of the matter is, we needed each other to play out the atrocities of our past, we will need each other to bind ourselves together under the connective tissue of healing humanity.

What does not heal, get’s handed down.  What wounds are open for you?  What are we passing down? Have we sat back and watched in the safety of silence?  What are we going to do TODAY to make it right? It’s our time, and I’m afraid that if we don’t do something now, it might be too late.

Peace, Blessings and Healing,

Tim

Communication Lessons from an 8-track

The word communication comes from the Latin word “Communicare” which translated is defined as “shared meaning.” So in simple terms, when we communicate (both verbal and non-verbal), if the receiver of the message does share the meaning of what we have communicated in the way in which we intended; we HAVE NOT communicated and thereby fallen short of the standard of communication.

As the number of conversations I have with people increases, so does the number of stories of woe as it pertains to failed communication attempts.  In particular, people are leaving communicative interactions bruised, angry, confused, disconnected, disengaged and most of all hurt.  We can do better.  For our soul’s sake; we MUST do better!

Our improvement can be found in a piece of technology from my childhood that I have a love/hate relationship with.  Long before iPods and Pandora, the way to listen to music was an 8-track.  Now for some of you younger folks, an 8-track tape looked like a big cartridge.  The music was recorded on a spool of tape that was wound up inside of the cartridge casing.

8-track

The blessing and the curse of the 8-track was that you had to learn ALL of the music on each album because there was no way to skip forward, and more importantly, there was no reverse.  The same is true for interpersonal communication.  Communication is irreversible.  There is no rewind button. And the meanings of what we say and do are in people, not in the words we use.

What would change in our lives if we stopped and remembered that everything we communicate is FINAL.  Once its out there, we cannot take it back.  No delete.  No rewind.  No do-overs.  AND, just like that 8-track tape, what we communicate is written on the hearts and minds of those we communicate, and those tunes play on a loop in the minds of others as we continue our relationships.

Let’s take a tip from the old-school, and revolutionize our communication by thinking about the permanent tape we want others to play from the music of our life and words BEFORE we speak.

Peace and Blessings,

T2

Truth: C.F.O. is the most important position!

interesting

I have the privilege of meeting and engaging hundreds of people who share with me their visions, hopes, career aspirations and fears on a regular basis. I have always attempted to take each interaction seriously. However, if I am honest, there are times when I simply do not know what to do to assist people in their time of need, and there are times that I don’t even understand what they are even talking about!
However, as I reflect on what has worked, I see a common theme; facilitation. I am at my best when I am creating a space for people to live there fullest lives. I don’t have to solve the problem. I don’t have to create the solution. I don’t even have to be burdened with the challenge. I simply have to create the space for them to come to their authentic solution.

Too many of us spend so much of our lives feeling like we don’t have a space to be ourselves. This cripples creativity, inhibits innovation and stifles success. The greatest leaders I have met have embraced the role of “Chief Facilitation Officer.” These individuals lead in a way that allows people to have the appropriate resources, support and guardrails to accomplish their own goals, and reach their own destined potential. Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to get ‘out of the way’ enough for us to fly! As you see above, the most successful companies are companies that don’t OWN people’s successes and dreams, they simply provide the space.
Are you a C.F.O.?

Peace and Blessings,
T2

Dr. King’s 86th Birthday Letter to America (2015)

In 1958 On a warm summer evening in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the ripe age of 29, delivered a speech to the Commission on Ecumenical Missions and Relations of the United Presbyterian church entitled “Paul’s Letter to American Christians.”   In this, one of my favorite King-ian speeches, young King takes an imaginary journey into the heart of the great Apostle Paul and imagines with these clergymen what the apostle Paul would have to say to their generation about the role of the Church in the struggle for civil rights for ALL Americans.  He understood (as most great leaders do), the importance of speaking truth to your audience in a voice that is relevant to their time and context.

Just as Dr. King pondered what the Apostle Paul might say to HIS generation, I too am curious as to what Dr. King would say to us on his 86th birthday.  So please allow me to stretch my creative muscles and give you an imaginary letter from the pen of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

My Dear Sisters and Brothers.  My parents, and my children.  To my circle of friends in love; I greet you by the grace of Almighty God.  As my life’s season pivots to winter I thought it necessary to write to you.  As I watch our beloved country through the lens of these weary eyes, my heart rejoices at the advancements and innovations of the times.  The world has moved from the distant 6 degrees of separation, to the 1 degree of iPhonation.  You have made the lifespan of the American longer than we ever could have imagined.  God has blessed this country with great prosperity and power, and for that I offer thanksgiving.  To watch the nation come together; white and black, gay and straight, old and young standing together in solidarity on September 11th was a small glimpse into a dream. And then the unspeakable happened.  As powerful as my dreams have been; none of them were prophetic enough to see what my eyes eventually beheld.  I prepared to meet my Savior when My soul nearly separated  from my body as I witnessed Senator Barack Obama become the President of the United States of America. I could hear Sister Aretha Franklin singing “Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…”  God has seen me through many hard trials.  And I have considered myself a man of faith.  But when I realized what had taken place…I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that God is real!  Coretta and I prayed and we cried.  Prayers and Tears of thanksgiving, but also of terrible fear. 

My dear Americans, for all the joy I have experienced, I have endured equal measure of disappointment and shame.  In the 1960’s and 70’s we engaged in an unfair fight with an enemy who had no intention of retreat.  But with courage and God, we DID overcome.  And as I watch LEADERS, those whom God has allowed to stand before the people and rule, continue to act with reckless disregard for others; my heart aches.  When and where did we lose our ability to meet a challenge with strength and grace? Why have the street gangs become Junior Varsity to the professional gang approach that has plagued our National Political Process?  The children are being socialized to think that disrespect and disengagement is the way to solve a problem.  I call today for Courageous people who as I said, will build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear!  Partisan bickering and idealogical standoffs must come to an end!  The stakes are too high.  The future is to fickle.  Everyone must decide whether they will live in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. We must have the courage to do what we know is the next right thing. 

At the core of my disappointment, I see that something in our society has erased one of the most basic human commands.  What used to be written on the collective conscious of our Nation has been washed out by the waves of hate, jealousy and indifference.  The first commandment that Jesus gave was to Love thy neighbor as thyself. I’ve said and i’ll say it again, darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that!  And I, I have decided to stick with love, for hate is too great a burden to bear.  We must learn…RIGHT NOW…WE must LEARN to live together as brothers and sisters.  OR we will assuredly; soon and very soon; perish together as fools!  I stand with the great hymn writer William Cowper, after he had gone through a horrific life experience:  Brother Cowper came to the place where he could see things more clearly, and he penned those sweet words, “redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be ’til I die!  It’s time now for us to finally exterminate the destructive pest of intolerance and separation. We must find place for love.  A place for “We The People.”  We cannot be satisfied with hate.  We cannot be satisfied with indifference.  We cannot be satisfied with injustice!  For our fate is tied together and there is no force on earth that can reverse that truth.  Come together.  Be community.  So many have sacrificed their lives for you to be together.  Don’t let their living be in vain. 

For you see my dear friends, no matter how wealthy you become; no matter how popular the fad, no matter what political or denominational affiliation; We all must face our end.  And when that time comes,  I want my life to have meant something.  I want to be able to look my family in the eyes as I head to my great gettin’ up mornin’ and tell them that I DID treat people right, and I TRIED to love my neighbor as I love myself.  I DID help somebody, as I passed along. I cheered up my brother with a word and a song.  I’ve shown my sister when she’s travelin’ wrong…And I KNOW my living has NOT been in vain.  I pray for all of you.  I pray that you love yourselves enough to love one another.  I pray that you find a way to forgive one another.  I hope and I pray, that this nation, will finally rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal.”  This is my hope.  Now, may God bless you, and may He keep you.  May his face shine on you, and most of all America, may He give you Peace. 

Martin.