I have been contemplating the threads that have woven through my entire life. While this is an inquiry I urge us all to do, especially on the verge of a growth spurt or change of some kind, I want to write more personally this week. Here is my distillation of the forces that shape who I am.
Empowering People To Be Fully Themselves
I often felt misunderstood as a child. As is so often the case, my deepest need as a little boy turned out to be what I am best equipped to give. Because I know what it is to feel trapped in expectations about how I should be, and to crave people with whom I could explore what is actually true for me, I love discovering the unique essence of the each person I meet. I often find myself encouraging others to push boundaries, instinctively suspicious of assumptions about how they should be and trusting their own sense of what is possible.
The world changes when people elevate their approach and behavior. For me, the key to that is to find how the person believes him or herself to be bad, and transforming that discouragement into inspiration. For example, I sometimes tell myself that whatever I say or do will be harmful, wrong or useless. I have been lucky enough to find mentors, colleagues and friends who appreciate me totally, whether I feel inspired or discouraged, to the point that I now genuinely value of all these parts of myself, whatever arises. I passionately want to share that kind of freedom with others, and inspire everyone to empower their friends, mentees and colleagues in this way.
Seeing The Whole Picture
I have always found conflict awkward. Between my Jewish family’s love to argue and my Quaker boarding school’s preference to go passive, I was often more interested in seeing the dynamics of a conflict than being on the right side. I discovered how often the paradox of ‘both and’ is more true than ‘either or’, which ignited in me an instinct always to look for the single element that was expressing itself through the different perspectives.
While I have been blessed by profound moments of epiphany and awakening, none of that compares to the power of this simple instinct. Whoever shows up…I find a way to touch the essence of who they are. Relationship conflict, company growth, global shifts… I touch the underlying self emergence that is driving these events. No doubt you too have your own way of connecting with the one being expressing itself through all the different facets of your team or marriage or world.
Deepening Human Connection
From school, kibbutz and other intentional communities, I have enjoyed the benefit of living and growing together. I learned the power of supporting the best in each other, even while navigating typical pitfalls such as pretense, politics, denial, and factions. I saw how bullying is just weakness seeking strength and loneliness just love seeking connection. I saw how the people who thrived were not so much the smartest or the biggest but those most open: most adaptable to change, most available for friendship.
I made it my business to learn how to make it safe for people to be authentic and candid with each other. Even now, I am moved near to tears every time I see a leadership team shedding their guard, or a person revealing their deeper truth to a circle of peers. I know how much benefit they are getting.
As I think about how to propagate my gift beyond those I can coach one-on-one, I don’t see a legacy of ideas or information. I would be proud if in some small way people learned to support each other more deeply, to value their talents and qualities more explicitly and ask for help more often. This is the gift that keeps on giving.
So what are the potent forces that shape who you are? I would love to hear by email or comment about the threads that have woven through your life.