Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

What do you believe? (v.5)

Whether the state of the world today leaves you feeling desolate and fearful, or elated and excited, no doubt you hold strong beliefs that fuel those feelings. Consider this posting your opportunity to express some or all of those beliefs. 

Below, you will find 12 fill-in-the-blank statements — one for each of the 12 days of Christmas. There’s also a blank statement in each category for you to use as you wish. Fill in some, or all of them with whatever comes to mind.

Instead of being random in my picks, I’ve organized my list of ideas into two categories: What is topical and what is timeless. Why? Because one of my beliefs is that these two categories elicit very different kinds of emotions in us and are best considered, separately. Here you go …

What is topical:

I believe globalization ________________________

I believe race _______________________________

I believe WikiLeaks __________________________

I believe fake news __________________________

I believe The U.S. Constitution ________________

I believe social media ________________________

I believe ___________________________________

What is timeless:

I believe nature _____________________________

I believe music _____________________________

I believe justice _____________________________

I believe light _______________________________

I believe karma _____________________________

I believe hope _______________________________

I believe ___________________________________

Any other ideas? By all means, add them. Let’s see how your beliefs align with those of others.

“I wish I had loved you more.”

With all that is going on in the world, it can be hard to stay sane, remain hopeful, and indeed, remember our shared sense of humanity. My advice? Let’s all take a break from the craziness and focus on what really matters: the people in our lives who mean the most to us. For a moment, forget the politicians, the pipe bombers and the shooters, at least for now.

The other day, I came across an article in The New York Times that stopped me in my tracks. The title is Writing a Last Letter When You Are Healthy. The author is VJ Periyakoil a geriatrics and palliative care doctor. Dr. Periyakoil describes his experience with end-of-life patients who express regret about not telling the people who mattered most to them how they really felt; among them: parents, sons, daughters, friends, and teachers.

My father died unexpectedly when I was 25. I had no time to tell him anything, let alone write a letter expressing my feelings. Neither did he. That experience has made me appreciate Dr. Periyakoil’s work on a deeply personal level. When I think about that moment, the difficulties that color our world today recede in my mind. I am left feeling clear-eyed about what matters most.

As if the first article weren’t enough to bring you back to what truly counts, here’s another one that grabbed my attention recently. It is entitled Stubborn Grudges Yield Little. Time to Change Your Investing. No, not necessarily your financial investing; your emotional investing.

Written by Carl Richards, a certified financial planner and regular contributor to The New York Times, the piece talks about how holding a grudge can slowly eat away at your soul, draining you of your humanity in small incremental amounts.

In the end, writing “last letters” is about more than affirming love, making amends, or offering, or asking for forgiveness. It is about freedom. The freedom to let go of what haunts you, to release yourself from unspoken burdens of the heart, from regret. It is about finding the personal integrity we all need to feel, well…fully human.

Politicians, bombers, and shooters will be with us no matter what you do, or don’t do. The people who matter most may or may not be.

Write that letter.

The problem with “identity” (Fixing it is up to you)

Do you know what the word of the year was in 2015? It was ”identity” according to Dictionary.com.

Why has identity become a hot topic today? Why was “identity” the word of the year in 2015? Chalk it up to the new individualism — a world where we’ve become keenly aware of, and more vocal about what defines us, thanks to the opportunity social media has unleashed to publicly assert yourself. (Ironically, despite its many blessings, social media has contributed to the problem by enabling people to create “identities” which may have nothing to do with who they really are.)

Why does personal identity matter? Because it fuels not simply a sense of who you believe you are, but as a result, the choices you make such as where to work, whom to call a friend (or enemy), and indeed which political candidate gets your vote.

Taken together, our identity-centric lives are coalescing into potent, new communities demarcated by beliefs, both spoken and unspoken, that increasingly influence how well society functions — or doesn’t — economically, socially and politically.

So, what’s the problem?

For all the attention this “identity trend” is receiving, it reinforces an impression that actually diminishes rather than expands upon what it means to be fully human. Indeed, the notion of “identity politics” undermines the deeper meaning of human identity.

The actual ‘problem with identity’ may be a matter of meaning. As the word of the year in 2015,identity’ suggests the timeless fact that we all long to belong. We yearn to tie ourselves to a group, a tribe, a community we can call our own. But that isn’t the deepest meaning of the word.

What I’ve learned over three decades is that your essential identity – your distinctive, value-creating characteristics – springs naturally from the core of your being – a place that is blind to classifications, transcending gender, ethnicity, religion, and every other label we adopt as a way to locate ourselves in the world. You are simply you: unique and powerful in your own right.

With this in mind, identity’s 2015 “word win” may reflect the sobering fact that it was the most used, least understood term out there.

When your definition of identity is based upon a descriptive label rather than the special contribution you’re capable of making as an individual, you short-change yourself, those you care most about, and society as a whole. Why? Because, to paraphrase a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, you leave your music inside.

How you can help fix the identity problem

It’s pretty simple. To borrow another quote from Holmes, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Don’t let the pull of labels or social media distract you from tapping into and applying your innate identity to your life. Everyone will benefit including your co-workers, your friends, your children, your spouse or partner and, most of all, you.

At bottom, having a clear sense of identity is the key to shaping a life marked by authenticity and integrity –- knowing what to do, what not to do, and why.

Here’s one more quote to take away. It’s from British artist, illustrator and teacher, Evelyn Mary Dunbar: “We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”

I hope you agree.

 

 

 

Can kids learn the joy of giving?

We live, as the Chinese saying goes, in “interesting times.” Wild politics. A fragile global economy. A fundamental shift in the distribution of wealth. It’s hard to navigate these treacherous waters no matter who you are. Taking rather than giving seems to be the underlying mandate. The unspoken theme? “How do I hold onto what I have … or get more of it if that’s even possible?”

That’s mostly “adult talk.” So, what about the children? How do we prepare them to navigate these waters? I vote for kindness; more specifically, I vote for teaching our kids about the joy of giving rather than taking.

The other day, I came across a wonderful article on how we can help our kids understand — and practice — the joy of giving.

The article names five practices for parents; in brief:

  • Be intentional — Make a point of talking to your children about giving and charity
  • Think beyond your family — Let children know that they’re part of a larger community; even that they are “global citizens”
  • Involve kids in decisions — Include your children in discussions about to whom something should be given and why
  • Gift outside the box — Consider the value of giving experiences not just things
  • Include the art of receiving — Learning how to receive gifts gracefully and with gratitude is as important as giving

This deceptively simple piece, and the wisdom it offers, might just renew your faith in what it means to be human. It did for me.

If after reading this intriguing article, you’re moved by its insights, share it with others. Our future depends on it. Let me know what you think.

 

But, what about the bird?

It’s almost spring and here come the birds, back from their southern migrations.

Ever wonder how birds get around, how they are able to fly? They use their strong breast muscles to flap their wings to give them the thrust they need to move through the air. Further, birds use a swimming-forward motion to get the lift needed to fly. 

Naturally, both wings need to move in unison to achieve lift-off and sustain flight. It doesn’t take much to imagine the flight path of a bird whose wings are working against each other, pulling (or pushing) in different directions, or flapping at different speeds. The chance of actually breaking a wing (or two) becomes a distinct possibility. 

Welcome to America.

Today, we have a Right Wing that is stretching as far to the right as possible. This Wing is advocating attitudes and preaching policies that are fueled by fear, my-way-or-the-highway injunctions and exclusionary imperatives.

We also have a Left Wing that is stretching as far to the left as possible. This wing is advocating attitudes and preaching policies that are delusional in their idealism, economically impossible and polyannaish to a fault. 

In the midst of this turmoil, I keep asking myself: But, what about the bird? What about America, the nation? The institution? Is it really all about the wings?

America “the bird” is in the throes of a full-blown identity crisis. Its’ wings are broken and its’ flight path is indeterminable and dangerously out of control. The notion that America is, in fact, in the midst of an identity crisis has been widely acknowledged for years. (Just Google America identity crisis and see what comes up.)

Politics, in my view, is a desperate game. I find it ironic that politics is killing the very body that it purports to represent. If you know of a candidate, a party, that is more interested in protecting the bird than its wings, let me know. He or she will get my vote. And my prayers.

Hillary is not just “Clinton!”

This political season is a wholesale rejection of convention…of dynasties, of DC-as-usual. If I were Hillary, I’d dump my last name and talk to people simply as Hillary Rodham.

Who is she absent the “Clinton?” Now, that would be interesting, refreshing, and would fit far better into this current political climate. I wonder if she has the wisdom and courage to “go there.”

What do you believe? (v.4)

It’s that time of year again — the ‘believing’ season: a time when little kids and big kids alike, from 8 to 80, surrender just a bit to the warmth and wonder of the Holidays.

This time, I find that experience to be especially challenging, given the insanity going on in the world today. But, that’s life. So, this year, I invite you to tell me and others what it is you believe about a variety of topics — some comforting and others clearly bot. Here you go:

I believe Donald Trump ____________________

I believe compassion ______________________

I believe family ___________________________

I believe wealth ___________________________

I believe truth ____________________________

I believe freedom _________________________

I believe ISIS ____________________________

I believe denial ___________________________

I believe America _________________________

I believe evil _____________________________

I believe good ____________________________

Got your own idea? Fill it in here _______________

Want to lead? Make work personal

I’m not a fan of politics or politicians. It and they are slaves to party lines and desperate measures designed to ensure election or re-election. Yet here we are, getting into the thick of the presidential race, so it’s tough to avoid the climate of politics that surrounds us, today.

The good news is that the race has led me to wonder about the future of leadership, generally. What it will look like, what it will take to be a truly successful leader. Want to lead? Stay with me, here.

I let my curiosity take over and dove into a variety of resources that have been studying the future of leadership: Hay Group, The Center for Creative Leadership, Google and numerous others.

In short, what I found were a bevy of attributes, which when distilled down, sorted into five major categories: Collaboration, Individuality, Authenticity, Integrity and Communication. Consider these leadership imperatives for the future.

Taken together, they got me to see that the future of leadership is all about the personalization of work as the foundation for change. In short, it’s about humanizing relationships, honoring the individual inside the employee, tapping into the whole person (beginning with you), motivating from the inside, out.

From what I learned, I believe that the personalization of work can become the ‘new efficiency,’ driving productivity and, potentially, greater employee engagement. I like that. It flips the traditional model of assembly line efficiency on its head, by celebrating the “making” of the individual rather than the making of the product.

It’s about time.

What’s funny about change (and what isn’t)

Louis C.K is considered by some to be America’s top comic. So, when he started riffing on our obsession with the minutiae of social media technology, I decided to listen in. It was a rainy afternoon in Denver and I was sitting in my hotel room, looking for a little diversion.

Louis C.K. described how we get our noses out of joint when a text we’re sending doesn’t go through immediately. Or, how in the “old days,” when telephones came with rotary dials, we became impatient if a particular phone number had too many zeros or nines, meaning we’d have to wait as the rotor circled all the way back, before we could dial the next digit. His point wasn’t just that we’re spoiled instant gratification junkies; it’s that we’ve become change junkies: Enough is never enough. Fast needs to be faster. What’s new is not as cool as what’s next.

As I took all of this in, I looked out of my window. What met my gaze were the Rocky Mountains. They presented a stark contrast to what now seemed to be trivial, insignificant bitching about nothing — to our obsession with change.

For all our craving for change, I was struck by the contrary idea that we are our own Rockies — inviolable mountains with cores that defy change.

When it comes to change, here’s my conclusion: In the end, we love most what doesn’t change: nature, the Rockies, the essential character of the people we care about, which hopefully includes ourselves. Yet, change is inevitable. So, what’s the solution?

My advice to you is to embrace the identity paradox: the ability to change from a changeless foundation.

Every individual and organization has at their center an immutable core — an identity — that makes them who they are. If you embrace this core, you can “change” how you express yourself without upsetting the apple cart. You can remain authentic while staying relevant. This is the power of the identity paradox. 

One more thing: The next time a text takes a few extra seconds to go through, don’t sweat it. Just give thanks for the miracle you hold in your hands.

What’s your Dawn Wall?

This past January,Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson reached the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall — a quest that included years of planning and that many considered the most challenging rock climb in the world.

One of the climbers, Kevin Jorgeson said of the achievement: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”

I think we do, too. I know I do, although, I’m not always sure what that is. No matter. What matters is waking up to the possibility that there’s a larger purpose to our lives than just getting through the day — something that takes the courage, patience, determination, grit, vision, and passion these two guys put into their climb.

Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, it doesn’t matter at all; maybe, getting through the day about 30,000 times (that’s 80+ years, if you’re interested), is enough. No Dawn Walls, but lots of dawns.

What a waste of a life, but that’s just my opinion.

(What) Do you believe?

I’m not grumpy. I’m distressed.

I believe in hope, cheer and gratitude as much as the next guy, but I’m finding it tougher to “get there” this year. Why? Because there is so much injustice in the world today, which seems to me to be unrelenting and unforgettable; even, haunting.

Needless deaths haunt me whether they are the result of police error, premeditated acts by extremists, or virulent disease.

Children who suffer haunt me. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. But it is. A current article in The New York Times highlights this awful reality, as seen through the lens of Unicef’s 2014 assessment.

Gross inequality haunts me. Until just recently, the Dubai Royal Family was about to ink a deal with the president of Tanzania, whereby, the government would turn over more than 500 square miles of land to the Family as their private hunting reserve. In doing so, 40,000 Masai would be displaced from the land that has been their home for centuries. The deal never happened but it was close.

Injustice is just everywhere, making it harder to have hope, offer cheer, and be grateful. Yet, I do and I am. Despite the insanity that colors our world, I believe, and I believe you do too.

So, if you’re game, take this year’s ‘belief quiz’ — you’ll get the quiz in my new viewsletter, shortly, if you haven’t already. When you do, fill in a few answers and share them here.

I’d love to know what you believe!

It’s a VUCA world – or is it?

The term, VUCA has slipped stealthily into our lexicon over the past few years. It started out as military lingo, was then adopted by organizations to frame leadership development efforts, and now has become part of all of our lives. What does VUCA mean? Volatility. Uncertainty. Complexity. Ambiguity. Does that sound like a recipe for a headache? Well, it is.

In an article in The New York Times recently, Michael Beschloss talked about Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri in one eye-opening sentence. Doing so, dramatizes the fact that VUCA is with us, in spades.

The question is, how do we navigate life in a VUCA world? Which brings me to “COSS.”Let me explain.

The way I see it, the antidote to volatility is steadiness. The remedy for uncertainty is order. The treatment for complexity is simplicity. The cure for ambiguity is clarity. Allowing for a bit of editorial license in how these words are arranged, we have COSS.

If VUCA causes headaches, then COSS is the aspirin you need to counteract its effects. Good news! This particular brand of aspirin can be found already inside us, in the fabric of our identities that make us the unique individuals, leaders, and organizations we are.  Clarity, order, simplicity and steadiness are the natural result of aligning how you live with who you are.

I’m not saying it’s easy getting to that “aspirin.” But it’s worth it. You’ll sleep better. I promise.