Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

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) 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.

 

Leaders wanted – Chameleons need not apply

Sometimes, it’s easier to not be who you are in this world. Your boss wants you to be whatever you need to be to get the job done on time and on budget. Your friends want you to be what they need you to be to fit in. Your kids want you to be the best mom or dad on earth, available when and as they need you. (They also want you to be unavailable, when they want nothing to do with you.)

So where is the “you” in your life? The authentic, self-aware person you are, or at least would like to be?

The good news: More and more companies are inviting the ‘true you’ to show up at work, in hopes of motivating you to give your all and, in turn, perhaps developing into a leader others will want to follow. Here’s an article on a new leadership model the shows I’m not making this up.

The bad news: After spending so much energy making other people happy, it can be challenging to muster the self-awareness needed to find, be, and show yourself. Getting there isn’t a function of taking an inventory of your experience, skills, or talents. It starts by answering three questions:

What do I love? What brings me joy? What brings me alive?

Embedded in your responses are clues to your potential for creating distinctive value in the world, which has everything to do with you as a leader, whether you aspire to lead a company, a family, a church, or simply yourself.

The idea of just being you in a world that tugs at you to be what it wants, can feel uncomfortable…what if people don’t like who I am? But the truth is, people are most drawn to, and most admire and respect, those who have the courage to be themselves.

So, get on with it: Answer the questions above and let me – and the world – know who you really are.

The peace in Bill Marriott’s eyes

This time of year it’s hard not to think about peace. We’re in the season of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” We sing about it, ponder it, imagine it, pray for it. But we don’t have it.

I believe that before we can have peace among all of us, we need to find peace within each of us.

To this end, I was struck by a story told to me recently by Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase, one of Fortunes Most-Admired Companies. He recounted a conversation about the challenges of long-term brand building he had had with Bill Marriott, Chairman of Marriott International. At one point, Bill said to him, “we know who we are not.” Jim saw “the peace in Bill’s eyes” and decided then that he wanted that peace for himself.

That ‘peace in your eyes’ is powerful medicine for many ills. It helps cure greed, insecurity, stress, envy, and a variety of other contemporary ailments that get in the way of creating a more fulfilling life, a more successful business; indeed, a more serene world.

What brings you peace?

 

 

 

 

 

I am who I say I am! (Maybe not)

Everyone has a view on the pluses and minuses of social media. So do I!

Most people love social media for its power to connect them anytime, anywhere and with anyone. On the other hand, many folks are suspect of social media because of what some call the Connection Paradox: We’re able to reach out to whomever, whenever, but, as many pundits point out, we’ve never been more isolated or, in fact, lonelier. Continue reading

Kids are people too!

I keep reading about kids who go astray, or who try to be someone they’re not, so they’ll be popular with their peers.  All of this makes me a little bit crazy, for I believe that, best intentions aside, many parents fail to help their kids get a handle on who they are as unique human beings; rather, they push their children to “measure up” to the expectations of others, so they’ll be accepted and do well in life. OK, that may be a bit harsh, but you get the point.

As parents, we aren’t naturally conditioned to think about raising children through the lens of identity; that is, deliberately helping them understand themselves and love themselves for who they truly are. Yet, helping a child understand his or her uniqueness and the potential it implies goes a long way towards ensuring that they are well-grounded human beings, that they find the right careers and companions, and are secure in who they are over the course of their lives, despite the challenges they will face.

Here, in brief, are 10 things a parent can do to honor the individual inside their child. Please download this free resource.

Identity is all around us

hello,

i’m larry ackerman and my life and work revolve around identity – specifically, personal and organizational identity. i am the author of two books. the first, published in 2000 by berrett-koehler, is Identity Is Destiny: Leadership and the Roots of Value Creation. the second book was published in january by random house. the title is The Identity Code: The 8 Esssential Questions for Finding Your Purpose and Place in the World.

both books, each in its own way, explains how identity is the most powerful human force on earth. it shows up in the news every day, in small and large ways. yet we fail to “see” it. more than that, we fail to see it in ourselves. yet it is there, waiting to be tapped, waiting for us to embrace it and live through it.

what do i mean by ‘identity?” i mean the unique characteristics, which in combination with one another,reveal your potential for creating value in the world – for making a contribution that springs naturally from who you are.

over the course of the past 25 years, i have come to understand that there are natural laws – the laws of identity – that govern the lives and fortunes of individuals and organizations equally. when we live in concert with these laws, we are in a position to live with authenticity and integrity. we are in a position to achieve a level of genuine happiness that eludes most people. by “happiness” i mean that we are at peace with ourselves, among others in the world.

when we try and navigate life out of sight of our identities, we are destined to make poor decisions, well meaning, but misguided judgements, affecting everything from the careers we choose to our relationships, to the quality of our parenting.

identity really is destiny. it foreshadows potential. it is the one thing we have that makes us unique as human beings. and it is born into each of us. it is up to us to realize this fact, to discover and articulate who we are and to live a life that celebrates the power and grace identity provides.

in my book, The Identity Code, i tell stories about how identity has affected people’s lives. i invite you to tell me your story. i want to know what troubles you, what dreams you have that elude you, what problems you are facing that might be alleviated, if only you knew, in concrete terms, who are – and as important, who you are not.

if you want to know more, check out my website at theidentitycode.com.read snippets of stories, read about identity. then, let me know what’s on your mind.

thank you.

larry