What Do You and Your Cohorts Need to Escape?

Whale Watch: Group trying to “escape” being out of balance!

I recently read Rachel Sugar’s, Vox, The Great Escape post.

She writes there are over 2,300 escape rooms in the United States. TripAdvisor says there are seven escape rooms in the Asheville area. If you are not aware of these places, they are rooms where you gather with up to 7 other people and try to beat the clock and “escape” a challenge. Sugar says escape rooms feed “the desire to escape whatever reality you’re in.”

As I read this article, I realized this is the foundation of my work. I’ve been facilitating groups and teams since 1996 and took a big leap in 2001 going to Camp Joy to be the Director of the Venture Out!, corporate organizational development.

Blind Cube: Group trying to “escape” mindlessness and fast thinking!

I help groups and teams “escape their reality” for one to three days. I’ve facilitated these “escapes from reality” at all kinds of venues including cruise ships, MLB ballparks, zoos, fine dining restaurants and Disney World! During that time, I create opportunities for groups to experience a series of “escapes” to energize, discover and learn new skills. Some of my favorite “escapes” include Blind Cube, Whale Watch, Spider Web, Searching for a Black Cat in a Black Room, Survivor and the Pamper Pole! Even MBTI or EQ workshops are a form of “escape” and open doors to learning.

Sugar says the best escape rooms create a “WOW” moment where you and your teammates overcome a shared challenge. My goal with “escape” initiatives is to create “AHA” moments. This is when participants have a breakthrough and see the possibility of transformation to becoming a better team. I’ve had participants share they’ve gotten to better know and understand their cohorts in two-days than the five-plus years they have been working together! That is some serious connection!

I agree with Sugar, “…in escape rooms (as with experience-based workshops), it all matters. There is a beautiful elegance to it: You crack the code, it unlocks the lock. It’s not only surrender, but communal surrender.”

Do you feel the need, the sense of urgency to escape some work reality with your team?


Leader As Mentor: Do you?

I’ll begin with what I know for sure: Experience trumps knowledge.

Mentors have experience.

The mentors in my life have had a significant role in where I am and what I am doing today. They gave and still give me the gift of their time and their wisdom.

My mentors help me be a better person, a better leader. They help me grow, especially when it is necessary and uncomfortable. They are pure grace in my life.

While mentoring focuses on behavior and skills, good mentoring helps develop people from the inside out. Mentoring deals with values and priorities. It becomes a spiritual exercise going beyond the mental and physical. Mentoring requires being vulnerable. Mentoring begins with the heart.

My first mentor was my father. As a freshly minted college graduate, not sure whether to purse a master’s degree, my father invited me to join him in business. It was one of the best decisions I could have made. What I learned about business trumped any master’s degree. What I learned about my father, the courage to leave the corporate world and to go into business on his own, fostered my courage to pursue my passion. As a mentor, my father modeled the way. He offered advice and counsel when asked. My favorite mentoring sessions were long lunches at our favorite restaurant or in his office after a trying day. As a new salesperson on his staff, I remember throwing up in the shower, worried about how I was going be successful. I remember sharing this with my father and his response with a warm smile, “Me too, when I first started!” That piece of sharing was a game-changer for me.

My second mentor was Craig Rider, The Rider Group. I enjoyed the facilitation and education part of my work in the corporate world, but I quickly realized death by PowerPoint was not effective. Craig mentored me in experience-based learning. It changed the way I facilitated and educated others. He shared resources including books and magazines and allowed me to shadow him with clients. We attended AEE regional conferences together. He introduced me to gurus in experienced-based learning like Tom Leahy and Jim Cain. The game changer with Craig was the confidence he gave me when he trusted me to work with his clients. Most of all, Craig was responsible for connecting me with a head hunter that lead to my dream-job at Joy Outdoor Education Center, Clarkville, Ohio as Venture Out! Director.

Effective mentoring has a lasting impact on the mentee as well as the mentor. While mentoring is usually most effective male to male and female to female, I currently have a mentor who is female. Her gift to me has been to help me understand my white male privilege. Lynn Watts helps me be more self-aware. While she is 400 miles away, and perhaps we only see each other once or twice a year, we talk by phone at least monthly.

The other mentor currently active in my life is Scott Steel. Scott has an incredible heart for leadership. He challenges me to bring compassion and empathy beyond work. Like Lynn, I do not see him enough, but we are in contact by phone at least monthly.

Here is another what I know for sure.” I need to pay it forward. The mentoring my father, Craig, Lynn and Scott gave me, I need to give to others. Mentoring is a part of my leadership journey.

Is mentoring a part of your leadership journey?

I Before Team Except After…

Once again, my Cincinnati Reds are cellar-dwellers for 2019. On an average home game, the Reds’ fans fill just over a third of Great American Ballpark’s 42,319 seats, reflecting the Reds’ ability to lose more than win. There are still gripes about Dick Williams, the general manager, and how he manages.  Six-time MLB All-Star Joey Votto is ageing and hot-hitting second baseman, Scooter Gennett, is out with health issues. Bottom line, sports forecasters say the Reds will be lucky to win half their 162 games this season. The Reds’ teamwork is sub-par. So why do we point to sports teams as the pinnacle of teamwork? Yet at all levels of sports, we tend to focus on individuals, not teams.

There is an “i” in team, and we see it every day. “i” is ego. We see the “i” in team from:

  • Jerry Jones, NFL Dallas Cowboy owner, who has proclaimed it to be an honor to play for him.
  • Danica Patrick, NASCAR, demonstrated her “i” in her expletive-laden rant at her crew in 2017.
  • Former NFL Cleveland Brown QB Johnny Manziel’s ego prevented him from being committed and accountable to football and gave him a disregard for authority – essential to being on a team.
  • Women’s professional soccer goalie, Hope Solo’s ego has gotten her into trouble numerous times including when she said, “We played a bunch of cowards” (no respect for the other team).

I still recall attending a seminar in 2002 featuring Tom Peters. Peters criticized Jim Collins, Good to Great, on 5th level leadership. Peters asked the audience, “Who wants to follow a humble leader?” Immediately Jesus Christ, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa came to mind. I thought, “Wait a minute. I’m embracing their leadership!”

Who you are is a collection of choices, decisions and experiences you make and have. When you consciously decide to become a member of a team, those decisions and experiences get magnified and minimized at the same time. Google’s Project Aristotle discovered successful cohesion within the team only occurs when team members become interdependent. They need one another to get work done! Team members feel safe sharing not only ideas but opinions. The four parts of Charles Feltman’s Thin Book of Trust – sincerity, reliability, competence and compassion – are fully engaged with each member of the team. Emotional intelligence is at the forefront of each team member’s interaction.

When you let the idealized image of yourself become your focus, you fail to collaborate and cooperate with others, the essential behavior of being on a team. Trust, the lynch-pin to any and every relationship, fails because it’s all about you rather than the team. If you fail at trust, your “i” is showing and thus you fail at being a part of a team.

” The bigger a man’s head gets, the easier it is to fill his shoes.” — Henry A. Courtney


What Are the Implications of…

A young man came to me recently. He has just experienced his fourth department leadership change in three years. He was a mix of anger, frustration, and disappointment. He was losing hope in the organization and its leadership. The future concerns him because he wants stability. He asked for answers or at least my advice. What would you say?

I’ve been down this road before including the death of my business partner in the late 80s as well as the experience of having six different directors in a former position in three years! I did survive and learned from each of those experiences. I am better for those experiences.

Whenever I encounter these situations, my first focus goes to gratitude. What am I grateful for? What do I have rather than what do I want? I am richly blessed. On the back of my office door are many thank you notes, accolades and certificates of appreciation. They remind me of the relationships in my life. They tell me I am not alone. They are evidence of the significance I have made in people’s lives as well as the significance they have made in my life. They remind me life is good. They are a source of comfort and fortification when facing Ezekiel’s Valley of Bones.

One tool I pull out when the VUCA‘s are high (Volatility, Uncertainty, Chaos/Complexity, Ambiguity) is Joel Barker’s Implication Wheel. I begin by asking a thoughtful, challenging question, ‘what are the implications and potential consequences of the situation I am facing?’ I suspend emotion and engage in rational, constructive thinking. I have found over and over the Implication Wheel will not predict the future but will yield a guide toward a possibly better future. The Implication Wheel asks powerful questions leading to more questions and possible answers. It creates a way out of the swampland of despair.

If you were faced with this young man’s situation, you might ask, “What are the implications of having a new department director?” Use a big piece of butcher block paper or several flipchart sheets and write out complete, understandable responses on 3M Post-it Notes. This should generate at least five possibilities such as: There will be a search for a new director including having an interim director; I get the opportunity to learn and grow from a new leader; My department could reorganize, rightsize or even downsize; I may gain/lose resources that impact my work; There will be stress and uncertainty in this transition. Each of these implcations should generate another set of implications, possibilities and consequences in each of these five. You may find there are futher implications recognized off each of those implications. What you end up with is a kind of mind-map.

After you complete this, go back and look at each statement and begin the process of asking important questions like: Who controls this? Who has the power to impact this implication? What is the possible timeline for this to evolve? What are the inside and outside influences upon this implication? At this point it might be good to share this Implication Wheel with others to get their perspective. Ultimately, you are looking for and rating the desirability and likelihood of each implication you have generated.  It will reveal the choices and commitments you need to make. The outcome of this exercise can strenghten your hope for a better future as well as a call to action. Additionally, this exercise will dial down fear.

FEAR could be an acronym for Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours. Choose courageously.

The Wall

A wall is a door. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the most powerful experience-based initiatives in my toolbox is the Group Wall. Its a good initiative to do with groups when they have reached a plateau of either thinking “we’re good,” when egos are still at play or the group is still not collaborating well. Done well, it demonstrates the need for humility, understanding, communication, critical thinking, patience and ultimately, the need for one another.

“If you hit a wall, climb over it, crawl under it, or dance on top of it.” – Unknown

The challenge is to get everyone over the wall safely before the tsunami arrives! Spotting is paramount! You have to give support to get support. A key to success is begin with the end in mind. In other words, there will be one person left who needs to come over the wall and the way the group approaches getting the final person over will have to be different than the first person over!

What gets you to the dance doesn’t keep you at the dance. – Unknown

Usually the debrief is powerful. We discuss the assumptions approaching the wall, including the negative thinking as in “there is no way we are going to open this door!” We discuss the experience – what was working and what was not working. We talk about what was learned and how what was learned could be applied back in the work setting. I like to ask three questions; How is the wall a door? How is the wall an opportunity? Explain how this wall you just faced could be your door to a better future?

I’d appreciate the opportunity to facilitate this initiative with POTUS and Congress. I believe we could move the conversation to getting everyone on board with a compromise that works and gets government back to work. Perhaps it would change the conversation from wall building to bridge building?!

We build too many walls and not enough bridges. – Sir Issac Newton



Got New Year Resolution(s) for 2019?

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. While my intentions may be good, I find that if the resolution is not specific, clear, focused, relevant and has a deadline for achievement, it is not going to happen. In other words, making New Year’s solutions is like bacon and eggs. I have found I make resolutions from the position of the chicken, involved, and not the pig, committed. I know that I need to shed about 15 pounds (drink less beer!), that I need to unplug from screens more (set timers, stay off screens one day a week and perhaps go on a week long retreat minus screens!) and increase my education by auditing a college course or two.

The last several years, I have been picking a word or letting a word pick me for focus and guidance. I find THE WORD for the year helps me to connect with my purpose, especially in how I wish to be experienced. THE WORD touches my mental – as in how can I grow; my physical – as in how can I take better care of myself; my emotional as in how can I be more relational with others; and spiritual as in how can I have a better affair of the heart and soul. THE WORD guides me in my work, in my relationships, my well-being and getting out my comfort zone. Bottom line, it helps me to seize the day!

THE WORD that has my attention for 2019 is community. Community is the capacity to give one’s self away for the sake of the other. As I have gotten more involved in the work of inclusion and equity and how this intersects white privilege and white supremacy, being in community is generous connectedness to others. Community asks to transcend differences and be generous to others. If we continue acting without creating community and not being merciful to one another, I believe we’ll continue this hell on earth. I believe to live into community will cause me to more attentive to others rather than myself. Who knows, perhaps my joy will move to a higher level. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you updated on how community impacts me in 2019.

How about you? What word is reaching out to you in 2019?


What Have You Learned From Reunions?

In October 2018, Deborah Copaken wrote in The Atlantic, What I Learned About Life at My 30th College Reunion She listed 30 lessons. Several resonated with me.

“No one’s life turned out exactly as anticipated, not even for the most ardent planner.”Amen! Life is what happened while planning something else. I do think its important to understand our narrative identity – the myths and interpretations we tell ourselves about ourselves including our trials and tribulations, our heroes and villains. Do you share redemptive stories or contamination stories with others? I didn’t expect my business partner to die at such an early age and yet this event sent me on a new path to where I am today, truly living my passion and living my gifts and talents – a redemptive story. In the end, we all seek meaning to our lives.

“Speaking of art, those who went into it as a career were mostly happy and often successful, but they had all, in some way, struggled financially.” Agreed! I believe everyone is an artist and not limited to paint, watercolor, sculpture, clay, music, theater and culinary. Those who embrace their lives as art, a canvas on which to create and give their creation away to others seems to be the happiest. Expressing gratitude is the ultimate art form and those who continuously express their gratitude are the happiest people I know.

“ ‘Burning Down the House,’ ” our class’s favorite song, by the Talking Heads, is still as good and as relevant in 2018 as it was blasting out of our freshman dorms.” My favorite song from high school and college was Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ I love the tribute Nancy and Ann Wilson gave to Led Zeppelin at the Kennedy Center in 2013. Even the Obama’s were moved! Those lyrics are more relevant than ever.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven

“Those who got an unwanted divorce seemed unhappier, post-divorce.” Disagree. While my divorce was unexpected and hurtful, I learned a lot about myself and relationships. I learned that commitment requires persistence at permanence. I learned what I needed in a relationship and what I needed to be in a relationship. Consequently, I failed forward, meeting a woman, falling in love and forming a bond that is going on 39 years.

“Many classmates who are in long-lasting marriages said they experienced a turning point, when their early marriage suddenly transformed into a mature relationship. ‘I’m doing the best I can!’ one classmate told me she said to her husband in the middle of a particularly stressful couples’ therapy session.” From that moment on, she said, he understood: Her imperfections were not an insult to him, and her actions were not an extension of him. She was her own person, and her imperfections were what made her her. Sometimes people forget this, in the thick of marriage.” Agreed. The birth of our daughter was not only life changing but relationship changing. The birth of our son re-confirmed this. Our marriage has not always been smooth. We sought help and learned to be more accepting and forgiving of one another. We continue to learn about each other and as we get older, lose some memory, not move as fast, we give each other more grace and say “I love you,” with even more sincerity.

No matter what my classmates grew up to be … most of our conversations at the various parties and panel discussions throughout the weekend centered on a desire for love, comfort, intellectual stimulation, decent leaders, a sustainable environment, friendship, and stability.” Agreed. I have learned significance – the positive impact I have on others, rather than success – is far more important. I’m trying to live my eulogy rather than my resume.

“When the bell atop Memorial Church tolled 27 times to mark the passing of 27 classmates since graduation, we all understood, on a visceral level, that these tolls will increase exponentially over the next 30 years.” Yes. When my college alumni magazine comes, the first thing I look at is class notes and obituaries. Having lost three friends this past year, I realize life does have finality –  especially mine. I am looking to “write” the last best final chapter that includes better emotional intelligence, apology and restorative justice. There is one person heavy on my heart with whom I need to “write” a best final chapter.

“In our early 50s, people seem to feel a pressing need to speak truths and give thanks and kindness to one another before it’s too late to do so. One of my freshman roommates thanked me for something that happened in 1984. A classmate who was heretofore a stranger, but who had read my entry in the red book, our quinquennial alumni report—in which I recounted having taken an Uber Pool to the emergency room—offered to pay for my ambulance next time, even going so far as to yank a large pile of bills out of his pocket. “That’s okay,” I told him, laughing. “I don’t plan to return to the emergency room anytime soon.” Agreed. When I lost my job a few years ago, a friend who heard about my plight called me and told me he wanted to cover our mortgage until I got back on my feet. I was blown away. Tears filled my eyes!  I have been more intentional about going to see family and friends and saying “thank you” for the gift of their lives shared in my life.

“Love is not all you need, but as one classmate told me, “it definitely helps.” Disagree. Maybe it’s because I’m a few years older than Ms. Copaken and have more experience with life, but the Beatles got it right – All you need is love! Love is the most powerful force on earth. It is the air I breathe and water I drink. You cannot lead others unless you love yourself so you can love others.

Three Questions

Recently the creator of Humans of New York asked three challenging and thought provoking questions. Thinking about this past year, here are the questions and my answers.

1. What’s your biggest struggle?

I struggle with too much screen time! I am going to work on becoming less distracted to reduce my attention to screens including an “unplug” retreat.

2. How has your life turned out differently than you expected it to?

I did not expect two friends to die this past year. When can I expect to die? I became eligible for Medicare this fall. I didn’t expect what I saw walking into the local Social Security office. I came face-to-face with “my people” in the waiting area with walkers, crutches, canes and caregivers. When can I expect to have help? As a student, practitioner and coach of leadership, I didn’t expect POTUS 45 to be such a failed leader. When can I expect a leader to become POTUS 46? I didn’t expect a friend of Jewish heritage to share he and his wife were considering moving out of the United States as they feared for their lives because of the increase of antisemitism. When can I expect antisemitism to end? I never expected to confront an older white woman yelling at a black woman who waiting in her motor running car in a “no parking” zone on someone to come out a grocery store, telling the black was parking illegally and to move. I asked if she was authorized by the store to patrol and why it so important to to have this person move when it was obvious that there was not intent to park. After all, I had done this as well at times, hadn’t she? When can I expect people to treat all people with respect and love?

3. What do you feel most guilty about?

We live is an a time of heightened fear and the need to build walls. The most dangerous word in the English language is exclusion. I feel guilty about not building more bridges. I have come to recognize the need for connection and building of relationships as essential to building strong, healthy, nurturing communities.

How would you answer these three questions?

What Is Your Level of Incivility?

Today, everything is personal and we react by disassociating and unfriending neighbors and relatives on social media when we don’t agree on issues, politics and beliefs. We no longer give each other room, let alone respect for having a different perspective, a different experience or a different belief. Trust is the foundation for any and all relationships; and as I have blogged before, trust has eroded to threads. It is on life support. Our diminished ability to trust is hurting our ability to forgive and adding to our incivility. Our incivility is keeping us from nurturing diversity, inclusion and equity, which is everyone’s responsibility if we are going to maintain and grow democracy.

“We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’  It is not,  ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather, ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

We spend more time telling than asking. We have license to be directors, finger-pointers and critics. We use liberal amounts of “you should…” as in “You should be more __________.” “You should do more __________.” “You should be like __________.” “You should see or watch __________.” “You should read __________. ” The word “should” is about judgment as in the person you are addressing is not worthy and you know what’s best. “Should” is about control and is abusive rather than inspiring.

When we do ask a question, it’s usually a simple “Why?” asked in a condescending tone of voice that challenges and threatens.

Unfortunately, work and school are the places where you cannot disassociate with others. Fact is, we spend more time with the people with whom we work and learn than our significant others, family and friends. It’s estimated that weekly rudeness at work has gone from 25% in 1998 to over 60% in 2016. Incivility and rudeness have become a pandemic right. We justify rudeness in so many ways and it’s hurting business and education in so many ways including the health of these environments. Cohorts forget that the way they treat each other has tremendous impact on how the visitor, guest, customer, patient or client gets treated.

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.”
– Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow

Kahneman’s best selling Thinking Fast and Slow, describes how the two systems of our brains are constantly fighting over who is in charge. System one is automatic and impulsive and uses less energy, thus helps us with survival as in our quick response when we hear a gunshot. We use system one over 90% of the time, thus it tends to dominate our behavior and reaction to situations and others. System two requires more energy as it is conscious, mindful and thoughtful. The ability to trust others and use self-control are centered in system two. Critical thinking, our other national deficit, resides in system two.

Kahneman uses the example of a bat and ball costing $1.10. If the bat costs $1 more than the ball, then how much does the ball cost? I bet you said or thought the ball cost $0.10 and you’d be wrong!* System one thinking over ruled system two thinking. Think again, this time use your system two.

I recently began re-reading How To Want What You Have: Discovering the Grandeur of Ordinary Existence by Timothy Miller, PhD (1995). Miller’s writing is timeless wisdom of coming to know that our insatiable desires cause us to spend a lifetime of wanting what we don’t have leading to a lifetime of unhappiness. We want: to be better looking; be respected; live in a bigger house; drive a newer car; have greater status; have a better significant other; even wish we had a better childhood. Most of all, we seek freedom from the fear of losing what we do have. We know this, but we rarely admit or discuss this. It requires system two thinking.

If we are going to become more civil to each other, we are going to have to exercise system two thinking more often. We are going to have stop reacting and become more curious. We are going to have to ask more questions than judge and tell. We are going to have to acknowledge our fear is based on what we know the least. We are going to have to fight our ignorance. We may have to lose our sight, become blind to the visual cues that stoke our system one thinking. If we are going to come together, we are going to have to learn and practice compassion. We are going to have to learn to love one another by first loving ourselves with all our imperfections, scars and failures. We are worthy and so are the others with whom we come in contact.

“We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’  It is not,  ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather, ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

* The correct answer is $0.05. If the bat costs $1 more than the ball, then the actual cost of the bat is $1.05.

What Does Spirituality Have To Do With Leadership?

I usually begin a coaching relationship with a lot of poking and prodding questions around physical well-being, emotional well-being, mental well-being and spiritual well-being of the person I’m coaching. Without exception, it’s the spiritual well-being questions that produce the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look.

I usually get responses from clients like…
What does that mean?
Does it matter?
I don’t do woo-woo.
That Kumbaya stuff isn’t me.
I don’t believe in it.
I go to church.
I’m spiritual, but not religious.
If I’m not spiritual, does that make me a bad person, a bad leader?
What does that have to do with my leadership?

The conversation usually morphs into a conversation about the difference between being spiritual and being religious, I hear thing things like…
Spiritual is about the beyond. Religion is about membership.
Spiritual people meditate, religious people pray.
Spirituality is about personal connection. Religion is about dogma, ritual and control.
It’s all about who is in control, me (spirituality) or an institution (religion).
Spirituality is about believing in a higher power. Religion is about following a higher
power through ritual, adhering to laws and being in good standing.
Spirituality is a choice and operates on the law of attraction. Religion is adherence and
failing to adhere has negative consequences.
Spirituality has no boarders or divides. Religion has rules and divides.

“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience.
Spirituality is having your own experience.”
Deepak Chopra

Leadership is an affair of the heart with one’s soul. Without getting theological, philosophical or scientific, here is what I know for sure. The soul is what we are, our internal life, our raging energy. The soul is life. It is neither good or bad, it’s our energy connected to the universe, the cosmos, connected to the energy that makes up everything. To lead is to connect. This where science (quantum physics) intersects theology – everything is energy and seems to respond to consciousness. I believe there is truth in the ability to sell one’s soul and it’s not a good thing!

For me, spirituality is how we connect and channel our soul. It is essential to great leadership. Thus, consider the soul as a rambunctious child and spirituality as the sherpa, guide and rudder for the soul. Spirituality is how we handle our raging energy, our soul. Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing, suggests four behaviors of spirituality are necessary to our self-care including: meditation/prayer; being in community with others and the concentric circles beyond; suspending judgment and respecting other’s spiritual journey; and showing and acting with compassion for the least of these, the underserved, the less privileged, the wounded. Spirituality is carpe diem – “seizing the day.”

To be spiritual requires honesty, focus, humility and compassion. To be spiritual is confront our dysfunctionality. It’s to acknowledge there will be uncompleted things left in our “IN” box when we die and it’s okay. Our spirituality guides us through our many living deaths, like divorce, job-loss, the death of a loved-one, a disability, cancer while we are alive. Our spirituality helps us in the tension between what we desire and our fidelity to our values and commitments. Our spirituality is the source of letting go and some would say (including me), letting God, and always about connecting and dealing with others with compassion. If we are mindful to our spirituality, we find peace and joy. Embracing our soul through our spirituality completes us. Karl Rather says our spirituality “moves us to becoming mystics rather than non believers.” Our spirituality helps us to overcome our perfectionism and the need to be right. It allows us to accept our imperfections. Good, healthy, inclusive religious communities can be a resource and guide for our spiritual well-being.

“The top environment problems are selfishness, greed and
apathy…and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural
transformation…and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
Gus Speth, American environmental lawyer

Let’s be honest, when we are a part of a family, a group, a team, an organization, a fellowship, a community, we no longer fully own our lives. We consciously and subconsciously allow others within those connections to mess with our lives. The fundamental requirement is to be vulnerable. Trust begins to take root leading to giving and receiving compassion from one another. We can share hopes and dreams leading to collaboration in creating a better life. While being alone is a good and necessary behavior at times, too much aloneness can lead to loneliness, an epidemic in our society. Our spirituality is an antidote to loneliness. Our spirituality keeps us from allowing others to define us. Our spirituality allows us to assume positive intent in others rather than judge. Attention to our spirituality is the foundation of emotional intelligence. To lead is to love and our spirituality allows us to love others as they are because our spirituality helps us to love our own messy, dysfunctional selves as we are. Being in touch with our spirituality allows the current version of ourselves to be worthy of love.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern, writes that what distracts us from our spirituality is narcissism (self-centeredness, selfishness, conceit and feeding one’s ego), pragmatism (hard-heartedness, logical and practical with a focus on achievement and success) and unbridled restlessness (anxiety, disquietude and impatience causing imbalance). These three behaviors keep us from taking care of ourselves and failing to serve and lead others. These behaviors feed a scarcity mentally leading to a feeling there is never enough and believing we are never enough. They feed wishful thinking as in: “I wish I was like or looked like __________.” “I wish I had ___________.”

“Christianity is mainly wishful thinking. Even the part about
Judgment and Hell reflects the wish that somewhere the
score is being kept.“                           – Frederick Buechner

The toughest person to lead is oneself. You lead yourself by paying attention and focusing on your physical well-being, your mental well-being, your emotional well-being and your spiritual well-being. All four of these practices interact with each other and nurture our ability to lead ourselves as well as others. Paying attention to these four practices and living them is essential to ‘modeling the way’ for those we lead.

According to a 2017 Gallup report, 71% of the American workforce is not engaged in their work which translates into poor productivity, higher turnover, more accidents and reduced ROI. Workforce leadership should be deeply concerned about this fact. After pondering my thoughts, how does your spirituality affect your engagement with others at work? Are you able to be still and listen? To get in touch with one’s spirituality, begin by listening.

“…listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people
are looking for an ear that will listen. He who can no longer listen
to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either. This is
the beginning of the death of the spiritual life.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Some ideas on reconnecting and nurturing one’s spirituality:

  • When you wakeup in the morning, linger in bed. Breathe. Consider with gratitude the rest you just experienced. Breathe. If your significant other is beside you, lightly touch them and consider your gratitude for your relationship. Breathe. Reflect on how you want to be experienced in the unfolding day. Consider who and what is really important.
  • Carve out time daily to be still, intentionally breathe, pray, meditate for at least ten minutes. And if you can’t find ten minutes, make it twenty minutes.
  • You are the five people you to whom are closest. How is their spiritual well-being? Choose well and wisely.
  • Seek out a mentor or faith-guide who has a strong spiritual well-being who can coach you on your spiritual well-being. After all, this is not a DIY practice. Spirituality requires connection with ourselves as well as with others.
  • Seek out, read or listen to books like Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie, Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, Eckhart Tolle The Power of Now, Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ, Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing, Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, Nadia Bolz-Weber Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, Robert Fulghum’s Everything I Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Anne Lamott’s Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair
  • Listen to podcasts like Krista Tippett’s On Being, The Moth: True Stories Told Live, Ira Glass’s This American Life, Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It, The Good Life Project.
  • Carry a reminder, a special object in your pocket that when you touch it, you pause to listen, to breathe, reflect, meditate, pray or just be still and become mindful of what’s around you.
  • Be intentional and mindful in discovering the “thin places” where heaven intersects with earth. It could be in the middle of a flowing stream or river; it could be on the subway where a person gives up their seat for an elder or disabled person; it could be in the golden hours where you sit quietly and observe the first light of day or the last rays of sun in the evening; it might occur when a cat or dog curls up in your lap; it could be that mellow fire with its deep red coals of a firepit or fireplace.
  • Create or be a part of inclusive communities. Be fully present. Listen. Don’t try to fix others. Turn off your smart phone.
  • Sit down to dinner with others. Be present. Breathe. Reflect on all the hands that made the meal possible. Say thank you out loud. As you eat, put your fork down. Breathe. Really taste what you are eating. Linger after you finish eating. Breathe. Consider how many ways you have been nourished in this time and space.
  • Use a canceled appointment to take a walk and breathe without your smart phone and take in what you see, hear, smell and feel.

What behaviors do you recommend for connecting and growing one’s spirituality?