Elevating our Union

More than any other year, I’ve talked to more leaders who are feeling overwhelmed, discombobulated, and unfocused at this turn of a new year. Not knowing “what’s next,” we are thrown into the Big Questions. They usually snowball in this order: What’s going on in the world?, What’s up with my work?Is the problem with me?, and the big one: Who am I?

We are overwhelmed by the breadth of these questions, but contrary to how it feels, they are not a reflection of our incompetence or incapacity to know or find the answers. I like the word dissonance for this reason, because it describes the kind of disconnection which we can only detect, hear, sense, or feel in a deeper part of us. Dissonance is a reflection or a flare in the dark, that something in our lives has changed, needs to change, or is changing at this very moment. And it is actually a basic law of leverage.

The amazing Greek scientist and philosopher Archimedes, though he didn’t discover leverage put brilliant words to it when he famously said, “Give me a place to stand and I can move the earth.” As leaders, we instinctively know this is at work. I have to be in the right place, we whisper to ourselves in the secret crannies of our lives, in order to do all of this.

To have the impact we want to have for the people we love most (“the world”), the right action or work is required (“the lever”), and we know this action starts with us — with “where we stand.” When we don’t know where that is, we begin to lose our confidence, self-possession, our security, and we come unraveled.

But we also know what it’s like when the parts are aligned. When we just “show up” and “everything works.” Suddenly things “click into place,” and not only are people positively impacted, we feel free, elated, even (dare we say?)… happy. The work is not without action or effort, but effortless sounds about right. “Flow,” we would call this today, where the energy we put towards something is profound, important, easy, and simultaneously returned to us in equal measure. The ancient Chinese called this wu wei, or effortless action. And to a T, every person I talk to who has found this alignment calls it generosity. (As in, “Finally I can give generously without losing my strength!”)

I believe this true alignment between who we are, what we “cannot not do”, and the people we want to help is how we will actually change the world.

When we find the right place to stand, and get honest about who we are and what that Who does well, the world around us is elevated.

And so you see, I am not the elevationist here — You are.

You are the leader who is serving and lifting others as you find your place to stand. And it is my job, and my joy, to help co-listen with you and create that place and ultimate alignment so you can be about your business of elevating others.

It’s not all about us, but it begins with us. We could say, it begins with the state of our own union.

ONE Question for New Year’s Clarity and Purpose

A friend told me the other day: As I grow in the desire to be present with the moment, I find New Year planning and future-casting less enticing and necessary. 

Isn’t this the way it goes? Doesn’t this strike at a truth we seem to instinctively know, deep within us: that when we’re rooted in our seat of confidence, we don’t have to think so hard about the next steps? The future is not something fearful we must guard or plan against, and the present is not something we must manage or assuage. When we’re fully present, fully embracing of our current moment the way it is right now, something deeper and stronger in us clicks into place and makes the right next move.

Sometimes (oftentimes!) we need help getting there.

Pausing, even if we’re not planning, to pray…to imagine…to meditate… to sit with an intention in words, images, or our senses, gives our brain an anchor in the surprising or disarming events to come. And when we lose our bearings, even a single word can bring us back to center.

Not surprisingly, True Values can do this really quickly each year.

I like to ask a brief list of questions, like, What worked last year? (Personally and professionally, a rapid-fire list.)  What didn’t work (and therefore needs to go)?  Which values did I successfully live out? (and then take a beat to celebrate those victories.)

But my favorite — the big one:

Which ONE value, if I had my choice, would I infuse into work, family, life—everything—if I could this year?

An answer usually springs up fast.

One year, my instincts delivered a one-two punch: values of Love and Movement. These words were immediate and heartfelt, even if not fully defined (the definitions usually show themselves to us, not the other way around).

Yes, these are values. They are True Values: those that drive us, even mysteriously, even if they have no place to go in anyone else’s logic but ours.

(Occasionally, nothing arises immediately when we ask this question, and that’s okay. It’s usually a signal to sit with it awhile. Our voice may have a lot of road to travel to get to us.)

Here’s the Second Question: What does [this Value] look like, in reality?

What does Leadership / Community / [insert your value] look like in my business? What might Elegance look like in our family? What kind of Fun-loving, or Driven activities do we personally need to refuel? What would create Badass in our play time?

When we get practical and translate these physical manifestations of values into goals, or projects—and plot them on a calendar–changes happen with wicked speed. (Hello, strategic plan?)

Or, we can simply set them out as a guiding star for navigating. One year, for example, I bailed on resolutions entirely and instead set a simple intention to do three things I had never done before (“New” might have been the word for this value), and then gave myself the entire year to see them through. In the first three months, I ticked off all three: sushi, Graceland, and hiking the Grand Canyon. Then keeping the intention (the channels were open for New!), by the end of the year, I had done 18 more New things I had never experienced before.

So you can make this yours.

(And don’t forget to enjoy.)



All lit up

The past month, conversations have sparked everywhere with people coming into clarity, experiencing brilliant awakenings, and finding stunning awareness. From where I sit the world is ablaze with passionate people poised to do big things.
In the ancient paradigm of the Five Chinese Elements, Summer is a season of Fire (profound, I know.). August is when the energy of Fire — marked by passion, illumination, expressiveness and dynamism — is met with Metal energy: the kingdom of ideas, fortitude, values (aha! there they are), structure, boundaries, and clarity of self.
Which means… Watch out autumn, here we come ready and rearing to go in our truest selves.
“Fire has a love for itself,” said the mystical poet Hafiz, “It wants to keep burning.”
Fire has a beautiful, indelible, and dualistic nature: to stir, and to call for aid (think: Beacons of Gondor). To invigorate, and to warn. 
When ideas are blazing and new frontiers are calling, we may feel like the inner fire will sustain itself. Move aside, Fire says, as I show you what I can do…But fire needs both/and: tending, and containing. Tucked away, it suffocates and dies; un-contained, it will burn us out like a one-hit wonder.
Fire is our signal that we can’t do this alone. We need reinforcements.
  • To call a voice of reason who can shed lasting wisdom on our vision.
  • A systems sage to narrow our focus.
  • A grounded nurturer to guard our well-being.
  • An idea person to keep our fires stoked.
We may find these outside eyes in five people, or ten,  or a coach who knows how to play to what we need instinctively.
And when our fire stays lit with words of wisdom around it — we know we’ve landed on something good.
Embrace your blazing season. Wrap it in wisdom.
Email me with your thoughts, I’d love to know what’s percolating.
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