The Glovebox

It’s not really for gloves anymore, yet the name remains.

While what it represents may have evolved, this antiquated idea has persisted.

If an idea as simple as this has stood the test of time what else has persisted that we accept as is?

If anything, the glovebox is a reminder to practice unseeing what we’ve seen and accepted for so long.

What’s possible often involves rethinking what is for what could be.

The Purpose-Driven Leader Manifesto

1. Sustainability is the foundation. Because you cannot win an infinite game. Rather, the goal is to be infinite minded and contribute to the game so it can be played indefinitely.

2. Trust is everything. If people don’t trust you, they won’t give a damn about your vision. If you don’t trust people, you’ll never advance your vision.

3. Name your values. Know your why. Advance your vision. You cannot live into what you cannot define. Clarity alone is insufficient without congruent action.

4. Leadership is a practice. It’s not defined by a title or any single act. It’s a disciplined choice you make to show up through daily action even when you don’t control the outcomes.

5. Humility over modesty. Curiosity over arrogance. Generosity over scarcity. Own your strengths, don’t flaunt them; maintain curiosity over what you don’t know; develop a bias towards generosity.

6. Prioritize self-care and development. Never apologize for investing in yourself. Burn-out is not a badge of honor, it’s a failure of leadership. 

7. Embrace the Paradox of AND. Change requires us to hold two opposing ideas as truth (our vision for a future not yet realized AND the reality of challenges in the present); beware the tyranny of all-or-nothing and either/or thinking.

8. Pursue Mastery. Find joy in the doing. Learn the skills of leadership and pass on to others.

9. Listen and reflect. Avoid the ivory tower. Listen with empathy to remain grounded and reflect to hone self-awareness

10. Doubt is often a sign you’re on the right path. The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Lean into the tension of hard things and do the work. 

The Knowing of Writing

One of the most curious things I have yet to understand is why I write. What about writing pulls me towards it like it does?

Sometimes I have a perspective or point of view I want to share with the world – such as when I write my thoughts on leadership, purpose or mindfulness.

Other times, I am compelled to share a story or experience that feels insightful with others who may find it useful.

And sometimes, I write to capture special moments that I want to emphasize and give meaning to in the larger narrative of my life. In this instance, I write to remember.

Either way, I write. And I’ve found that when I don’t write, something feels off – jittery almost. It’s as if I fail to write, then I’m not contributing to some larger context. It can spiral into an existential crisis, in the dramatic all-or-nothing thinking I’m susceptible to.

I just finished reading Glennon Doyle’s Untamed and I think I finally understand why.

In it she writes about The Knowing. The Knowing is that feeling we have deep inside ourselves that speaks truth to us. It’s our intuition, our gut feeling, that part that biology has helped us fine tune for millennia.

We all have The Knowing. In her book she shares the following on how to tap into it:

HOW TO KNOW:
Moment of uncertainty arises
Breathe, turn inward, sink.
Feel around for the Knowing.
Do the next thing it nudges you toward.
Let it stand. (Don’t explain.)
Repeat forever.
(For the rest of your life: Continue to shorten the gap between the Knowing and the doing.)

Writing is something I just know I need to do. I do not know why.

Perhaps writing is my opportunity to practice connecting with my knowing. It is the lesson upon which I learn to close a gap between knowing and doing and can then apply it in different contexts.

After all, isn’t the gap between knowing and doing where life is lived – our opportunity to live in the present?

Whatever the reason, the Knowing’s greatest lesson is in teaching us to trust ourselves.

I’m learning to trust myself.

And so, I write.

We’d be wise not to ignore that part of us that moves us towards the truest version of ourselves.

When all-or-nothing thinking becomes nothing at all

I sit reflecting on the first week of my digital detox and I have a curious thought. I’m not sure I could have made it this long a couple years ago.

I pause to consider this and find that I agree with this thought. I laugh to myself as if enough time has finally passed that such a pathetic truth is finally funny.

You see, while this is the first time I’ve done a digital detox, it isn’t the first time I‘ve set a goal with the desired outcome resulting in a specific behavior change.

The scar tissue on my ego was formed by the long trail of failed self-experiments.

In hindsight, I can see that past failed experiments had very common shape to them. I’d obsess over the goal and carefully plan it out. I would build it into a grandiose thing in my mind and pump myself up. I’d sprint out of the gate filled with zealous determination. Yet, something would inevitably go wrong. I’d stumble a bit and get back on the path but with my determination shaken. The wind in my sails would eventually die down and I’d give up.

Months would pass. My ego would mend and I’d think up the next goal, making it bigger than the last one (as if the reason I failed was because my goal hadn’t been big enough)

This happened for years every time I tried to improve my diet or build an early morning exercise routine or develop a writing practice or make a habit of mediation or try to read more often.

I could never do it how I envisioned. Dejected, I’d eventually give up. I became blinded by my own mental distortion.

So what makes this experiment different?

I finally understand the truth of discipline.

It’s not rigid, like I once thought. It doesn’t live in perfectionism’s shadow. It isn’t all or nothing.

Rather, it’s about having the humility to show up each day (especially after I’ve failed). It is the ability to get back on the horse. Nothing more, nothing less.

This means that even after an epic failure – like realizing I spent the last 15 minutes lost in my phone (like a techno-zombie) within hours of waking up on day one of my detox – I don’t beat myself over it. Just because I failed, doesn’t make me a failure.

Rather, I reflect on how it happened. I adjust accordingly and start over without the emotional heft of self-criticism. After all, if I fail to learn from it, can I rightfully call it an experiment?

This is discipline.

You just have to show up.

Once you do, you’ll find it’s nearly impossible to not continue moving forward.

The future looks bright

We are seated for dinner when my oldest daughter starts telling us about her day.

She shares that her first grade class didn’t get to take part in certain PE activities because several students were being rowdy and weren’t listening to the teacher.

We ask her to elaborate.

“Jamison (name changed) had been chanting ‘Boys rule and girls drool’” she says.

My wife responds with empathy, “yeah, that wasn’t a very nice thing to say, was it?”

Isla looks at my wife and with a slight look of confusion replies, “I don’t even understand why he said that.”

I jokingly jump in, “You know what you should have said back to him?” And I break out singing Queen Bey’s infamous girl anthem ‘Run the World (Girls)’ thinking this is an opportunity to light-heartedly teach her to be confident with who she is.

After a few seconds of humoring me, Isla looks back at me and responds, “No, Papi,” clearly annoyed and in a tone that indicates I should be taking this more seriously. “He should have actually said ‘Girls rule. Boys rule. And no one drools’”

I look at her, slightly stunned by the wisdom and kindness of her comment – how naturally it came to her. I’m able to see the world through the eyes of a six year old and it’s one of equality.

It seems, she’s the one with something to teach me.

And for a fleeting moment, I feel hopeful about the future before we carry on with our dinner conversation.

What it takes to be the best

It is not large and grandiose. It is not showy. It does not draw attention to itself. It is not the result of any individual action or decision.

Rather, it is like a river whittling away at rocks along the waters edge. It is steady. It is patient. It is mostly unnoticeable from day to day. It is the sum of consistent effort.

It a choice available to each of us. It is a commitment to care for the little things because we can all do small things greatly.

It is not a culture that praises the unending Herculean effort and results in burn out and exhaustion.

It is the choice to sustain, to undertake an effort with an eye on the long-term. However, such choice carries uncertainty when compared to the one-and-done effort. When convenience is the status quo, the long road appears risky. Yet, it’s because of the commitment required, excellence inherently weeds out those unwilling to stick with it.

There is no hack to be the best. It is not something you are born with, yet it’s available to anyone. But, you must be curious and willing to engage for the long haul.

Slow down, find your practice and commit to the journey. The world may not reward you but the true payoff is in the opportunity to test yourself within a disciplined practice.

Congruent

As in when your actions align with your thoughts. As in when what you say you’ll do is executed with discipline and rigor.

Integrity becomes the output of our ability to be congruent, to close the gap between what we imagine is possible and making it a reality. Congruency is the only way to live into the truest version of ourselves.

The quality of our life is a result of the hard choices we make (or fail to make). 

With only one life to live, we should lean into the hard work that makes us great. Any practice worth pursuing is one that holds ourselves accountable to being congruent.  We mustn’t expect others to call us out when we we’re being incongruent. It may happen, but waiting for others takes you off the hook. Plus, no one can hold you accountable like yourself.  

When we fail to live congruent (as we often will), we mustn’t make a fuss. Compassionately acknowledge the gap (we are human after all), make amends with yourself, reflect on what went wrong and try again. This is learning in real-time.  

We must not linger on our past failures but rather turn the page. The past is nothing but a sunk cost, we mustn’t let it become an anchor. 

We have within us the power to be the author of our lives. If we do it right, we have just enough life to make it meaningful when we strive for congruency.

The true gift of congruency becomes evident when you muster the courage to say what you want out loud. Sharing it with others won’t transfer ownership, but it does put you on the hook. What you communicate to the world signals “this is a commitment.”

A posture of congruency will leave you with no other option than to follow through with action. 

A Return to Stillness (Digital Detox Month)

When COVID first hit the U.S. and we were forced to go into lock down, I remember how surreal it felt. For the first time in my lifetime, the world stopped. I had to hunker down and grapple with the gift of stillness (which often felt uncomfortable).

Like others, I picked up new practices with this extra time. With nowhere to go and with the hustle and bustle of life removed, I slowed down and began taking long walks. I began writing. I connected with friends and family with more frequency. Excuses about how busy we were became nonexistent and we made space for meaningful connection, albeit virtual.

A year and a half later I’m still reflecting and trying to define the silver lining from that time in life. 

What sticks with me most from those first weeks of uncertainty was how it forced us to slow down. Most demands on my time, outside of work, evaporated. This absence provided an opportunity to engage life on a deeper level – with intent and purpose. I found myself with extra time and choices to make about how I should use it. 

BUILDING A NEW NORMAL, BRICK BY BRICK

Contribution is something I’ve been thinking deeply about for the past 18 months. I’ve had time to form practices that have allowed me to hone my contribution. I made intentional choices to prioritize creative and regenerative activities that have benefited my quality of life.  

The stillness from last year helped me tap into a resevoir of creativity I had forgotten existed. That discovery led to the creation of this blog and a deeper exploration of my own creative limits. In that time, I’ve learned that creativity, as messy a process as it is, demands discipline to reap its rewards. I’ve become a better version of myself by engaging deeper with a creative practice. 

And yet, once things began opening up earlier this year, demands on my time quickly began piling up, like a bad habit finding its groove. This tension has served as a reminder that if I don’t  prioritize what I value most, the world won’t hesitate to impose its own agenda. 

As such, anything that doesn’t align to my purpose or my ability to contribute must be evaluated seriously. If it fails to serve a clear purpose, in line with my values, I must eliminate it. 

RETHINKING TECHNOLOGY

After reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, I’ve realized how much a prisoner I am to technology; how much time I spend mindlessly and passively consuming content. Technology has become a security blanket against boredom and a constant source of anxiety from FOMO. I’ve accepted the narrative that all the conveniences gained from technology are worth it without ever really asking “what does it cost me?”

So, for the month of September, I’m examining the role I want technology to play in my life. I’m taking a page out of Cal’s book and doing a digital detox. By setting very clear guidelines on how I’ll use technology, I’m hoping to see what I gain from the additional stillness. 

  • Will I find more time to create?
  • Will I experience more meaningful connections with friends and family?
  • Will the constant, low-hum of anxiety from always being on dissipate?
  • Will the extra time with my thoughts lead to some deeper realizations on how I can contribute?

NEXT STEPS

I’m including a link to a document I put together that explains guidelines as well as my own commitments (in case you’re interested to see how I structured it). I don’t claim to be an expert, but if you’re interested in taking a similar journey, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.

I plan to share insights and struggles throughout the month. I’m not sure what will come of it but I greatly appreciate you riding along for the journey, in one form or another. 

An Observation on Clients (and Leaders)

Working in client operations, I’ve experienced a range of client relationships.

I’ve worked with emotionally-draining clients. They rarely set us up for success and are more concerned with being right than working together. 

I’ve also built meaningful relationships with clients. They are committed to ensuring a mutually beneficial partnership.

Bad clients love to yell and point fingers when something doesn’t go as expected. They set standards that border on perfectionism. They focus too much on the minutiae often times becoming their own obstacle for success. They rarely relinquish trust and if they do, they dole out just enough rope to hang yourself with. 

Much of the work we do for these clients comes from a place of fear rather than service – a desire to mollify rather than delight. We fear they’ll yell at us if we don’t comply. We fear that no matter how much time and effort we put in, they’ll never be satisfied, so why bother going above and beyond. This environment of fear breeds learned helplessness.

Conversely, great clients partner with us. They care deeply about building relationships and trust us for our expertise. They too have high standards, but don’t expect perfectionism. Rather, they challenge us to be better. When something goes wrong (as it inevitably always does) they own whatever part they may have played in it and hold us accountable to ours. They’re invested in the partnership and realize that an environment of mutual trust pushes each of us to come up with smarter, better solutions together.

Great clients foster a posture of abundance and service. We become more easily bought in to do whatever it takes to execute because we care deeply about them. We are invested in their success and they in ours. We trust them and they trust us.

The key difference between great clients and bad ones comes down to trust. 

Bad clients keep trust close to their chest, never relinquising more than is needed. They use trust as a mechanism to retain control.

Great clients trust you from the onset. They hire you for your expertise and partner with you. They use trust as a mechanism to build strong relationships. 

This default posture of trust is invaluable. 

People are starving for a chance to make an impact and contribute to something meaningful. When trust is withheld, we dampen that flame. Being trustworthy carries immense responsibility. So, in the rare instance we are given trust freely, it sends a very powerful message:

You are worthy.  

We’ll rise to the occasion and protect that trust fiercely. It puts us on the hook and we don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. If we care enough, we can do hard things.

What’s interesting to note is that while this is an observation about clients, the same distinction could be made between great leaders and bad ones. 

Upon Inspection

It may not be what it appears to be. 

But knowing so requires action.

A thing’s true nature won’t reveal itself until we get up close to it, until we wrestle with it. 

Blood, sweat, and tears are wisdoms’ currency

What we hope to be true, often isn’t.

Like a hopeless romantic, we chase an ideal that cannot be. 

If it only exists in our mind, can it ever be real?

If we chose safety over action reality will rarely match our expectations.

Perfectionism paralyzes, keeps us from seeing what is. 

Digging our heels in and refusing to see it may be a sign of conviction. 

It also makes us irrelevant. 

Change and growth requires destruction.

We must be willing to destroy what we know for what could be.