Experiencing Resilience…I hope

Don’t fall out of your chair – Yes, this is a blog entry from David E White – and I confess that it has been far too long, with some difficulty in between.

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“An easy life is rarely meaningful and a meaningful life rarely easy.”
Oliver North, Counterfeit Lies

What do you do when you feel that you are losing your bearings? I am not referring to ball-bearings, which would amount to mental marbles in this case (which, in hind-sight, may actually work) – but rather the coordinates for your life journey.

Let me cut to the chase – this past year has been a difficult one for me. For a variety of reasons, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I have been depressed before – but never like I was during several significantly low periods this past year. Ironically, the speaker, writer, facilitator and consultant (aka: expert) on the topic of resilience, was starting to look like he wouldn’t be so resilient himself. Please Continue Reading …

For Strength, Character and Resilience, just add Heat!

A leader’s life is filled with a barrage of external challenge of adversity, change and crisis, as well as with personal failures and lapses in judgment or will power. As leaders, we all want to finish well, but at times we may be tempted to quit.

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American author and Presidential advisor Napoleon Hill once said, “Character is to man what carbon is to steel.”
Steel is forged in fire. The evidence of resilience in any great leader will be forged in the fires of daily life, and it is the very heat of the challenge that forms the strength of character that makes us resilient. Though carbon is used for steel, it is also used for pencil lead. As such it is soft and smudges easily on paper. This would be our character, and our resilience, without the fire of challenge. Please Continue Reading …

The Uncertainty Principle; Practical advice for embracing mystery

Search “uncertain future” in Google and you will receive 56,000,000 results in .04 seconds. If you are feeling the negative affects of uncertainty in your emotions, take heart – others who also are feeling it surround you!

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Over the past few months, I’ve been working closely with many people experiencing the effects of uncertainty, and the price they (we) have been paying emotionally, mentally and even physically is significant. Some of these people are going through work-related uncertainty due to role changes and/or the possibility of dismissal because of corporate downsizing. Others are going through health-related uncertainty, such as the second round of cancer therapy or a battery of tests to determine the unknown cause of symptoms they are experiencing.

As I reflect on our collective wrestle with uncertainty, I find myself wondering:  Please Continue Reading …

Warm Memories: Your living epitaph

My father was just 42 when he was permanently disabled and institutionalized. My mother was just 37 when she died. These two events have forced me to take the pursuit of the meaning of life seriously.

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Some have suggested that when we think about the meaning of my life, we should think about what we want our eulogy to be, or what we would want to have on our headstone. While these may be valid, I think there is an additional way. Please Continue Reading …

Anxiety – 85% of it wasted?

According to change theory (Kurt Lewin), learning anxiety and psychological safety are two of the biggest resistance issues in navigating change. Why? Fear. Change involves as much unlearning as learning. It is painful, and it threatens our identity. We can often feel incompetent as we engage what we do not yet know.

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I have been engaged in grad studies once again. I wrote my prof to discuss the painful experience of adapting to language that I do not use every day (in truth, never). She put forward a helpful metaphor: “…let’s say that you have taken a few weeks of piano lessons, and that you have attended a concert pianist performance. You cannot expect to play at that level immediately…moderate your expectations…”

No circumstance has a direct link to the emotion of fear or anxiety. There is ALWAYS a  Please Continue Reading …

Rising up out of Dissonance

Broken relationships cost us much in life…work, family, community…all suffer when we have a loss of quality relationship. Trust and respect are the foundation to relationship…and they necessitate effort to achieve them.

We see the vision (albeit a bit blurry through tears at times) of how life could be with better quality relationship. We see our reality and all that we would like to change…and we live in the space in between (cognitively – dissonance); not fully resigned to current reality, yet not fully achieving vision….a state of conflict.

This may sound overly dramatic, but I find that the longer I pursue the vision, wherein the achievement eludes, the more I experience an internal conflict.

When vision eludes for extended seasons there must be firm conviction; a substance solid enough for us to continue in the journey…to continue to expend effort, believing that one day the vision will become the new reality.

At some point in the journey, we will encounter internal and external voice that suggests we are foolish for believing that the vision could ever be reality. These voices (either source) are less important than the source of the conviction. Is the vision truth – or is it not?

Will memories of past abuse fade if trust and respect are present? Yes.

Will a team engage more if trust and respect are present? Yes.

Will we experience a greater sense of fulfillment if we are able to engage? Yes.

Ultimately, trust and respect are fulfilled in love. Love is the means by which we rise up out of dissonance to experience the fullness of vision…even vision beyond what we can see.

A Phone Call Can Change Everything…

We have all had them; phone calls that interrupt out utopia with news that derails and discourages. You never know when they will arrive…they show up unannounced and uninvited. The double D threat of disability or disaster…leading to death or debt!

The last few weeks the phone has been ringing a bit. Mechanical malfunctions, total-loss vehicles, unemployment, and loved ones that have passed away. It would be easy to be derailed.

Then the TV reminds you that it could be worse…the challenges that the people in Japan are experiencing loom overwhelming.

Then again…

“The size of human suffering is absolutely relative…It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future…The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar position. His existence has become provisional and in a certain sense he cannot live for the future or aim at a goal.” (Viktor Frankl)

We all have our challenges…and we all need hope for the future.

Just remember…the phone that may intrude with challenge,  is also quite capable of delivering opportunity. One never knows which it will be…until you answer.

 

Optimal (book excerpt): Achievement

The systems for achievement within our culture work well…sort of. We have great schools for education, and we can further our studies through university or college, secure a trade or profession, and insert ourselves into an organization productively. Through a steady stream of income, we can acquire most or all of what our heart might yearn for, and yet there is a continual need for more.

Fulfillment can’t be summed up in abundance. We seem to be perpetually suffering from the law of diminishing return. Our parents longed for indoor plumbing, our kids long for I-Phone’s. No one seems to be more satisfied.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA, Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44. Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.

Could it be that we have more of what we think we want, but nothing of what we truly need?

Success: The other side of the mountain

While cycling in the mountains this past week, I was reminded of an important principle: Success is not just about what you accomplish…but also about what you overcome.

During the final day of our three-day route, we had to climb about 9 K of steep (4.4% grade) hill. Approximately half way into the climb I began to feel that I would not make the grade (in more ways than one!)  I was dressed too warm, and began to overheat. My water was nearly gone, and I had no fuel left in the tank. I was also fighting my mind, which seemed to be quite willing to accept the possibility of an extended layover or even a DNF (did not finish) as a final outcome.

I have felt this way before…in life and business. Circumstances have conspired to bring me to a similar place of fearing that I would not “make the grade”, or post a less than flattering “DNF”. To some cyclists a 4.4% grade is nothing. (Indeed, we were passed by a triathlete who was doing the whole 350 K’s in one day!) However, to me it was a mountain.

Thankfully a buddy helped me out, sourcing a bagel and water from a  friendly CPR employee. A brief rest, along with a great conversation (enough to remove my mind from the “mountain” in front of me) and I was back in the saddle with renewed optimism.

We all have our mountains. The size of our particular mountain is only one factor…our resources (capacity, competency, companions, etc) are also a factor.Two years ago I would have scoffed at the suggestion that I could ride 350 K’s through the mountains. The same buddy that handed me the bagel, offered the encouragement and opportunity to begin cycling in the first place. Great companion!

Just a little ways past the 9 K hill I enjoyed an extended downhill stretch, enough to reach speeds of 70+ KPH! Exhaustion quickly gave way to exhilaration! I enjoyed the satisfaction of overcoming a mountain, and enjoyed the reward on the other side of the challenge.

Maybe life and business are not so different from cycling. If we hang in there and face the mountain, surround ourselves with great companions, build competency and capacity, we will survive to enjoy the reward on the other side.

Optimal (book excerpt): HOPE

Without hope in the future, there can be no power in the present. Who would have power or energy to put into a task which they knew would be ultimately pointless or futile? By way of example, imagine painting the railing on the Titanic, while it was sinking. Or how about washing your car while it is raining, knowing full well that you will have three miles of gravel road to travel on the way home. Or what about repairing and repainting the “door dings” in the side of the family car knowing that your daughter will park in the student lot at school for another 4 years. People would have to be insane to do such a thing!

A friend of mine tells me that we can live for a few weeks without food; a few days without water; but not a second without hope. The same man tells me that it is the primary responsibility of every leader to foster hope. I believe him, on both counts. Even false hope can serve to keep us alive, but no hope? We need to hope, and it must be in truth.

This statement is also true with moderate rephrasing: “generate hope for the future, and gain power in the present”. Had the Titanic indeed pulled into port on its maiden voyage, you can bet that the deck and railing would have been squeaky clean and sparkling bright. Many would have had this picture in their mind, up until the disaster.

Vision is the depiction of hope. The picture we hold out in our mind can either spur us on to perform on purpose, or bring us to a point of hopeless resignation. The vision we hold must be based in truth, and further it must relate to our foundational purpose, for if it is not, then we are destined for regret.