I’m sorry I’ve been MIA. I have missed writing to you. I’m wrapping up my fifth week on the road – ‘tis offsite season! Thank you for standing by!
The fun part of being on the road is that you meet plenty of unlikely teachers. You know what I’m talking about – people who trigger you, people who delight you, people whose worlds and yours would have never intersected had you not been outside of your normal routine.
I had a really interesting teacher show up in my life last week. I was speaking a client’s annual Summit in Las Vegas. While I’m normally in and out of speaking engagements to maximize my productivity (topic for another day), I stayed back for an extra day. It was such a treat to be able to watch other speakers, learn about the company’s products, meet some of their clients, and see how they’re shaping their industry.
I decided to attend a session on psychological safety – a hot topic in peak performance and team dynamics these days. Part of the workshop was interactive. The instructor told us to find a random partner in a room of hundreds so that we could share a personal story and access deeper vulnerability. Now – don’t judge me – here is how my brain rolls in those situations:
- Excitement to be in the room learning rather than teaching.
- Annoyance that I have to work with a partner when I do this stuff for a living.
- Resentment because I’m so tired from being “on” all day that the last thing I want to do is be “on” in this partner share exercise.
- Irritation with myself for being so judgmental when I look at my partner (I’ll call him Steve).
- Acceptance because I’m a good student so I let all this inner narrative go (about 20 seconds worth) and follow the exact instructions.
So Steve and I start the exercise. I went first because Steve was scared to speak (judgment pokes its ugly head again). I shared a moment that had deeply shaped me and a bit about my history and how I ended up in that cold convention room in Las Vegas. He listened blankly and nodded. My time was up. His instruction was to ask me 1 deep question around my story (judgment creeps in again assuming he will ask me a dumb question). He asks: “So, are you happy?” Wow, Steve – didn’t see that one coming!
Next it’s his turn. Sure enough – different worlds. Steve is from a small town in Iowa. Grew up on a farm and ran his family’s bowling alley. Troubled family relationships, some trauma. Through a few synchronicities ended up in tech. When it was my turn to ask the 1 question, I asked: “What are you most proud of?” It was the bowling alley.
We ended up having a really nice exchange throughout the paired-share exercises. My judgment transformed into wonder of how the twists and turns in lives bring us to these random moments of sharing intimately with another. Anyway – it was time to go and I was about to do the polite thing – thank Steve, shake his hand, wish him the best. He once again completely caught me off guard and delighted me with his depth.
He said: “So, given our paths, it’s very unlikely that we’ll ever see each other again in this lifetime. I really wish you all the best and keep doing the great work that you’re doing.” Damn, Steve – thank you.
I spent the plane ride home thinking about these unlikely teachers. The folks that pop in our lives to share a message, remind us what matters, teach us a lesson, trigger us, or simply extend a moment of kindness. They’re part of our tapestry in a way that warrants appreciation and reverence, rather than impatience or apathy. What would extending wonder in these moments look like? For me –it’s conscious reminders of our connectedness.
Thanks, Steve! Wishing you a wonderful life as well.
Wherever there is a human need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference.
From Theory to Action
I find judgment an incredibly powerful place to enter into a lesson on leadership. It’s the world holding up a mirror to you through the prop of a trigger. “HEY YOU – pay attention – there’s something here to learn or release or accept!” So, try it!
Notice the next time you get triggered. It can be anything – bumper-to-bumper traffic, someone cutting you in line to get on the plane, your spouse forgetting to do something, your neighbor moving their trash bins a little too close to your side of the driveway, your boss canceling your 1:1 for the fourth time – literally, anything!
Rather than getting sucked into judgment’s tempting allure (important note: cousins of judgment include blame, impatience, irritation), throw some wonder or curiosity at the situation: What am I not seeing? What is hidden behind this person or situation? What can I learn here? What’s another way of interpreting this? What would this situation look like if it were transformed? Why is this bothering me so much? What’s actually going on within me? Go for it… ask the hard questions and be set free!