That whole no regrets thing? BS

I’m going to write three words that is going to make most women between the ages of 30 and 70 squeal with pleasure:

Dr. Brené Brown

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IN THE FLESH. (Photo credit: SuperSoul TV)

If you haven’t checked out this amazing shame researcher-turned TED Talk celebrity-now author of multiple best-selling books-who is warm and real and vulnerable and wicked smart, then I would highly recommend starting with her website and allowing yourself to fall in love.

Point of clarification: just because I identified women in my introductory sentence doesn’t mean Dr. Brown’s work is exclusively for women. Far from it. No matter your gender expression, the odds are that you know shame well and how it manifests inside you. The hissing voice of criticism that seems to get louder and louder at all the wrong times. 

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You know this feeling, right? (Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash)

Last week, I’m listening to Brené on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversation podcast and she begins talking about regret. Apparently, she put this out on social last year, but alas, I wasn’t a superfan back then. Here’s what she wrote on Facebook:

I’ve found regret to be one of the most powerful emotional reminders that change and growth are necessary. In fact, I’ve come to believe that regret is a kind of package deal: A function of empathy, it’s a call to courage and a path toward wisdom.

Like all emotions, regret can be used constructively or destructively, but the wholesale dismissal of regret is wrongheaded and dangerous. “No regrets” doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection.

To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life. I’m not suggesting that we have to live with regret, but I do think it’s important to allow ourselves to experience and feel it.

One of the truest things I’ve ever heard about regret came from George Saunders’s 2013 commencement address at Syracuse University. He said, “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

Time out, girl. You’re saying that we SHOULD have regrets? Because there were times in our lives where we could have made a better choice? Treated someone with kindness? Walked away from a situation? Taken action? Said “that’s not acceptable”?

I’ve always viewed regrets more from the FOMO (fear of missing out) frame. You’ll regret if you don’t study abroad! You’ll regret if you don’t take this job opportunity! Often, regrets had to do with major experiences or experiences.

But, it’s the little things that count, right? We talk about that in the positive sense all of the time. Small acts make big impacts. What about the small acts that didn’t lead to someone feeling empowered or seen? What about those times where we elected to be cruel or silent? If we were willing to accept the role of regret, what could we then learn, upon reflection, that would help us make a different decision in a future situation?

Here are two random regrets that came up in my reflection:

#1: When I was in elementary school, I made fun of Jenny Lee. Most kids in our grade did. Why? Jenny Lee was taller than average. I can’t remember if she was perceived as smart. She had a penchant for horses and would pretend to play make believe as a horse during first grade recess.

One day in particular, I must have been extra mean to Jenny Lee because I got my name written on the board. It was May 22, the day before my birthday 7th birthday. My friend Marissa, who was in fact celebrating her birthday that day, also had her name written on the board. I’m sure there were mumbled apologies. I was probably more ashamed at the public record of my bad deeds than the actual hurt I inflicted on Jenny Lee.

Jenny Lee was killed in a car accident a few years later. I never chose to speak with her or build a friendship. I labeled her as a weirdo and left her on the bench with the rest of my classmates deemed untouchable and unpopular.

Why did I choose to follow the crowd? Why did I feel the need to make fun of her in the first place? How did her presence threaten me? It didn’t. She was just a kid trying to navigate her way through growing up. I didn’t know anything about her family or the world she hailed from. All I knew was the others had deemed her different. And I needed to remind her of that on May 22, 1991.

#2: There was a boy in my 7th grade P.E. class, Jamorial. He sat behind me in our assigned grid-like pattern on the gym floor (or on the outdoor basketball courts when the weather cooperated…which was like every freaking day in Phoenix). Jamorial was probably the only Black kid at my middle school. (Ugh, talk about regret: I can’t even tell you whether we had more than one Black student at my junior high? Needless to say, I attended White-majority schools throughout primary education).

Jamorial was small for his age, if that’s a real thing. He had ashy knees (I even have regret typing this). He just wanted someone to talk to as we sat baking under the 90+ degree sun during final period. Sometimes I decided to be nice. But, I more often chose to whisper about him behind his back, commenting on his weirdness to my friend Amanda. I teased her that he had a crush on her and wanted to marry her and all of the juvenile patter that runs of our mouths.

I’m sorry, Jamorial, for being racist and further ostracizing a young man of color who had to ensure the unimaginable in our school. I don’t even know if you finished at Mountain Sky or went elsewhere. I’m not even sure to this day I am spelling your name right. I’m sorry I never took the time to learn.

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I think this image is called: “privileged white girl stands in her guilt in front of  her beach front property”

There isn’t enough time to list all of my regrets. Or yours. Definitely not time to list yours, assuming you are willing to have regrets as well. Heck, I regretted something I did yesterday. I decided to air my grievances with one individual in front of many (who DOES that?!) when I could have made the more respectful, compassionate choice of talking with that individual one-on-one later.

Apologies, if able to give, are part of this empathy/regret relationship. Not only extending sympathy to the inflicted party but also to yourself. Y’all, we’re human! We screw up. Constantly. Putting feet in mouths or fingers in eyes or whatever other strange bodily metaphors we devise to describe our continual ability to make mistakes.

Regrets, I got ’em. Or, better yet, the photo used in Dr. Brown’s post:

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📷@IMDb
🎥We’re the Millers (2013)
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

 

 

 

 

Beyond the hype: a Real Life Resume

Every job-seeker’s best friend and worst enemy: the resume. We can thank Leonardo da Vinci for introducing the modern take of selling ourselves on paper.

(What would Leonardo da Vinci’s resume even look like? Thanks to the Internet, my question has been answered.)

As someone who went through the process semi-recently of updating and recasting my resume, I find the entire process laborious and limiting. Sure, you as my future employer want to quickly see how I performed in previous professional experiences. You want to understand the scope of my responsibilities, the actions I took, and how those actions brought growth and achieved goals for the organization.

But, if our workplaces are where we spend the majority of our waking time during a day, and if we’re going to foster authentic relationships with the people we work with, would you want to know things about me beyond my previous titles and functions? 

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Like my love for photos in cut-outs?!

While the interview process opens the door to explore what attributes and skills we would bring to the table (and those darn weaknesses too!), most of us won’t get that far in the process. The employment funnel is narrow. As our sectors continue to emphasize the role of inclusion, diversity, and equity as part of our hiring practices, why not then also re-imagine what we’re asking from applicants in the first place?

Last year, Unilever nixed resumes all together.  Instead, the company starts with LinkedIn profiles (arguably a similar platform to resumes) but then puts applicants through neuroscience-based games. The AI system matches outcomes to key positions available, which has resulted in a more diverse workforce and a shorting hiring window.

Other companies, in step with the digital age, have requested candidates to send them examples of their web presence (i.e. social media accounts) in lieu of resumes. Additionally, online applications offer open-ended questions, such as “What is the best job you’ve ever had?” to learn more about the person’s fit. Many of us can check a lot of the same boxes when we apply for a similar job. What makes us stand out from the pack?

I’d like to throw out the idea of a RLR (Real Life Resume) that could be in addition to a professional CV or as part of an application process. Or really, let’s burn recycle traditional resumes. How many do you have sitting around in old portfolios right now? Different versions saved on your computer? How many did you leave on your former employer’s computer?

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What would we include on our RLR? (Yep, we’re going full acronym now, folks). Well, that depends! As you think about what skills and strengths you’ve picked up in the course of being human, what would you want your next boss to know? What are the learnings that make you the right person for the job?

I’ve thought about this question at random times, like when I’m folding laundry or lose another earring (because if I had to name a real life weakness, it would be maintaining pairs of earrings. How do people do this? I have a drawer full of sad, lonely earrings). Here are some items I would put on my RLR:

  • I like to get things done quickly and efficiently. I refuse to leave one grocery bag behind in the car, no matter the number of bags, the weight of each bag, or that my arms are under threat of losing circulation.  Ethos = leave no one behind. 
  • As an only child growing up on a street filled with many retirees, I learned how to use my imagination, such as inventing other people to join me in a game of Clue and pretending I was the next Shannon Miller competing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics. Although the latter dream was shattered (literally as I went through the glass top table in our living room), I walked away with a more resilient, creative spirit. And some cool scars on my ankles. Creativity is critical for innovation, and having fun. 
  • Being tidy? That’s so passe. I’m a master of making piles. Piles of all sizes. Short piles. Tall piles. Piles of papers. Piles of clothes. A combo pile even! Why put something away that you may need later — tomorrow, six months from now? I have learned the art of piling from my mother; this family tradition may extend back generations. Documentation is a tad fuzzy on the topic, but take my word for it: my craft can transform an empty desk into a sight of wonder. Or, at least busyness. And aren’t optics undervalued in this day and age? Piles project productivity. 
  • At times, my mouth wants to work faster than my brain will allow it. The result? I provide humor and delight through my ability of selecting the wrong word to use.  Aaron has dubbed this skill “word scramble.” For instance, I’ve told Aaron that I look forward to going whaling in Alaska someday. I may have also used the word “undercarriage” during a board game with friends that may have inspired a future tattoo. Despite the initial shock of embarrassment, I am right there laughing along with you. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Whether it’s the realization that my kitchen floors will never be crumb-free or my cats will never sleep past 5:00am ever again, I’ve learned how to let the small things go so I can refocus my energy on what matters. If that’s not a skill from real life to bring into the work place, I don’t know what is.

Other potential candidates to offer up during my next job hunt on what value add I can offer: freestyle rapping; competitive skeeball; making tofu tasty.

What I can’t offer: faking accents; a decent poker face; pretending that I enjoy stuffing envelopes.

What would you on your Real Life Resume? 

Knowing when to step aside

I’ve crawled into bed after 11:00pm the past two nights. As a conditioned morning person, I am feeling the grind this morning.

Speaking of feeling the grind: when it comes to leadership positions and the people who hold them, when is the right time for people to move on in order to bring in a fresh perspective and style to the work?

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Transitions in leadership have enormous implications for an organization’s strategic direction and culture. But, our nonprofit sector seems more comfortable sticking our heads in the ground rather than preparing and planning for the inevitable and necessary.

That’s right: necessary. Our society values longevity and gives credence to those who stay in positions of power for years. But, at what cost? That isn’t to imply that such leaders always fail or bring harm to the organizations they serve. That certainly could be the case. It’s more about recognizing that our influence and decision-making will put the organization down a series of paths aligned with our values. Yet, think of all of the other roads available to the organization that could have an even bigger impact. But, we’re not able to see those options, not because we don’t want to, but because we operate from what we know. If we haven’t walked a particular walk, then we’re not going to be able to find that way.

A lot of people have asked me this year how it feels to no longer be on the YNPN Triangle NC Board of Directors. Did I miss it? Was I sad to no longer be a part of a tight-knit group of motivated, dedicated leaders?

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This was the North Carolina contingency in Atlanta for the 2017 National YNPN conference. What an easy group to love!

When put that way, of course. The organization brought incredible people to my life who have become some of my closest friends and trusted confidantes. But, when it came to my role, particularly after serving as Chair for three years, I knew that I had given all of myself on the playing field. While I had the institutional knowledge that can be a justifiable reason to encourage a leader to stay, I also had the baggage of my five years of experience dragging behind me.

As a leader, it is my responsibility to prepare the organization to continue moving forward without me in the picture. When people have asked me about my feelings related to leaving YNPN Triangle NC, I could confidently respond that I knew the chapter was going to flourish because of the committed people around the table.

One of the best lessons I learned as Chair: surround yourself with people who aren’t like you. Leaders need to be challenged in their ideas, assumptions, and visions. It is not only unfair but impossible for one person to have all of the skills we’ve identified as necessary to be a successful nonprofit leader. Nope. Not a real thing. Unfortunately, the nonprofit sector still operates in this mindset (a la the solo Executive Director model aka martyr aka magician).

I was struck the first time I heard “One Last Time” from Hamilton. George Washington, through what historians have discovered, recognized his limits as a leader and took action to transition the power of the Presidency. Such forethought was not the norm during that period (nor in present day, sadly).

One lyric in particular stood out to me:

If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone

Yes, let’s acknowledge there is some trace of ego laced in this idea of building something that will outlive us. Yet, I would argue that it’s more purpose than ego: who doesn’t want to be remembered? Who doesn’t want to leave some sort of positive mark on the world that is lasting? Isn’t that the reason many of us work in the public and social sectors: not necessarily for individual recognition but to have a hand in shaping better outcomes for all people and our broader world?

There’s no blueprint for knowing when it is time to step aside. I believe it comes from a combination of internal reflection (gut-checking) and being open to receiving feedback from others. It’s hard not to take it personally: you want me to go?! No no. It’s not about you. Let’s say that again: it’s not about you. These organizations are about the people the mission seeks to serve: you just have the privilege of being on other side.

Let’s make a commitment, especially as emerging leaders, to be willing to step aside and not grind our organizations/staff to the ground. Let’s commit to having open conversations about leadership transitions — preparing for them as we would any 990 or board report. Let’s commit to building a team around us full of people willing to challenge us, bring new ideas to the table, and share the responsibility of achieving collective goals.

We’re gonna teach ’em how to say goodbye.

 

 

How does #MeToo end?

I was out of the country and taking a digital break when the rise of the #MeToo movement made headlines in late 2017. Since then, the momentum around exposing stories of sexual violence, harassment, and assault feels like it is picking up steam, at least in some circles.

Countless numbers of friends, family members, and colleagues have offered their gut-wrenching experiences of sexual trauma. It cannot be said enough that telling one’s story is brave. And we feel like we must share our stories in order to tackle a problem that often feels so embedded in our culture that it’s difficult to even name at times. What are the boundaries between what’s appropriate and what’s not? Who gets to decide that? And when lines are crossed, what are the consequences?

In most situations, there are none. Yesterday, I became engrossed in ESPN’s Outside the Lines reporting on Michigan State University, the most-recent ground zero case of what institutional protectionism of the patriarchy looks like. It’s vile. It’s disgusting. And this is merely one needle in the haystack of schools, workplaces, and systems allowing perpetrators of sexual violence to remain unpunished.

I relayed to Aaron yesterday how I find it difficult to put into words what it feels like to be victimized. And it happens with such frequency that I often forget about those moments as soon as they happen.

Our experiences are not monolithic, even though those in power would like to treat them that way (if they choose to acknowledge and validate them at all). It’s so easy and comfortable for others to justify the actions of perpetrators as “misunderstandings” or distortions of reality. How does someone grow up and adopt this mindset?  Who taught them to distrust the word of a woman who speaks her truth?

Oh, right. Everything around us. From pop culture to religious texts to history, we’ve been left to wither on the social vine as hysterics, power-grabbers, and muted voices (and woe if you identify as a woman of color as the double whammy of racial and gender identity make it even easier to negate your life experiences).

And let’s not pretend, progressives, that we’ve got this figured out and it’s a problem on “the right.” IT IS A PROBLEM FOR EVERYONE. We’ve got to put in the work to bring solutions to the table. Shining a light on individual and collective experiences is how we start. Because if we don’t acknowledge and lift up these stories, then the oppressors win. We must create platforms and spaces for voices, especially those from marginalized and underrepresented groups, to be front and center in the discussion of how sexual violence remains a pervasive tool to maintain power.

Woman holding a megaphone with #MeToo coming out the end

Then, the conversation shifts to: what now? How do we re-imaging a society that values women and the minds and bodies that they inhabit? How can we shift the dominant narrative that takes men at their word while casting shame on women on who speak out? It’s frighteningly easy for people to turn on women and castigate them as liars and sluts; it’s part of our social conditioning to inherently believe those in power, and when that looks like a bunch of white dudes, well, we can’t expect better outcomes for anyone who doesn’t fall into that mold.

I know that I need to continue to hold people accountable when lines are crossed, when discomfort arises, when either myself or others around me feel threatened. Eradicating our culture of sexual violence and degradation requires all of us to play a part. For some, it starts with self-reflection: How do I reinforce stereotypes and gender hierarchy? How do I dis-empower women and those who identify as female with my words and actions? Do I qualify the actions of my female co-workers and staff? Have I stopped when a woman has said “no”?  Remember: everything that feeds back into the narrative — that woman are objects, are less-than — keeps the narrative intact.

Here are some of my suggestions and thoughts on what I/you/we can do to shift our culture so #MeToo doesn’t have to be the tagline for women everywhere:

  • Don’t assume that you can touch me or hug me. I do like to hug, but that’s an action that I want to have equal power in choosing when and with whom it happens.
  • Don’t tell me that any article of clothing I may choose to wear “looks good on my body.” I am more than a body.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what I might like, eat, drive, do because I’m a woman. Re-train your brain to be open and un-assuming.
  • Find opportunities to step back and be quiet. In meetings. In social settings. Your presence has great power. Be aware of the influence you have.
  • Listen to the stories women tell. Don’t immediately slip into “I need to fix this” mode. Listen wholly, without judgment. Ask clarifying, open-ended questions.
  • Read more works by female authors and journalists. Watch movies and television programs written by/produced/directed by women. Listen to women-led podcasts. Seek out female musical artists and producers.
  • Support female athletes: attend events. Learn their names. Celebrate their achievements as individuals and on teams.
  • End passive-aggressive suggestions in meetings, such as “Katie, you have such good handwriting. Can you take notes?” If needed, practice improving your own handwriting.
  • Nominate and support female leaders in elections, board rooms, and organizations.
  • Hold men accountable for their actions. Don’t be silent, whether in a locker room or in the office.
  • Don’t be scared of feminism or identify as a feminist. Understand what it means and what it doesn’t.
  • Woman are not breakable. Don’t treat us like that. Challenge policies and laws rooted in those same false “protectionism” values. Those policies and laws are about controlling women, plain and simple.
  • Eliminate harmful words from vocabularies: bitch, slut, whore. Other labels used to castigate women.
  • Be transparent about your workplace earnings. If inequities exist (and they likely do), take action to address them and/or to pressure those at the decision-making table.
  • Seek to understand, first and foremost. We’ll never know what it is like to walk in the shoes of others. But, if we move through this world with hearts of compassion and empathy, we can be allies for those wronged.

I know there are countless more suggestions to share, and I invite any and all to do just that. I don’t have all of the answers or solutions.  All I have is the determination and anger to be a part of finding tangible actions that can take place each and everyday so that the number of #MeToo stories whittle down to zero. Obviously, it’s not going to happen overnight. The time required for change to take place is on our collective shoulders, and, to be real, even more so on the shoulders of men.

Let’s imagine a world where the 12-year-old girl doesn’t get prodded in the breasts by her male classmates.

Let’s imagine a world where the 16-year-old doesn’t have to stand, frozen, at the sink while her assistant manager runs his fingers up her thigh as she tries to wash the dishes.

Let’s imagine a world where the 18-year-old doesn’t have to struggle against the weight of a youth pastor, pinning her down because he only “wants to feel her warmth.”

Let’s imagine a world where the 22-year-old first-year teacher is told by her assistant principal that when her 21-year-old student suggested that she give him oral sex in front of the class, it was a miscommunication.

Let’s imagine a world where the 29-year-old nonprofit professional doesn’t make $5,000 less than her counterpart for no apparent reason.

Let’s imagine a world where when a woman shares an idea, it remains her idea and doesn’t become co-opted by men in power.

Let’s imagine a world where women’s access to healthcare is unobstructed.

Let’s imagine a world where institutions refuse to protect predators for the sake of remaining competitive in the pursuit of funds from top donors.

Let’s imagine a world where those identify as female can walk down a street without a cat call, a comment, a stare.

Let’s imagine a world where the people drafting policy reflect their communities and constituents.

What will you do today to make our world more just and equitable? What will you do to support #MeToo and center the movement around women of color and working women?

More resources:

  1. “The #MeToo movement is not a witch hunt and it’s definitely not over.”
  2. The #MeToo movement looks different for women of color. Here are 10 stories.”
  3. When Black Women’s Stories Of Sexual Abuse Are Excluded From The National Narrative
  4. Women of color in low-wage jobs are being overlooked in the #MeToo moment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to help? Stop the advice and create space

In the last week, I’ve had two interactions where — with all of my being — I wanted to be able to help but felt hampered by not having a clear action to take. One situation centered around my mother experiencing a deeply personal loss of a friend, and the other involved one of my close friends who had a fairly tumultuous 2017.

As both leaders and people who generally care about others, our first reaction in these situations is often to offer advice, provide comforting words, or relate a personal experience. But, this desire to fix or help may only benefit our own selfish desire and not the other person.

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Oh, you want to get healthy? Here is a gym you can join! (But seriously, if you live in the Triangle, you should join the 360 Approach family).

What can we do instead? Create a nonjudgmental space for sharing, reflection, and even silence. For me, this is hard. And uncomfortable! Sitting in silence with another person is not how I would describe a good time. I start to fidget; my brain begins racing; sweat beads at my wrists and temples.

Why does this happen? Our culture doesn’t embrace silence as a value. In fact, we want the opposite of stillness: movement! sounds! notifications! Fill the void with chatter, innovation, progress.

These actions can make us feel like we’re moving forward. In reality, these actions can limit our ability to fully connect with our own emotions and with the emotions of others. While we can now check off a box, the jumble left behind inside of us remains just that: jumbled. This mess often finds its way out of us through less desirable means: anger or sadness; overindulgence; self-harm; fighting with others; sickness.

Let’s make a pledge together in 2018 to try and create spaces for others when they need it. We’ll keep our mouths closed and our advice to ourselves. We will be present, and we will listen. Actively listen. We can ask open-ended questions that give the person we love more opportunities to unearth what they want (and likely need) to say as they process. We need to grow more comfortable with silence and with allowing things to be left unsaid.

During the conversation with my mom, I fought myself to not interject with some trite commentary on grief and loss, on friendship. I wanted to so badly, but I could also hear in my mom’s voice that she needed to just talk. For many of those that we love, they often carry the burden of being the sounding board for their family members and friends. When faced with their own hardships, they don’t necessarily have anyone offering their ears and time.

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A #throwback photo: sometimes creating space involves booze.

After reading this post, what resonates with you? Has someone created space for you recently? How did that make you feel?

Applying a ‘beginner’s mind’ to leadership

Do you consider yourself a goal-setter? Do you derive pleasure from crossing off items from your to-do list?

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No matter the language, goals matter

Have you ever put an activity on your to-do list that you already did but wanted to release those oh-so-coveted endorphins as you drew a line through it?

Yeah, me too.

Here’s the good news for any of you who identify (even at times) as a Type-A person: we can still be mindful leaders. But, it’s not something that we can knock out of the park in one swing. It’s a process — at times, a painful one. It requires us to challenge our modus operandi and the behaviors deeply ingrained in our brains.

Fortunately, leaders like Robyn Ferhman are here to help. I had the opportunity to attend Robyn’s workshop last Saturday at Carolina Yoga Company entitled: “Attention to Intention: A Mindful Start to 2018.” You can see what was covered in this two-hour block of wonder and exploration here. Needless to say, I wasn’t ready to leave when time was up.

One of the key learnings that I took away from the workshop involved the concept of “beginner’s mind,” which is one of the core attitudes that make up a mindfulness practice. It is exactly like it sounds: approaching situations as if it were your first time ever experiencing it.

Imagine: how routine is brushing your teeth? How many of us spend that time up in our heads, running through memories or thinking about the events awaiting us tomorrow? What would happen if we approached brushing our teeth each morning and night like it was the first time? We would focus on making sure we addressed our gumlines; used circular motions to eliminate the plaque from those problem areas our dentist reminds us about every six months. How many fewer cavities would we have collectively? How much more in-tune would we feel with our bodies?

What does a “beginner’s mind” approach in leadership look like? Meetings are often a place where leaders are called upon to provide direction, make decisions, and build consensus. What if we approached the next meeting on our calendar as if it were our first ever meeting to run? What questions would we ask or anticipate others asking? How would we want to feel in the meeting? What baggage would we be able to leave outside of the door so we could fully participate, without judgment, in the space? How would a fresh perspective add value and contribute to your ideal workplace culture?

How about bringing a “beginner’s mind” to building relationships with others? Whether with our co-workers, fellow board members, or even our friends, we have a shared history, whether shallow or deep. This often results in us pre-judging outcomes or perhaps not investing our full attention into our time together. While our co-worker is sharing a new project idea, our mind drifts to: “How is this going to impact me and my time?”

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With a beginner’s mind, the impossible may appear a bit more real.

In my search for ways to incorporate a “beginner’s mind” into life, I stumbled upon this post from Amira Posner, a Mind-Body Fertility practitioner at Healing Infertility, featuring a well-known eating meditation credited to Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Take a raisin and put it in your hand. Pretend you have dropped off from another planet, and you have never seen a raisin. With an inquisitive, open, non-judgmental perspective, examine the raisin. Explore it. Smell it, feel it, taste it. Engage your senses, in the moment, in a non-judgmental way. With all your attention, be one with the raisin.

Note: if you’re not a fan of raisins (or happen to be participating in a Whole 30 program), another food item can be easily substituted.

Upon first reading, it can sound and feel a bit silly. But, I would pose the question: hasn’t the way we’ve been operating — passively, automatically, re-actively — silly? We have kept ourselves from being fully present and engaged in our world; a world in which we only have so much time to be present.

How could a “beginner’s mind” alter your relationships with other people, with your career, and with yourself?

Getting expectations out into the open

“What are your expectations for me?”

A fellow board member posed this question to me as we sat at the bar inside the new Harris Teeter [note: it’s not critical you know where this conversation occurred but I feel it would be a missed opportunity to not highlight THAT OUR GROCERY STORE HAS A BAR].

I appreciated this fellow leader’s straight-forward approach to a topic that we don’t spend enough time on within the nonprofit sector. In my opinion, we often confuse “expectations” with “deadlines” as if task completion was our key responsibility. Yes, we should get the projects done and programs executed that move our organizations closer to achieving our missions (and ideally best serving our constituents and the greater public good). But, establishing clear expectations between supervisors and employees; between colleagues; and even within ourselves requires honesty, transparency, and prioritization.

I have been accused of having “too high” of expectations for people I’ve worked with over the years (including unrealistic ones for myself). That’s true. My mother shares this similar challenge, and it can lead us both to feel disappointment and hurt. I don’t think the immediate answer is: “well, it’s time to temper those expectations!” A better initial step is to start having conversations with others around these expectations. Perhaps they are unfair or too lofty; but maybe they’re just right and the person on the other side simply needs to hear them.

In general, I have three consistent expectations for people. These expectations aren’t exclusive to those I work or volunteer with; they extend to my friends and family as well. In no particular order:

Be honest. I recognize the time to be sensitive with information, where answers may be dusted in sugar before delivery. But, don’t lie. Ever. It’s pure poison to a relationship and erodes the foundation of trust immediately. We’re imperfect beings, and we need to extend to each other the grace that mistakes happen, things get forgotten, and sometimes you just don’t FEEL like it. Far be it for me to judge what is happening inside your head space and heart. All I’m asking is not to be strung along with responses that “sound good” but are pure fluff.

Comedian Kevin Hart holding microphone with his right hand extended out as it to make a "stop" motion. Text: "Let's Just Be Honest Let's Just be Real."

Ask for help when you need it. Y’all: martyrdom was so 500 years ago. Let’s drop the charade that we can “do it all” and lean on each other when necessary. Full disclosure: I struggle with this expectation. Asking for assistance feels like an imposition, and I certainly don’t want to add more to someone else’s likely overfilling plate. But, here’s the thing: I’m making a whole slew of assumptions. And, I’m likely, as you are too, willing to be the helper when summoned. Break free from those self-imposed handcuffs and adopt a new four-letter word: help. This ties back to being honest: if you can’t do something, for whatever reason, using it as a moment to reach out to a trusted companion allows for something beautiful to happen. Is there something you need help with right now? Call me!**

Help

Do what you said you are going to do. Have you read Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements’? If not, I highly recommend picking up a copy at your nearest independent bookstore. One of the cornerstone agreements from Toltec culture is: Be impeccable with your word. What does this mean? Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. While this belief extends far beyond accomplishing specific goals or fulfilling responsibilities, it touches on how important it is for us to come through. Whether it is using our words or actions, people depend on us when we give them reason. If we need to let each other down, refer back to expectations one or two.

silverman

In certain spaces, the number and types of expectations may be more specific and may shift to adapt to the situations. But, for me, these three are the glue that binds our ability to connect and remain connected to each other. Be honest; ask for help; fulfill your commitments. Sprinkle it having fun, showing compassion and understanding; and remembering that we’re all in this together. This world is tough; it’s unjust and inequitable. But, it is full of people who want the world to look different: to be equitable and just; to be a place where we aren’t fighting for basic human rights because they’re woven into social and institutional fabrics.

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What do you expect from others? From yourself? Do you have expectations or do you let others create the expectations for you?

**unless it’s related to anything electrical or plumbing. You may want to call a professional. It’s not my wheelhouse. But, I’m happy to hang out until an expert arrives!