Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

Those of us
who started our companies
with nothing more
than “I want this!”
often lost our way
when we started wanting
things others say we should want
or things we assumed others wanted.

It was often
not until we got near the death
of our companies
and had to face
either those to whom we are indebted
or those whom we had to let go,
that we were forced
to return to the simple question
“What do I want?”

A question often misunderstood
as an expression of greed
or selfishness,
when in fact,
it can be the fuel
for the most empathic expression.

An expression that can provide value
to our customers,
partners,
employees,
shareholders
family
and ourselves.

An expression
born out
of a beginner’s mindset.

In commemoration
of suicide prevention week,
I’m providing coaching sessions
to founders in distress,
free-of-charge.

Sign-up here.

Suffering
is not merely about
discomfort
or pain.

We suffer,
when we feel stuck,
unable to make sense of
or progress from
discomfort
or pain.

I live to create a world,
where anyone on the journey
of personal & systemic innovation
can receive help
getting unstuck
and making sense
and progress
within 72 hours.

The kind of help
that draws out
from within us
the natural empathy,
resilience,
and creativity
we all possess.

We often say
plants grow
when the right conditions
are present.

This is true.

What’s often unspoken,
though,
is time.

Even with the right conditions,
if we stare at the plant
second by second,
wondering why it’s not growing,
we can easily get frustrated
by their lack of growth.

The risk
lies not merely in the risk,
But also in not sharing
the risk.

To achieve something great,
we often think
we have to take on all the burden
ourselves.

That this
is how we show our care.

That this
is something others
will appreciate.

Yet,
what may be more desired
by those cared for by us
is to belong,
to participate,
to contribute.

So as to take the risk
together.

No matter how great the risk.
No matter how difficult.
Something significant about it changes,
when it is shared together.

There was a period in my 20s, where it was as if “Human-Centered Design” was my family name. In other words, “Human-Centered Design” was a significant part of my identity. So much so that I felt an implicit sense of responsibility on my shoulders. To…

Forty Two

We often say
that the journey of innovation
is a journey of not knowing.

Sort of.

Innovation
often starts with a fragile feeling
that “there’s something here.”

It’s true.
We don’t know what that is
exactly.

But if someone asks us
“Is it this?”
We confidently answer
“No, that’s not it.”

Because, we do know
what it is not.

So yes,
the journey of innovation
may involve
numerous back-and-forths
between
“Maybe it’s this,”
and “Nope, that’s not it,”
until it becomes clear
what it was you were after
all along,
but could not express.

But no,
this does not mean
you know nothing
or that you’re crazy.

May we not let others
convince us otherwise.

p.s. Much thanks to Artist Yong Joo Kim & Dr. Paul Pangaro for inspiring this post

Jim Carey once said,
he acts,
because he’s broken.

For those who judge
“brokenness”
as “bad”
may feel triggered
by that comment.

But what I learned from art,
is that if “broken” implies
1) separated in parts
or 2) producing results
that defy our expectations,
then both
are requirements
for innovation.

Because parts
must be separated
before they can be
recomposed
into a new whole.

And the kind of whole
we seek in innovation
is the kind
that defies our expectations
enough to move us
in often surprising ways.

If being broken
means that I can not only
understand and appreciate,
but also artfully express
the depth and nuance
of the human experience
in ways I could not
otherwise have,
such that I impact the world
in positive ways,
as has Jim Carey,
then broken,
I am.

People
who provoke our disgust,
may also be those
from whom we can learn
our limiting beliefs.

Anytime
we encounter someone
who disgusts us,
may we ask
what we’re telling ourselves
they shouldn’t be doing.

Not to judge their behavior
as wrong or bad,
but to discover
if we believe we
shouldn’t be doing them,
either.

And if so,
may we get clarity
on the fear or concern
underlying this belief.

Because
the moment we discover
that there are times
and ways
in which the risk
underlying our fear or concern
is either manageable
or worth the cost,
is also the moment
we will realize empathy
and learn a new choice.

A new choice
that could lead
to innovation.

“I did my best.
I meditated.
I actively listened.
I created psychological safety.
Yet, they still let me down…”
a founder lamented.

Once upon a time,
I was cheated on.

Externally,
I was angry.

I thought I had done
my best,
and yet
this had still happened.

Some said,
that to recover
I needed to hear
her regret.

Perhaps.

But I was already overwhelmed
with my own.

“I should’ve done X.”
“I could’ve done Y better .”
“Why didn’t I know
that Z was not enough?”

Because internally,
I was ashamed.

In hindsight,
what I needed
was appreciation.

The kind
that would’ve helped me let go
of the unconscious belief
that I hadn’t actually
“done my best,”
and thus deserved
to be abandoned.

There are times,
when we think “doing our best”
means following best practices
as espoused by podcasts
or academic research.

It can.

So long as it also means
accepting we’ve done our best
even if the practices fail.

So long as it also means
learning to grieve
when they fail.

So long as it also means
leveraging the meaning
of them having failed.

All
for the purpose
of recovery.

10 years ago,
my mother
realized empathy with herself
and discovered
that all this time
she had unconsciously assumed
she had to do what she felt
was not worth doing,
only
to make others happy.

Ironically,
once she felt
she was given permission
to stop doing these things,
those around her
felt happier.

Why?

Because
She behaved toward them
less out of the resentment
left over
from doing so many things
out of obligation.

Something similar
happens in leadership.

Some founders I coach
started out thinking
it was their responsibility
to make everyone around them
happy.

A tall order.

Especially so,
because behaviors arising
from the tension they held
from that very sense
of responsibility
was contributing
to the unhappiness
of those around them.

But they needed permission
to invest the time and effort
to manage their own tension.

Because it felt selfish
to do so.

So instead,
they chose
to be strong.

The saying,
“Happy parents,
Happy kids”
is not a permission
to be selfish.

It is an invitation
to journey into
the vulnerable
and creative process
of survival
together
by striving
to be the best support
we possibly can
for each other.

Still a tall order,
but together.