Two Different Uses of Force

First time we snowboard,
draw,
lead,
we tend to use a lot of force.

When our snowboarding,
pencil marks,
teammates,
are not to our liking,
we may apply even more force.

Years later,
when we snowboard,
draw,
lead,
we may feel more relaxed.

When we have to stop abruptly,
make a bold mark,
assert a final decision,
we may still use force.

But these are different uses of force.
In the first case,
it was probably because we were afraid of falling,
making a mistake,
being judged.

Once we can empathize with
the snowboard,
our drawing tools,
our teammates,
fear can vanish for a moment
in the experience of oneness
beyond “I” vs “them.”

Force used in fear
resists
Like two opponents wrestling.
Force used while empathizing
flows
Like two partners dancing.

Beyond the Horizon of Cynicism

One of the most common block to insight
is cynicism.

To realize empathy with cynicism
it can be useful to model it
as doubt + judgment.

This implies that
once we strip our cynicism of judgment,
we can more clearly confront our doubt.

Then as we develop the requisite skill and will
to zoom into our doubt,
it can lead to the discovery
of our worry or concern,
ultimately fear,
over a future we do not wish to see happen.

When we can clearly see and hear
this undesired future
we can also increase the probability
of realizing empathy,
which ultimately helps us create choices,
the kind that gives us a feeling of possibility
beyond the horizon of cynicism,
which is a key
to designing toward a future
we do wish to see happen,
instead of staying stuck
unconsciously envisioning a future
we do not wish to see happen.

The Journey of Three Emotions

When we, as founders—
especially those with humane intentions—
work to fertilize change in our organizations,
3 types of emotions often rise up
in ourselves:

  1. Overwhelm
  2. Anxiety (also Worry / Doubt / Concern / Fear)
  3. Frustration (or Anger)

When we don’t spend the time
to realize empathy with ourselves
in relation to these emotions,
these can easily develop into:

  1. Sense of Isolation
  2. Hopelessness
  3. Helplessness

Which, over time, can calcify as:

  1. Sense of Betrayal
  2. Shame
  3. Resentment (or Contempt)

Between Fear and Care Arises Concern

With accumulated life experience arises fear.
Between fear and care arises concern and anxiety.

Our concerns are well-intended.
Yet, when we behave out of anxiety,
it can also do harm.

How many parents ever intend to hurt their child?
Very few.
Yet, we were hurt by them.
Often by behaviors that arose out of anxiety.

I have yet to coach a CEO who does not care about their co-founders or employees.
Yet, these others were hurt by the CEO.
Often by behaviors that arose out of anxiety.
Same holds for CEOs hurt by co-founders or employees.

Not caring isn’t always the issue.
The challenge is also to care without anxiety.
It is to regulate our own tension.
A difficult, but necessary skill to learn as a leader.

Do We Fear Failure?

People say we fear failure.

I’m not sure how many people actually fear failure.

What most of us fear is what other people will think of us when they’ve found out that we’ve failed.

Let us not confuse concern with love.

Let us not confuse concern with love.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling concern for the people we love. At the same time, concern arises out of fear, not love. Yes, concern can be fueled by care, but care is not love.

It’s worth asking ourselves if desires like “I want my employees to perform better” or “I want my students to be successful,” are born out of fear or love.

The kinds of design that emerge out of repressed and unidentified fear can be unhelpful to others at best and harmful at its worst.

Certainty, not Uncertainty, Fuels Our Fear

We often say uncertainty
is scary.

Not exactly.

In situations of uncertainty,
there often co-exists
a feeling of certainty.

Except,
the certainty is of a negative future consequence.

Even if it’s not absolutely certain
something bad will happen.
It feels like it will.

What’s scary about uncertainty
is not uncertainty.

It’s the relationship
between feeling certain of a negative future consequence
and feeling uncertain of a positive future consequence.

Certainty is what fuels our fear.

To navigate uncertainty
we have to find a way
to decrease the certainty
of a negative future consequence.

In doing so,
we can start to let uncertainty excite our curiosity,
thereby turning it
into a motivator.