Tug of Self-Image

There is a “self” we think
we should be.

There is a “self” others say
we should be.

There is a a “self” we think
we are.

There is a “self” others think
we are.

All of them blinds us
to the “self”
we actually are
or the “self”
we can be.

It’s not You. It’s me.

It’s not you.
It’s me.

The person I’m speaking to
in conversation,
that is.

It’s true.
I sometimes speak
with my past self
instead of you,
the person
in front of me.

I know
this can confuse
sometimes even anger
or frustrate
you.

When that happens,
I want you to know
that it’s not you,
it’s me.

It’s just that,
the pain
of my past experience
is simply too much
to bear.

So although
I know
that as a leader
I must do better.

There are times
when it feels
as if I must proclaim
—No, shout—
in order to remind myself
to never experience
the same pain
ever again.

Starting with the “Other”

Within what we call
our “self.”
there are many
“others.”

“Others,”
we aren’t fully aware.

“Others,”
we don’t fully understand.

“Others,”
we don’t fully appreciate.

I often hear people say
empathy
is about the “other.”

If so,
may our pursuit of empathy
begin
with the recognition
that our understanding of empathy
will become more clear
as the separation between “self” and “other”
becomes less clear.

Choosing Our Role

We play “designer,”
when we act to fulfill an emotional need.
Wish to fulfill your need for communication with those far away?
Play “designer” to design a mail system.

We play “judge,”
when we blame someone.
Wish to label someone at fault?
Play “judge” to peruse the evidence & make a decision.

We may play them well or poorly,
but once we become aware of these roles,
they are available for our choosing
from moment to moment,
even if they’re not on our business cards.

The question is “What role do we want to play?”

Whatever our answer,
it’ll profoundly affect our sense of identity.
The sense of who we are,
from where our thoughts & behaviors
will naturally flow,
at least temporarily.

To Be or Not To Be

I still remember the day I realized I was not living my own life.

I was shocked.

Why?

Because I prided myself on living my own life.
I had been intentionally deviating from what my friends were doing.
I thought I was living my own life.

But no.
It turns out I’d been conforming to nonconformity.
I’d been playing the role of a “rebel.”

Much of our lives are spent playing roles: a good son, a caring parent, a resilient entrepreneur, a modernist painter, a stoic physician, …

As we do, we mistake pretending for being ourselves.
Actually. No.
We mistake pretending for being.

Hamlet once said “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
Let us ask this question.
Lest we die having never lived.

Human Literacy

Computer literacy is all the rage these days.

It’s certainly nice to be computer literate. Important, even.

What about human literacy?

How to love.
How to grieve.
How to be be confident.
How to understand yourself.
How to manage your emotions.
How to fulfill each other’s needs.
How to be different with each other.
How to be honest despite fear of vulnerability.

We rarely pay attention to these. It’s as if we’re expected to just know how to do these things without training.

It’s often only after we have lost something precious (i.e. health, money, marriage) that we begin to pay attention to them.

By then it may be too late.

We need to start human literacy much sooner.

Pause, Reflect, Relieve Tension

When we live a life
too busy
to pause
to reflect,
we can feel overwhelmed
with things
to do.

We’re constantly seeking
to release our tension.

Yet no matter what we do
we don’t feel our tension
release.

Mired in tension,
we also don’t feel
we have any room in our being
to be fully present
with others,
to be wholly honest
to others,
to be sufficiently receptive
of others.

So we interrupt them,
we present them
with a mask of politeness,
we yell
and criticize them.

All behaviors
that fuel disconnection
despite best intentions
and our—ironically—
deep-seated need
for connection.

One of the simplest,
yet most important
and difficult things we can do
as founders
is to relieve ourselves
of our own tension,
by realizing empathy
with ourselves.