Take The Golden Rule Challenge

The “Golden Rule” – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – is a central ethical practice in most of the world’s major religious and philosophical positions.

But this type of relating to others is so hard to do.

With our personal preferences and personality quirks our golden rule batting average, as measured by acceptance, affirmation, and generosity of spirit, is often dismally low.

Consider the damage that even a mild personality disposition does to the golden rule.

Denial: The golden rule. What golden rule?

Oppositional: Do others in before they do you in.

Narcissist: Others need to do for me the way I want them to do for me.

Borderline: Do unto others, or at a whim, don’t do unto others

Depressive: Do unto others? What a bummer!

Think for a moment how difficult it is for,

  • Fox news listeners to accept the NPR crowd
  • Traditional “buttoned-down ” East Coasters to understand typical “laid-back” Californians
  • Talkative extroverts to accept solitude-seeking introverts

In our heart of hearts we know that we are better people when we live the golden rule. So how then do we treat others the way we want them to treat us?

Check out your golden rule hit rate. Do you consistently and consciously

  1. Jettison the “them/us” mentality?
  2. Move beyond political correctness?
  3. Look for the essence of the person?
  4. Admit blind spots?
  5. Let others be your teacher?
  6. Recognize similarities?
  7. Understand the history behind differences?
  8. Get beyond stereotypes?

A score of 6 or above will qualify you to be “a saint for a day”. On a good day most of us score 4 or less.

How are you doing right now?

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A Dangerous Driver – An Egotist’s Journey

Cedric B Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

The car in front of you is wandering from lane to lane, braking unpredictably. A warning signal goes off in your head: “Back off–this person is dangerous.”

 We also encounter “dangerous drivers” in the workplace — ego-driven individuals (or “egotists”) who cause “accidents” by alienating others and straining relationships. Egotists face special challenges in the workplace but they can change to become more effective leaders.

Who is Behind the Wheel?

When taken to the extreme, egotists are utterly preoccupied with themselves. They take credit for other team members’ work. In team discussions, they have a habit of returning the focus back to themselves. When attention is diverted from them, they become sulky or angry. They are not in control of themselves; rather, their ego is driving them.

How Egotists Undermine Relationships

In seeking to get their needs met, egotists use other people; they listen to and include others only insofar as they find them useful to their cause. In interactions, they’re wondering: “How do I benefit from this relationship?” “How do you make me look good?” Because egotists don’t value the opinion of others as much as their own, others may feel marginalized and expendable, making collaboration difficult.


John was a senior manager in his company’s customer service unit.  He was extremely clever and used his intelligence to dominate other team members. In meetings, he minimized or dismissed others’ contributions and seemed distracted when others were talking. Frustrated, John’s reports and peers talked to his manager, saying that while his brilliant ideas were indispensible, he was not a team player.

After chronically failing to address collaboration as a development goal, John’s manager told John that although he was a high-potential leader, he was not ready for promotion to the level of Director. John expressed anger, saying his team did not respect him because he intimidated them with his extraordinary skills. He also expressed frustration because he considered himself ready to assume the prestigious position of Director.  John spurned the concerns of his team while focusing on his ego-based needs for career advancement. It was at this point that he was referred for coaching.

How can John make the necessary changes to get his promotion and become an effective leader?

Four Milestones in Implementing Change

1. Wanting to Change

John’s ego needs — to be the “smartest person in the group” and stay at the center of attention — hurt his leadership effectiveness in collaboration. He wanted to change but not because of the concerns of other team members. Rather, John’s motivation to change derived from his ego-drive (i.e., getting his desired promotion).

In working with egotists, we first need to address the frustration or discomfort that results from their ego needs being thwarted, not the collateral damage that their shortcomings have on others.  It is initially unproductive to try to help these individuals see the error of their ego-driven ways. Egotists have a very difficult time shifting their focus away from their ego-based needs. The primary impetus for change initially should be on improving collaboration skills in order to get promoted.

2. Changing Behaviors

John understood immediately that improving his collaboration would lead to an eventual promotion. However, he needed to learn a set of new, specific behaviors to replace the old behaviors that weren’t working for him. He needed explicit instruction on how to be more collaborative; for example, ask powerful questions, summarize others’ comments, recognize and implement others’ contributions. He also needed feedback from his group on how he was doing.  Because John lacked insight into the disruptive nature of his ego drive, the focus was on changing behaviors, not raising self-awareness.

3. Making John Accountable for Change

The biggest agent for personal change in an organization comes from social and political pressure. John knew that his manager was watching for change and that this would be the condition for promotion. Having his feet held to the fire insured that the changes were implemented.

4. Discovering What Inspires John

As John improved his collaboration skills, he embarked on a deeper journey of reflection to discover what inspired him. He found that his true passion was using his strategic thinking skills to solve business problems. Because a director position afforded him that opportunity, he was further motivated to make the necessary changes to secure the Director position. Now that John was connected to what inspired him he revealed his underlying potential to find deeper meaning in his work.

The leadership journey of the egotist is difficult but not impossible. For egotists, there are two underlying drives: the drive of the ego and the drive that comes from inspiration. The catalyst for change is the pressure from the workplace to reduce egotistical behaviors and the discovery, facilitated by mentors/coaches, of inspirational sources.

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Choose Empathy

Are some people more wired to be empathic than others?

If empathy is an ability to imagine oneself in another’s place and understand the other’s feelings, desires, ideas, and actions, then what’s the scoop on who can become more empathic?

In the past the prevailing view was that empathy was hard-wired; you either have it or you don’t.

However, a series of recent studies demonstrate that empathy is a choice. In a summary of recent research on empathy in the NY Times (July 10th 2015) authors Daryl Cameron, Michael Inzlicht, and William A Cunningham conclude,

“Empathy is only as limited as we choose it to be.”

Now when I am asked at the beginning of a coaching assignment, “Help this person lead more from the heart,” I do not believe that their empathy is a fixed feature of their personality. I begin to work for change right away with one caveat in mind,

the leader must want to change.

When people focus intentionally on becoming more empathic and repeatedly practice certain empathy building skills,

They change.

Simple empathy building steps may include,

  1. Putting a label on the feelings in the room. The team may be experiencing a lot of anger and frustration in the midst of a challenging project. Instead of ignoring the emotional elephant in the room the leader merely states, “I sense the frustration level to be very high right now!” He/she does not try to FIX the emotional state of the group but normalizes it by giving it a name. It is amazing how this action on the part of leaders helps people believe “our pain is understood”.
  1. Walking in the shoes of others. It is a know fact that the more senior and more powerful the leader is, the less likely he/she identifies with the pain of others. When executives remember what it was like when they were more junior they can see the perceived threats felt by their reports more realistically.
  1. Moving the focus away from the leader’s own needs and feelings. There is nothing more blinding to the needs of others than a preoccupation with our own agenda or ideas. Empathy involves a voluntary shift to the world of the other.

Try making the choice to be more empathic, repeatedly practice empathy building strategies, and watch yourself change.

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The Struggle Between the Ego and the Soul

There are two very different and competing voices—that of the ego and that of the soul—that live in constant conflict within us.

We are socialized in our culture to be ego-driven; that is, to operate from a position of exclusive self-reference, as expressed in popular expressions such as “What’s in it for me” or “It’s my way or the highway.” The problem with this approach is that it is very narcissistic and myopic and can threaten, or even destroy, the potential of a productive  connection with others.

We have all struggled with our egos to some degree or another and have experienced its divisive and disruptive results.  Consequently, our first task is to learn to be aware of the other ego-driven voices that threaten to dominate us in making personal and leadership decisions.

An example of leading with the ego-driven voice is expressed in the statement of a devotee of an Eastern religion in Asia:

“One teaching is, you make money Monday to Friday, then on Saturday and Sunday you come to the temple and meditate and your mind will be more supple and clear so that on Monday you can make more money.”

Contrast this with a more soul-driven statement from the Dalai Lama:

“If we begin with the simple act of regularly helping others, for instance, even if we don’t feel particularly kind or caring, we may discover an inner transformation is taking place, as we gradually develop feelings of compassion [and, we would add, a commitment to the needs of the world-at-large].

Each of the statements above reflects clear goals and highly focused action. But they are qualitatively different in their primary motivation as well as the feelings that are experienced by individuals who live by the one perspective or the other.

While the motivation behind the first statement is obviously solely economic, the second one is about the type of (compassionate) people we can become through our individual or group contribution to causes greater than the self.

In regards to the feeling states of living from the ego or the soul imagine the two following scenarios.

A person has just heard that they had received a highly contested and sometimes contentious promotion at their place of work. The announcement is made and the person feels a mixture of happiness and threat. Happiness at the achievement but ambivalence about being able to live up to the demands of the position or the fear that they may have reached a plateau in their career.

In the second scenario a person has just spent an evening with work colleagues at a dinner at their favorite restaurant. They had known each other of years, trusted each other deeply, and shared common interests and values. The conversation was convivial, explored deep issues, displayed personal and intellectual honesty, and reinforced the strong bond between the colleagues. This person left the event with a deep feel of happiness and contentment that let her sleep in peace that night.

These two very different and competing voices—that of the ego and that of the soul—are in a push-pull struggle within us.

Our task, in regards to these competing voices, is to take the time and imagination to listen to the voice of the soul and honor its directives. (We also need to recognize the voice of the ego for what it is and make the decision to attend to the soul instead)

The Voice of the Ego

The voice of the ego is used here in the popular sense, as in “He has a big ego” or “Her ego got in the way of team communication.” Intuitively, from this perspective, we are saying that the ego-driven person is being self-preoccupied, and (psychologically speaking), trying to hide a sagging self-esteem.

The ego is a cunning enemy that comes disguised as a friend. It tells that we are worth something because of our achievements, looks, possessions, social status, or intellectual abilities. It hints at a sense of entitlement and that makes us feel we deserve preferential treatment by life. It can prompt us to be sultry or angry when we are not the center of attention. So how then is the ego an enemy? We become so attached to the needs that it says it will fulfill in our lives we live in constant fear of losing things like prestige, status, or our youthfulness.

(We all struggle with our ego. But the tragedy is when we don’t see it for what it is. We judge that we a really living life to its fullest when really all we have is the illusion of the self. In fact, some call it the false self. This is the self is built on the lies we were told about what we were or should become. “You are the impression that you make” or “You are what you do ” or “You are your physical appearance.” And when we bought into such messages we lived inauthentic lives and missed what it meant to be a soul-inspired being).

In the end the ego is the illusion or poor imitation of the soul. It gives the mistaken impression that life is being lived to its fullest. After all is the person not “being of service in the community” and “making a difference for good in the world?” We may see philanthropic acts, selfless service, and bursts of imagination and energy and believe that we are viewing the soul at work. The trouble arises when the person’s chief driving force is self-aggrandizement, attachment to the fruit of the action, the desire to live up to the dictates of the false self. The public relations impact of the act is more important than the fact that people are helped.

Motivation is the litmus test for our behavior to determine whether the origins are ego or soul-driven. But first we must understand the origins of the ego to know why we do what we do.

Its ways are learned but the origins often go back to early childhood. Ego-driven people often learn their ways by the manner in which their parents regarded them. The parents who sought to gain their worth through children may have emphasized the child’s looks or performance. The parents felt inadequate but the children made them look good. The children became the means for their own self-aggrandizement. Consequently, the children never really learn to be accepted for themselves and instead, came to believe that their value rested with how well they score on family measures of success or importance. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common in our culture that assigns value to an individual based on performance or appearance rather than character or contribution.

Ways to get beyond the ego

1. Feel the pain 

The pain of having one’s person eclipsed by measures of performance can be our teacher after we are left feeling empty and unsatisfied. Unfulfilled longings linger as we desire acceptance for what we are or the value of our contribution.

The soul gets bored with the empty pursuit of image. But the ego is not easily dissuaded since rewards like praise and promotion are not to be sniffed at. It is also very cunning in its efforts to ‘con’ us into believing that it is really what life is all about. Both the advertisement and the ego tell us “Life does not get any better than this” or “the one who dies with the most toys wins”.

The good news is that a creative tension is set up in the conflict between the soul and ego. It can force an examination of the rewards and consequences of attending to either voice. We read of a lawyer who leaves a high-powered job to teach inner city kids because she perceives that to be her passion and calling. She followed the call of the soul. Like her, we all suffer the pangs of a life lived apart from the soul seen in boredom, lack of imagination, and sterile relationships. We then search for a better way. And that path is for us to “wake up”

2. Wake up.. When we ask ourselves questions like, “What are the implications to me of,

a life with an attachment to all my ego needs?”

a lack of meaningful and fulfilling connection to others?”

a sense that there must be more to life than this”

we give ourselves a wake up call to a better way, one where we are not a prisoner to the dictates of the ego. That is when we begin to live by

The Voice of Soul

The soul speaks in subtle, indirect, and surprising ways. However, since our soul is primarily detectable in the quality of our relationships how do we know when it is speaking to us and we are living according to its dictates or prompting? We experience soul when we:

Feel connected to someone’s essence. (The person reports feeling understood and validated)

Respond to the person’s deepest needs and values (For example, that person’s need to make a contribution)

And that connection inspires them. (The person reports that we have connected with one of their five inspirational sources).

We are aware of and remain detached from the needs of the ego.

Any disruption in a relationship, whether it is through unresolved conflict, unwarranted assumptions, jealousy, envy, or hurtful events that may have occurred, leaves us with the choice. Gary Zukav is right when he writes: “What you intend is what you become.” In order to be soul-driven persons and therefore inspirational we need to choose to live from the soul and this involves understanding and starving the ego.

The bottom line is

Soul-driven living is a choice of people decide to be awake.

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The Boss Everyone Wants

Students sometimes choose a university because of a particular professor. Employees stay in a job because of a boss.

Recently a heavily recruited IT professional told his boss that he chose to stay in his current company because that boss cared for him as a person as well as his career path. That’s the boss we all want.

Here are some other characteristics of the ideal people leader. He/she

  1. Sets the performance bar high for all in the organization. Working on the premise that most everyone wants to do a good job, the great leader has high expectations from his/her workforce.
  1. Sees the potential in every report. A leader who sees capabilities within us that we barely see in ourselves has a way of bringing out the best in us.
  1. Provides the encouragement and resources for all employees to grow professionally. An “I trust that you can do it” attitude is the modus operandi of an empowering leader.
  1. Spends regular 1:1 time with direct reports working on their career path. The fact that this boss takes regular time to be with us on what we want for our professional lives leaves a deep and lasting positive impression.
  1. Gives accurate feedback on how each person is doing in his/her assignments. In turn these bosses thrive on accurate feedback from people in their network.
  1. Has a deep personal concern for everyone in the work environment. I know a CEO who knows the names of the people who serve him in the cafeteria plus details about their families.
  1. Inspires people by finding inspirational sources within them. Rather than push us towards goals the great boss pulls us in the direction of our work-related passions.

These are the seven habits of highly effective bosses.

What other characteristics of the empowering boss have you experienced?

As a boss, how are you doing in terms of the above best people management practices?

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An Inspirational Leader

What does it take to be an inspirational leader?

A few weeks ago I heard a CEO speak to his senior leaders. He was not the most dynamic speaker I’ve heard but he had three things that touched an inspirational nerve in his organization. He displayed a clear vision, deep ethical commitment (what we will not do with our customers), and was genuinely authentic.

We all know that we need to inspire individuals to get them to follow us and make that vision a reality.

In our book “What Inspirational Leaders Do” (Kindle 2008) we explore what inspirational leaders do to bring out the best in their teams. Specifically, we discuss several important needs or behaviors that you, as a leader, will need to know in order to inspire your team to work together to realize the vision you have for your organization.

The needs we have identified have arisen out of our work in coaching and developing business leaders all over the world. Over the last decade, we often began our first coaching session by asking, “What inspires you?” The answers to this question were compelling in that they typically reflected an individual leader’s deeply held values or needs. We subsequently grouped these needs into five categories that we call The Five Sources of Inspiration.

Incidentally, our observations were confirmed in part by seeing how this inspiring CEO  galvanized action around his compelling vision.

The Five Sources of Inspiration

The need to:

1. Make a contribution to benefit individuals or the world-at-large. (Contribution)

2. Work in alignment with one’s highest values. (Character)

3. Engage one’s creative potential, to imagine a better way. (Imagination)

4. Be interpersonally moved or emotionally engaged to work toward achieving team goals. (Empathy)

5. Be acknowledged and affirmed for one’s unique talents and strengths, and engage those skills in meeting work challenges. (Expecting the Best)

Once engaged, these needs drive individuals to perform and produce at levels they previously may not have thought possible. A leader’s first step in inspiring others is to identify which source(s) of inspiration drive a particular individual and then appeal to that source.

That is the basic theme of our book and has been explored in this blog over the past five years.

How have others like friends, teachers, and mentors inspired the best in you and helped you realize your potential?

And, in turn, how do you inspire those around you?

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Achieving Skillful Discussion by Balancing Inquiry and Advocacy

By Guest Blogger

Roger Hoffmann

VP of Technology Operations at HauteLook (Nordstrom)

(Roger’s previous blogs on this site include “The Meaning of Work in Japan” and “Yin and Yang – Finding Your Leadership Balance”


In my current role a technology VP, my schedule seems to consist mostly of meetings and discussions.  Sometimes my day is double and triple booked with up to 15 or more appointments.  During a recent meeting of about 15 people, including two other VPs, I lost my cool.  I was not happy with the direction of the discussion and instead of calmly exploring the impasse, I let my emotions get the best of me and became angry and upset.  I lost my balance.

How many times have you been in a meeting or group discussion and found yourself thinking with frustration “We’re getting nowhere fast”?  Or perhaps done some mental math on the cost of the meeting?  By contrast, recall a discussion where clarity was achieved and the meeting objectives were met.  What happened that made the first scenario bomb and the second encounter have a highly productive outcome? One of the keys to having skillful discussions lies in the group finding a healthy balance between inquiry and advocacy.

  • Inquiry: A close examination of a matter in a search for information or truth.
  • Advocacy: The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something.

Focus and Balance

The focus of inquiry is discovery, exploration, asking lots of questions in an attempt to understand others points of view.  The focus of advocacy is making assertions, stating opinions and reasoning, declaring your point of view in an attempt to get others to understand you.  Skillfull discussion requires a balance of both.

Dysfunctional Behaviors

When inquiry and advocacy are understood and employed in the pursuit of productive communication they are very powerful.  But they are not balanced, four distinct dysfunctional behaviors soon emerge.

  1. If advocacy and inquiry are both low or absent, the dysfunctional behavior that emerges is called withdrawing, which occurs when members of the group mentally check out and stop paying attention.
  2. If advocacy is extremely high and inquiry is too low, the dysfunctional behavior that emerges is called dictating, which occurs when an overly forceful member of the group basically resorts to “Here’s what I say and never mind why”.
  3. If inquiry is extremely high and advocacy is too low, the dysfunctional behavior that emerges is called, interrogating which occurs when members of the group resort to “Why can’t you see that your point of view is wrong?”
  4. If inquiry and advocacy are both too strong, the dysfunctional behavior that emerges is called politicking, which occurs when members of the group give the impression of balance while actually being closed minded while pushing their own agenda.

In balancing inquiry and advocacy, it is important that we lay out our reasoning and thinking, and then encourage others to challenge us.  Statements (advocacy) and questions (inquiry) that facilitate this balance include: “Here’s my view and here is how I arrived at it.  How does it sound to you?” “What makes sense to you and what doesn’t?  Do you see any ways I can improve it?” While hard on people’s cherished opinions, more creative and insightful realizations occur when people combine multiple perspectives.  Let’s look at how to achieve skillful discussion and how it differs from dialog.

Skillful Discussion

In dialog, the intention is exploration, discovery and insight.  Along that path, the team may in fact sometimes reach some agreement and make a decision—but that isn’t their primary purpose in coming together.  Dialog involves divergent brainstorming type communication. In skillful discussion, the intention is to come to some sort of closure.  Along the way, the team may explore new issues and build some deeper meaning among the members, but their intent involves convergent thinking.  Skillful discussion hinges on attaining a specific outcome, usually an important decision that the team needs to make in order to achieve the meeting objective. Skillful discussion is based on an agreement, which team members make: to follow five basic protocols.  The protocols are clear and not difficult to grasp, but they require practice.

  • Pay attention to your intentions

Clarify what you hope to accomplish in the discussion.at hand.  Ask yourself “What is my intention?” and “Am I willing to be influenced?” If you are not, what is the purpose of the conversation?  Be clear on what you want and do not mislead others as to your intentions.

  • Balance advocacy with inquiry

Ensure that the pendulum of advocacy and inquiry remains balanced and does not swing too far to either side.  Surface and challenge assumptions with honesty and integrity.  Avoid a lack of balance which causes misunderstanding, miscommunication and poor decisions.

  • Build shared meaning

Words are abstractions and have different meanings for different people.  In many meetings, the discussion moves at such a pace and people use words so loosely, that it becomes very hard to build shared meaning.  People walk away with vague ambiguous misunderstandings.  Decisions made in such an environment won’t stick.  It is important to use language with great precision, taking care to make the meaning evident.  If the word is important to you, then converge on the meaning with as much precision as possible.

  • Use self-awareness as a resource

Ask yourself, at moments when you are confused, angry, frustrated, concerned, or troubled, What is happening right now?  What do I want right now?  What am I doing right now to prevent myself from getting what I want?  What am I thinking right now?  What am I feeling right now?  Then choose your response accordingly.

  • Explore impasses.

Ask yourself: What do we agree on and what do we disagree on?  Can we pinpoint the source of the disagreement or impasse?  Which category does the impasse fall into?

  1. Facts – what exactly has happened?  What is the data?
  2. Methods – how should we do what we need to do?  Is there only one right way?
  3. Goals – what is our objective?  Is it consistent with our vision?
  4. Values – why do we think it must be done in a particular way?  What do we believe in?

Simply agreeing on the source of the disagreement often allows people to learn more about the situation, clarify assumptions that previously were below awareness, and move forward. Remember to listen to ideas as if for the first time.  Work at being open to new ideas.  Consider each person’s mental model as a piece of a larger puzzle.  Look at the issue from the other person’s perspective.  Ask yourself (and everyone else):  What do we need to do to move forward?


The meeting I referred to in my opening example could have gone very differently.  At the moment I felt my frustration rising, I could have asked myself what I needed to do to find balance.  If I had used the fifth protocol mentioned above (using self-awareness as a resource) and explained my position, asking for feedback in an open and calm manner, I’m sure I could have achieved the skillful discussion needed to achieve the objective at hand.


Which of those protocols resonates with you the most?  Which comes naturally and which seems beyond your reach?  What could you do to strengthen your skillful discussion muscles?  What concrete action will you commit to this week, however small, to become a more effective team member?

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Encounters with Grace

Our biggest struggles in life are not with external circumstances like a business failure or a divorce. Rather, we wrestle mostly with our inner struggles like insecurity and reactivity that emerge in our crisis moments.

This blog is about encounters with grace in the midst of our internal civil war. The point of view one adopts towards this redemption story depends on whether one is a realist or an idealist in regard to human nature.

Realists view human nature as deeply flawed. By contrast, the idealists see us a brimming with nothing but positive potential flowing from our inner golden nature.

In my early years, especially from my theological training, I was a realist that viewed human nature as so broken that it could not be fixed even with our best efforts.

My subsequent experience with humanistic psychology led me to an entirely different conclusion. I came to believe that we as humans are essentially good and that we can trust this innately good self. All our inner nature needed was self-actualization and expression.

Today the idealist and the realist in me are married. As a result of that imperfect and at times strained union a third entity has evolved. Call it a reformed realist or a modified idealist.

In “The Road to Character” (incidentally I would rate this book as my most instructive read in years) author David Brooks sees a place for both the realist and the idealist in our internal drama.

When we are brought to our knees with this fragmented self, grace suddenly appears, sometimes completely out of left field. It pulls and prods us to the vertical dimension that some call god, others see in the acceptance of friends and family, and others as a mysterious inner resource beyond intellectual knowing.

Brooks writes that you “reach out to something outside of yourself to cope with the forces within yourself.” In those moments grace, an unconditional love that accepts us for what we are, finds us.

For me grace shows up in my moments of greatest defeat and desperation when my deepest flaws are exposed. It is in that kind of struggle where I relinquish the illusion of control over my life and my arrogant belief that I may have the answers.

As I surrender to grace I begin to know the experience of “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” As a result of that internal struggle Brooks sees that, “we are better people today that we were yesterday.”

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Being Fully Present

Have you ever tried to talk with someone while she/he is heavily engaged in a movie? The result was a minimal level of communication.


Were you ever on a conference call checking your e-mail while others talked? You remembered only half of the discussion.


Was another person more concerned that you listen to him/her than to stop and ask whether you wanted to be heard to as well? You felt like an audience in some bad performance.

All these are typical scenarios in our fast-paced me-centered world.

Contrast the above examples with the CEO who would get into the elevator with just about any of his thousands of employees and greet them by name, know something about their world, and for those few seconds be totally there for them. Granted his photographic memory was remarkable but all of us could do better at being fully present when the occasion so demands.

The result of not being fully present is that

  • Everyone knows we are not fully there for them.
  • We live with unnecessarily high levels of stress generated by brains that seem to operate at light-speed.
  • We cannot sleep at night because our “Energizer mind” keeps going and going.
  • The more we become addicted to hyper-activity the more alone we and others feel.

The answer.

Stop and pause

Ways of pausing include,

  1. Take time out from our electronic devices. I know an executive who receives 300-400 emails a day and has learned so to prioritize that he only responds in depth to 10 a day. Such prioritizing is not easy but possible.
  2. Recognize that the tendency to be at the center of our own universe requires our conscious effort to be other-centered.
  3. We could ask,

“What is this person really saying?”

“How do they feel about it?”

“Why is it important to them?”


What small steps have you taken to be present?

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Humility. How I Achieved It

Humility is not a personal quality that one would post as an accomplishment on Linkedin or Facebook.

In fact a humble person is hardly conscious of the fact that he/she has this character trait. Mention to the person that you view him/her as humble and you are more than likely to hear the response “What me, humble? I don’t think so!”

Before we look at the ‘real thing’ consider some examples of people who leverage humility for ego needs. 

False Humility

We have all seen people who pose as humble when what in fact they are saying is “Look at me. I stand head and shoulders above others in my humility”. Here are some fictional examples.


“I have been so busy lately working at the soup kitchen helping the homeless. By the way, it is the one where (name of famous actress) works as well. So I am very sorry that I did not visit you while you were in hospital with your cancer surgery.”


I hang around very important people (name dropping)

I am very busy (That makes me important)

You really do not matter all that much to me anyway even though you are supposed to be my friend.

I am really humble (I work with the homeless)

Text of Holiday Letter.

It is really so astounding that despite the humble beginnings of our family our son received a scholarship to study law at Harvard. Our daughter received a special invitation to perform at the Tanglewood  festival. Our dog, despite being a street rescue dog, won the champion of champions prize at the Beverly Hills dog show. We have been so blessed. By the way, how is your daughter doing at the community college?”


 Your kids don’t hold a candle to ours

We have pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps (and not depended on public assistance – a government grant – like you did for your schooling).

The universe has singled us out for special favor because we either deserve it or are so special.

The basis of all these proclamations of humility; humble beginnings, charitable work etc., are that they are used as a frame for self-promotion. The sad fact, however, is that they come from a place of deep insecurity and self-negation.

Humility – The Real Thing

Intuitively most people recognize the real thing when it comes to humility. Humility has the following criteria.

1.    No one person is more deserving than the other.

2.    A person is humble and does not really know it.

3.    There is no attempt to showcase one’s humility.

4.    It is a sign of the person’s character far above all their achievements in life. David Brooks  in his book on Character calls it our “Eulogy” resume.

So the title “Humility and How I Attained It” could be a skit on the TV Show “Saturday Night Live”.

In the end humility is what defines a person as great. It is one of the great human virtues because, with it, one is transcending the needs of the self and working for the greater good.

See also “Humility and Inspirational Leadership” cedricj.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/inspir/

Humility Quotes

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest may err.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“If you consider the careers of the people on Wall Street, the ones who were humble lasted and prospered; the ones who were self-centered and thought they had the whole answer often made mistakes. More than half of the mistakes made on Wall Street are because someone thought they knew it all. They didn’t have humility.” Sir John Templeton.

“How can you be humble if you are always paying attention to yourself? True humility excludes self-consciousness, but false humility intensifies our awareness of ourselves to such a point that we are crippled….” Thomas Merton.

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