Self-preservation, the fear of annihilation, is the root of bias and prejudice. It’s simply safer to be against something until we know it’s safe to be for it.
When you ask people to change their mind, you might be asking for more than you think. You might be asking them to redefine who they are. That’s probably not going to happen.
The mental patterns we build define our world and our place in it. Once we have arrived at a framework that provides this stability of identity and purpose, we will fight to protect and preserve it.
Our auto-response to anything too different, or too foreign to our conventional way of life is, “No. It’s wrong. Stay away from it.” It’s safer to shut it down than to try to understand it.
Human nature says to protect yourself
Furthermore, our human nature tells us that those outside the ramparts of our self-defined world, those who are not like us, are not to be trusted; are wrong; are threats to our own existence; must be converted, avoided, silenced, or eliminated.
This is why the leading edge is the bleeding edge. This is why reformers are often mocked and persecuted by those who are enslaved by the status quo, who want to keep everything just as is.
Exploring the unknown can lead to greater security
But some people venture outside the ramparts, beyond the safe confines of their known universe, to enlarge the boundaries of understanding. They are looking for a larger world in which they can also feel safe.
Their tactic is to offer themselves as a non-threat to those they encounter. They seek to understand those they encounter instead of trying to convert them to their own ways. Through mutual understanding and acceptance, everyone’s world enlarges as everyone peacefully redefines who they are and the world in which they live.
Trust building can feel like exploring uncharted territory.
There are both dangers and tremendous rewards.
We celebrate those who pioneered new worlds and new ideas: Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Galileo, Martin Luther, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Neil Armstrong, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others who jumped out of the mental ruts of conventional wisdom and behavior.
They helped to redefine our world by reshaping the boundaries of that world.
We seem to have regressed into building more ramparts separating religious philosophies, political ideologies, national interests, and racial divides. The ruts keep getting deeper.
Where are the trust builders who will get us outside our mental ruts that have become the ramparts we hide behind, afraid to venture out? Who will pave the way?
Where are those who are
I remember watching the monitor during my echocardiogram and thinking, “that doesn’t look right.” The cardiologist confirmed my observation. She explained that I might need bypass surgery.
One week later, the surgery happened.
The surgery was successful, and the recovery went better than I expected.
It was the week in between the diagnosis and surgery that was touch-and-go physically and emotionally. My most extreme life’s-lesson in resilience began at the moment the cardiologist said, “bypass surgery.”
Looking back on it, I realize I took three actions that helped me bounce back. They can be used by anyone facing any kind of adversity, life threatening or otherwise.
1. Get real about the situation.
Admiral James Stockdale, said of his experience as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
We call this framing the situation, an exercise that calls into play the serenity prayer, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
My first thought at hearing the diagnosis was the impact that being laid up for several weeks and the months of rehab on the back end would have on my business. I would not be able to travel and train, which was the way I earned an income.
The reality was, without the surgery, I would die sooner than later. When that hit me, I was all in. I would do whatever it took to recover first; restarting my business would be secondary.
2. Recall and draw on your strengths.
I didn’t realize how much of an optimist I was until that week. Never underestimate the healing properties of optimism, a strength I did not know I had. Once I accepted the situation, I was free to begin planning the recovery.
My family and friends were another source of strength. They surrounded me and encouraged me. In adversity, let those who are close to you, and who care about you, show it. It’s good for everyone.
Another strength is my love of learning and my curiosity. I realized that I could use the recovery time to develop some ideas for my courses that I had been putting off.
We all have qualities that make up our personal go to corner after a tough round of going toe-to-toe with life.
3. Do something positive and constructive
I took full advantage of the cardio rehab available after the surgery. In addition to being helpful in my physical recovery, the rehab gave me something tangible to do that allowed me to see the progress I was making. I also met others who were a lot worse off than I: another dose of reality.
The activity kept me focused on moving forward rather than succumbing to the self-pity of idleness. No sitting around and feeling sorry for myself.
Do the work of recovering from adversity. I decided to love myself enough to put myself to the discipline of showing up every day and doing what was necessary that day to get a little better.
I took that lesson with me: finish the day a little better off than you begin it. No matter how small the improvement, it’s a step forward.
From that experience I formed my definition of the INPowered that I use and teach today.
Develop your resilience,
for your own well being and as an example to others,
and you will be
Watch for my first podcast on April 2, 2015
The program is entitled, “The Spirit of Leading.”
I will be discussing the qualities one needs beyond the skills to be an INPowered leader.
Future podcasts will feature guests who are demonstrating the Spirit of Leading in their success as an INPowered leader.
First three podcast episodes:
April 2: The Spirit of Leading. How is the “Spirit of Leading” different from traditional definitions of leadership?
April 9: Love, Learn, Lead. The core values of the INTEGRIS Health Care System leadership development program. Featured guest, Grant Napoleon, Dean of the INTEGRIS Leadership Institute. INTEGRIS is a statewide system of health care providers in Oklahoma, with 10,000 employees and more than 1,000 in designated leadership roles.
April 16: The tenets of an INPowered leader. 7 principles that drive both the personal development of an INPowered leader and the creation of an INPowering workplace culture.
Where there is no trust among parties, there can be no consensus. Consensus building is the commitment to a decision process in search of a solution that benefits the whole, instead of insisting on a position that benefits a few.
It’s frustrating to watch a group of diplomats struggle to build a consensus that takes into consideration the needs of the whole while dissidents, promoting their self-interests, do everything possible to thwart the effort.
When it comes down to it, lack of trust is at the core of the struggle. Consensus making and trust building must go hand-in-hand.
1. Consider everyone’s position as sincere.
I think treating people like you believe them is more likely to build trust than treating them as if they are lying. I would prefer to get to a relationship with others in which they know it is safe to express themselves sincerely instead of dancing around hidden agendas.
One of my Tenets of INPowered living is to treat yourself excellently, and telling your truth kindly is an aspect of that. Expect that of others as well. Encourage them to speak their truth openly and be ready to receive their truth respectfully no matter how much you disagree or how incredulous their truth might seem to you.
2. Find a way for all parties to “live long and prosper.”
Everyone needs a win. A fundamental condition of humanity is that everyone seeks to survive and live in some measure of comfort and hope. Work on making that happen for everyone, and consensus is possible.
By definition, consensus building is seeking to balance disparate needs and interests of several parties. The problem is when one party believes it is not possible to live in peace with another and is set on eliminating the threat; ergo, lack of trust.
If one party is only concerned with getting all they want all the time regardless of the needs of others, the result is competition–winning at the expense of others. Consensus is impossible in an atmosphere of fighting for your life.
Consensus is possible in an atmosphere of collaboration where all parties are committed to building a solution where everyone can live long and prosper.
3. Build in accountability.
If everyone acts in a trustworthy manner, being mutually accountable becomes part of the group dynamic. Everyone feels safe being transparent and answerable to the group.
Accountability is a natural extension of being trustworthy, not a threat to our independence. If the first two principles above are met, accountability should not be an issue.
President Reagan is famous for saying, “Trust, but verify,” in dealing with the Russians. (The phrase is actually a Russian proverb recommended to Reagan by a speechwriter, Suzanne Massie.)
The more accountable we hold ourselves to keep our word, the less urgent our need to verify among parties.
Let others see you as a consensus builder.
Trust will grow in your ability to be
Excellence is not a competition . . . or a category . . . or an award. Excellence is the journey you set out on every morning to end the day a little better at something you care about. Therefore, excellence is within everyone’s reach.
Excellence is not a function of intelligence or physical power. It is not limited to any social or economic group. It is not exclusive to any race, ethnic group, gender, religion, creed, nationality, or culture, or even age. Excellence is available to anyone.
Excellence is your duty to yourself to be better today than you were yesterday in whatever way you choose. Excellence is you exponentially multiplying your own energy and ability to take yourself just a little farther each day, to set a new personal standard; then best it.
Excellence is a journey, not the destination.
Even when elite athletes become a world champion, they start the next day trying to improve on what they just accomplished. They believe they owe it to themselves to beat their own record.
Athletes are always reaching for a personal best performance. Their standard in any competition is whether they did the best they were able, and hopefully, they achieved a personal best. That’s excellence.
Regardless of one’s particular walk of life, those who excel in their field will tell you there is one ingredient common to all, and it isn’t natural talent. That ingredient is fortitude–staying with the effort to see it through regardless of adversity. Some call it “grit.”
I recommend a couple of books on this. Seth Godin’s The Dip addresses the issue of quitting too soon. Godin calls it hitting the dip, “the long slog between starting and mastery.” He admonishes us to persevere through the difficulties and don’t’ quit too soon, as the average do.
Sarah Lewis stated in The Rise: Creativity, the gift of failure and the search for mastery, “The pursuit of mastery is an ever onward almost.” Excellence does not regard failure as such, but as a redirecting to a more promising path.
Be excellent to yourself, and to others
So, your duty to self is to be the best you that you can be. Excellence is committing yourself to personal improvement and seeing it through, come what may. That means treating yourself . . . well, like a champion. Eat healthful food. Develop wholesome habits. Associate with people who are a positive influence. Fill your life experience with the pure, the positive, and the powerful.
Zig Ziglar said, “Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”
What I hear is Ziglar talking about a spirit of excellence that it takes to be successful.
You can choose to be excellent. Multiply your personal energy in the direction of something you care deeply about.
When you pursue personal excellence, you will ultimately be