Monday, May 27, 2013

To The Graduating Class of 2013: You Must Be Present To Win!

Have you been to one of those events, programs, or grand openings which, upon registering, you receive a chance to win a door prize? Perhaps you’ve noticed the italicized print at the bottom of the ticket and sign..."Must be present to win". Sponsors want the patrons to experience the whole event. They don’t want the patron to miss anything, most of all the grand finale, the closing, the climax. This “Must be present to win!” is fundamental to living a life of significance. There have been some notable graduation speeches in which the “Must be present to win!” tagline applies.

- Steve Jobs to the Stanford graduates in 2005 said ...
    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Jobs was right. Been there. Done that. Got the connect-the-dots-artwork in my life. Yet people yearn to find a good fortune teller. There is money to be made in future forecasting and predicting trends. People still refer to Nostradamus. Yet Christ told his followers, only the Father knows what the future holds (Matt 24:36). You are what you believe. The real danger in your beliefs is absolute certainty. Absolute certainty creates so many problems for living a life of significance. Absolute certainty will suck the life out of you. Take the advice Andy gives Red in the 1994 movie, Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Great case for, “Must be present to win!”

Ellen DeGeneres to the graduates of Tulane in 2009 said ...
    “The definition of success changes. Success is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to be something you are not. ... never follow some else’s path;   unless you’re in trouble in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, then by all means, you should follow that.”

On the other hand, Ellen doesn’t take herself too seriously. She can laugh at herself. Laughter and humor are essential to “Must be present to win!” You will experience grief and laughter is the only cure.

- David Foster Wallace to the graduates of Kenyon College 2005 said ...
       “You can stand in that supermarket line, surrounded by irritating, equally bored people and if you want, you can imagine them beautiful or gentile or helpless - even it they’re not. You have the choice. Your education gives you the option to see things from several perspectives. You can call it delusional. Or you can call it hope. Or you can call it a form of pain relief from your own pain. Whatever you call it, with it, you are unshackled ... a chance to fly free. (Watch, “This is Water” at

I was blessed to hear David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech in person at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, in May of 2005. I didn’t recognize the real wisdom of this commencement address until I went back to read and reread it. Wallace’s comments are the ultimate, “Must be present to win!” We are the richest nation on earth not because of resources, things, geography, history or successes. We are rich because we have choice. This is the central point in Wallace’s address. Everyday begins with a choice of how you want to be experienced, what kind of attitude you want to put on, how you will treat others and a further array of choices! Choose wisely so you can continue “Must be present to win!”

- David Brooks to the graduates of Sewanee 2013 said ...
    “The third thing not to worry about is the question: Will I find my passion? Commencement speakers are always telling you to find your passion. This is the biggest load of crap old people have ever foisted on the young. No, you will not find your passion. Your passion will find you. Relax and wait for it."

Two things about Brook’s wisdom. Worry is a total waste of energy. Worry will keep you from “Must be present to win!” Worry removes you from the present and puts you into the realm of shame and fear. Fear is the absence of love. For love to happen and grow, “Must be present to win!”

Second, Brooks is right on when he says your passion will find you. I’ve met a lot of people searching for their purpose in life. What is more important is to remember your purpose! When you remember your purpose, your passion will show up. When your passion shows up, you are present to experience your whole life!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Have You Been Assessed?

The unexamined life is not worth living. Socrates

Taking personality and trait assessments throughout my life has contributed to better self-management, better coaching practices, and to better facilitating of teams, tribes and communities. Assessments are like mirrors. They reveal some interesting things but not necessarily the essentials! They are tools to help explore and discover more about oneself and others. Assessments are a starting point and not a be-all, end-all summary.

The most powerful assessments are of the 360 variety where you get anonymous feed back from supervisor, peers, direct reports, friends and others. They can create powerful “AHA” conversations. They can be catalyst for personal growth.

Here is a summary of the assessments I have taken:

Strength’s Finder
- My five strengths include: Strategic, Connectedness, Learner, Maximizer, Belief 

Engramme - 9 (Peacemaker) 
Big Five - Open to new experiences, neither organized or dis-organized, both social and reserved, considers the feelings of others and calm in tense situations 
Herman Brain Dominance Inventory - D > C > A > B 
Devine Inventory - Action oriented, can turn arguments into discussions, seen as being on top of the situation, tactful and diplomatic, not satisfied with the status quo, stimulated by learning, enthusiasm for the audience, can create change, able to prioritize, has high energy 
Gregoric Style Delineator - Concrete Random (CR) 
DiSC - Promoter (i/D) 
MyHardwired - Yellow 
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - ENTJ (Qualified MBTI practioner) 
Temperament - NT 
Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) - strong in all five areas of leadership including: modeling the way, challenging the way, enabling others to act, inspiring a shared vision and encouraging the heart
Emotional Intelligence EQi 2.0 - 113 (Certified)

Recently, as part of emotional intelligence certification, I took an EQ-i assessment. The assessment looks at self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision making and stress management. The results indicated moving towards the high range for emotional intelligence. My “happiness” factor was also high.

Since the EQ-i is a self-validating assessment, I talked with the EQ-i facilitator. She asked if I was surprised by the results. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. The assessment validated much of what I know about myself. I acknowledged my strengths as well as areas for growth. I am still a work in progress!

Couple of things I’ve learned about assessments. We human beings are very complex. We are a bundle of habits shaped by nature and nurture. Add other human beings to our environment, lives and work and things become very interesting!

It’s not enough to be given results or feedback on the assessment. When your doctor screens you for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar or any number of things, the results do not mean a thing without understanding how they impact the quality of life.

The same is true of assessments. Couple assessment results with experience-based learning labs, you can discover and understand how you show up and how others experience you. You can learn to bridge the gaps of reality-perception, knowing-doing and sighted-blind spots.

The tough questions can be asked. What habits need to challenged? What behaviors need to changed? What behaviors do I need to do more? What do I currently understand about myself? What do I need to do to better understand? What heart-to-heart conversation do I need to have with myself? Where can I get support?

Socrates was right!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another Conspiracy?

Mother’s Day came upon us recently. Did you remember your mother? How did you remember your mother? Why should you remember your mother?

Perhaps you have bad memories of your mother...being made to eat your broccoli, nagged to hang up your towel after your shower or prevented from doing what your friends were allowed to have or cable television in your bedroom, no staying out past 11 PM on a Friday night or being made to go to church on Sunday mornings instead of sleeping. (I hope there was a father in the house who sided with your mother!)

On the other hand you may have fond memories of your mother. She’s the one who stood up to that strict teacher who gave you a bad grade for turning in your project late. She’s the one who told the referee off after your soccer game for the red card you got. She’s the one who threw a fit at the bookstore when they ran out the latest Harry Potter book at the midnight release party. You only hope she’ll be there when you go for your first job interview. (I hope there was a father in the house who disagreed with your mother on those issues!)

Some think Mother’s Day is just another greedy greeting card, flower shop, restaurant ploy to sell more. No doubt, they benefit from Mother’s Day. If you research Mother’s Day, it goes back to the Greek and Roman civilizations. It has deep roots for every living creature as it is a celebration of being born, being given the gift of life and making a connection to life. It’s worth not only remembering but celebrating. What get’s celebrated, gets repeated!

Dorothy Day, journalist and activist, wrote about the spiritual transformation upon giving birth to her first child. “No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.” Blest be the tie that binds!

As a child grows, a mother-child relationship evolves through several roles. First role is nurse. This role is about care and feeding including taken care of the soiled diapers! Queen is the second role (along with a father who is King.) Our home, our rules and you will abide. This role evolves into Coach, standing on the sidelines and offering advice as well as encouragement. The final role is Friend, a confidant who knows your imperfections and loves you just the way you are! All roles are transforming. All roles are founded on unconditional love. Every role validates the relationship and reminds each of the purpose of life, to be of significance.

I believe motherhood is one of those epic events defining required responsibility morphing into desired responsibility for both the mother and for the child. Hopefully from this forge, we learn what it means to be in relationship with others. It nurtures the spiritual wisdom deep within. The lessons of intimate community lead us to greater communities grounded in love. What a gift?!

It’s not too late to remember your mother. And if you still think its a lot of hype, consider the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they wish to be treated. It’s not too late to celebrate a relationship that launched you into life. A text does not work. An email is one notch above text. A phone call is a start. A written letter, note or card is much better. Face-to-face is best. And don’t just wait for Mother’s Day, find other days to celebrate your primary collaborator in your creation!