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Monthly Archives: July 2017
“He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to accord with the Universe,
just do your job, then let go.”
– Lao Tzu
As I watch the National tragedy play out in Washington. A President and those close to him only focused on their own benefit, both in terms of power and plunder, I have to ask: as the days and weeks and eventually years go by, what effect does it all have on us deep inside? What effect does the barrage of reckless and unreasonable blind ambition have on each of us and our businesses? On our families?
Is it becoming normal to try to crush those around us who simply have another view? Is it really just all about being a winner or a loser? Are we becoming numb to the idea of grabbing what we can and selling it to the highest bidder? Does watching lack of loyalty to the whole in the name of expediency and self aggrandizement encourage us to follow suit?
We have to be careful to not steamroll others with our own view of how things should run. For within our ideas lie our own ambition and within our ambition lies our personal agenda which is only human to have, but not usually helpful. If we don’t listen to those around us very carefully our ambition can quickly become blind. When we do that, it may seem as if we are getting ahead, and we may very well be in the short term. But, in pursuit of our personal goals we may just destroy everything around us in the process.
I recently read “Powerhouse – The Untold Story of CAA.” Fascinating and in many ways inspiring. But, it’s easy to forget that at it’s core, it’s a cautionary tale. In the end, although extremely successful and wealthy, Ovitz and company managed to destroy friendships, long time working relationships and each other. At a certain point, they forgot why they started the company in the first place and were no longer working together. Instead, they were working against each other and the greater good of the group that was so tight in the beginning. All for blind ambition, power and greed.
Ambition is good when it’s purpose is for something beyond ourselves. It’s good when we’re making a difference not just in the day to day of helping our clients, our co-workers and our families, but in making the world a better, more gentle and honest place. That is accomplished by examining the how and why of the way we as individuals and as a group are doing things.
Ambition should feel great. It should feel like you’re at the best beach party you can imagine, laughing with your friends and together feeding a warm bonfire. That is the joy of feeling successful together. But be careful. If you see the bonfire going down, don’t run back to the house by yourself and comeback with the furniture and doors. You’ll eventually throw the whole house on the fire. Instead, to bring that bonfire back up, scour the beach together for more wood.
I make it sound easy, it’s not. It takes putting your agenda aside. It takes listening respectfully, being calm, having empathy, giving honest feedback and aligning towards a common cause. Not aligning against each other, individually or in groups.
If Ambition feels anything but great, don’t bother looking at others as the reason why it doesn’t. Look to yourself and do a careful examination to make sure your purpose is truly beneficial to those around you. If it’s not, you may be going blind.
In the “Untethered Soul,” Michael Singer brings up the following concept: Picture a blind person with a red tipped white cane walking down the street. They move the cane back and forth tapping. They are not trying to find where to walk, they know where to walk. They are determining where not to walk. By staying on the middle path of their trajectory, they are staying safely between any obstacles.
We have a terrible tendency as humans to swing between extremes as we make our way. We hit obstacles at the edges and swing back the other way until we find an obstacle at the other extreme. These obstacles tend to be the sharp rocks of our own fears, biases, neuroses and perceptions. You find gossip, disrespect, paranoia, rejection and bullying there. Do you want to know why people get hysterical at work? They are out on one of the edges.
We’ve all known co-workers who are addicted to drama. Well, that drama is found at the edges. As they are getting scraped up by immovable objects, they are also doing all they can to drag others there as well. Before long, they will soon careen to the other extreme and beckon you there also. Left to these swings, a effective, energetic workplace can soon turn toxic.
There are many workplaces that will mistake this for progress. It’s not progress, it’s reactive, needless activity that in and of itself is wasted energy. It pushes people out or burns them out.
I’m not talking about the strenuous and rewarding action of forward momentum. I’m talking about impediments to forward momentum. A person on the edge is moving side to side, not forward or backward.
It’s most easily seen in our political climate. The polarization is this endless careening from side to side. One side holding their position on the edge against the other at the other edge. When administrations change sides, so do the parties. It creates intractability and stasis and it’s the people who lose. Where there is no middle, no progressives, there is no progress.
I think everyone, in every workplace, on every crew, has the best intentions of acting in the best interest of helping the endeavor be the best it can be. But, we’re human. Our natural tendency is to serve our self interest first. Once we do that, we’re headed towards the edge.
So, the trick to moving forward is to walk past the drama on either side of you and remain focused on progress. Check your own drama and correct course when necessary. In this sense, the middle way becomes the only way. If you stay in the calm middle, you can keep moving forward, even if in your peripheral vision you can see someone thrashing about on the edge. It doesn’t mean you have to join them there.
If you want work effectively and you want to get things done, take the middle path. Beckon others there also. Take the middle path.
Let go. Yes, that’s it, let go. There comes a certain time where you have to let yourself fall into whatever it is you need to fall into. It could be organization, it could be disorganization. It could be progress, it could be regress. Only you know the answer to the question.
Anger is pointless, fear is pointless, so is joy if you are not walking to the edge and then falling through the barrier that you have set up for yourself there. This is business, this is life.
Sometimes, letting go is walking through the fire and sometimes it’s just walking away. Most of the time, the barrier looks like a dense forest that appears beautiful in its complexity, but too difficult to ever make your way through. It’s funny how we see accomplishment as pushing, pushing, pushing, when it is really relaxing into your fears and letting go of the barriers to success that exist only in your mind. The barriers that you’ve developed through years of positive and negative experiences that have taught you where the boundaries are. The boundaries appear to protect you from too much pain. But, they also protect you from too much joy, too much accomplishment and too much peace.
Walk up to those boundaries, relax and walk through. Let go.
There is a saying: be nice to assistants, receptionists and car valets. One day, they’ll be green lighting your projects.
There are many ways of doing business in Hollywood. The stereotype is the Agent as Shark. Plowing a way through the ocean, eating everything in sight and generally causing havoc. When you have the leverage, it’s easy to do that. But, with experience you learn that you should rarely do things because you can. Doing things because you can has no view of the long term. Instead, you do things that will be fair to everyone involved now.
You’re not kind to those under you because someday you may be under them, you’re kind because it’s right. Because, whether you realize it or not, when people are working under you, the way you conduct yourself teaches them how to treat those that will be working under them someday. It’s like the cycle of abuse. You can perpetuate it or you can break it.
You have a choice. You can continue Hollywood’s bad behavior or choose to take a moment, think about it, and make the choice between coldness or empathy, bullying or mentoring. Almost always, people are doing the very best they can. Berating them won’t make them better. It will freeze them where they are. In the end, if people disappoint you, you probably haven’t done a good enough job of teaching them what they need to know. Such is the mystery of power.
Kindness and understanding is not situational. It’s an operating system.