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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eternal English major to describe my Top Five. To summarize, I could easily say:

  • Activator. I am always reading more than one book at a time; it ALL seems important and urgent to me! I can't wait patiently to finish one before starting another one.
  • Strategic. I select what I am reading according to what I am working and noodling on, and have a running list on Trello of all the books I want to read this year.
  • Maximizer. I will not finish a book if it doesn't grab me relatively quickly. Too many other books out there.
  • Individualization. I will often select a book because of one particular friend or client I have in mind. To read it may help me understand them more and customize my approach. (I also have Learner in my Top Ten.)
  • Input. On top of the multiple books I'm "activating" on, should I mention the three magazines (one of which is the New Yorker) I subscribe to and the 35 podcasts I try to follow?
Phew. All that to say, I love to read. I love information. I love, love, love to process and reflect and test drive whatever I'm learning from it all.

Despite the broad swath I try to cut in my reading, there is one author above all who has stirred the pot the most in the last few years. His name is Richard Rohr. My little googling, Input heart could send you onto many different websites to learn more about him, but perhaps the best place is to start here. I have learned more about contemplation, mindfulness, peace, joy, mystery, and unconditional love from his writings than anywhere else.

I reference Rohr often during my presentations, coaching, and consulting because my work focuses on the "soft skills" in the workplace: the harder to define stuff that we actually rely on more than any technical skills we bring. So much struggle at work involves interpersonal dynamics with colleagues, supervisors, direct reports, and clients. And the workplace often has very little to offer in terms of addressing those tricky tensions.

This is where Rohr comes in for me. He reminds us that "information is not transformation." In other words, we have to be willing to reflect, struggle, and become self-aware about what we bring to the table in every encounter. 

I love seeing faces light up whenever I say this with clients. Then they often ask me, "What is the first book by Rohr that you would recommend?" and right away I say, Falling Upward. Right away in the Introduction he describes the book's focus:
There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life. The first task is to build a strong "container" or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. 
I enjoy inviting clients (heck, EVERYONE) to see the struggles and joys in our lives as opportunities to fill our containers. Doing such personal work is often difficult, and in the midst of so many other demands intruding on our attention and time, easy to neglect. However, if we do not press in to this process, we remain immature and unfulfilled. Plain and simple.

This brings me to the subtitle of this blog. It comes from this longer quote in the Introduction:
If you are still in the first half of your life, chronologically or spiritually, I would hope that this book will offer you some good guidance, warnings, limits, permissions, and lots of possibilities. If you are in the second half of life already, I hope that this book will at least assure you that you are not crazy -- and also give you some hearty bread for your whole journey.
My desire is to create space for people and for work environments to allow for personal growth and development. I also firmly believe you cannot lead anyone until you lead yourself, so it is imperative for leaders, managers, and executives to cultivate emotional intelligence.

It is bad news for some that there are no shortcuts in this journey. My hope is that I might be a source of encouragement along the way, and I seek to provide that sustenance, at least in part, in this space. May we press in together.

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Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eter...