You Are Welcome Here

During a recent talk I heard someone say:

“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

Simple. Warm. Inviting. Inclusive. Open-minded. Accepting.

Sounds like the way I wish others could always treat me.

Sounds like the way I wish I could always treat others.

How would our lives change if we accepted this and made an effort to welcome all those we meet with the same warmth in our time with them – be it a split second, a lifetime, or some amount of time in between?

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Authentic Sustainability

There is a lot to unpack from one of the quickest 3 hour workshops I’ve been to in recent memory.

And though I can’t break down all of my takeaways from this afternoon at Yale FES, I wanted to start with where we started and where I ended.

As usual, it was a question:

What does it mean to be authentic?

I worked at a hotel in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province for 2+ years. At The Linden Centre, there was always talk of “the Real China” and/or experiences that were authentic.

This was always hard for me. Because of this same question:

What does it mean to be authentic?

Well, today I may have advanced my thoughts on this just a little bit.

By considering another question:

What does it mean to be inauthentic?

Many of us have ideas of what it means to be authentic. Based on my experience in Yunnan it’s a taste or a feeling of something that seems to be quite real.

Perhaps it’s something we haven’t experienced before.

Because, when you have had something “authentic” before, it sure feels hard to have something equally authentic again.

And so I have been exposed to more people thinking of authenticity as something exotic or fantastic rather than something as real as what’s in front of them on a regular basis. How could everyday life be authentic?

In my former case – how is everyday life in Beijing or Shanghai any less authentic than everyday life in Yunnan?

But when you re-frame the question to explore what is inauthentic, it’s very hard to argue one place being more or less authentic than the other. Provided everyone is being themselves.

I don’t exactly see Beijing pretending to be Shanghai any more than it would pretend to be Yunnan.

So when we re-frame that question to explore what’s inauthentic, it brings something quite different to me to the question of what is authentic.

Perhaps these opposites provide balance to the conversation. If we are to define what something is, then we need to define what it’s not. And by defining both, it enables us to come to greater clarity on what something is.

Given that our conversation was about authentic sustainability and now that we’ve established that definitions are good, one definition of sustainability used today was that attributed to John Ehrenfeld:

“Sustainability is the possibility of human and other life flourishing on earth forever.”

Sounds a bit hippy-esque, but essential it boils down to how people and other life forms can be awesome and at their best all the time and for all of time.

Stated in another way, sustainability is a pathway to planetary, organizational, and human flourishing.

As the conversation warmed up about how we understand and perceive authentic sustainability, we discussed as a group about conversations between people we labeled either as “effective” or “stuck” conversations.

 

And as we listed takeaway soundbites from the conversations around effective and stuck conversations we had with our neighbors, as a group we started to see the patterns where effective conversations were often when both sides focused on the mutual benefits.

Whereas in stuck conversations, there were always feelings and background conversations in our own heads that we were not dealing with openly that seemed to halt progress – often on both sides.

What really started to come out for me from there on out is that it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about sustainability or something else. The type of thinking we’re talking about with authenticity comes down to whether or not we’re ready to get real with ourselves because this has a major influence on how we relate to and interact with others.

My thinking started to drift into thinking about my authentic self. My relationships with others. How things were working and how things were not? What mattered to me and what mattered to another in this moment or that? I tried to bring a balance to both sides, both arguments, both thoughts, feelings, and words, in order to bring greater clarity to a particular situation from days gone by that was never resolved.

And I considered how I could have chosen to act – or react – differently.

One thing I realized over the course of today is that I can be quite emotional about the people and things I care most about.

And when it comes to those people and about those things, I am probably the least vocal about expressing my emotions.

I’ve never really admitted this to myself before.

And when I think of what I actually want out of life. It’s not to not communicate what I’m thinking and feeling, especially when it matters most.

This is an important part of who I am. When something matters, it matters. Holding that in doesn’t appropriately enable me to communicate to the people I care about or to others about the things I care about. And that was lost during my time in the dark.

Fortunately I came to realize that the only way for this to change is for me to more regularly express. Which is what this 60-days of writing has been about. Practicing expression. Being vulnerable with myself by opening myself up to these conversations with myself and with others.

But enough about me for the moment, how about you?

What is authenticity for you? What does it mean to be inauthentic?

What is the authenticity that you experience and appreciate?

Is there anything about your authentic self that you’re keeping locked away?

It might not be something you – or others close to you – even realize. But if you take some time to look, to listen to yourself, and to others, you may find something unexpected that might make you feel just a bit more sustainable i.e. fully and completely and extra alive.

i.e. an even better version of your best self.

Didn’t think it was possible?

Well, you’ll never know if you don’t take the time to look and listen.

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Interested in more on Authentic Sustainability? Learn about Gabriel and Jason’s work here.

Moments That Move You

Have you ever thought about keeping some sort of record of the moments that move you?

Want to take it to the next level?

Next time you feel a rush of emotion come over you – for the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly – take a minute to write.

What are you feeling?

What was the trigger?

How did those feelings/emotions manifest themselves?

Now what?

So what do these moments that move us actually mean?

How do we understand and figure this out?

Then what?

The Business of Relationships

JQA_With_Persevernce_Obstacles_Vanish

A friend recently lamented to me that she wished men could treat relationships like they would a business deal.

In business, is it common practice to talk nice with a potential business partner over the course of a few dates then vanish into thin air?

When you’re not interested in the deal, you’re honest and upfront about it. No need string anyone along.

Besides, stringing someone along in a business context, choosing to act without open and honest communication, could be bad for your reputation.

And future business.

The world is small, whose to say though today’s business deal didn’t work out, there isn’t an opportunity for other ways to collaborate down the line?

But my friend has encountered a number of guys who apparently aren’t in the business of open and honest communication.

What happened to meaningful cliches like honesty is the best policy? Or the truth will set you free?

I can’t blame her, though, in our relationships with the potential “one”, it’s easier to stick our heads in the sand or to run away than it is to be honest about how we feel and work through those challenges together.

I’ve done it. Actually, I’m a repeat offender.

This was actually what my 21 days of writing in November evolved into. It was the first time that I did not stick my head in the sand, or run away.

It was the first time I sat down with myself and faced my fears deep within myself for an extended period of time. It was not a one-off conversation, I made it my business for those three weeks. And I committed to making a habit of being vulnerable.

It was the first time I was able to be completely open and honest with the “one” about all my problems.

And trust me, I have a handful.

But as long as we’re being open and honest with each other, I know you do too. We all do.

I suppose the only thing that sets us apart are the people who are honest with themselves about their issues and those that aren’t.

But that’s too easy isn’t it?

Let’s step back for a second and re-think for a moment. How many types of us are there?

First, there’s the people who are honest with themselves AND with others about their issues. A rare breed.

I wonder how much of us actually reach this nirvanic level of self-awareness, self-understanding, and vulnerability?

Second, there’s the people who are honest with themselves, but may not be confident enough to share this with others.

Third, there are the people who know their issues, but may not have found all of them. Or maybe they have yet to realize just how those issues affect them.

This number three speaks most to me, that’s where I was earlier this year.

Fourth, there are the people who have figured themselves out, and everyone else out. It can be such a challenge to wait for others to figure themselves out. Life will be better when that happens.

Who did I miss?

So this friend of mine has been sending me these great articles on marriage that I’ve been totally digging.

The one that kept me up last night and has me still thinking today you can find here.

It’s an absolutely brilliant read, if you choose to read with an open mind.

Here’s the skinny (i.e. the first three reasons Why We Will Marry the Wrong Person):

One: We don’t understand ourselves

Two: We don’t understand other people

Three: We aren’t used to being happy

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

All of us are crazy in very particular ways. We’re distinctively neurotic, unbalanced and immature, but don’t know quite the details because no one ever encourages us too hard to find them out.

A good partnership is not so much one between two healthy people (there aren’t many of these on the planet), it’s one between two demented people who have had the skill or luck to find a non-threatening conscious accommodation between their relative insanities.

The problem is that knowledge of our own neuroses is not at all easy to come by. It can take years and situations we have had no experience of. Prior to marriage, we’re rarely involved in dynamics that properly hold up a mirror to our disturbances. Whenever more casual relationships threaten to reveal the ‘difficult’ side of our natures, we tend to blame the partner – and call it a day. As for our friends, they predictably don’t care enough about us to have any motive to probe our real selves. They only want a nice evening out. Therefore, we end up blind to the awkward sides of our natures.

One of the greatest privileges of being on one’s own is the flattering illusion that one is, in truth, really quite an easy person to live with.

With such a poor level of understanding of our characters, no wonder we aren’t in any position to know who we should be looking out for.

This problem is compounded because other people are stuck at the same low level of self-knowledge as we are. However well-meaning they might be, they too are in no position to grasp, let alone inform us, of what is wrong with them. Naturally, we make a stab at trying to know them. We go and visit their families, perhaps the place they first went to school. We look at photos, we meet their friends. All this contributes to a sense we’ve done our homework. But it’s like a novice pilot assuming they can fly after sending a paper plane successfully around the room.

If the title wasn’t enough to reel me in, then I can definitely confirm I was hooked after the first line. And I couldn’t stop reading after reading why we don’t understand ourselves – or others.

But, please, before you go any further with what I have here, please open this up in a new tab and read from start to finish.

I wish I could say that anything I write beyond this point could match the level of, “How We End Up Marrying the Wrong People.”

I regret that might not be possible.

But I won’t stop without trying.

This selection got me back to thinking about my friend, business, relationships with the “one”, and the business of relationships.

Having learned much of what I know in business much like how I’ve learned the most important lessons in life – trial by fire – I’ve come to know that before we get too far into the conversation, the best business deals I’ve done include an early conversation about all the bad stuff that can, might, and/or will happen.

Funny, in romantic relationships we don’t want to touch this topic with a 100 foot pole.

And why not hit these challenges head on?

Knowing what I know now, this is probably one of the most informative and intimate conversations you can have with a potential “one” and could do incredible things for mutual understanding and empathy with such a proactive approach to problem solving.

I’m having a hard time imagining a conversation that could be more meaningful.

Even if we are super self-aware and think of ourselves as highly empathetic, it’s a lot easier to express empathy when you have more information than less.

It’s also a lot easier to express empathy while calm, cool, and collected rather than under stress and duress.

This may come natural to some of us, but I’ve only been able to improve through preparation and practice.

So if you haven’t already, Read This. And share it with someone that matters to you. I’ve already shared it with my family.

And now I’m sharing it with you.

I’m curious, what do you think?

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And if you’re already tired from reading, take a look at the video below (4:00), it’s almost (or equally) as excellent.

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This was my first time on The Book of Life site. I’ll definitely be back for a return visit some day, sooner than later.

At first I had a different picture in mind, but then I got to thinking about vanishing. I came upon this quote by John Quincy Adams from this page on Pinterest that seemed to put a twist on the relationship between patience and perseverance,  disappearing and vanishing.

The running away model of vanishing cannot hold a candle to how difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish when one is patient and perseveres with what and whom matters most to them.

21 days of writing taught me that. And it’s remarkable how the difficulties and obstacles of yesterday almost no longer seem relevant, even exist.

Think I’m crazy? Give it a try yourself. A true, concentrated effort. You might surprise yourself. I know I did.