What Do You Do?

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You ever have those team meetings where only the most powerful or extroverted people speak up? I help teams make meetings a safe place to speak up, so everyone feels heard and valued and engaged, turnover goes down, productivity goes up, and better decisions get made.

You’d never believe it’s taken me months to write that. It’s always so tempting to tell people my methodology (LEGOS®!), rather than my results. Or to sum it up in a cute package – I help teams have more fun and get more done.

I think a lot of people these days have trouble explaining to their parents what they do for a living. There are so many people doing things no one has ever heard of before. I used to say, when I worked at a computer software company many years ago, that I sold bits of information that moved other bits of information around.

It’s really interesting trying to find a way to describe what I do in a way that will make sense to people in different fields, doing different types of work. Luckily, we all work with other people. (Mostly. Unless you’re a hermit, or a programmer.) (Just kidding! Sheesh.) And working with other people means we run into similar problems. We get invited to a meeting because we have something to contribute, but never contribute it because it’s too hard to get a word in edgewise. Or we don’t feel safe bringing up something unformed, or painful, or edgy. So we waste more of our day, and our company’s money, never saying what needs to be said.

What results do you get? What do you do?

How To Live

I’ve been thinking about the systems people put in place as guides to life. Some of it is religion. Some of it is aphorisms or sayings to keep in mind – do unto others as you want them to do unto you, for example.

So, what do I live by? I was born Jewish, and I still feel a part of the Jewish community. And, there are a damn lot of rules about how to be Jewish. I don’t follow a fraction of them. In the end, though, what are all those rules about? How to be fair. How to be kind. How to be healthy. How to be grateful. (I feel a need to put an aside here, because from experience someone will come up with a rule that doesn’t meet these guidelines and tell me that I’m wrong. So, just know I’m being somewhat general here.)

I actually feel a lot of affinity for the Wiccan motto: First, do no harm, then, do what you will. Doing no harm is difficult! Almost everything harms something. Eating a carrot harms the carrot. But if the focus is more on whether eating the carrot harms the earth, then growing food and eating it can still be done with care and reverence. And it shows us how much we are all connected, that all of our choices have consequences. Is using that plastic bottle harming the ocean? Maybe we should find out.

I like that the next thing is – do what you will. There are so many people telling us to do what they want us to do. I love that freedom to explore what it is we feel called to do inside – as long as it causes no harm. We can’t give in to the impulse to kill, hit, or destroy, but we can build a block tower just so we can knock it down because we want to experience that destruction. I think so many of us are not giving our gifts to the world because we are afraid to show our true colors. What if all of our differences and gifts and preferences were admired and supported? What if everyone was called to do what mattered most to them?

I think there is one piece that is missing. I don’t want it to be a law, since it’s sure to backfire. But I think a reminder to find gratitude and joy and love in everything around us is important. When I focus on things I’m grateful for, I see more of them. When I focus on things I’m resentful about, I see more of those. I know which way I feel better, and can be of more service in the world! In fact, I only want to be of service when I revel in the gratitude and joy and compassion and connection. When I feel resentful, badly treated, or not respected I don’t want to be of service. I want people to serve me! It takes a pretty big mind shift to inhabit the world of abundance and happiness rather than pettiness and greed. I know if someone told me I had to make that shift, it would push me further into the world of resentment. But I think it’s very important as part of a world view.

And so, my simple (yet complex) structure to serve as a guide to life:

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Finding Your Tribe

I was thinking the other day how good it feels to find your tribe. It’s like stepping into a hot tub, you can relax and feel supported and comfortable. You don’t have to make excuses or be brave just to show up.

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It’s hard to be the only one like you in a place. The only Muslim, or Jew, or gay person, or transgendered person. The only brown skin, the only gray hair, the only tattooed skin. The only Dodgers fan in Giants territory. The only Democrat, or Republican, or hippie, or Wiccan, or devotee of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It can feel dangerous. It’s so much easier not to make waves, not to speak up, not to have everyone around you be against you.

And when you find your tribe, the people who are like you, and who accept you the way you are, and think the way you do, it’s so relaxing! You don’t have to be on your guard all the time. You can be more of who you are.

I think there’s a huge value in finding your tribe. It allows people to grow into themselves, to get the support they need to be authentically who they are. And, there’s a danger to it. Our country is very divided right now, because people don’t see the humanity and value of those who are in different tribes.

One of the unique experiences of living on campus in college was having long discussions in the dorm hallways about different points of view. Here were people I lived with, and respected, with beliefs that challenged mine. I had to figure out what I thought, separate from what I had been taught. I learned to agree to disagree, and I sometimes changed my mind. As an adult I mostly don’t have these late night discussions, unaided by alcohol, with people I might not choose to befriend and who might have totally different viewpoints than mine. But those conversations are very valuable. They teach us that the other person isn’t a Republican Asshat or a LibTard, the other person is a person who shares at least some of the same values I do.

So, maybe what we need is more town hall meetings, with no alcohol, where people can speak up about who they are and what they believe, in polite and respectful terms. Where we can hear other points of view than the ones we see in our social media stream. And where we feel safe enough to speak up, even if we are the only one that holds a given viewpoint. Maybe I should run one, myself. Would you want to come, if I did?