In the Pursuit of Mei-Li
Mei-Li has a Ph.D. and works for one of the biggest communication companies in the world. Originally from China, she has been in Silicon Valley, California for the majority of her adult life. Married with two children Mei-Li is very happy. However, she has been facing a very challenging dilemma for many years: Though she is happy, successful and fulfilled in her life as it is, she’s concerned that she should do more – be more.
Mei-Li observes her boss focusing most of his attention on getting ahead; she sees other women at her level of management working for the next promotion, the next level of leadership and responsibility. “I don’t want an increase in responsibility; I don’t want to work that hard; I don’t like talking with people that much that I want to move to the next level of management. But, should I want to? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t want to do that? I’m afraid there’s something very wrong with me.”
As Mei-Li shares with me over many coaching sessions, her consistency of feelings and truths about what’s true for her has me coach her to see the dilemma she is currently constrained by. On the one hand, Mei-Li loves her job and the team she manages. She has the free time she needs to be available to her children and to her husband in a way that fits best with her sense of the quality relationship she wants. She isn’t stressed and unnerved by unmet deadlines. She’s actually one of the 10% of the workforce that actually is fulfilled in her career.
On the other hand, Mei-Li’s culture married with our Western culture attempts to move people into work that isn’t their’s to do. Mei-Li watches people spend more time being people pleasers than effective employees of this company and she finds this frustrating and confusing. “People aren’t getting their work done while they are schmoosing for a promotion. Should I be doing that? The fact is, I don’t like schmoosing; I don’t like going to cocktail parties, playing golf or any of those other social things that you are supposed to do if you want to get ahead. I’m a pretty reclusive person who enjoys my life the way it is. But, I feel like I should be doing more.”
Many of us face this dilemma of being more – doing more; at the same time actually finding fulfillment in what we are doing right now. But, aren’t we supposed to want more money and power? Aren’t we supposed to want the bigger office, more contact with the more influential people of the world? Aren’t we supposed to want more?
My sense is, and I shared this with Mei-Li in our session, that what people want is to get to a place where there is fulfillment in their work and personal life – that there is balance with health and happiness. I believe that most people want what Mei-Li has. She already has it. Though the current within the corporate structure drags many people in its undertow toward some fantasy life that is wrought with a lot of what they don’t want to do and perhaps aren’t really cut out to be with, there are few who willingly choose health and fulfillment with what they have, what they do and how they be.
Mei-Li laughs as she begins to see a bigger picture – one that allows her free choice to choose for herself what’s hers to do. She laughs to hear that what people are struggling for is what she already has. She laughs as she realizes that she is presently free to choose to be happy in the life she has created and if in the future she feels inspired to grow her career toward greater degrees of leadership and responsibility, she can do that.
Mei-Li isn’t out of the current, and as long as she is in the corporate environment there will always be that field of influence. The degree to which she can stay aligned with her commitment to well-being and fulfillment in her career, the stronger her dedication and the less pull this will have on her.
Christopher, who I spoke of a few weeks ago, shared with me that if he could do anything he would work with inner city kids, teaching them math and computer skills. Then, the litany of “Why I Can’t Leave My Job and Give Up Everything I Worked For” began. There was no stopping him; the who would pay the mortgage, who would take care of my parents, I’d have to give up my addiction to Siamese cats; on and on, fully engaged in the undertow of a make believe reality, for too many, is actually real.
Mei-Li has found an eddy for now where she is out of the stream of influence by others. She is finding herself – the one she believes she has to continually pursue. It takes strength and courage to step out of the normal way of being for the sake of what we are all striving for – well-being and fulfillment in our careers. Kind of crazy when you think about it! Perhaps the pursuit of Mei-Li has come to a happy ending; right here where she has been, but now enjoying it to a much larger degree!
Gift Me with My Enemies and My Ministers
I woke up from a dream this morning that made me question: “Really?” It was only the last few seconds of the dream that seemed so profound. It was a children’s choir – all boys, and they were singing a Christmas song. The only lyric I heard was: “Gift me with my enemies and my ministers.” This is a pretty profound phrase, especially for a group of youngsters to be singing as a Christmas song.
My enemies infuse me with intense emotions – rage, hatred, vile condemnation and contempt. Judgments are automatic, so much so I don’t even know that I’m judging. How I respond, more often than not is a knee jerk reaction. I’m inflamed and my actions inflammatory. I want to violate them as they have violated me based on my sense of what’s right and wrong, good and bad. I want to wipe them off the planet so that I can live peacefully. However …
What I know is that my enemies are my best teachers. They reflect what I most hate in the world and most likely (like about 100%) they reflect aspects of myself that I do not wish to acknowledge or own. When my enemies are around, I have no doubt, I have something to learn.
Ministers are also my teachers, my coaches and counselors. They are my thinking partners, who also reflect back to me, through deep listening and questioning, how aligned I am with my highest truths and how I may be ignoring or distracting myself from the ways I’ve contributed to the very violence I hate in my adversaries. These wise beings bring my attention to the learnings so available for me by embracing the enemy as my long lost lover.
Sometimes, though, in the company of my enemies I retreat, hide and disappear into a myriad of disguises to protect myself from harm and from looking bad. I may throw stones from behind a barrier and pretend it’s not me at all who is engaged in warfare. I disown my anger, my feelings of righteousness and indignation. “It wasn’t me!” I exclaim with defensiveness and contempt for having been accused unjustly.
My ministers inquire regarding my actions, curious as to the origins of my behavior and the thoughts that precipitated them. What has me be blinded to my own truth – in denial (Don’t Even Know I am Lying) of my barbarous attitude and position?
We need our adversaries – our enemies to confront us. They bring out the worst in us and provide opportunities for us to truly reflect on the importance, value and priorities of our hierarchy of desires. We need our ministers, counselors, therapists and coaches to reflect what gifts are available for us by engaging with our enemies.
Many of us love to hate! It makes us feel good to think violent thoughts and even go to war for what we believe to be right and true. How can we get even, or better yet, how can we be victorious? What if I consider the possibility that my enemies are gifts? What would that mean – what are the consequences of such a consideration?
I’ll tell you right now, I hate the thought of giving up my armor of righteousness and entitlement, because I feel safe, powerful and in control when I can wield them with stealth accuracy. Without them, I believe myself to be defenseless, exposed and vulnerable.
I ask myself – what is considered right? What is considered wrong? Who is responsible for the woes of the world? My ministers smile and with their eyes they inquire into my soul’s wisdom for what is true; and I then, for that moment comprehend that I am an accomplice in all acts of violence on the planet. Only by recognizing the seed of vengeance within me I’m able to receive the gifts of freedom from my enemy.
Through deep discernment and with the support and empowering nature of my ministers am I able to choose to choose to see myself and my enemies differently. Through the annihilation of my own pretence and the shattering of the barriers of them vs. us, am I truly allowed to realize I am my brother/sister’s keeper, and they are mine.
The dilemma as a choice-point shifts when I choose to honor my highest truth and risk losing my attachments, my position, my identity – perhaps even life itself for something much larger than me. I’m working on it!
Ignoring What We Know to be True
I deny aspects of me that I know to be true – those dark shadowy aspects that if people were to find out about – well, it could mean rejection, humiliation and annihilation. It’s best that I pretend they don’t exist.
On the other hand I have a knowing of certain things to be true, yet I deny myself these knowings too. I live in doubt and uncertainty as strategies that diminish my potential power in the world, diminish my light and visibility. In past lives, I’ve probably been murdered or tortured for standing out beyond the norm. “Won’t do that again,” we say; yet living within the protective cocoon of our disguise and pretending is also torturous.
Many of my executive clients over the years have gone through a 360 degree evaluation process, whereby they ask for feedback from lots of people they work with and live with. An enormous about of information is generated, assessed and then returned to my clients so they can see how they show up, what they bring and what they perhaps want to consider bringing to the party.
These 360 processes are really valuable, and yet, my clients share that most of what is said isn’t new to them; they are already aware of what they do well and what they need to enhance, grow and develop.
I always find this fascinating that we know what we know, yet live and work as if it weren’t so. We wait to have our internal wisdom, knowledge and experience validated by the external world. WHY?
When people are doing bad things and are caught and brought to justice, they say “I knew it was wrong and is punishable, but spare me, please.”
This is crazy making; that we have the wisdom to know right from wrong. We have a knowing beyond what makes sense in the reality of the cause and effect world; we know this and yet we choose to deny our culpability and our God-given powers to be the fullest expression of the gifts of our being.
I finished a novel last week by Michael Sky, called Jubilee Day – A Novel. It is about our current circumstances regarding those who hold the power in the United States, how they use that power and the opportunity to choose differently. It’s a brilliant book!
Most of us use our power for egoic gains. We don’t stop ourselves. We also use our power to distract ourselves from the internal knowing that, if nothing else we are violating our own integrity and the dignity of our soul. We know and we pretend we don’t know.
For those of us who attend church every Saturday and Sunday, hearing over and over the importance of using our power in support of all people, not just our little ego self, too often we ignore opportunities to practice what we preach when we enter our Monday through Friday Church of the Almighty Dollar.
We are faced with a dilemma.
Do I do what I know to be in the highest good of all – my company, employees, my own soul, or do I act in alignment with my personal desire for safety, security and control.
There is so much at stake!
Each individual is teetering on the brink of personal devastation. It is only a reflection of the devastation that we witness in all aspects of our Global system. Where current and flow of the Universal and natural unfoldment is ignored, diverted or stopped, in service to our insatiable hunger to be powerful and invulnerable in every way imaginable, we will come face to face with the consequences of our choice-making. Funny how it works that way!
If you’ve ever been around adolescents, you’ve noticed that they have that attitude of invulnerability, impenetrable to attack – They have become a super power unto themselves. As parents of adolescents, hopefully we remember our own teenage years when we knew that we knew everything, and no one could tell us any different. As adults we know it’s a stage in the learning process and that someday there will be a day of reckoning when these teenagers will fall off their pedestal and realize they are just human, just like the rest of us.
I think about the European Countries who have been around far longer than the US. In their youth they built their empires and have been super powers; and all have been demolished, have fallen into ruin, only to be rebuilt from a more mature perspective. I see the more dignified and wise ones smiling at the US, knowing of our youthful attitude of “no-one will take us down.” It is part of the process of maturing that we lose what we’ve not rightfully gained, in order to cultivate right-relationship with our currency of resources – the earth, our people, all of it.
The dilemma we face as individuals is that we are committed to holding onto our super power ideation, yet, at the same time being conscious of the cost of ignoring that fact that we can no longer build skyscrapers in the air. We hope we’ll get away with it, but …
Pretending that choosing to choose not to choose will keep us invulnerable to our human frailties is adolescent thinking at best. Inevitably, our commitment to avoiding mature and wise choice-making will lead us to a phenomenal human experience called despair. Despair is when we realize that the reality of our own creation – our skyscrapers in the air, are coming down, detonated by our own ignoring – not ignorance.
All of us face dilemmas that inevitable puts us in the line of fire of our own humanity. It’s your call to make life-choices consciously or unconsciously. From my point of view, it’s far more fun to powerfully engage in life fully awake, conscious and mature – willingly acting from a ground of wisdom and knowing … you already know what I’m talking about. Enjoy the adventure!
R is for Resistance
I’m experiencing resistance to writing this blog. I feel angry, frustrated and distracted by, well … It’s more that I’m allowing myself to get distracted; that way I can avoid being with what I don’t want to be with.
You might be asking – as I would, if I were you, why I’m resisting writing if I’m in the business of writing?
Even though I enjoy writing, it’s challenging at times to put words and sentences together in a way that articulates what I’m wanting to say. Sometimes it comes easy and every so often it’s more challenging to get down on paper exactly what’s wanting to be said. In this moment I’m trying to make sense of the idea that resistance is an important concept to bring into this series on spirituality in business. I’m an intuitive writer and sometimes I’m not the thinker here. I’m just transcribing what’s coming through me. I know that sounds a little whacked, however I find that this way of writing is far more enjoyable, revealing and insightful. The point is that sometimes I have to deal with confusion, uncertainty, doubt, and on occasion feelings of being an inadequate loser. I resist having to confront these beliefs about myself; I’d rather go do something easy and fun, where I don’t feel vulnerable to humiliation.
I guess this is the point, isn’t it. That quite often there are aspects of our work that we resist because we don’t like being engaged in those activities that challenge us. We get bugged by people, places or things and put the brakes on, dig in our heels, avoid, distract or ignore what’s in front of us in service to resistance, which is in service to avoiding the discomfort of vulnerability.
Resistance at Work
My work in corporations brings me face to face with people resisting the very work they are paid to do. I’m stymied by the degree of resistance to do what individuals are hired to do; the lack of collaboration that they agreed to, the lack of leadership and management they were trained to do. People are resisting doing what they’ve come here to do. I find that fascinating!
For many, the rules of the game in any organization are unknown, so you have to play your best poker face, your best everything, always – if you want to get ahead, get that raise or praise. You have to resist direct confrontation or insults; you might resist sexual innuendos. You have to resist getting fired and some people resist getting promoted, but they can’t say that – it’s not politically correct.
One specific manager I’ve worked with in the Silicon Valley was threatened by anyone who showed any inkling of being smarter than he was. He had many opportunities to empower his team members in ways that would enhance their performance, however because of his belief that no one could think better than him, he resisted acknowledging and encouraging his direct reports. Many of his direct reports shared with me that they were frustrated and felt limited in their capacity to do their work. The morale of the whole team was diminished because this manager was afraid that someone might outdo him.
This isn’t uncommon – we all know that. Resistance runs rampant in every institution, enough so that we are resistant to calling this game to a halt. There is something at stake! That something is precious enough that we don’t want to give it up. That something has a big price tag on it. Actually it has two price tags on it. One is the sale price – this is the price tag is what you are selling your soul for (Gag me with a spoon!). This price tag reflects the selling of our integrity, our truth, fulfillment, for the sake of power, position, control – and as always the illusion of invulnerability.
Resistance, as a Muscle
Resistance is an interesting set of muscles that we exercise in service to developing strength, control and power. It’s also a survival mechanism we’ve developed over time, and quite often, like many of our survival mechanisms it becomes automatic and unconscious. We’ve become unaware of why we are engaging those specific muscles in the first place. But a point that I want to make here is that we have no idea how much energy it takes to resist. It’s something you might want to think about.
Resistance looks different for everyone, but what’s important is for you to discover, recognize and acknowledge your own particular style of resistance. Like I said, we are all doing it; it’s just a matter of how and to what end.
As the Paradigm Shifts…
As the paradigm shifts we awaken slowly but surely to our own unique contributions to the way life is, as opposed to the way we desire it to be. We see where we resist shifting and changing as an attempt to hold on to what we’ve got, though what we’ve got isn’t necessarily what we want.
Sometimes the practice is to resist resisting; go with the flow, ride with the tide! But first you/we have to become aware that we are resisting and what that resistance is serving.
You may have heard me suggest this practice before, however here it is again. It’s the simplest practice: Be Kind! Kindness costs nothing, takes no time and contributes greatly to peace on Earth. By practicing kindness you will come up against resistance to being kind. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for where you can begin to question the value of resisting. In this moment you are at a choice-point where you can choose to choose differently. In this moment the opportunity to self-realize is upon you, and with that comes the opportunity to be the change you wish to see.
Enjoy the adventure!
P is for Power
In my first book, Self-Empowerment 101, I devote the first chapter solely to the subject of power. The reason is that through power and the energy that generates power, every event since the Big Bang is a result of that power. Regardless of how power is used – whether in alignment with evil or good intentions, to look small and helpless or to be a superpower, all is generated from the same source.
Power is often synonymous with force; taking against the will of the other, be it from sentient or non-sentient beings, for the sole purpose of gain. Gaining is a reward that spurs us to generate unreasonably creative uses of power. Some of it seems absolutely ridiculous, like the guy in Norway who used his power to devastate the morale of a whole country, in order to gain recognition for his disdain for the rights of the people he hated. Other people use their power to stay under the radar, thinking this gains them freedom to ignore certain responsibilities taken on by those above the radar. Using power to stay small also gains invisibility from potential harm. Too many of us use our power to gain immunity from rejection, abandonment or betrayal, gaining invulnerability for the sake of avoiding the experience of losing control over the situation, other people and themselves.
At the same time that we may be using our power to gain what we interpret as control, safety and invulnerability, we are also using it in the service of good and truth. Extraordinary creations are making their way into our reality every day that makes this world a better place to live. More and more people are utilizing their personal power to empower others. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
All of us want a sense of control in our lives and we engage our personal power to do whatever it takes to make that happen. We use power to appear and feel disempowered, allowing ourselves to be victimized in ways that seem to be out of our own control, but really isn’t. Yes, the individuals killed in Norway by this crazed individual were victims and they were totally vulnerable to the circumstance they found themselves in. It important to distinguish when we use our power to create self-victimizing circumstances and when we are just plain out of control and all we are left with is a Big-Fat-Be-With. Even in such circumstances we can still use our personal power to be-with what is in the best possible way. It may not save our own life or the lives of others, but we can at least step into a more empowering interpretation.
Power and Empowerment
For some reason I find the notion of empowerment far more helpful and available than talking about changing your use of power. It’s essentially the same thing, but for me something changes with that one little em. Embodying, owning, self-governing, self-referencing, choosing to infuse oneself with the ability to self-regulate based on the outcome you are wanting – that’s empowering.
I’m working with a client in Israel. He is the owner of his own successful business. He rules based on control and domination. He uses his power to disempower others so he feels more in control. He is always looking for reasons to make others wrong so he can feel righteous. By feeling righteous he feels in control and powerful. At the same time, his use of power doesn’t allow him to have a sense of connection with his employees, and its contributing to a sense of dissatisfaction in all parts of his life. He sees that his GM has a great relationship with the employees because he leads differently, and he’s happier. What my client is wanting to gain from our coaching relationship is more fulfillment in his personal and professional life. He is beginning to understand that he experiences a greater sense of fulfillment when he allows himself to dismantle his current use of power. To empower himself to have more fulfillment more consistently has him willing to practice how he uses power in his business, and, he’s finding that it means shifting how he uses power in his personal relationships as well.
What brought my client into coaching was, though he had power and success he didn’t have a sense of fulfillment. He realizes that this is far more important than power and control. The invulnerability that he gets from the way he’s been using his power up until now isn’t satisfying. He’s considering the alternatives and is cultivating awareness by noticing what’s going on around him, how he impacts his environment and the consequence of that both professionally and personally. He’s becoming fascinated with the mechanisms that are influencing the results showing up in his life and in his business.
He gets now that he doesn’t have to give up one iota of power to have fulfillment. He gets that he can use his power to make different choices maintaining the sense of personal power he had when he yelled at everyone. Nothing is taken away. The belief that people won’t respect him if he doesn’t yell will be tested. He is willing to experiment – because he has something at stake that is greater than his fear of being vulnerable and out of control. Fulfillment has become a big enough goal that he’s willing to risk some pride – all be it, false-pride.
As the paradigm shifts, it becomes obvious that our business-as-usual mentality is causing incredible dis-ease in our work environments. Using power to maintain control in an environment where control itself is disempowering to the organization and its employees begins to be crazy-making. As a culture we are beginning to experience the requirement for less use of power as a manipulative force and more use of power to empower others to empower themselves and others. Enjoy the exploration!