A birthday is an opportunity to reflect on making the choice to follow intuition, value relationships and do good.
By Ron Schultz
Birthdays provide special opportunities for reflection. And since this week’s blog is being posted on my birthday (an admittedly cheap trick to get lots of birthday wishes), it is giving me a chance to look at the nature of creating good work and how that relates to the priceless quality of this life we get to lead.
I understand in making that statement that I get to live my life and you yours, but the very fact that we can share these thoughts here means that at one level we are also sharing this life. And as I have stated every time I get a chance, the very notion of creating good work involves the other, not just me.
Guided by Intuition
The very first book I published, Unconventional Wisdom, was about intuition and decision-making. It was about how leaders in a variety of different fields from sport to politics, education to entertainment, business to healthcare, all at the point of the decision, discerned the right action to take, not by numbers and probability, but by their intuition. In order to know what to accept and what to reject, the leader had to realize his/her relationship to themselves and the world they encountered.
Were all these leaders conscious of that relationship? Many were, some not so much. But conscious or not, they trusted themselves to know what was right.
And I think that is something we all share.
We are capable of knowing what is right even though we don’t always make the “right” decision – which is why, to a certain degree, we see Millennials, those with far fewer accumulated birthdays, wanting to do what is right. They know and they haven’t been discouraged to disregard that knowing.
Motivated by Choice and Relationship
Whether the drive is to create good work or be a part of good work, there is recognition that this precious life is not something to waste. The perspective is not about wishing something was better but rather about taking the steps to make something better. It’s about seeing the world exactly as it is and how it shows up. The act of meeting, not shying away from, but coming face to face with the world as it arrives before us, and then knowing what is right and what is wrong.
How would our business relationships change if we were motivated by the interaction, the meeting, what could emerge, rather than what we might take? Being able to make that choice doesn't come from a life filled with distraction. It comes from an ability to be present with another, our ability to meet. In times of crises, this is self-evident. When we aren't in crises, we tend to return to our well-hewn distractions.
Living Out of the Moment
I once wrote a little book called Living Out of the Moment: 100 Ways to Obtain Happiness Through Total Denial (Charles Tuttle Publishers). I was trying to model total denial, so I wrote the book under the name Guru Babaloo Rum Dust. The epigram on the book was, “If you cannot laugh at yourself, I will laugh at you.” The publisher swears I got him drunk in order to agree to publish it. And I told him, “Anyone who gets drunk on six beers deserves to have published this book.”
LOM (Living Out of the Moment) was based on what I called the principle of avoidance. And it was all about learning to fully embrace total denial. The book was filled with all kinds of tongue-in-cheek platitudinal pokes at our habits, obsessions and distractions. And the laughter it provoked was often accompanied by remarks about the painful pithiness of some of its purposefully silly observations. Consciously embracing our denial was one way to make us aware of our mastery of its principles.
Get Unstuck and Be Nice
It’s easy to laugh at our foibles but breaking those habitual patterns and doing something different is not so easy. I spent years working with Senn Delaney Leadership, one of the leading cultural change consultancies in the world. They worked with the Fortune 100 to 1) teach leadership that it was just their thinking that kept them stuck where they were and to 2) be nice to people.
Now they might have characterized that slightly differently but that was the experience they gave people. What it was like to recognize first that they are thinking and then, it wasn't what they thought that was important, but rather that they thought.
Once the profound nature of that idea was experienced, it didn't take much more to get people to be nice to each other. Because if someone was not being nice to you, you could understand it was just their thinking that was causing them to be stuck there. And I didn't need to be caught and grabbed by their stuckness.
Seizing the Birthday
Those two simple ideas transformed the way businesses were led while offering those working within them an awareness of the richness and appreciation of the other. It provided the opportunity for real meeting to take place. It was never very surprising when a participant would proclaim on completing the training that they felt reborn. They had experienced a new birthday.
Ah, yes, birthdays.
As actor Terrence Howard once described it, “We get to live a life.” How we choose to live that life, in relationship to others or focused only on oneself is invariably a mix of experience, circumstance and karma. But it is a choice.
Do I embrace total denial or do I create good work? OK, so I’ve gotten to do both, but it was a choice.
As I reflect back on this birthday, what is clear is that for all the experiences, for all the good, the sad, the elation, the disappointment, the beauty and the awe, it is the great fortune to be open to opportunity that I am most grateful.
So my birthday gift to all who will accept it, is to recognize the opportunities in front of you and go for the good. It is a precious life we get to live. Wouldn’t you rather do good and help those around you to do likewise?
Of course, if you don’t, I’m sure you know, I will laugh at you.