Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

Before founding a company,
it rarely occurs to us
that the thing that will drain so much our energy
will not be the lack of ideas,
or the lack of funding,
but rather the lack of support we feel
from those whom we most expect or desire support.

The paradox is this.

Often times,
these people are doing their best to support.

What’s worse?

They don’t feel appreciated for their support.

In such cases,
the misunderstanding lies
in the misalignment between their intent to support
and the impact of said support.

Until we can empathize with their intention,
and they with their impact on us,
we’ll be left feeling unsupported,
and they feeling unappreciated.

Here’s something I learned from carpentry.

Wood is wood.

No matter my desire,
it’ll never be metal.

If I must only use wood
to make furniture,
I have no choice, but to
respect
listen to, and
consider its context.

This is not because I’m a good moral person.
It’s just physics.

This doesn’t mean we should do as the wood tells us, though.
In fact, woods don’t speak!
It just reacts to our behavior.

To realize our empathy is to
be creative in our response to the reaction of an “other,”
like wood,
so as to flow with them,
as one,
like water.

It’s when we’re in such state of togetherness
that we can use our power
with each other,
instead of
against each other.

Difficult,
but possible
through practice.

There are two kinds of sacrifice.

The kind that feels like one.
vs
The kind that doesn’t.

Sometimes we’re willing to lose what other people judge as “precious.”
because it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to us.
They may not be able to understand why,
but we do it anyway.

Other times, we’re unwilling to lose what other people judge as “trivial.”
because it does feel like a sacrifice to us.
They may negatively judge us,
but we stand firm.

To think of loss and value
as something that can be understood and appreciated
without taking into account the emotional component
is to misunderstand and to misjudge
the human condition.

Child psychologist Lewis Lipsitt once said
“We mature, when what we once assumed to know
takes on more subtlety and nuance,
thus changes in meaning.”

The word “making art” used to mean
Being stubborn or egocentric
enough to get away with bullshit.

So I used to despise art.

But after 4 years of realizing empathy with artists,
the word changed in meaning to
Letting go of our ego
to learn from others
on how to uncover & express our sincere honesty.

Words necessarily change in meaning as we mature.

Words like
parenting & leadership
will change in meaning
as we mature
as parents & leaders.

So will words like
children,
engineers,
millennials,
or marketing and sales.

This is no coincidence.

I’ve moved.

To Chicago.

Until I was 21,
I not only moved every ~2 years locally,
but also every ~5 years internationally.

To a child,
moving can bring great grief into their lives,
leaving behind many emotional scars.

B‍‍‍‍‍‍ut I’m ultimately grateful for the pain.
They helped me mature and innovate my “self.”

I don’t know many people in Chicago.
I have nothing planned,
nor do I have business lined up locally.

All I have is an intuition,
That this is where I’m meant to be now.

Am I being impulsive?
Perhaps.

Yet intuition is what’s guided me on my journey of 41 years.
A journey of maturing and innovating with others.
Not alone.
A journey of empathy.

It’s served me well so far.
I trust it.

A common phenomena I see among co-founders I coach is this:

  1. Founder A does something she believes Founder B should appreciate.
  2. Those are not things B actually appreciates, but B says “thanks” out of politeness.
  3. A thinks she’s done something of significant worth to B and expects a reciprocal behavior from B born out of B’s appreciation for A.
  4. B has no awareness of the expectation.
  5. A never receives the reciprocal expression.

Imagine both people doing this — thinking it’s “for” each other
While neither are feeling their needs genuinely fulfilled.

This relationship may be a ticking time bomb.
It is unlikely for people to stay in relationship
When they don’t feel appreciated.

Physicist Richard Feynman once said,
“Paradox is only a conflict between
Reality
vs
Our feeling of what reality ought to be.”​​

Tension is a conflict between​
What we have.
vs
What we need, value, or expect

Let us notice the remarkable similarity between the two.

We can either judge tension as “bad,”
So as to frame it as a “problem.”
or
We can let it evoke our curiosity and wonder
So as to frame it as a “paradox.”

The choice can be ours.

Any time we have the urge to say “I disagree,”
It’s worth asking ourselves “What purpose am I hoping to fulfill?”

If the purpose of expressing disagreement is…

  1. To express disagreement, then spending our energy to express disagreement would likely be energy well-spent.
  2. To prevent something “bad” from happening, the energy may be better spent expressing our fear or concern of the “bad” thing.
  3. To ask the other person to do something, the energy may be better spent making a request to the other person.

Let’s say we have goal A.

During our pursuit of goal A,
Let’s say we encounter B.

If we desire to focus solely on A, and
B demands our attention,
B will be perceived as mere obstacle.

If we focus solely on being blocked from achieving our goal,
It can naturally lead to frustration & anxiety.

Yet, if we can shift our perspective,
So as to fully attend to B,
Enough to respect and listen to it,
B just might turn out
To be the proverbial rose
Worth smelling.

Sometimes, other people recognize our strengths and communicate it to us.

Yet, no matter how sincere their communication,
If it’s in regards to an ability we take for granted—
Perhaps even proactively trivialize—
Their sincerity can be perceived as mere flattery or politeness.
This makes it difficult for us to empathize with their sincerity.
Thus, making it difficult for us to discover our own strengths.