Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

When we, as founders,
work to fertilize a new culture in our organization,
3 emotions often rise up in ourselves and in our team:

  • Overwhelm
  • Worry/Concern
  • Anxiety

When we don’t spend the time
to realize empathy in relation to these emotions,
they easily develop into:

  • Sense of Isolation
  • Fear
  • Frustration

Which, over time, calcify as:

  • Sense of Betrayal
  • Shame
  • Resentment

We play “designer,”
when we act to fulfill an emotional need.
Wish to fulfill your need for communication with those far away?
Play “designer” to design a mail system.

We play “judge,”
when we blame someone.
Wish to label someone at fault?
Play “judge” to peruse the evidence & make a decision.

We may play them well or poorly,
but once we become aware of these roles,
they are available for our choosing
from moment to moment,
even if they’re not on our business cards.

The question is “What role do we want to play?”

Whatever our answer,
it’ll profoundly affect our sense of identity.
The sense of who we are,
from where our thoughts & behaviors
will naturally flow,
at least temporarily.

To empathize with the familiar,
all we need is to have empathy.

But artists empathize with the unfamiliar,
the unknown,
the uncomfortable.
So do anthropologists.

For them, having empathy is insufficient.
They need to be able to realize empathy.

But, just as martial artists cannot will her victory,
we cannot will a realization.
Just as martial artists can only practice
to increase her probability of victory,
We can only practice to increase our probability
of realization.

Except our end isn’t mere victory,
it’s innovation.

This is a Janusian Art,
as Martial is from the Roman God of war, Mars,
and Janusian is from the Roman God of transition, Janus.

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.