Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

I find it
to be of significant importance
to distinguish options
from choices.

Options need not provoke emotions.

We may have 5 options to choose from for lunch.
Yet, none of them may move us to make a choice.

We can weigh the pros and cons of the options all we want,
but this may merely fuel our inner conflict,
until we feel moved enough to make a choice.

Choices,
unlike options,
has an emotional component.

Some choices are made begrudgingly.
Yet, the kind I find most fascinating
is the kind that arises the moment we realize our empathy.

That moment when we’ve finally moved
from a state of dissonance,
of not empathizing,
to a state of resonance,
of empathizing.

That moment when what we once could not see
becomes surprisingly self-evident,
and oh so obvious
in hindsight.

That moment we go
“Oh, of course…!”

p.s: My gratitude goes out to Dr. Paul Pangaro for the wonderful conversation that inspired this post.

Sometimes,
I coach professionals who aren’t
Founders or CEOs.

Guess who they complain about the most?
Their Founder or CEO.

What I often hear
is that they don’t feel appreciated
by their Founder or CEO.

This is a well-known phenomenon.

What still fascinates me, though,
is what they say the Founder or CEO could do
to give them this sense of appreciation.

Rarely do I hear things like
“Praise me for a job well done.”

More often than not I hear things like
“I wish they’d stop frowning when I’m sharing my ideas.”
“I wish they’d stop telling me to figure it out on my own, even if that’s what I end up doing.”

They were distressed about the sense of isolation they felt
when their Founder or CEO
dawned a particular facial expression
or told them to figure something out on their own
as they were in a vulnerable emotional state.

What’s perhaps ironic
is that many Founders or CEOs I coach
say the same thing
as they see the same behaviors
and feel the same emotions
in relation to their employees.

Several years back,
I visited a private high school.

There,
I did a workshop
where the students sketched
a blueprint of the kind of relationship
they wished to have
with their teachers
such that the teachers could more effectively
help them learn, create, grow, and mature.

The keyword they used
to sum up their sketch
was “being there.”

The students wanted teachers
who were willing to “be there” for them.

I then asked the students
to raise their hand
if they already had this kind of relationship.

2 out of ~40 students raised their hand.

After this incident,
it become a priority for me
to form this kind of relationship,
with those whom I have committed
to help learn, create, grow, and mature.

I’m grateful for this lesson
I learned
from those students.

One of the most important concepts
I introduced in my first book
is metaphors.

Metaphors connect two seemingly unrelated ideas.

In doing so
it can help us discover
new or unexpected insights
into something we were previously unaware.

For example,
while I was on tour with my book
I shared the psychological pain and struggle
I experienced in the artistic creative process
with some of the people I met.

To my surprise,
Entrepreneurs resonated more deeply w/ my experience
than others.

It turns out
entrepreneurs experience
similar psychological/interpersonal pain and struggle
in the process of launching and running their business.

This experience helped me create a metaphor
between the experience of artists
and the experience of entrepreneurs,
which lead to a series of insights,
which is how I ended up coaching entrepreneurs/founders.

But until
I created that metaphor
I used to often say that I don’t understand entrepreneurs.

If I said I do understand,
it was just so I could feel entitled
to say something negative about them.

So now
whenever I say I don’t understand someone
or say I do understand them
just so I can say something negative about them,
I tell myself
that it’s time
for another
metaphor.

It’s ok to give up.

What may be more important
is getting to the heart of what we want.

Not the thing we say or think we want,
but the thing for which our heart yearns,
floating right on the threshold
of our conscious and sub-conscious.

Once we become aware of what this is,
we tend to realize that there are many ways to attain this.

In that moment, “giving up” becomes
but a matter of giving up one of many methods of attaining this.

If so,
“giving up” can eliminate the very thing getting in the way
of making progress:
our insistence on a particular method.
Thereby helping us make greater progress
toward attaining what we want
if even if it is merely temporary.

One way
to sort the behaviors that arise from significant tension
is into 5 categories.

It can be useful
to simply notice and acknowledge these behaviors,
as natural human reactions
to our desire to relieve ourselves of significant tension,
instead of judging them as good/bad or right/wrong.

This can give us
the requisite room in our mind
to not only appreciate the tension we experience,
but also the tension experienced by others
when they behave the same way.

Manipulation involves the desire
to move someone or something
to a place or state the manipulator envisions or expects.

This is not to judge manipulation as good/bad or right/wrong.
Through mutual agreement & rationalization,
one can differentiate between transparent vs. surreptitious,
well vs. ill-intended, manipulation.

A magic show
can be thought of as transparent manipulation.
Feeding kids hidden veges
can be thought of as well-intended manipulation.

In some sense,
the opposite of manipulation is creation.
Because creation involves the desire
to arrive
at a place or state the creator did not envision or expect.

Tolerating isn’t sustainable.
Respecting is.

There are workshops that teach listening
as a collection of techniques,
like:
Smiling.
Nodding.
Saying “mhm.”
etc.

Even if you do all of that,
if internally you’re merely tolerating the experience,
you can feel drained
You may even feel like you’re engaged in “emotional labor.”

That’s a recipe for burn-out and resentment.

Respecting
is a practice of making new value from what we perceive.

It’s not a technique,
but rather a skill that naturally emerges
from a shift in our perception.

For example,
art students,
especially those trained in the traditional crafts
learn to respect by actively perceiving value in the mundane
through drawing,
sculpting,
woodworking, etc…

Once we learn to respect,
What we perceive in the world
can energize us,
so much so that we may be so immersed in the art of respecting,
that we forget to eat.

There are times when we,
usually in the name of improvement,
forget that we are special.

It is not wrong to think we are special.

Special does not mean superior or exceptional in all contexts.
It simply means we are superior or exceptional in some contexts.

Cockroaches are special.
So are rocket scientists.
Just in different contexts.

 

I’ve coached founders
who aspire to make millions of dollars.
I’ve also coached founders
who aspire to help the less fortunate.

Some may easily judge one to be better than the other.

Perhaps.

What I find interesting is that both struggled
with the same things.
That is until they learned to let go
of the fixed image
of who they thought they should be.
Whether that was
someone who has millions of dollars or
someone who helps the less fortunate,
it made little difference.