Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

When we, as parents, hyper-empathize with our children,
The children’s lives feel like our own.

When we, as founders, hyper-empathize with our companies,
the companies’ lives feel like our own.
So much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our health to keep them alive.

Sacrificing our health to keep our company alive
Can produce behaviors critical to the well-being of our company
In its early stages of development.

But as our company develops—as do our children—
Some of our “sacrificial” behaviors born out of care
Can also stifle its development,
Not to mention fuel our frustration, resentment, and disappointment,
As we can’t help but take everything personally,
When we hyper-empathize.

“You can be whatever you want to be,”
We told our children.


If I can be whatever I want,
I may feel like being something mundane isn’t good enough.

If I have infinite options,
I may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of decision making.

If I’m even uncertain as to what I want to be,
I may doubt whether I can amount to anything at all.

The same happens in our workplace.

When we, as leaders, give autonomy to our people.
Unless they can tame
The ambiguity,
and Complexity they perceive,
They can get stuck in shame, overwhelm, and doubt.

Join our next workshop.
Let us learn
To help our team get unstuck.

May we let autonomy be a gift,
Not a burden.

Let us not confuse being nice with being empathic.

Being nice aims to conform our behaviors
to static images defined by social norms.
Being empathic aims to custom design behaviors
to fit the specifics of self and other in interaction.

Being nice judges
what behaviors are absolutely good or right.
Being empathic (re)discovers
what behaviors are good or right for which context
of self and other in interaction.

When people respond negatively to our being nice,
we may feel appalled,
maybe even resentful of how ungrateful they seem.
When people respond negatively to our being empathic,
we may feel curious,
maybe even eager to learn how to design new behaviors.
Behaviors better fit for the context of self and other in interaction.

Love is a force that can hold the space between “self” and “other.”
Relationship is the quality of space between “self” and “other.”

Being in love with an “other,”
and having a good relationship with them
are two different issues.

Whether the “other” is people, work, things, etc…

  1. You can be in love with them,
    and not have such a wonderful relationship.
  2. You can have a wonderful relationship with them,
    and not be in love.

A common inner conflict revolves around these two thoughts:

  1. I’m being treated unfairly.
  2. I’m not good enough to be treated fairly.

It may seem like these two thoughts cannot be thought by the same person.
Yet they are often thought by the same person at the same time.
That’s why it is an inner conflict.

Our inner conflict often takes the form of a paradox.
When laid out logically, paradoxes will not make sense.

By connecting what may seem like contradictory perspectives through empathy,
we can give birth to what we call creativity.

It is through such act of creation,
that paradoxes dissolve itself,
leaving behind a sense of clarity and understanding.

We appreciate growth
when we grow on our timeline
in the direction we want to grow.

If we force others’ growth
to satisfy our own need for contribution,
no matter how good our intentions,
it’ll likely be unappreciated.

In fact,
others may even rebel
and do exactly the opposite of what we wish.

What a waste of time and effort, no?

I was recently invited to run a workshop on Diversity & Inclusion.
I was surprised by the feedback.

The feedback emphasized how much ppl appreciated feeling safe enough to vulnerably express themselves.

I believe Diversity & Inclusion is about empathy.
If a workshop is run with empathy,
safety is a natural byproduct.
I took that for granted.

I’ve since learned that many Diversity & Inclusion workshops don’t make people feel safe.
In fact, it shames ppl for “lacking empathy,”
then tries to force them to “fix” their unconscious biases.

That shocked me.

Thanks to Craig Cmehill for recommending me to run this workshop.
Thanks to Janice Levenhagen-Seeley for inviting me.
This experience has opened my eyes in ways I didn’t expect.

The profundity of looking into the mirror
is not merely that we’re looking at our selves,
but that we’re looking at our selves from an other’s perspective.

It is by looking through the eyes of a different perspective
that we learn to become self-aware.

To lose our willingness to realize our empathy with such an other,
an other who sees things differently from us,
is to lose our ability to be self-aware.

There’s a meme on how lobsters grow
by shedding their rigid shell and producing a new one.

It points out that before it can grow,
a lobster feels stress against their shell.

Thus, the moral of the story is:
1) Treating stress as a problem to be solved is to prevent growth.
2) Stress can be a sign of growth.

What it skims through, though,
is how lobsters need a rock
to protect itself from predators
before it can shed its shell.

So if our client, employee, boss, or partner
seems to be unwilling to let go of their shell,
or to grow & innovate,
the question isn’t “Why are they being so rigid?!”
It’s “Do we have a rock in place?”

Let me know if you’re willing to be a rock.

One day, a 92 year old man asked his 62 year old son.
“Son. What bird is that?”
“A magpie.” answered the son.

Few minutes later, the old man asked again.
“What bird is that?”
“A magpie, dad. A magpie.” answered the son.

Few minutes later, the old man asked yet again.
“What bird is that?”
“I just told you! It’s a magpie!”
“I see.” nodded the old man.

Few minutes later, the old man asked
“What bird is that?”
“Oh my God! You deaf, dad?! I just told you!! It’s a f@$in’ magpie!”

Mother, who’s watched the scene unfold
remarked with a teary gaze,
“When you were a child,
you used to ask your father the same question
over and over again
for years.
Would you be willing to bear one day?”


Derivation source: youtube