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10 Things You Never Knew You Wanted (But Now You Absolutely Need)

Brilliant, insightful, and true. Word to your Mother and all intelligent human beings.

I Miss You When I Blink

Are you good at resisting advertising? I try not to be a sucker, but time and again, the glossy ads in fashion magazines draw me in with their magical promises. I don’t think I have any interest in the high-couture lifestyle they’re offering . . . until suddenly I do.

Take a look. Don’t you want it all, too?

hermes

If you’d asked me yesterday, “What’s on your wish list?” I wouldn’t have said sparkly red gravity-defying sneaker-huaraches, because I’d never seen any. But now I have — and now I feel stupid for walking around vertically like some basic fool all this time.

 * * *

jennifer-connelly-louis-vuitton-ss-2017-1.jpg

At first, I thought, “Matching blue lace top and leggings with reverse shin zippers? Hard pass.” But then I looked at Jennifer Connelly’s face and posture and thought, CHANGE OF OPINION, MADAME CHAIRPERSON. She is not kidding around. I’m positive that if I wore…

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Sound Familiar?

The Secrets of Chicken Flocks’ Pecking Order by Brian Barth in Modern Farmer on March 16, 2016

“Chickens are not a particularly democratic species. They have no interest in consensus-based decision-making or ensuring that every member of the flock has equal access to food and water and a good place to roost.

But they do have their own ways of maintaining social order, which seem to have served their needs well enough over millennia. It’s a bit authoritarian by our standards, but the pecking order—in which each bird has a rank in the top-down hierarchy of the flock—is the way in which chickens govern themselves.

The pecking order is, literally, determined by pecking. Bigger, stronger, and more aggressive chickens bully their way to the top of the flock by pecking the others into submission with their pointy beaks. First they strut about, fluff their feathers, and squawk, but if that doesn’t get the point across, they peck. It can get violent. Sometimes blood is drawn; occasionally, the opponent is killed.

Pecking order rank determines the order in which chickens are allowed to access food, water, and dust-bathing areas. It determines who gets the most comfortable nesting boxes and the best spots on the roosting bar. The good news is that, at least among a flock of chickens born and raised together, the pecking order is established early on and the birds live in relative harmony, with only minor skirmishes now and then to reinforce who is in charge.

The chicken at the top of pecking order has a special role to play in the flock. Because they are so strong and healthy, it’s their responsibility to keep constant watch for predators and usher the others to safety when a circling hawk appears or a strange rustling is heard in the bushes nearby. The top chicken is also expected to be an expert at sniffing out food sources, such as a nest of tasty grubs under a fallen log, or a bunch of kitchen scraps that the farmer dropped on their way to the compost pile. Even though the top chicken has the right to eat first, he or she usually lets the others feed, while keeping a vigilant watch for predators, and dines only after everyone else has had their fill.”

Why are Organizations so Fouled-up*?

It was a question my husband asked over this morning’s breakfast after another of my rants about organizational politics. The answer I gave him was this: You’re fouled up, I’m fouled up, that makes organizations, which are full of people as much or more fouled up as us, even more so. How can organizations not be anything but fouled up given all that fouledupness brewing and simmering together? Then you throw in money and power, and the fouledupitude goes wild. Sadly, he agreed. I’ve consulted or been in over 50 organizations at this point, and I know that there is not one organization that is not fouled up. I challenge you to find one.

How do you avoid being consumed by all the fouled up people in fouled up organizations? Maintain a positive attitude and remember to not take it personally. Even if it is personal. People don’t know you well, so most of any feedback you get is to ensure you meet the organization’s goals or are projections of their insecurities. Or you could be one of the people others are talking about that are so fouled up! Then perhaps you should listen, and listen very carefully.

Now and then a team or a small group of individuals unite around a common purpose and have transparent and authentic relationships with one another. Their whole selves come to the experience, and they focus on something that not only meets their immediate goals but also meets some more lofty purpose. That is the trick for any leader: Alignment of individual and organizational purpose. There are glimpses of it here in there, like the glimmer around Peter in Fringe, where Olivia knew he was from a different world.

*Please substitute foul for any other f word you might choose to use

What is Your Internal State?

As a wise colleague once said, “If you want to find something on the outside, you must first find it on the inside.” Or, in other words, “wherever you go, there you are,” a saying popularized by Buckaroo Bonzai. While coaching executives and with my ongoing work with myself, the truth is that our internal state is the most important aspect of our lives to attend to and manage. And we can manage it. By doing so, we can direct how we perceive our world, what we get done, and what (and who) we attract.

What is your internal state of being? How do you feel right now? How do you usually feel? What is the noise inside your head?  Are you covering up negative feelings with food, alcohol or some more sophisticated gamesmanship where others are the blame for your problems? With what are you surrounding yourself?  With whom? How are your family and friends with their internal state? What is your purpose? Check-in with yourself and others, you might be surprised how you’re feeling. You can change how you think about things. Your reaction to the world is in your control.

A lotus is the most powerful of flowers as it makes its way through the murkiness to the light. Much like our hidden feelings, they too must make their way to the light. Without this process, they remain ever present, controlling us, sometimes choking and stifling us in ways that we don’t understand and keeping us from seeing the light.

The Frog, the Dolphin, and the Giraffe

This past weekend, I found three stuffed animals in a storage box that I had kept since I was three years old. Now 50 some years later, I pondered why I had kept them so long. There was a Frog with a crown, a silvery yet furry Dolphin and a speckled Giraffe with a little red tongue dangling outside its mouth. Presently, they were sewn together piles of dust that “should” be tossed. In the middle of a cold, wet Lake Michigan day in April I could not bring myself to do so, despite my sense of urgency to get my spring cleaning done. As I stood pondering, struck by the fact that they were still with me and wondering why that might be. Remembering that Socrates was attributed with saying “the unexamined life is not worth living,” I continued to reflect. I realized I had not examined the difference between the lifeless artifacts in front of me and the life-filled archetypes they had represented to me as a child. They had somehow remained one in the same, my childhood imaginings captured somehow in these dull lifeless forms.

What is an archetype and why is it important? In Jungian psychology an archetype is a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, or image which is universally present in individual psyches. For instance there is an archetype of a Mother, Father, Hero, and Victim that are well known to most of us. Literature uses these archetypes through their fictional characters to speak to us about their greater truths that lie beyond fact. The media uses archetypes to create connection with their ideas and views beyond what might come about with an interaction with a simple product or consumer item. Individually, we have archetypes which are generalities or stories about ourselves and the world. These stories form scripts that we often follow unconsciously, whether they are correct or not. Many times they operate out of our awareness, guiding us without our knowing. The more closely we examine our stories and scripts, the more we will have examined our lives. My hope is that we all move away from “living a life of quiet desperation” (Thoreau).

To what archetypes did my dust balls speak? It was easy for me to understand the Frog – he was the smart one who could be relied upon for logical, practical and straightforward advice. He was wise and kind, a natural and benevolent leader. He saw things as they were, made things happen and had a realistic view of the world. The Dolphin was equally easy to understand as she was at the opposite end of the continuum, a free spirit looking for adventure, love and laughter with a sweet sense of humor. She had a good nature and was supportive and loyal to her friends. She strived to make her impact positive on those whom she met.

But the Giraffe, named “Baby Giraffe” was a mystery. What had he represented? He was awkward looking, could not stand on his own even when he was new and had big soulful eyes too large for his oversized head. His neck was too long, even for a giraffe, and his back too short, his tiny feet were incapable of holding his weight, his legs too weak. Through the years his long neck had buckled under the weight of his head and his tail had been chewed apart by a dog. Yet, he had been my favorite of the three despite his apparent imperfections. Baby Giraffe had been the joyful one, who ran about getting into mischief, going places he was not supposed to go and saying things he was not supposed to say.

My realizations when I looked at what each represented was that I was all those things, but had let the Frog dominate most of my life and only recently had I reacquainted myself with my dolphin self. She had reentered my life as I tried to free myself from issues that held my energy down. This had occurred through several significant life changes that still have me reverberating. Yet, they had set me off on adventures of travel and love I had only dreamed of. Now, perhaps it is time for me to acknowledge that the frog and the dolphin were really servants of the flawed, fragile, beautiful yet ugly giraffe I had always felt I was underneath it all, but was afraid to acknowledge. Baby Giraffe, the playful, wounded mischievous one, is fully formed as the archetype I adore most in my life, now that the Frog and the Dolphin have made it safe for him to come out and play.

The slow leak of psychic energy.

How we lead our lives can deplete us in ways we cannot articulate. And sometimes the fact that we cannot articulate how we feel is draining in and of itself.

I have worked with innumerable leaders over my almost 30 year career as an organizational psychologist. Some have been entry level and some of been CEO or board members of large, public companies with all levels of leaders in between represented. Irrespective of title, the one common element between all leaders is that each needs to uncover uniquely how to best utilize their intuition in ways that help others and themselves better manage their personal energy. It is this simple. Yet, it is the one element that seems the most elusive. This is as true for those who lead as it is for those that do not lead.

Imagine a balloon filled with helium, floating for joy during a birthday celebration, jubilantly dancing to any slight breeze, yet tied down with purpose to its real goal: being part of a birthday gift. With purpose, the balloon stays it course and for a while it can sustain itself without more helium being injected into it. Eventually though, the birthday celebration ends and the balloon, if not popped, is placed some place where it receives no helium and eventually becomes smaller and smaller to a point it can no longer hold itself in the air. It circles around listlessly, seemingly disconnected from its original purpose, a clear and negative change from its former self. I liken this process to the individual psyche in situations where no new energy is injected. It can happen almost imperceptively and unless we take the time to reflect and listen to our intuition, we may miss that it is happening until we are on the floor. This is the slow leak of psychic energy. People feel drug down, dispirited, minimalized, deflated and disempowered. How does one recognize this slow leak when it is not obvious like our balloon? What is our helium of choice to combat it?

Let’s discover things that fill us, uncover what depletes us, and ponder the mysteries of why there is such a process to begin with. I’ll share the things that I believe give me energy in the hopes it will do the same for you.