Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Favorite Posts (Pt. 3)

In the final round of my favorite posts I look back slightly as I completed the program on the 10th yet I am wrapping up those last few reflections which weren't fully formed enough (nor did I have the energy) to complete while I was low crawling to the finish line. Is this disciplined effort really at its closure? It's sad for me to say yes (although I want to say no). Graduate school has been such a whirlwind of learning and self-management that I know right now I want to keep these lessons and discipline close to me, yet I also know that I will grow slightly undisciplined and take a breather. I deserve one. But will I get back up on my feet again and continue onward? These are the thoughts weighing on my mind as I review my remaining favorite posts.

Leadership, Justice and Forgiveness was likely the most painful class I have ever taken. Learning about forgiveness wasn't so difficult but opening my heart to atrocity was. I re-learned a truth about myself: I am willing to bear witness. This class ran me through the ringer. As an extrovert I constantly found myself going out and engaging (even amidst great fatigue) in regular social activities because it was the quickest way I could process this pain. Of course asking for forgiveness and readily shedding my ego to forgive others was no picnic in the park, but I am grateful I did. Beyond anything to do with leadership, my life has been radically transformed by the ability to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

By embracing the servant leadership philosophy I began to seek out ways to heal others. Full body listening was a great place to start but when I asked questions and tried to redirect people away from hostility, anger and self-defeatism I found that my traditional understandings of motivation left me rarely able to penetrate the armor of hardened civil servants. So many government workers act as if they are prisoners (I regularly remind them where they are is a choice) and some even hold murderous thoughts (as well as cruel and really, really petty ones). In Murder(ous Thoughts) and Meditation I was deeply moved by the ability of meditation to serve as a space for sacred healing. While I usually don't recommend meditation practice (it truly is too personal of a choice) I do share the stories and outcomes of the prisoners who have completed meditation. So far it has brought a new understanding to many people.

Finally, the latest in my warrior series, Warrior Hall of Fame -- Abbot Phra Acharn Phusit (Chan) Khantitharo speaks to me on so many levels. The ability to know yourself so well that seemingly nothing phases you is exactly what I am trying to develop. This leader also enforced a message in me that peace can tame far more than I have ever given it credit for. From this example I too will continue to face adversity with a gentle approach--perhaps it will become not only my preferred way to resolve adversity but a style which provides little fodder for difficult people.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Warrior Hall of Fame -- Abbot Phra Acharn Phusit (Chan) Khantitharo

Abbot Phra Acharn Phusit Khantitharo is hereby inducted into the No Excuses Warrior Hall of Fame and designated as one of an Elite Group of Leaders.

Abbot Phra Acharn Phusit Khantitharo (Source)

What would you do if you were given a diagnosis of terminal leukemia? Phra Acharn chose to become a monk and walk the roads of Thailand, journeying from monastery to monastery.  Along the way he eradicated his fear of death (and apparently his leukemia) and any feelings of fear from wild animals. He settled in a forest monastery known as The Tiger Temple.

As the narrator tells it: "Phra Acharn is not an animal trainer, he has no relevant education but nevertheless he bridles adult tigers and directs them without chains and cages, without any power."  What sort of leader is capable of taking in tigers and not trying to domesticate or assert his will over the tigers but whose ultimate goal is to create Tiger Island--a place where the endangered tigers may live freely, naturally?

As Acharn tells it: "Every single tiger is special. Each one has feelings, thoughts and dreams. These tigers are not here by chance, they came to me looking for protection. Now I am responsible for them." Indeed the story told in The Tiger and The Monk is one where leadership dives to deeper and more complicated levels. Monks are forbidden to work for money and even beg for their food yet the the tigers must be fed and cared for. The tigers are most noticed at the monastery but the temple has also become a self-formed sanctuary started by old, injured animals that showed up. Wild boars, peacocks, deer, water buffalo and horses have formed a "strange community" under the protection of the monastery walls. The abbot and his monks daily walk the tigers on leashes or merely with a hand on the back through this animal sanctuary. It seems unbelievable when one holds a paradigm that leaders cannot manage by peaceful means; however it also seems the most harmonious means of leadership are indeed through peaceful, attentive loving kindness.

Collaborative Leadership Relationship (Source)
"If you learn how to communicate from the heart they will become very tame with you, they will also listen to your commands." Abbot Acharn

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Favorite Posts (Pt. 2)

Stages of Moral Development (Source)
Ethics is a big deal to me so the Semester Summary for this class assisted me in accepting the ethical choices of others even if I found those choices unethical. In part the readings over the course showed me several models of development.  One model which spoke to me and helped me understand less than ethical choices of others was Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development. This model was easy to use and it parallels a bit to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  In my least favorite organizations it became easy to see how adults were trapped in stages they should've outgrown. It was helpful to hold this perspective when communicating with these low-functioning adults.  In fact I began to feel compassion for them. I love being a kid and at times I still am but there comes a time when you have to assume responsibility for yourself and grow into universal ethics.  I also loved finding the documentary Dive! and these dumpster diving people who are living up to their ethics (or civil disobedience) to stand up to waste.  The documentary reinforced my consumer choices to try and think of all parties involved in the food chain.

I actually had the Larry Bird ball as a kid
My next favorite post and quite possibly my favorite of all time came with re-looking at Competitive Leadership. Leaders come in many forms and arenas--and they feed off one another. Larry Bird is one of the greatest leaders of all time (sorry Magic I love you too).  As a kid I read Drive and I watched many Celtics games and all Celtics-Lakers games I could manage. But my favorite times were pacing the living room floor, sucked into the world of a fast-paced intellectual game played out on the court with one bouncing ball which I would follow for hours on end.  Little did I know I was seeing something magical--the formation of a selfless game of basketball created by two fierce competitors who played the game with life-purpose focus.  Bird has influenced me for much of my life.  But as I examined the notion of competitive leadership  in a new lens I saw that he is still influencing me.  I also learned to love his rival because it was that fierce competition that the startling new leadership emerged from.  I have not implemented competitive leadership in my life but only because I have not found that rival who could potentially make me strive for this level of performance.

A Weathered Ed Viesturs (Source)
My next favorite post came from attending a lecture at the National Geographic featuring Ed Viesturs. In Leadership on Top of the World I came to see leadership as even more than service to people. Rather it's the entire output of our actions to the environment and those whom we do not lead but share the planet with.

On top of that, Viesturs is one of the most humble speakers I have encountered. His abiding vision to climb the 14 highest mountain peaks without supplemental oxygen is not so interesting to me as his careful, thought out approach to do it. In particular I am impressed with his record to complete such dangerous goals with no sustained injuries to himself or those on his teams.  Additionally he has set aside his summit on occasion to help others when he noticed other mountaineers poor luck or choices left them in a vulnerable or dangerous position. Of course leadership often entails giving up your advantage so at a minimum others may survive but also so that they may succeed--sometimes even beyond you.

I care a lot about ethics, integrity, professionalism and leaders with a commitment to the growth of others as well as leaders with wildly unique achievements. These posts helped me reinforce that in my daily actions and my overarching personal leadership plan. Bird and Viesturs accomplished huge strides in this lifetime yet both are extremely humble.  This is a reminder for me to keep humbleness on my agenda. It seems when I am humble, I too, am able to accomplish a lot more.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

No Excuses a la Robin Sharma

Robin Sharma (Source)
A few weeks ago Robin Sharma made a video as an advertisement for an upcoming workshop. I won't be attending it but the few minutes of the video were so powerful and relevant to my No Excuses philosophy I have to share them. He is addressing those who want to be in the top 5%; those who want to be super successful, alter their mindsets and be the best of the best.

"Imagine if that was your standard. Literally you want to be the undisputed heavy weight champion of your field, the best their ever was. So good they cannot ignore you. You literally want to make history not only with your work but with your life."

I would say that is alignment with a No Excuses philosophy. Naturally his number 1 tip came as no surprise to me.

(1.) Cut your excuses in half and double the action you take.
  • You can make excuses or you can change the world, but you can't do both.


(2.) Leave the herd.

  • To have the results only 5% get, have the guts to do what only 5% are willing to do.

  • Most people in the world right now are card carrying members of the cult of mediocrity

  • Genius is an act that threatens people.

(3.) Dig grit.

  • Grit is the number 1 factor to success.

  • Grit means you just don't give up.

(4.) Get fit to be of use.

  • The more fit you are, the more people you can help.

  • The more fit you are, the more you can pursue your vision.

  • The more fit you are, the more you'll have the energy and stamina to change the world.  


I have spent over two years on this blog and thinking about how to shave off those excuses that pop into my head or the ones I sometimes feel myself drifting towards and even questioning people who bring excuses to me, yet Robin Sharma shredded the need for excuses in just a few minutes!  More than anything excuses come between those who succeed and those who don't--and if you think otherwise check closely and see if those excuses and assumptions are true or learned behavior towards fearing failure or being ridiculed. His rallying speech is also a potent reminder to tap into our inner genius and be our potential regardless of what others think of us. In the end we succeed on our own merits which may be recognized by others, but not always. Most importantly, when we are in touch with our inner genius we choose our own definition of success.