Identity

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Who am I?

One of the best books I’ve read this last decade is Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree. It is both heart-wrenching and reaffirming, honest without judgement and a candid look into the struggles of the author himself.

The subtitle is Parents, Children and the search for identity. The exploration is of value to everyone. At its simplest, it’s the two sides of the coin that people with disabilities (which Solomon applies in the broadest sense) both face and find themselves on. It provides reflection for understanding the very grey/gray area surrounding all of our stories; what they mean to us and how they are perceived by others.

My current read is Michael Pollan’s How to change your Mind in which Pollan explores (as researcher and exponent) the world of Psychedelics. Apart from the fascinating history and recounting of experiences, one brief excerpt really struck me having read several of Pollan’s books.

Pollan is completely candid in response to his own question of whether he really wanted to go into the depths of where psychedelics would probably take him:

“…No!-to be perfectly honest. You should know I have never been one for deep or sustained introspection. My usual orientation is more forward than back, or down, and I generally prefer to leave my psychic depths undisturbed, assuming they exist.”

Boom! There goes my long-held belief that everyone wants to dig deeper into who and why they are here, and all that stuff.

No, they don’t!

I’m not sure if I’m envious or sorry for those who don’t want to delve like I do. And so I loop back to Andrew Solomon, his wisdom informs me the correct response is to ‘accept’. It is what it is, it just is.

Everyone deserves to be and, I expect, wants to be, validated. Without such a ‘process’ “identity” can be challenging or even impossible to find.

When I find others who “want to know more about themselves” it validates who I am, and because of that I readily validate them.

What do we do when we encounter those whose identity is different to ours? Do we reach out to validate or do we shy away? Do we attempt to understand or do we avoid the dialogue?

I suspect we are all ‘guilty’ to varying degrees of staying within our own ‘identity cocoon’ when so much richness lies just outside of it. I also accept that occasionally my own responses have strayed into the realms of ignorance, conceit and arrogance.

What if we start each interaction with Stephen Covey’s Fifth Habit  “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”?

If you read Pollan’s book you may believe the simpler answer is that we all just try some psychedelics, but given the challenge associated with that, how about we simply begin with a change in mindset with how we approach each day:

Who’s identify can you validate today?

How could you do that?

 

*Note this is the first in a brief series of posts I have written around the concept of identity. Post to follow are:

  • Te Reo and my search for identity.
  • Corporate culture and personal identity.
  • Why we need to be able to greet in multiple languages.

Personal Growth

Here’s a challenge, shall I write a page or a whole website?

Personal growth is a lifelong quest. At times it’s hard, truly, truly hard, and at other times it’s a euphoric experience beyond measure.

Lessons in life


When coaching I always find it fascinating to observe the challenges that personal growth throws up for the individual.

Sometimes I even feel a little sorry for my clients as I know they are both going to experience some form of enlightenment at one level and a wholly new world of frustration at the other.

When you are ‘growing ‘ you suddenly wonder why others are not!

I put it to a client the other day that if he could now look back at himself 2, 3 or 10 years ago he would probably wonder “ Why isn’t he using his potential, why isn’t he open to change and growth?”

Once we are on the journey of true personal growth it seems such an obvious place to be and as if we always have been there.

As an adult once we begin the journey of personal growth we seldom stop.

In turn this raises in me the question of how it is, or when is it, that as children and young adults we decide to stop?

Does adolescence and university fool us into believing we have reached our pinnacle of personal learning and all that remains is the corporate ladder?

If so they both have a lot to answer for.

Or is it more simply that we hit life’s first real obstacles as a young adult, fail to deal with them, and get off the bus?

And finally is one of the clues to great leadership those who ‘help’ others back on the bus?

I will add to this on future posts, in the meantime I’d love to share with your thoughts.

Good Deeds

Olympic champion triathlete Hamish Carter has just set a great example of leadership.

His former coach was critically ill – Carter visited, placed his gold medal on the TV  in Ralston’s hospital room saying, “That stays there until you walk out”. See: Carter

I see Carter’s gesture as hugely symbolic of the respect he has for Ralston, and of Carter as a person.

As an amateur sportsperson I find this incredibly compelling.

What would be the equivalent in a work context.

Although I can think of a few bedsides I have attended for cancer, heart disease and general injury, I could not readily think of a parallel example in the corporate sense.

What commitment could you make to your staff or colleagues or bosses that would demonstrate complete buy in and dedication?

As leaders, or followers, there must be many things we can do to pay our respect to those we admire and directly or indirectly owe our livelihoods to.

So here is a brief list to kick it off:

  1. Do your job to the best of your ability – that is the best payback possible for anyone who has promoted you into a role or a career. This is what keeps me going as a coach, and if I hit the wall, thinking of those individuals is invaluable.
  1. Ask for help when you need it. Mentors and sponsors are generally ‘for life’. Keep the relationship alive, don’t ride your horse off into the sunset of success, nor assume they will never want to hear from you again (successful or not).
  1. Pay it forward. I was not great fan of the film but the principle is 200% correct. If you’ve been given a leg up, then do the same for others.
  1. Shine. Be proud. Authentically acknowledge everyone from receptionist to Company President.

What else do you think can be done?

Richard