The Little Monk

Today was a sunny spring day so I took a walk this afternoon to soak up Beaumont‘s buds, blooms and blossoms. Having the chance to explore the neighborhood mid-week is an opportunity see it in a different light. It is my favorite part of working from home. Even though I’ve lived in the neighborhood for fifteen years there is always a renovation to admire, activity to steal my attention or someone new to meet, often they’re retired. Today, I walked the peace route and finally met the owner of “the little monk” (a garden ornament). The homeowner was tending to the Japanese Maple under which which the little monk sits. While I aspire to master the art of meditation I have a long way to go but on every walk I always find calm in the simplicity of this garden and stop to pause most days for 2, 10 or 30 seconds. I was heartened to learn from the homeowner that this was exactly his intention.  This simple experience captures three things that I want to master.

Finlittle_monkd joy in chaos: It can be hard to find the quiet, value the understated and subtle when we’re so wrapped up in the frenzy and energy of the day but it’s worth breaking free of the chains to get perspective, see life beyond the screen and be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Look for beauty in the everyday:  In the clutter, banter, craziness of the day, carve out time to find the little monk in every day. Savor what might appear to be mundane. Be prepared to be amazed or surprised. The tulip in the photo simply appeared, it was not deliberately planted. It looks so perfectly placed.

Listen. Ask open-ended questions. Be curious. Ask good questions. To paraphrase from Buddhism, “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.”

Dedication to Dreamers

On my own two feet, from loosing my legs to learning the dance of life - Amy PurdyThis is how Amy Purdy’s session was introduced this week at the first VOICES Inc. talk this week. Amy Purdy is the 2014 Paralympic Medalist, she’s a double amputee with a profound story of determination, courage and beating the odds. Many know her for her performance on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Her story was a reminder about three things.

Being Your Story: “If your life was a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?” This is how Amy opened her talk and explained it was the question that guided her decision and path after her life of freedom and independence took a detour and when her life would rely on machines, mechanics and innovation, while her desire for a life of adventure was still strong.

Knowing Your Purpose: It is clear that sharing her message of triumph is Amy’s purpose. She affirmed this with her actions to start a non-profit organization Adaptive Action Sports, and her championship and petition to have Snowboarding as one of the competition categories in the Sochi Olympics (2014). It is often our passion that carries us through challenges. This is when we’re forced to dig deep and figure out what we’re made of. At this year’s Creative Conference in Portland, Steve Emerson, Visual Effects Supervisor LAIKA commented that people shouldn’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a component of creativity, not a catalyst. People who love what they do enjoy the process of whatever they love. I sat in the audience and nodded profusely. Of course this is true! We can’t just wait for the next TED talk, conference or book to inspire us to action. When I’m reflective, uncertain or unsure I often think about my purpose to be a changemaker to enable people to perform at their best. This is where all paths lead.

Finding Assets in Obstacles: Being emotionally and physically broken was hard and Amy talked about how her biggest loss turned into her biggest asset. The comment signaled the power of attitude and was a reminder that while we can’t control everything in our lives and we can’t control other people, we can control how we respond to a situation.

It takes courage and energy to try new things and to overcome challenges. It can take mental, physical or/and emotional energy. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, it takes less of one energy and more of the other. Depending on your style, trying new things can give you energy too. It also breeds anxiety or fear. It gives me energy to listen. I love going to conferences, listening to speakers like Amy.

In just a short amount of time her life has been transformed at least twice or three times. She’s been on the road with Oprah on her Power of Intention tour, competed on Dancing with Stars, got married, won an Olympic Medal. Its fair to say that having a list of accomplishments on this scale won’t be everyone’s list (although maybe dreamers’ lists). But Amy’s story offered a reminder for all of use that we don’t have to be limited by circumstance.

Meaningful work

I’ve marked Switch and Shift (The Human Side to Business)    as one of my “dailies” for more than a year. I like the diverse perspectives, bench of thoughtful contributors and usefulness. It says things as they are and by and large, focus on the whole person. In my professional and personal life I often come back to the content of a blog I read in April about meaningful work. It is relevant beyond the traditional workplace.

I’m a program director of corporate citizenship, and responsible for helping to build a company that makes decisions through a thoughtful and honest lens, balancing and recognizing the economic, social and environmental implications of any decision that the company makes. I’m a change agent, responsible for working with a lot of people to inspire, push and negotiate actions that will serve the company and society in ways that align the business’ purpose and vision. In a service organization, similar to other organizations, employees are at the heart of the company’s success. (Arguably, this is more so in a service company because they’re the main asset). Therefore a lot of the thought and focus of my work comes down to what attracts and retains people. There’s a lot that a company can do to provide compelling experiences. I believe providing a meaningful experiences is the most powerful way a company delivers a valued experience to employees which influences their decision to stay or leave. Whether something is meaningful is a personal matter e.g. it depends on whether it aligns with a person’s goals and values.  If a company gets it right, it’s on a path to a strong partnership with employees and will in return reap the benefits of satisfaction, loyalty and results.

So, what is meaningful work? From experience, three characteristics that stand out are:

  • Fulfilled Basic Needs. The extrinsic factors need to be satisfied. Salary needs to be a non-issue, otherwise it becomes a distraction.
  • Energizing work that speaks to their sweet spot and the organization’s mission: What makes an employee tick matters a lot. Leveraging their strengths, supporting their strengths and passions inspire action, produce results and feeds their spirit.
  • Autonomy: Autonomy to imagine, explore, make decisions, have their voice heard breeds empowerment and motivation, with a close relationship with a managers, autonomy can feed the spirit, deliver results and accountability. The key is to be clear on bandwidth and guardrails and ensure everyone understands them.