Wisdom for Teams #20

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

CHARLES DARWIN (1809 – 1882), English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution.

A Life Lesson From Computers

“Don’t put the bags on the bed. They have germs,” she said. The couple had just returned home from the mall. “I don’t get it,” he said, “the dogs spend the day running around in the garden and then they sleep on the bed. But the bags…?!”

Most computers run a single operating system. Most computers have bugs. Human brains run on three operating systems: reason, emotion, and instinct. Is it too big a surprise that we have bugs?

To nurture relationships in all areas of life we will want to embrace the occasional bug in people’s behaviour.

Don’t look for reason in what is emotional.

Wisdom for Teams #19

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

PATRICK LENCIONI (born 1965), American author and speaker on business management, best known for the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

The Meaning of Failure

When I was 12, my sister Fatima and I sang a psalm at a wedding. She sang the verses, and all I had to do was sing along in the chorus. Simple enough, but I bombed it. Totally out of key. That day, I learnt I couldn’t sing. 

A few years later, I learnt to play guitar and joined the youth choir in church. Truth be told, I was more interested in hanging out with my friends and being around girls than singing. After all, I couldn’t sing. 

Then I had music classes in the seminary. But I struggled a lot. When I sang in the choir, the conductor, my friend Marco Luciano, would glare at me from time to time. That was code for: Shut up! Just move your lips and pretend you’re singing. No surprise here, after all I couldn’t sing. 

While still in the seminary, I played guitar and double bass in two bands. We weren’t famous, but enough to go on tour in the summer. I composed songs for those bands. But I never sang. After all…

Lately, I’ve been enjoying some quality time with my guitar. When my daughter is not around, there’s no one to sing. So I have to sing. At 45, I realised I can learn to sing. I’m no Pavarotti, but I was capable of singing in a recent talk I gave. And my neighbours haven’t complained… yet. 

There were many signs indicating that I could probably learn to sing: the choirs, the instruments, the bands, the composing. But I didn’t learn because I thought I couldn’t, plus there was always someone else to do the singing.

Failure means we don’t know something. It doesn’t mean we are incapable of learning it. When we fail it might be a good idea to create ways to force us to learn, at least just a bit. 

Failure is an “ahead only” signyou must keep going at least until the next intersection. 

As teammates, friends, lovers, parents what sign do we hold up when someone fails?

Two Meditation Mistakes and a Gift

Photo by Afonso Coutinho on Unsplash

Many people who take my workshops practice meditation. I often ask what they try to do when they’re meditating. I can’t remember an answer that has not gone along the lines of “putting my mind in blank” or “focusing on the breath to stop my thoughts”. This is a mistake.

We can’t stop our mind no more than we can stop our heart. Mindfulness is the ability to notice what is going on in our mind and to pay close attention to sensations. Meditation can help us become more mindful. But this is not the same thing as wanting to eliminate thoughts. 

The other mistake — much more harmful — has to do with the purpose of meditation. Meditate? What for? A friend of mine is going through a life crisis. I was happy to hear he took up meditation. It’s been months and as time goes by I’ve noticed that things aren’t moving forward. He seems distant and phased out. And it does not seem like he’s doing much to improve his life.

This saddens me and I can’t help but wonder whether meditation has not become for him, and perhaps other people, a form of escapism, a mental distraction from daily life, especially from the hard bits. This is not the purpose of meditation. In fact, the purpose is the exact opposite — to improve the quality of our mind so that we improve the quality of our life, not run away from it. 

Conclusion: Assume a critical stance toward ideas about meditation. Assess the effects that they can have on your life. Reflect deeply. Break it down. Play the devil’s advocate. Then… meditate.

PS: For the past 27 years I’ve been fanatically curios about the nature of our mind. Daily meditation was part of my formal education in the seminary. I’ve been a practitioner for the past few years. If you’re looking for a reliable resource on meditation, check out Waking Up.

A Big Heart, Do You Have One?

Every Wednesday evening two friends, Alex and Florian, and I meet for our stammtisch, a German tradition where friends regularly get together to hang out and drink. We do it via Zoom and we’ve been at it for months. We sometimes have a guest, and we always end up having interesting conversations. Last week’s topic was — you guessed it — big-heartedness.

In good philosophical tradition, we started by defining what we consider to be a big heart:

Big hearts have an irresistible passion to serve others regardless of their status, without expecting any reward.

Then we asked ourselves whether people are born with a big heart. Though genes may play a role, we had no doubt that life is the great creator of big hearts.

We are not born with a big heart. We grow into it.

The next step was then to explore factors that make us grow into big hearts and to identify what is it about these factors that help the heart grow. This is what we uncovered:

  • Role models with big hearts
  • Environments of friendship
  • Experiences of service
  • Downfalls in life that we breakthrough

The final question we addressed was whether there is a point in life after which we can no longer grow the heart. We searched our “big heart database” and concluded that, provided the above factors, it is never too late.

There is no deadline to grow our heart.

So where are you on your big heart journey?
Can you identify your big heart role models and environments?
What experiences and breakthroughs have helped you grow into a bigger heart?

Join the LinkedIn conversation here.

Wisdom for Teams #15

“A person convinced against their will

is of the same opinion still.”

DALE CARNEGIE (1888 – 1955), American writer and lecturer, developer of courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills. Author of the popular bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936).