Do You Own It? Or Does It Own You?

Photo by Marcus iStrfry on Unsplash

When I look at my life, I see a cliché: a rollercoaster — a few flat moments, and lots of ups and downs. For the most part, it’s been fun. But sometimes it overwhelms me, especially when things don’t roll as expected. Eventually, I realize I better get a grip.

What is the point of riding a rollercoaster, if you’re not going to own the experience?

As a coach, my job is to help people get unstuck, and that starts by them owning the experience they’re going through. As long as the experience owns us, we’re stuck and we can’t move forward.

Owning the experience means recognizing realistically what is happening — no more, no less — and then accepting it just as it is.

Only then can we figure out what to do next. Here is what I do to help myself and others own the experience.

First, frame the experience in a more constructive, less apocalyptic light. What is fact, and what is interpretation? What else could this mean? What is useful here? How could this help us grow?

Second, share the experience transparently with others. When we overcome the vulnerability of openly sharing our struggle, we dispel the power the experience has over us. As Mr. Rogers* would say, if it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.

Worse than the experience of feeling overwhelmed, is the experience of not owning this experience.

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*Mr. Rogers was a TV host, author, and producer; best known for the preschool TV series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”.

What if Hate Was Not an Option?

Have you ever found yourself at work or in your personal life stuck with someone you just can’t come around to liking, and whose behavior you find impossible to approve? In these situations, it is not hard to feel some sort of hatred. But what would happen if hate were not an option?

Please set aside your spiritual beliefs for a moment. I’m going to draw an analogy from Christian tradition that might help us deal with these situations. Bear with me. According to tradition, god can only love. Hate is not an option. Now, given all the evil humans are capable of, it must be hard to always love and never hate.

So how does god manage it? Well, the tradition makes a few distinctions. It says that you can disapprove of a situation without hating the person. It says you can be hard on the behavior and soft with the person. It says we can dislike someone and still wish the best for them.

The tradition states that we have a choice. That we can choose to accept that even when we dislike someone, other people do like them. That we can choose to condemn the behavior but not the person. That we can love even when we don’t like.

This may seem a too big of an ask, one that only the gods are capable of. But it is not so. As a priest and throughout the years I’ve seen it happen, even in very extreme situations, situations of betrayal, of sexual abuse, and even of homicide. Perhaps we are not too far from the heavens when we recognize that hate is really not an option.

What They Did to Cinderella and, How It Helps

When my daughter, Irene, and I watch a movie on Sunday afternoons, she often says: “I know what’s going to happen, daddy.” What she means is the couch will be more persuasive than the screen, and I’ll fall asleep. This spell was broken when we watched the new Cinderella movie. I couldn’t sleep, and the movie even stole a few of my tears.

So what did they do? Back to this in a moment. First, let me say there’s an important lesson here. Second, no need for a spoiler alert, because I’m not going to tell you what happens. Third, you already know the story, right? And it’s not like they’re going to change the story. Otherwise it would no longer be the story of Cinderella!

So what did they do? Back to this in a moment. Notice that for it to continue being the story of Cinderella, the plot has to be the same, that is, her fight for freedom and a better life. Also, the characters have to be the same: stepmother, stepsisters, prince, fairy godmother, and so forth.

So what did they do? A better question is: What COULD they do? When we’re stuck in a story in life, with the same old plot and with the same darn characters, what CAN we do? What they could do — and did brilliantly — was change the CHARACTERIZATION.

The plot then takes on an entirely different flare, and maybe, just maybe, we get a different ending.

When you can’t change the plot, when you can’t change the characters, change the CHARACTERIZATION.

P.S. If you’re wondering if we can change, recall the words of Viktor Frankl, neurologist and Holocaust survivor: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

How I Went From Priest to Trainer

Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to be interviewed at the Training Business Podcast by Mark Hayes. The aim of the podcast is to interview trainers, facilitators, CEOs, coaches, and authors in the business of training and learning & development.

It was a cool experience. We scheduled a call to discuss what we could talk about. During that call, Mark suggested we just jump into it. “The spontaneous conversations are the best ones”, he said.

So here’s the unfiltered, unrehearsed chat between the two of us. I loved Mark’s questions — some I had not thought of before. Some of the topics we cover are:

  • How networking has produced work opportunities
  • What I get from my collaboration with IESE business school
  • The training programs I have developed and why
  • How I got my first paying clients
  • The kinds of challenges I help solve

Here’s the link to the podcast.

Love to hear your feedback and suggestions.