People learn more from their own mistakes than from the successes of others.
RUSSELL LINCOLN ACKOFF (1919 – 2009), American organizational theorist, consultant, pioneer in the field of operations research, systems thinking and management science.
On September 18, my mom, Jorgina, turned seventy. It was a wonderful celebration, even though the other half of the family that doesn’t live in the Azores participated only for a few moments via a video call.
Seventy years made me think about the inevitable, the inescapable, the undeniable. Death. Make no mistake. My mom is a badass. She’s easily got another thirty years in her, and she will definitely not go gentle into that good night. But still, it will happen, and it doesn’t feel nice.
This past Saturday, after my coaching sessions at IESE Business School, my colleagues and friends, Conor Neill and Tony Anagor, and I stood in the parking lot and chatted under the beautiful Barcelona sun.
We talked about how we sometimes struggle to slow down, to stop, to do nothing. Tony said he recently listened to a podcast that suggested we read a poem to help us become more mindful and slowdown. This is the poem:
Be here. Not there.
That’s the poem. Be here. Not there.
Back to my mom. So grateful for this poem! If I’m there, at the future moment of her death, I’m bound to worry and suffer. If I’m here, at the present moment of her seventy years, I’m bound to celebrate and feel happy.
My mom will die. I will die. I don’t know what it will be like. But it seems pointless to stop living the present to worry about a future I can’t change. So for now, I choose to stay here, happily celebrating her seventy years.
Love you, mom.
For the audio version of this post click below.
On July 6th I gave my first fact-to-face speech since the lockdown. I spoke at the BED Event in Barcelona for professionals of the events industry, both event organizers and providers. My question for them was: What is your problem?
One way of making sense of life, is to view the situations we face as a series of problems. For example, getting a degree, finding a job, and raising kids can be seen as “problems” we face in life.
Problems fall into one of two categories:
- Problems-we-have. Examples could be: I want a promotion; I want more clients; I need someone in my life. What do these problems all have in common? In all of them we occupy the center stage and the spotlight is shining on us.
- Problems-we-solve. Examples could be: I want to participate more in the company’s success; I want to serve more clients; I’d love to share my life with someone special. These problems have in common the fact that other people occupy the center stage and the spotlight is shining on them.
Generosity is the highest form of fulfilment.
Notice how both types of problems deal with the same situations and the same people. The difference is who the problem is about: us or others. Now look back on the lives of your role models. Was it a series of problems-they-had or problems-they-solved?
From what I’ve seen in my 45 years, it is much easier to deal with the challenges we face, both professionally and in our personal life, when we transform problems-we-have into problems-we-solve by moving our butts away from the center stage and shinning the spotlight on others.
So what problems are you solving at this point in your life?
Given the recent changes in the world, what new problems could you solve?
“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.
Photo Credit: Jonny Miller
I broke a promise when I decided I’d no longer serve as a priest.
I broke a promise when I decided I’d end the relationship.
I broke a promise when I decided I’d stop seeing that friend.
Breaking a promise didn’t feel good. But it happened, again and again.
This week I came across a poem by David Whyte about how to break a promise.
Apparently we humans break promises, again and again. Apparently we can learn to do it better.
Shall we accept that breaking promises is part of life, like making them is?
To Break a Promise
Make a place of prayer, no fuss now,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you.
Let your words join one to another
the way stone nestles on stone,
the way water just leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.
Now, let them go on,
leave your words
to carry their own life
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Stand up now. Have faith. Walk away.
In “The Sea in You: Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love” by David Whyte
P.S. David, I hope you don’t mind me sharing your poem here. Thank you.
Photo courtesy of One Day Web Group
In the year 2004-2005, I worked as a hospital chaplain, the priest that visits patients at the hospital. It was a year of great learning. This story is conceivably my greatest lesson learnt.
My good friend Francisco Mahfuz recently had me as a guest on his podcast “The Story Powers”. It was my first time, and I must say I had loads of fun. Fransisco is a great host.
Some of the topics we talk about are:
- How being a priest helps me build betters teams
- Mistakes leaders make in times of crisis
- My transition and journey from priesthood to corporate trainer
You can listen to the episode here as well as on Spotify and YouTube:
Thanks buddy for inviting me and keep up the fantastic work!
This evening I will be running our Toastmasters Club meeting. Toastmasters is about communication and leadership. Part of my job is to choose a theme for the meeting. My friend Florian Mueck suggested I go with exorcisms (don’t know where he got that idea).
It is also my job to ask everyone with an active role in the meeting a question related to the theme. This was my question: If I were your exorcist, what demon would you like me to get rid of?
Asking myself this same question, I started playing with a few ideas, and ended up writing this rather philosophical poem. It reflects the irony of how we can sometimes work so hard for something and end up with the opposite, and how life has her way of waking us up to see this.
Though nowhere near his, I’m dedicating the poem to fellow philosopher, David Whyte. His poems have recently reignited my appreciation for the reflections poetry prompts. The audio file is a recording of me reading the poem.
To David Whyte
In a pretension to be another,
as if cursed by gods,
possessed by a demon,
or haunted by ghosts,
I come to believe I truly am who I seek to be,
just like a dream.
But life strikes,
unexpectedly and hard,
the pain of the blow waking me from the dream.
Shedding the elusive skin of my pretension,
I see the true nature of my predicament.
Who decided who I would dream to be?
Who has such power to enslave me to this dream?
unexpectedly and hard,
and I see the true nature of who,
I see the gods that cursed me — the gods of perfectionism,
I see the demon that possessed me — the demon of my ideal self,
I see the ghosts that haunted me — the ghosts that think it is never enough.
unexpectedly and hard,
and I hear its soft whisper,
“You are not the person you dreamt to be.
Stop impersonating the ideal you.”
In my pretension to be the best version of myself,
I impersonated not another,
but an idea,
the idea of who I wanted to be,
and so I came to believe I truly was who I sought to be,
just like a dream.
But I am not the person I dreamt to be,
I am the dreamer.