Abundance

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What does it mean to recognize the abundance that is right around us?

This question is one that I continue to wrestle with, given that recently I’ve heard some very different opinions that I’m feeling the need to sort out. Here are some of the ideas I’ve read recently, put into my own words.

God Didn’t Make No Mistakes
One point of view that I find easy to accept is that the Creator of the Universe didn’t make any mistakes, and that in the world there is a perfect amount of everything. This includes the easy to accept things, such as the number of animals, clouds, atoms, energy, etc.

However, it also includes the harder to accept things, including the things that his creations have made such as crime, murder, rape, etc. Whatever amount there is of these things, are exactly the right amount, and clearly man’s Creator, by extension, made these things also, and allows them to exist.

Individually, also, each person was perfectly made with the exact amount of ability to do some things well, and some other things not so well. For each of us, there is an abundance of Life for each of us to work with, and an abundance of humanity to deal with also.

It may well seem to us that we are not given an unlimited amount of time, but the truth is that time is experienced in the way that space is, which is relative to the person having the experience. Have you ever noticed that when you visit a place that you have not visited since you were small, how much it seems that the space has shrunk? The road I grew up on as a small child seemed like a tremendous highway, until I went back as an adult and saw that it could barely contain two cars side by side.

Time occurs in a similar way — as I grow older, it seems that is flying by from year to year, and I am still in my 30’s!

Some small insects live only a matter of hours or days at best, and somehow I think that they have an experience of having lived a life that is just as full as ours. While I’ve never been a small insect to my knowledge, I imagine that they are quite content with the time they live, and at some cosmic level, it is the perfect amount of time.

Trusting that each component of our lives (tangible or not) exists in exactly the perfect amount has begun to allow me to relax into what some authors call the “suchness” of what is in our lives. This certainly helps in dealing with the challenges of daily life in Kingston!


In Scarcity There is Abundance
The word “lack” is one that is troublesome, and the way we use it seems to create its own mischief.

Is there a lack of fresh water in the ocean? It depends on who is asking the question, and the concern depends on how the word is being used. To a human seeking to find drinking water on a desert island, there would certainly seem to be a lack. To an animal that needs salt water to survive, it would not (I suppose.)

Is there a lack of fresh water in the desert? It also depends on who (or what) is doing the asking.

The fact is that the concept of “lack” occurs inside of a context of “wanting more.” This is quite different from accepting the current amount as perfect and complete, exactly the way they are.

How about scarcity?

The word scarcity can be taken to mean the same as “lack.” At other times, scarcity can be used to denote some reality, or near-reality, such as “there is a scarcity of one kind of fish in the sea, relative to the total number of fish.”

But, scarcity is mostly a relative concept.

When I lived in New Jersey, for each and every cold month of the year, I experienced a scarcity of warm weather. For many, however, the summer heat was oppressive (when it came) and they experienced a scarcity of cold weather for each of the months when the temperature rose above 65 degrees. It was all a matter of perspective. I personally don’t complain about an abundance of warm weather… I blame living in Ithaca, NY for 4.5 years for that.

While I lived in the US, most Americans who heard that I lived in Jamaica would share some positive impression they had of the island and expressed a desire to visit and to stay as long as possible. Conversely, most Jamaicans living in Jamaica have said clearly in opinion polls that 80% of them would migrate to the US if given the chance. The fact that this is the same island does not mean that there are similar experiences of the abundance that exists.

Most people, however, regardless of nationality would agree that there is a scarcity of money in their lives.

However, just because there is wide agreement, does not mean that there is not a different experience that is available. Perhaps, a sound place to start would be with the following: “I have the perfect amount of money right now, down to the penny. The Universe (or God) has not made a mistake in giving me more or less than I have at the moment.”

“Furthermore, the Universe will be sending the perfect amount to me within the next 6 months, 6 years or 66 years, or more.”

Is it possible to see that in the acceptance of the perfect amount available to us, that we can see the abundance of everything in front of us?

For example, a child can easily see the abundance of the days left to live life.
An elderly adult can see the abundance of love that is available to her for the rest of her life.

An Eskimo can see an abundance of plants growing in a tropical backyard.
A gardener can see an abundance of weeds in that same yard.

A Jamaican can see an abundance of ganja growing in his country.
The US’ Drug Enforcement Association (DEA) can see an abundance of illegal drugs in the same country.


A resident can see an abundance of crime in the neighborhood, and an abundance of opportunities to make a difference.
A thief can see an abundance of possible criminal acts.


A mystic can see an abundance of Moments of Now.

It seems that an experience of scarcity only exists when there is an inability to accept completely what exists now. When what is, is accepted fully, then abundance is always present.

In Jamaica at the moment, the country has a per capita murder rate that is in the top three in the world (for countries that are not at war.) There is an abundance of murders, and also an abundance of possible contribution to make, and therefore an abundance of opportunities to be continually fulfilled in life.

In Trinidad at the moment, the kidnapping rate continues at the rate of 4 per week (from my memory.) There is an abundance of opportunities to transform the culture that allows that level.

In poverty, there is an abundance of opportunities to make more income. In wealth, there is an abundance of charities to which a significant contribution can be made.

In prison there is an abundance of time to meditate and discover self. In the hot deserts there is an abundance of sand and heat. In the cold deserts there is an abundance of heat and snow.

The point here is that in life, there is an abundance of chances to live life abundantly. In 2 days of life, there is an abundance of chances for an ant to life its life abundantly.

It all depends on the one doing the living, and the context that then gives rise to a particular experience.


Opportunity Needs Space
At the same time, it seems to be true by definition that scarcity can be interpreted as “space.” And, there is no possibility of growth, expansion and learning if there is no “space” within which growth can occur.

Huh? What does that mean?

A plant needs space around it to grow. A person who knows everything cannot be taught anything. A business that has 100% of the market cannot grow its market share. A room full of people cannot expand by adding more people. A country that has conquered the planet becomes the planet, and ceases to be itself. A breakthrough is impossible if everything that there is to accomplish, has been accomplished.

Opportunity, any opportunity, requires that there be space within which to grow. In other words, if scarcity is seen as nothing more than “space,” then opportunity requires scarcity for it to exist.

Without scarcity, there is no opportunity.

In business, a scarcity of poor customer service leads to an abundance of opportunities to differentiate the business on the level of service. In sports, a scarcity of top teams presents an opportunity to improve and to accomplish a high standard. In life, a scarcity of comfort presents an opportunity for spiritual growth. In the world, a scarcity of poverty gives humans an opportunity to experience growth and expansion.

“Scarcity” can therefore be seen as an opportunity, and a prerequisite for growth. To argue that there should always be more, however, is a recipe for madness, and sets up an expectation that life will never meet.

The truth that is so very difficult to remember is that while life is providing the perfect amount of everything, we are the ones driving ourselves crazy with thoughts that it should another way, other than the way it is.

Krisnamuthy, the philosopher, was once once asked what his secret to happiness is. He replied “I accept what’s happening” (paraphrased.)

Someone else also said “A Master prefers what occurs.” In our world, that could be translated as “A Master prefers what he or she has right now.”

Brilliant.









On Winning Hearts and Minds

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A while back, a client asked me what it took to win the hearts and minds of the people in his corporation. This was no theoretical conversation. As a senior manager, he had seen declining morale reflected in internal surveys. While profits were up, the company was seen as an “also ran” in its industry, and had an uncaring, unfeeling image.

Without answering, I said “find something new to be responsible for, and bring closure to it by apologizing for it.”

When I said it, it actually surprised me a bit.

While it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for many years, it struck me that until he asked me, I would not have answered that way before, even to myself. The statement makes no sense, in the normal way of thinking.

Yet, it applied perfectly.

Between the employees and its senior managers there was significant distrust. There were promises made that were broken. Outright lies told. Projects were started with great fanfare and then dropped.

While this kind of things happens in companies all day long, when they happen in public they have a particularly corrosive effect on culture and morale. People refer to them over and over, as the upset that occurred lingers without being addressed or resolved.

The weakest managers try their best to “keep things positive.” They skip over bad news, and focus on the good. Their public utterances are all about how great things are, as they try to look good and make everyone around them feel better.

Unfortunately, relentless optimism only irritates the original upset and deepens mistrust.

The only effective response is to “find something new to be responsible for, and bring closure to it by apologizing for it.”

And here, I’m not talking about the fake, no-apology that politicians and CEO’s are so fond of: “We need to find better ways to get the word out about the good things that are happening in the country / company.” This involves nothing new.

The “something new” could even be a success that has been unacknowledged, but usually leaders have no problem with this kind of communication. It is the failures that are much harder to acknowledge, but these are the ones that employees are the most willing to hear, when they have been fed a steady diet of good news.

The funny thing is, winning hearts and minds involves little more than an ability to “find something new to be responsible for, and bring closure to it by apologizing for it.” It unfailingly gets the attention of even the most ardent critic. An honest good faith effort to make things right is supremely powerful, especially to those who want things to be right, and are even cynical that that will never happen.

Recently, South Africa underwent such a process on a massive scale, involving millions of people. Politicians, soldiers, policemen, “freedom fighters” — they all involved themselves in the process that brought an end to the psychic suffering of all the people of that country.

My sister, who lives in Johannesburg, reports that the mood in the country is one of deep optimism, and she recently moved back to live in South Africa after living for several years in Ghana.

This optimism is to be expected. After all, that’s what happens when anyone takes steps to regenerate a relationship, and this is what it takes to win hearts and minds.

It is ironic – winning hearts and minds has nothing to do with being tough, and everything to do with working to “find something new to be responsible for, and bring closure to it by apologizing for it.”

On Asking Better Questions

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In a couple of speeches given recently, it has struck me that I appear to be learning less and less. I long for the days when I thought I could offer some powerful answers to the questions of the day, and apply some well-thought out conclusions to my audiences.

However, I find myself only being able to come up with questions.

More questions than the average person asks, to be sure, but still more questions than answers. At the start of each of these speeches I told people that I could not promise them solutions. Instead, I promised to share with them some of the questions that my colleagues and I were asking, and some of the answers that were coming up with. Our answers were admittedly partial.

Fortunately, the experiences were interesting and stimulating. It was exciting to share “partial answers” with a large group, and to let them in on the knowledge we are developing as a part of our own discovery process.

To be honest, I did have a concern that I might appear to them to not know what the heck I was talking about, given that I was coming to them with more questions than answers. Supposedly, they wanted me to speak because I know something about the topic, not because I know a bunch of questions.

But, in each case, my fears were unfounded. I found the following.

Intimacy

Sharing the problem and our thinking about the issues allowed people to better understand the issues themselves, as they could relate to the problem. In most cases, they already had done some thinking about the issues. No-one might have gone as far as we did in our thinking. No-one might have asked as many questions as we have. No-one may have been willing to share the partial answers derived.

But I did sense that people wanted to do their own thinking, even if they did it as part of an audience in a group setting.


Partnership

By opening up the issue with our questions, I sensed that they felt included as our partners in coming up with answers. This partnership could be used to get at better answers, if we both engaged in the questions for long enough.


Credibility

Any concern that I had about my own credibility disappeared when I found out that by virtue of the thinking we have done, we were asking better questions than others. I used to think that an expert was someone who had all the answers, but I’m not convinced that a Master is someone who has better questions, taking me back to my days of reading Tony Robbins personal development books.

Expertise can be demonstrated by the kinds of questions that are asked, as they show that the expert has moved from the easy answers to the more difficult ones, and the audience in each case enjoyed the process of learning by asking, versus learning by being told.


I think the days of being respected by having “all the answers” are essentially over – there is too much knowledge available to the average professional through the internet to allow it to continue. Instead, there is a new kind of respect coming from “having all the questions” especially when the mere fact of asking the questions demonstrates courage, conviction and intelligence.

On Authentic Leadership

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In a prior article I addressed the particular corporate creature I had “discovered” called the “High Tone Manager.”

On further reflection, I thought it would be useful if You, Dear Reader, happened to be a High Tone Manager and began to realize it after reading that particular blog. I imagined that you might have been stumped as to what to do about it, and without a clear course of action.

I thought I had found a solution when I found a book at Borders in Miami called “Authentic Leadership.” I quickly scanned through the book and was disappointed as it had none of what I wanted it to have. After “chewpsing” my teeth, I decided that I really needed to write about it, rather than just… “chewps.” (“Chewpsing one’s teeth” is the same as kissing one’s teeth.)

What was I looking for?

There was a particular young, hot-shot senior manager who I met and worked with for a while, who was an outgoing, friendly, gregarious high-flier. He had been promoted rapidly, and in his early thirties had about half of the company reporting to him.

He was a relentless self-promoter, who was deeply invested in looking good, and in his organization looking good, the better for him.

However, after a meeting with him I made this remark: “he needs to have his first big failure.”

Now, lest you accuse me of having “goat mout’,” my intention was not to cause him to fail or to wish him badly. On the contrary, I want him to succeed fabulously, but the kind of learning that he needed to do can only come from failure, and the humility and insight that comes from having to deal with public embarrassment.

This I know from personal experience.

A few years ago I was divorced from my wife of 15 years, and it came as a shock to everyone except our closest 5 or so friends.

Part of what kept me in the marriage for that long, and kept me trying to work things out, and would not allow me to consider the possibility of divorce (while keeping all this hidden from as many people as possible) was shame. I could not bear the public embarrassment about a failure that should not happen to us, or more accurately, to me.

In many ways I was a poster-boy for marriage, and led public personal development programs in Florida for a large company, and in the Caribbean within corporations in which my “testimonial” was largely about how the techniques I was sharing had made a big difference for me in my marriage, first and foremost. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of people had heard how I had worked to turn my marriage around, and many had thanked me for bringing some light into their situation.

A failure of the marriage would bring an end to the heroic story of a couple who had overcome adversity – to my mind.

Now, years later, and now re-married, I can see how much I learned from the experience and how much I’ve grown. It was humbling, and also freeing, to be able to end the pretending and to bring the truth into the open where it could be accepted as fact. In many cases I had to apologize for keeping friends and family in the dark for so long.

In a real sense, I was a “high-tone husband” with respect to my marriage.

Powerful leadership has many of the same traits.

  • Telling the truth.
  • Being authentic.
  • Making things right.
  • Causing reconciliation.
  • Apologizing.
  • Taking responsibility.

But these only make sense when there is a recognized failure that is completely embraced, and completely owned.

Without it, the manager or leader is left like I was – on a high wire act, waiting for the moment of failure to come to expose us in the way we most fear.

The high-tone manager (or politician) is always running hard – trying to pile up enough accomplishments to stay ahead of the public failure that MUST come. Because the failure is seen as catastrophic, he or she must work harder and harder to prevent it, even as it seems to be coming closer and closer. The smile gets wider, the mood gets more upbeat, the jokes get louder, the laughing gets more raucous.

But the hollow feeling only expands in depth.

Until, the truth gets told. Then, the suffering stops. The high wire disappears. The ground is found to be solid. Confidence returns, but instead of the weak confidence that comes from successive positive results, it is a deep confidence that comes when one has weathered failure with character and conviction.

So, my wish for that high-tone manager is something like “many happy failures” because they can be for him, an opportunity to expand who he is for himself and others immensely.