Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Passion put simply...

For all the tips and ideas and ways to get around your own blocks in experiencing passion and pursuing it, I can't express it any better than Emerson did when he said this:

“We want the Exact and the Vast; we want our Dreams, and our Mathematics.”

The sculptor and artist Roxy Paine gave expression to exactly this sentiment in his current installation in Madison Square Park. Visit his work in person or virtually by clicking here...What's even cooler is that my dear teacher Dana Flynn turned me on to all of this...the Roxy Paine, the Emerson quote, the whole shebang. Now, I've shared it with you. Whether you end up visiting Madison Square Park or just enjoy the quote, these ideas are now in your consciousness, just as much as they are in mine or hers. So go ahead - shift consciousness around you. Look for inspiration and brilliance in the folks around you - then share it with everyone you know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Feel Better - Passion for Life

Yolanda Smith is a refugee. What she's managed to escape is the drill-sergeant grind of her work-obsessed self. Reading these words here may surprise you. After all, we're the I-Heart-My-Job people. But truth be told, we're also the Keep It Real people. The Sustainable Success people. And if there's one thing you need to sustain yourself over the long haul in any form of success worth having, it's the ability to take care of yourself minute by minute.

Consider the statistics: one in nine women between the ages of 45-64 has some form of heart disease or stroke; this ratio soars to one in three at age 65 and beyond. One in six men aged 45-64 has some form of heart or blood vessel disease; in men 65 and older the ratio decreases to one in eight. Whether you're in this age bracket or not, the reality looms large. Yolanda had to learn it the hard way. After 6 years of 15 hours a day, Yolanda collapsed while presenting in a room full of hundreds of professional nurses. A nurse herself, she explained "if you had asked me if I was happy, fulfilled or stressed, the answer would have been yes, yes, NO!"

Work is a drug. It offers some really great highs we all get hooked on - pumping up our adrenaline, our egos and our wallets. But with all that pumping - you've got to take a look at what your ultimate pump - your heart - needs and be loyal to giving it that care on a regular basis. Give a little bit to your heart this month by taking a moment for the following this month:

- Get a physical. Dammit. Really. When is the last time you had someone measure your cardiovascular efficiency or look at how well you are functioning? Do it. Call now.

- Skip the cig. If you are a dabbler, you know what I'm talking about. Have the glass of wine (preferably a good red you will really enjoy) and leave smoking to the smouldering look in your eyes.

- Take a little walk. It takes as few as 15 minutes to ease cardiovascular stress with a little movement. Gotta get to the post office? Walk. Gotta go to the mall? Park further from the entrance. Give your strides a sense of purpose and your heart will like it even more.

- Try a new relaxation technique. The web is full of free downloads of meditations, descriptions of visualizations, and medical sites referencing countless mindfulness techniques. Youtube or google "relaxation techniques" or spring for .99 at iTunes and try one today.

Like Yolanda quoted from her days as a cardiac nurse, "minutes are muscle". So true in the emergency room and so true in life. The sooner you learn to take care of that muscle, the more beautiful minutes you'll get.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Balance Byte - Freeze Tag

With no idea who these people are or why they did what they did, the audacity of having such a simple and hilarious idea and then acting on it just delights us to no end. Playing with reality is the bomb. What silly ideas are begging for your action?

Think Better - Passion Play

What we feed grows. It's true of everything, including your thoughts. Think of your most negative friends and your most positive ones too - notice how they scan the world looking for evidence to support their disposition of choice. While it could be argued that by adulthood, such selective processing of the world and events around you is already hard-coded, why not challenge yourself to adopting the highest way of perceiving any one set of events around you? Not unlike the old reminder "WWJD?" (what would jesus do) , use the following steps to find a more inspiring perspective for yourself.

1. Identify a few of the people you admire most when it comes to pursuing your passions. These might be individuals you know or ones you simply know of. The will be risk takers, achievers, exhibitors of your most treasured values and deepest aspirations.

2. Identify what perspective on passion they represent for you - does MLK stand for courage? Does Gandhi stand for walking the talk? What was their fallback manner of being in the face of pursuing what mattered to them?

3. Look at your day today. Remember that even these great leaders had "ordinary days" in which their progress towards their respective goals may have been invisible to the human eye. Remember they were human beings with all the same fears and concerns you hold dearly.

4. When next you find yourself in a moment of uncertainty or conflict, before you call a friend to comiserate the lousy circumstances, take a moment to consult this more enlightened voice. How does the voice of your treasured mentor guide you through whatever it is you are confronting? What is the highest possible outcome for this twist in your story and how do you have to BE to allow that to happen?

This little passion play is the opposite of a pity party. It's the equivalent to that hand that picks you up and brushes off your knees when you fall even before you notice you are down. As you encounter the next twist in your own plot, let this tool remind you to narrate your story to your own happiest ending.

Lead Better - Ring of Fire

Passion at work? If you're like most of us, the response is usually, "nice idea but get real". This was never so obvious to me as in a recent offsite with some folks from YPO. A handful of execs, they represented a broad array of industries and personality types. Diversity aside, these successful presidents of companies universally faced the same struggle: how to ignite passion and get the best out of people.

As professionals, who doesn't want to feel passion? Curiously, while we lament the lack of engagement or innovative thinking of those around us, rarely do we allow or facilitate conversations that are messy enough for passion to arise. Too often our cultivated preference for measurable outcomes from linear processes dominates. As passion at work is easily scuttled as "impratical" or "not measureable", in many corporations the work of passion and the passion of work is left to motivational speakers and outside vendors.

The offsite was a perfect metaphor for this phenomenon. When asked what the value is of getting away for the day for an mountainside offsite, each strongly acknowledged the need to do exactly that - to come together to share dreams and passion in a supportive environment free of expectations our pre-prescribed outcomes. Widely regarding the time together as a "lifeline", when given the suggestion that they create such a lifeline within their office culture they wanted guarantees, structure and measurability.

First, let's acknowledge that PASSION loves company as much as misery does. What's more: while misery is predictable and points to a resignation-laden dead end, passion insists on possibility, on not knowing the outcome and on the possibility of igniting auxillary fires. With employee engagement at an all time low across the planet, we've got to bravely move towards starting those fires and see how they lend energy and vigor to our work.

Bring your inspiration and passion "home" to the office. You have people around you who also have hearts, minds, jobs and ideas. Chances are the guy or woman in the other cube or office would also benefit from being in an engaging, dynamic environment. Don't allow your passion to lie fallow until you stumble upon a touching moment at a movie, hear a great motivational speaker or have a great b.s. session with friends. Here are a couple of ways you can build your own circle of fire at work:

  • Herd your direct reports and colleagues into a conference room and put on the table that passion only happens when all concerned agree to prioritize it - including YOU and each of them.

  • Start a group brainstorm on how to make passion and inspiration matter more in the office and on projects.

  • Ask them what they want to do to have passion as a more prominent element in their work.

  • Keep and make public a running list of what inspires the various people on the team so you can effortlessly share the right ideas with the right folks whenever you stumble upon it.

  • Have a Passion Power Lunch where you each bring one thing - be it a youtube or product, email, book, whatever - that inspired you each week or month.

There may not always be a linear process to put action behind the energy. Indeed it may call for those involved to collaborate powerfully on how to harness the ideas and possibilities raised, how to put passion to purpose and allow it to act as a river connecting dreams to productivity. By calling on those participating with finding ways to make those connections, you'll heighten their engagement and reinforce the notion that not only DO they impact the world around them but they also determine how they move through it.

Passion Loves Company

Considering the value of networking groups like the Young President's organization for presidents of companies and Ladies Who Launch for women
entrepreneurs, Barbara Streisand hit the nail on the nail with the lines "people who need people are the luckiest people...".

We do need each other, and we need each other profoundly. Beyond collegial note-comparing, finding the best website provider or hottest sushi place, these organizations are powerful go-to's for finding people of passion who welcome hopes and dreams. Prioritizing that is making a conscious choice about how to move through the world and determining actively what world you really want to move through.

The passion we experience in each other is our greatest gift - it's the fix we can't resist. From the goose-bump/tear inspiring video produced by celebrities in support of Obama to Hillary's own hottly debated tears, McCain's unyielding-qualities and Huckabees resolute, pollster-free "simple man" approach - when you consider the magnetic power of any of the candidates' most human passion - this is what we most need from each other. It is to this passion that we most profoundly respond.

This month's balancebreak is about passion. Yes, in honor of Valentine's Day. Yes, in honor of the passion of the candidates and the all-encompassing job they aspire to. But mostly we are honoring those things as a reminder to you of whatever gets you out of bed with more than just a pulse. It is a reminder of your heart and its power to quicken with excitement in recognition of your own truth. It is a reminder passion's ubiquity and the anytime invitation to return to your own - available anytime you pause for a moment's visit with it.