Your Soul Food for 10/11/13

Happy Soul Food Friday!


This week:

  • Transforming Education with the Power Tools of Social Capital and Collective Intelligence
  • The Secret to Living Is Giving
  • What Makes The Perfect Human by Robin Sharma
  • Three Conflicts & The Only Way Not To Be Bullied by Will Marre
  • A Joyous Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz at Hadassah Hospital

“In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationshipsand the capacity to form those relationships is more important than tasks, functions, roles and positions.” –Margaret Wheatley

If you agree that culture eats strategy for breakfast, know intuitively that social capital and energy can be the difference that makes a difference, are committed to using our collective intelligence, and you are local (in San Diego), then I strongly encourage you personally to attend the next Supper Club on Oct 23rd at the UCSD Faculty Club at 5:30pm. (Details below)

I consider the privilege of working with Dr. Alan Daly in the K-12 space as one of the highlights of my career, and the impact of his work is massively applicable to most organizations though his research is formulated in the educational space. (If you are not local, I am happy to send you more information about how to “Leverage networked organizations and communities for meaningful change”)

We would love to see you there, and equally importantly please help get the word out to other educationally inclined stakeholders as the synergy and leverage we could muster if we have the right people in the room could be a game changer for local Education.

PS. Sometimes the answers to the questions we seek are “hidden in plain sight”…


The Secret to Living Is Giving:

One of my favorite things to do is waking up early on Sunday morning, getting the Sunday paper, making a hot cup of coffee, and kicking back to read about what’s going on in the world. It’s my quiet time…my time to reflect and relax.

One Sunday morning about halfway through my little ritual, I spotted a headline that caught my attention, “Graduating Student Credits His ‘Angel'”…and I began to read.

A young man who was graduating from college told the story about how Oral Lee Brown was his “Real Life Angel.” In 1987, Brown, a real estate agent in Northern California, saw a young girl in her neighborhood begging for money.

When she went to the school the girl had claimed to attend, Brown couldn’t find her, but that day she made a decision that would change the lives of many other children forever. She adopted an entire first-grade class in one of Oakland’s lowest performing schools, and she pledged that she personally would pay for anyone who wanted to attend college.

This would be a great story even if Oral Lee was independently wealthy; however, it is a much greater story considering she was a former cotton picker from Mississippi, making $45,000 a year and raising two children of her own.

Brown lived up to her pledge. Since 1987, she’s personally saved $10,000 a year while raising donations for her “adopted first-grade kids.” And because of her tremendous act of unselfish love, children who could have been “swallowed by the streets” are now graduating from college to pursue their dreams.

We all seek our purpose in life. Most of us wonder how we can make a positive difference during our brief time on this earth. But Oral Lee Brown discovered the simple secret…GIVING.

Arthur Ashe said it best,

“From what we get, we can make a living. What we give, however, makes a life.”

Unbelievable: by Robin Sharma
What Makes The Perfect Human? And what does it take to create a life that’s so excellent it’s unbelievable?

Honestly, who knows.
But please allow me to try to come up with an answer,,,
#1. The Perfect Human Wants to Be Better

To me, a great part of being human is the relentless quest for better. Yes–be content. But study Michelangelo, Federer, Einstein or Jobs. Madonna and Gaga. Slim and Rockefeller. Each one of them had a lust to grow. To excel. To win. To make everything they touched better.

#2. The Perfect Human Cares

Being fully human’s also about a mastery of the details. So yes, I definitely mean being caring in the loving sense. But I also mean just caring about polishing the little details that average people dismiss as insignificant. The downside of this is that you’ll be seen as difficult. Who cares? All world-builders were called that.

#3. The Perfect Human is Brave

You just can’t get to great (and I’m nowhere near that–just a messenger) without an insane level of raw courage. TPH (The Perfect Human) gets that. And so she speaks her truth even when her voice shakes. He stands for his cherished values even when facing a bullet. They do what’s right even when it’s hard. And nothing–absolutely nothing–stops them from breathing reality into their once imaginary dreams.

#4. The Perfect Human Loves Fit

Fitness is a game-changer. It just is. Once you get to your best physical condition, your focus soars, your mood elevates, your resilience grows and your stamina flows. TPH is like a hunter on the ancient plains–knowing that only the fittest survive. And yes–when you get fit you’ll get giant goals done (so your life gets good). But also get ultra-healthy so you’re of improved service to our world. (We all need you to shine).

#5. The Perfect Human Values Honor

To be fully human and alive is to live in a way that’s aligned with the noble virtues of honesty, patience, understanding, respect, persistence and compassion. Decency’s still cool–at least in the world I want to live in. The best of us–my heroes–live like that. And that’s why I love them.

#6. The Perfect Human Needs Little

Look–I spend a lot of my professional life helping large companies and industry titans make greater fortunes. Money brings freedom (and allows businesses to give people livelihoods). Nice things are part of the sensual pleasures of the world–why not enjoy them? But The Perfect Human doesn’t need them. They don’t make the title, the net worth, the social status, the watch and the house their God. Nope. They just enjoy them–fully knowing the real goal of the ride is self-mastery and contribution.

Three Conflicts & The Only Way Not To Be Bullied by Will Marre

Over many years of my leadership consulting practice I’ve had to facilitate agreements among unreasonable people. Often these battles have occurred between chest pounding executives who are frustrated or frightened. I’ve also refereed Boards of Directors of merging companies and unions and management.  On a few occasions I’ve even been ambushed by spouses of clients who want me to help repair their ragged relationship… yep I’ve been in some pretty wild situations.

Early in my career I taught and relied on the tools of ‘seek first to understand and then be understood’ and ‘win-win’ to forge agreement out of the ashes of conflict. What I found is that these tools are excellent to solve problems, Level One problems. Those are disagreements over tactics. These conflicts arise when people have shared values and goals but simply want to go about things in a different way. For instance if both my wife and I wanted to take a relaxing vacation and I wanted to go to the tropics and she wanted to go to the mountains we could probably find a win-win resolution by taking the time to sincerely understand what it is about those places that give each of us a sense of relaxation. Then we might come up with a simple solution like alternating vacations between the beach and the mountains. We’d probably feel pretty good about the solution if we both agreed that relaxation was the primary goal and that we actually planned our time and activities to achieve that goal. What makes this work is our supreme value for a harmonious relationship based on respect, fairness and mutual advocacy.

Now if our conflict was a little more intense such that I want a relaxing vacation and she wants an exciting one… it would take a little more creativity. What’s not obvious about resolving Level One conflicts is that to maintain goodwill you need to not cave-in. It’s important to have a reasonable tolerance for disagreement because this will stimulate creativity. If you value harmony so much that it’s very stressful to even have temporary disagreements you will find yourself never taking the vacation you want or launching the marketing program the way you designed it… or any other priority that you’re willing to sacrifice to avoid conflict. The will to resolve Level One conflicts at high levels of mutual satisfaction stimulate creative innovation and resilient relationships.

All good stuff… yet we often find ourselves in Level Two conflicts, which are more difficult to solve. Sometimes far more difficult.

Level Two conflicts are disagreements over goals. (Remember, Level One was conflict over tactics) sometimes I call these ‘small pie conflicts.’ By small pie I mean that there is simply not enough for everyone to get what they want in the amount they want. Sure it would be great if you could increase the size of the pie in every situation but that’s just not realistic. Once I was helping several physician groups negotiate their financial relationship with a large hospital system. There was a limited amount of money to divide and it was clear that that small pie of money would not be growing very much anytime soon. If the doctors made more, the hospitals would make less and vice versa. Soon this escalated into a bare-knuckles battle with lots of accusations and emotion. The only way I could get these agitated adversaries to calm down was to ascend the ‘mountain the values’ until we could find common ground. What they could agree on was that the hospital system and the physicians were sincerely dedicated to providing the best patient care possible. I was also able to get them to a common reality about their mutual finances. When goals are in conflict it is critical to agree on the facts, so Level Two conflicts are resolved when people agree on both facts and values otherwise there is no path to agreement.

Now we come to ugly Level Three conflicts. These are conflicts over values. Most often they simply cannot be resolved. One example of Level Three conflict was the Cold War. The values of dictatorial Communism versus Western democratic values had no meaningful common ground. To preserve the peace we simply zoned off the world, rattled our sabers and frightened each other into avoiding war. It appears we have a similar problem with Al Qaeda. The unquestioned values that we have for individual freedom, self-expression and personal conscience are not shared. Both sides actually believe they have the moral high ground so conflict is inevitable. Throw in other high ignition problems like widespread poverty, political rivalry, tribalism and oil and you have a boiling stew of conflict.

Level Three conflicts are not only geopolitical. They exist in the workplace and at home. The most common Level Three conflict arises in working with people who are pathologically self-interested… just plain selfish. Now all of us are selfish from time to time especially when we’re scared or stressed. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about people who refuse to empathize. These are people who treat everyone as either a threat or an ally to get what they themselves want. Their main tactics are bullying and manipulating. They bully by making threats, hoarding resources, stealing ideas and blaming others when anything goes wrong. Their arms get tired from throwing people under the bus. What’s unfortunate is that bullies can thrive in hierarchical organizations that tolerate it. Mid-level bullies are often miss-characterized as no-nonsense managers by senior executives. So they frequently persist and even thrive.

Manipulators are passive-aggressive. They also blame others, deny responsibility and play the victim. An Olympic level manipulator seems to be able to figure out how to never be wrong or responsible…it’s everyone else’s fault.

Bullies and manipulators are everywhere. Social psychologists estimate that about 35% of adults never mature beyond this level of living. Every workplace has them and so does virtually every family. So what do you do with Level Three conflicts? There is only one thing to do. Create rules and boundaries for your interactions. As the saying goes ‘you can’t make a good deal with a bad person’… at least not for long. When you’re in conflict with others because of the fundamental disagreement over values the conflict will never end. So you need to protect yourself from selfish nut-jobs. Unless the crazy person has a life altering experience which actually changes their values a healthy trusting relationship is simply impossible.

I didn’t always believe this. For 40 years I was a magnificent idealist. But the lessons of life taught me that the lethal combination of someone who is competitive and insecure will make them bullies. My attempts to have sustained relationships were totally disruptive to my own psychological health. What I found was that bullies look for people they can intimidate, and manipulators are simply parasites looking for hosts who will cave-in to the whiny demands. What’s going on here is Level Three conflict. These conflicts will ruin your life if you allow them to. There is nothing you can do to repair them and it’s not your job to. Your job is to make a difference. Your job is to be healthy, loving and to do something that matters.

The next time you’re in conflict take a moment to analyze whether it’s Level One, a conflict over tactics; Level Two a conflict over goals…or a code red Level Three. Understanding the world this way changed my life. I hope it does the same for you.


Note to women:  Most women’s brains are wired for social harmony and empathy. This makes them “soft” targets for bullies and manipulators. The most common response is to become passive aggressive, which helps you maintain power without being confrontational. The problem is being passive aggressive makes you psychologically sick and makes you feel weak. The best strategy is calm assertiveness. Know what you want. Ask for what you want. Create what you want.
I know, it’s not as easy as it sounds… yet there’s simply no other choice. 

Last but not least, enjoy the Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz at Hadassah Hospital

Click here: Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz at Hadassah Hospital – Safeshare.TV

Enjoy this beautiful rendition from the Nutcracker.

Thanks this week go to Popeh Z, Alan D & UCSD, Robin S, Will M, & Larry H.

 Pay it forward, you can’t take it with you…



“God made the world for the delight of human beings.”—Mother Teresa

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