Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

You know those moments when you get smacked in the face with a “DUH!”?  I recently had one of those. Last week, I was honored to speak at the Community Summit in Washington State, a conference that serves those with disabilities. The basic mission is to mainstream those with disabilities, to cultivate and honor the gifts they bring to community — to get them access to careers they love and in which they can thrive. This is a beautiful mission that is extremely difficult, for many reasons, not the least of which is because those without disabilities can often feel awkwardly uncomfortable around those with disabilities. We assume that what we see is what they are. Which is ridiculous, really, if you take two seconds to think about it. Of course they have gifts! Of course they have something to share with the world! Of course they can make a workplace better! But all too often we don’t see that right away, because they may not look or sound or speak or think like we do. The more I learn about the work these amazing people do through organizations like SAIL: Self Advocates In Leadership, and Wise, and St. John’s, and APSE, the more I come to understand an even greater realization: everyone has a disability. Some are just more easily accommodated. How many of you wear glasses or have had vision corrective surgeries? Anyone cut off a little closer to the ground needing a step-stool when others can reach just fine? These are accommodations to help you succeed — they’ve just been normalized.    Consider fidget spinners. They were invented as...
This Is Not A Pipe.

This Is Not A Pipe.

A few months ago, I spoke at a conference where the average age of my audience was 72. One of the issues they asked me to address was how, exactly, to connect with younger generations. As I was considering what to say, I was reminded of the surrealist painter Rene Magritte. He famously presented a painting of a pipe once, and asked his audience, What do you see? They, of course, responded that they saw a pipe. No! he exclaimed. This is a PICTURE of a pipe! Of course, as some critics pointed out, inasmuch as pictures represent actual objects, that image really was a pipe. Using imagery representation is how we learn; we point to a picture of a banana and tell our children, this is a banana. Then, when they see the real thing, they can recognize it. But the point that Magritte was trying to make was this: Everything we see hides something else. Sure, it was a picture of a pipe. But you could never pick that pipe up and smoke it. The picture we have of the younger generation is just that: a picture. Our own shorthand imagery, used for convenience and comfort, hiding the deeper truth of who that younger person really is. Which reminded me of another famous artist: Michelangelo, who famously said, “I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  Or, more specifically, “In every block of marble I see a statue…I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it.” When we see the simple picture of today’s youth,...
Checking My Privilege

Checking My Privilege

How does it feel to be a minority? I’m not sure I really know. Last week I spoke to a women’s leadership summit. I was one of only 3 males in the entire event of more than 270 women. “Was I nervous?” A friend asked as she helped me prepare my thoughts. “Yes. Very!” I replied. “I don’t blame you,” she said “I’m nervous too when I’m a minority outnumbered by that many.”  That’s when I was hit with a realization of my own male privilege. “No,” I realized, “that’s not at all why I was nervous.”  I was a bit stunned and confused.  The fact that I would be a minority hadn’t even crossed my mind!   “Huh!” I thought. Isn’t that ironic? While I was preparing to speak at a women’s leadership conference to a room full of women, I was indeed aware that I would be the only man — but I never considered myself a minority. Even in an environment where I am the minority of one, I am apparently incapable of seeing myself as such! I see myself as inherently equal. That’s very much a white, male privilege thing, isn’t it? Us white men are are taught from the ground up that that we are capable, competent and top of the heap! The system that favors us, and teaches us to see ourselves as at least equal with everyone else. That’s not inherently the same for women and minorities who clearly aren’t favored in that same system. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t know I was the only guy. I knew it. I acknowledged...

A Taste of Fierce Conversations®

A Taste of Fierce Conversations® Have you ever avoided a conversation because it was too risky, too scary, too emotional or you just plain didn’t know how to begin it?  I know I have! Most of us just aren’t taught how to have the “real” conversations in our lives, you know, the ones that truly advance our careers, relationships and lives; and the models we have via family, television and the movies sure don’t give us the skills we seek.  As a result, too many of us have careers go down hill, or relationships dissolve, or friendships fade into the past because we don’t know how to talk about something that is truly meaningful and important.  What if that could change? The Sufi poet Rumi once said: “Out there beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there!”  What would it take to get past the judgment we have of each other, of the ideas of right and wrong, and actually meet people in a place where we can connect as humans – not ideas, labels or our past? What would it be like to seek connection and understanding; to build relationship over “rightness?”  There is a secret to achieving this and it starts and ends with the focus on the relationship. Ask yourself this simple question: Is what I am about to do or say going to enrich the relationship at the center of the issue? If there answer is no, are you willing to try something different? If the answer to that second question is yes, then I would like...
Concorde Career Institute Graduation Speech (Video)

Concorde Career Institute Graduation Speech (Video)

Last year I had the honor of speaking at the graduation ceremony for a local career college here in Portland. The response was outstanding and they have since asked me back a number of times to speak at graduations as well as to run a three hour in-service workshop for the faculty. Here are just a few of the comments the faculty had to say in response to the workshop: “The best in-service we have had, rewarding” “Just what I needed” The most positive impact on me was “the speaker’s ability to inspire!” “This is far more valuable to me than a personality assessment, which we have done. Has real application potential, Great Job!” The speech is based on the principles of H.U.M.A.N. Strategies of which perspectives is just one. If you would like to learn more, or bring this message to your organization, group, school, church or conference, please contact feel free to contact...