Return on Integrity Discover the Groundbreaking Nature of ROI Mon, 23 Mar 2020 16:31:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Return on Integrity 32 32 The Silent Truth Thu, 05 Mar 2020 23:41:52 +0000 The Silent Truth

It’s starting to become one of my regular “gigs” on the Tuesday evening before Christmas at a local retirement community — at least for the last 3 out of 4 years. It’s a safe night for me to make a commitment while avoiding conflicts with other speaking engagements being booked on the road throughout the year. It is also good to be “home for the holidays” and as they say – it is a wonderful time of the year. And they are, indeed, a wonderful community.

This particular group meets on the third Tuesday evening of each month with an annual theme for the whole calendar year. This past year their theme was The Joy in the Journey. Each month an invited speaker is asked to share some aspect of that theme. Since I’m the caboose session of their annual theme, a lot has been said on the topic before I arrive in the midst of the buzz of the Holiday Season.

When Betty, the Program Director, reached-out in the early fall to ask for the title of my presentation, I was in the midst of my own bit of a whirlwind on the journey.  Reactively, and almost longingly, I responded with: “What about The Joy in the Silence of the Journey.” She quickly responded, “I love it!”

It felt like a great idea at the time!

A month later, I finally had a window to sit down with a blank sheet of paper to outline this presentation. And then it hit me – this is the worst topic I could have ever chosen. This is a retirement community for goodness sake.  The live in an overwhelming abundance of silence.

All kinds of voices started to fill my head – most were not very kind. Like: “you idiot – of all presentations – they should be making this presentation to you not vice versa (of course that idea of who-should-be-teaching-who comes up in my mind every time I agree to be there with them!). Then even darker thoughts began to creep-in reminding me that, for many, the cheerful Holiday season can be a dark reminder of the more festive and noisy gatherings of yesteryear. And accordingly, a presentation on silence would be the last thing they would want to hear at this most wonderful time of the year. And then it hit me.

Their world may be filled with quiet, yet that doesn’t mean it’s filled with silence.

I had tripped upon a mistake we so often make in interchangeably thinking of quiet and silence. After-all, some of our most limiting thoughts can come to life in the midst of deafening quiet.

You can visibly be in the midst of complete quiet while unknowingly be without a trace of silence. And I would suggest that this quiet without the silence can often lead to isolation and loneliness.

We can make the same mistake in the opposite direction – assuming that silence and chaos are like oil and water.  And in doing so, we can often create needless stress and blindness in the midst of chaos.

The truth is that silence is the joy in the journey whether our path takes us to places of deafening quiet or along stretches of raging chaos.

The joy is, in fact, in the silence.

Following my presentation, one of the residents approached with her walker.  With her precious smile she said, “This is exactly the message I needed to hear tonight. They have been remodeling the apartment next door to me and the noise has been driving me crazy. When they start working tomorrow morning, I will be prepared to soften my anxiety in this silence you have talked about.”

I smiled back as I thought – maybe this part of their journey isn’t as quiet as I thought it was!  I simply replied:  I suppose silence is a joy in every part of our journey.  She flashed back a sweet smile and replied: I think you’re right.

Silence can be found anywhere and everywhere when we are willing to let go of the quiet and the chaos – along with everything in-between.  It is there that we can hear truth in the silence.

As I drove home that night, Silent Night came on the radio. For the first time, I heard it in a whole new dimension of silence.

I would love for you to share your thoughts, insights, and comments below.

]]> 4 Thu, 06 Feb 2020 17:48:47 +0000 I’m grateful to Bob Hursthouse for sharing this month’s image with us.  Bob so wonderfully describes it this way:  A fabulous sunset enjoyed sitting by the fire is the perfect place for quiet, reflection and gratitude. I breathe into what went well that day and exhale through things I could have done better. I express gratitude for all the day offered and rest in the wonder of creation.

Story Behind the Story

[Note: As I noted in last month’s announcement (Beyond the Front) you will notice a new look and a new approach.  The Front Porch is now simply THE PORCH — no longer just my thoughts but rather a monthly connection and curation.  This year’s theme is awareness — a theme fully inspired by 18 years of sitting on The Front Porch. Every month will feature a new image of “a porch” most often submitted by others.  While I will continue to offer thoughts and reflections, you will very often find fresh new content by others who have and who continue to inspire me.  I thought it was only appropriate to start with thoughts from the one who first inspired me to leave behind an 18-year career at Arthur Andersen to follow my dream. For me, Kevin Freiberg has gone from mentor, to friend to brother.  What I love most about Kevin is his authenticity that is refreshingly raw and real.  I hope you will enjoy sitting with us on The Porch this month and Kevin’s insights that follow.]

The Two Sides of Awareness     by Dr. Kevin Freiberg

Awareness … self and other. Every great leader has it. And frankly, it is a characteristic of every great human being.


Great leaders look for the story behind the story — to find the person behind the person. This is extremely hard to do in a society that loves to put people in nice, neat categories. If you fit into the left-wing, liberal category we no longer have to get to know you. We already knew who you are because all liberals are the same. If you are a right-wing, conservative republican we already knew who you are because all conservatives are the same. Whether you are gay or straight, the category I put you in creates a long list of assumptions I make about you. You get the point.

How many times have you missed an opportunity to lead or teach or influence because you stereotypically thought you had a person already figured out? Whether it’s an employee or a customer, how often do you look beyond what meets the eye and ask:

What’s the story behind the story …

What’s really going on in this person’s life that I need to pay attention to? If I knew and I cared, would it — change my approach? Change the design of my product or service? Change the way I relate to my spouse or children?

Awareness creates empathy and empathy is one of the most underrated weapons in a leader’s arsenal. People — customers and employees — are not categories, retention costs or statistics on a spreadsheet. They aren’t market segments, purchasing patterns or lifetime values. They are, to use Martin Buber’s term, “Sacred Thous.”

Great leaders understand this. While not every person is a cultural fit, they see the unique worth in every human being. Their curiosity accentuates their awareness. That’s why they work at mining the story behind the story by asking, “Who is this person … really? What are their aspirations and frustrations? How have life events – celebrations and wounds – shaped their worldview? What do they truly care about? Who do they trust?” Then, they stop talking, become the coached and probe and explore to “dig deeper.”

Does this require time and emotional labor? You bet. But this is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary people we love to follow.


Everyone operates with blind spots or a lack of self-awareness. But there is a difference between those who win the love, affection and admiration of friends, family and colleagues, and those who climb the ladder of success stepping on people along the way. The former are people who have the vulnerability to open the kimono, look in mirror and ask:

  • What are my blind spots?
  • How do I land on people?
  • What about me needs to change?
  • Where am I playing small, not bringing it?
  • What strengths am I leveraging? Not leveraging?

This kind of self-awareness is rare. Truly assessing the impact and influence we have on others at a deep, introspective level is not the norm in most businesses — or families for that matter. Confronting the dark parts of ourselves is scary. It takes guts to risk emotional exposure. Yet, there is no personal growth or growth in our communities outside the comfort zone, right?

Self-awareness, if we act on it, is contagious. Your personal reflection and vulnerability opens the door and gives me more freedom to do the same. If we can do this without guilt and shame we are more likely to find a way to row out of our murky waters together – and grow.

Here’s the thing. Life is too valuable, time is too precious and people are too important to have it any other way. Self-awareness is a gift we give others.

That’s why our willingness to wrestle with our demons causes our angels to sing.

[Kevin so clearly invites us to a deeper level of awareness inside and out.  CLICK HERE to learn more about the work of Kevin and Jackie at EpicWorkEpicLife.]

I would love to hear your thoughts, insights, and comments below!

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Beyond the Front Thu, 02 Jan 2020 17:32:55 +0000 Eighteen years ago, I sat in front of a blank screen to compose the first issue of The Front Porch newsletter. The idea was simple – a monthly newsletter designed to be a “place” to sit and ponder the issues of business and life.

At the time, with the fresh turn of a new century and surviving the threat of “Y2K”, the great sense of hope in the air seemed plausible. Yet, with a world more connected and change coming faster than we had ever experienced, it seemed the concept of discussions on any “front porch” would be a continual reminder of the growing and on-going need for perspective.

Maybe a little nostalgic by design, it seemed like a front porch was a wonderful metaphorical place to sit from time-to-time to nourish that perspective. Sitting on the porch can widen your perspective or simply deepen it.  I suppose it depends on who you’re sitting with. And it depends on if you genuinely care to hear their perspective even when you don’t fully understand it.  And especially when you can’t seem to understand their perspective at all. It depends on so many things. Including our own perspective. Perspective can serve our own purposes.  One definition of perspective shines a light on this:  the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship. While certainly useful, it can drift to a place self-serving.

Somehow perspective no longer seems to be enough.


Nor does a “newsletter” called The Front Porch. I have felt it for some time and possibly let it seep through the evolving nature of the content of this month-to-month newsletter. I have tried to go deeper at the risk of becoming vague. Frequently more vulnerable.  I know that many may question: How in the world does this serve business?  The better question may actually be: How in the world does business serve life?

I ask that question from a very practical standpoint. I think if we could genuinely answer that question, organizations would stop wasting millions of dollars on old facades packaged with new veneers. We would start digging into possibilities we don’t initially understand. We would push through fears of scarcity that create compliance and control while confidently unleashing that of which we are uncertain. That will take a lot more than perspective.

It will take awareness.


Through my deep exploration of integrity, I have learned that integrity is simply impossible to know and understand without greater awareness. In so many ways, integrity and awareness depend on each other.  Some days I wonder if they are one and the same.

So, with that, I felt some changes were necessary and appropriate:

  • No more newsletters. This will simply be a place of connection and I will do all I creatively can to honor that. Look for other voices and a curation of insights.
  • Drop the “front” to metaphorically eliminate a sense of place. I hope that you will come to think of “a porch” as any place, or any moment, or anyone that enriches your awareness. To encourage that, this monthly connection will simply be known as “The Porch” and the images used each month will be purposely selected to encourage you to see porches anywhere and everywhere. These too will be a curation of images submitted by others.
  • Content won’t always seem relevant to the practical mind. A new sense of awareness rarely does at first. The intent will always be to provide valuable content whether it seems immediately relevant or not.

Most importantly, every ounce of this connection will be intended to invite you into a deeper sense of integrity in its purest form of expression. That, in itself, will be relevant to your work, your home, your community and your life.  I am certain about that.

I realize a practical voice may be calling you to UNSUBSCRIBE and click the option CONTENT NO LONGER RELEVANT.  My hope is that you would precisely do just the opposite – instead, intentionally stepping-out to invite others to join in.

It sure seems that 2020 is the perfect year to open ourselves to a greater awareness.  And I look forward to being with you on “the porch” wherever, whenever and with whomever it may be. Especially on the First Thursday of each month.  Yes, that stays the same!

I’d love to hear your thoughts, insights, comments below … and will look forward to receiving images of porches that you see – porches in whatever form they may appear!

In the meantime, wishing you a New Year filled with meaningful experiences and ever-expanding awareness.

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Going Blank Fri, 06 Dec 2019 01:21:25 +0000 Back-in-the-day, as they say, we had to manually defrost the freezer of our refrigerator periodically.  I still remember the process of taking everything out of the freezer, temporarily putting it in the refrigerator portion below, and boiling pans of water to place inside the freezer to melt all the frozen build-up.  I also remember how fresh and clean the freezer looked as we placed the frozen goods back in the defrosted compartment.

There is just something about a blank canvas.  A clean slate.  A fresh start.

Over the next month, millions will be “preparing” for a New Year.  Maybe even more-so than ever, with this particular New Year — 2020 – calling out for a greater since of clarity without ever saying it. Yet so often we just fine-tune. We adjust.  More likely, we just pile on more expectations. Most post-event debriefs are thoughtfully executed through a process of STOP, START and CONTINUE.  With all great intentions, many will pick resolutions to stop doing, start doing, or enhance doing.  In the spirt of continuous improvement, it is certainly a reasonable approach.


What if everything had to stop?


Literally. In other words, rather than taking the approach of making fine-tune adjustments to one area or another – or one activity or another – that everything stops. You wipe the slate of your life clean.  Every activity.  Every organization.  Every relationship.

No matter how important, how critical, how long-standing – or how much you were consciously or subconsciously attached – everything comes off your calendar. You are released from any obligations or expectations. At the same time, what if it also eliminated any shame, guilt, or fear?


Left with only a blank canvas.


From there, in the spirit of a beginner’s mind, you can begin to sketch-out a new creation where every single thing has to earn its way back into the picture of your life.

I know it sounds a bit extreme. At the same time, it is extremely intentional. It is thoughtful. And it has the opportunity to be filled with a recognition of gratitude as you add back what belongs on your canvas. Just imagine the impact as you added back — each relationship, each organization, each goal, each activity, each habit — with a refreshed sense of ownership, accountability, and commitment.


It also has the potential to release all that shouldn’t be there.


I have absolutely no research, no experience, nor tangential evidence that could prove this would work — or that it’s even a good idea. However, I am convinced it would disrupt how we think about starting each New Year.  It would make the concept of New Year’s resolutions obsolete.  More importantly, it would enhance how we show-up throughout the year. It would not only change who and what we added to the blank canvas at the beginning of the year, but how we added to the canvas throughout the year.

No question, it sounds a little selfish on the surface.  That is, until you realize you have been eliminated from the canvas of others … wondering if you have earned your way back.

It’s a half-baked idea.  Taken to an extreme for a reason … eliminating the trap of taking anything or anyone for granted.

I will never forget when my mom bought our first self-defrosting refrigerator. It was awesome. If only our life could self-defrost, we simply would not have to worry about the frozen build-up. In the meantime, we may need to boil some water. Or go grab a blank canvas.

As always, I’m so grateful when you share your thoughts below.

In the meantime, may wonderful and surprising moments fill your Holiday Season.  In 2020, wishing you a renewed sense of clarity and a deepened sense of patience and curiosity for all that remains unclear.

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Control’s Constraint Thu, 07 Nov 2019 21:33:38 +0000 I can still remember my first drive across the desert. It was part of an adventurous road trip with two college buddies in the heat of a summer where the temperatures were reaching degrees that, in my young life, I had not imagined possible. It was long before the days of cell phones and internet where you learned new things real-time and not on a screen.

There were the road signs reminding you to fill-up your gas tank due to the log gaps between civilization. No doubt, high temperatures and long gaps were a bad combination with an empty tank and no cell phone. Things can become very real, very quickly. One of the new experiences, I remember most, seemed to fill every mile along those desert roadway gaps.


And it wasn’t real at all.


It was the mirage – a visual reality that exists only as a perception. The desert heat, fueled by the relentless sun’s rays along the endless pavement, created images so real you knew you would soon reach them if you just kept driving. The mirage is an illusion – that only seems real from a distance. You can drive forever, using all of your precious fuel and never get there. Eventually, the sun just sets.

Years beyond those desert roadways, we speed along high-capacity freeways packed with the technology of virtually no gaps at all. This drive also has its own set of mirages.


Control is one of them.


And with exponentially increasing capabilities, harnessing control can seem so close – so achievable. We can see it in the near distance as we accelerate on final approach to grab ahold of it. Unfortunately, this phantasm of control isn’t real. It only appears to be reachable. And so, we can waste a lot of energy in trying to get there. This is true in organizations of most every size in most any context — and it is true in our communities, our families and most certainly in our own personal life.

Our draw to the fantasy of control can be driven by a number of reasons. Sometimes control comes from a desire for power and other times to ease a fear — often two sides of the same coin. The greatest deception is that our draw is most often driven from the best of intentions.

There is a big difference between irresponsibly being out-of-control and the assumption that you are in control. One is dangerous, yet both are wasteful. One is done out of no intention and the other is done with great intention. One spirals downward while the other goes in circles with an allusion of progress. Yet, neither get us anywhere useful.

The concept of control certainly has its place. You want to control the car you are driving. You want the pilot to control the plane in which you are flying. Yet, even then, we certainly know that this control has its own aspect of vulnerability.

Knowingly, or unknowingly, striving for control is much like driving towards the mirage. While your control appears close and real, it never is. The only thing that’s real is the constraint the striving for control places on you. Accepting that you are not in control loosens these constraints.


And unleashes creativity.


Just imagine how much of our energy and resources are used in trying to control what is not controllable. In many cases it nurtures a negative energy. This is just as true in the culture of organizations as it is in the relationships within our own lives. In trying to control, we create resistance – whereas in letting go of our illusion of control, we free-up resources for creation. We begin to reveal what is genuine and authentic – where responsible choices come naturally.

Constraints feel very different than invitation. It is why genuine love, respect and gratitude unleash an endless energy without ever depleting themselves. Their energy has no need for control. They show-up for whatever conditions may be.

The truth is that when we stay focused on the mirage – we miss the unique beauty of the desert through which we are traveling. No question, sometimes there are long gaps — what if we filled them with love, respect and gratitude? I have no doubt that organizational cultures, and personal relationships alike, would no longer show a need for control. We would simply be grateful for what they have become as we travel through them.

As always, I’m so grateful when you share your thoughts below!

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Love Never Fails Thu, 03 Oct 2019 10:00:26 +0000 I’ve never been one to read “the end” of a book first.  I’m much more wired to start at the very beginning – as they sing, it’s a very good place to start. This makes me a very unlikely candidate to write a book where it might make sense to read the end first.

Yet, reflecting back on a discussion in the most recent Circle of Integrity cohort, I started wondering if reading the “Closing Thoughts” of Return On Integrity: The Individual’s Journey to the One Essential Thing would be the perfect place to start. The fact that I didn’t plan it that way, may very well make some sense too – especially considering those very closing thoughts are a story about an ending that was never planned.

What I love (with somewhat of a pun intended) is that you could read only that part of the book and substantially change your life.  I’m certain it would change how you experienced all of the content in the book that preceded it. With that thought in mind, and no spoiler alert necessary, it might be worth sharing those brief closing thoughts here:

 I was in front of a room of thirteen hundred accounting and finance majors. The title the conference organizers had suggested for my closing general session was “Unleashing Authentic Relationships.” Integrity and intentionally knowing and living your core values were at the heart of the presentation. The closing I had planned, however, was never delivered. The night before, a question grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

As I came to the closing of my presentation, I took a deep breath and said: “Now, I hope a few things I shared will stir your thinking and inspire your action to unleash authentic relationships. Yet, I would gladly trade all of that if you would regularly do just one thing every night — lay your head on your pillow and simply ask yourself one question: How loving was I today?

The silence in the room was deafening. I took another deep breath and slowly continued: “We have corrupted what love is. We have romanticized it, sexualized it, and manipulated it in a lot of ways. I challenge you to rediscover it. If you want to unleash authentic relationships, authentic leadership, and meaningful success, love is all you need. And the process to unleash that love starts and continues with that nightly question: How loving was I today?”

I somewhat trusted that this analytical audience would sense a bit of accountability in this otherwise very soft question.

Numerous students gathered around me after the presentation. They wanted to talk about one thing—the final question of an unplanned closing.

Beyond authenticity, I am certain, it’s the only question that ultimately nurtures greatness. And it is intentionally digging for our core values and living them personally and organizationally that will fuel a rich answer to that question each night.

These values will also empower you to love what you do and love who you get to do it with. You might say this love is your greatest return on integrity. That is an ROI worth investing in.

We are always looking for shiny new sophisticated answers to what seems like an ever-increasingly complex and dangerous world.

The answer is not so complex.

I was reminded of this, most recently, at the wedding of Tim and Lauren.  I had watched Tim grow-up from his very youngest years.  I was honored when Tim and Lauren asked me if I would do a reading at their wedding – a reading I had heard hundreds of times.  Yet, I had never delivered 1 Corinthians 13 – at a wedding or anywhere.  As I prepared, and for many days afterward, the words of verses 4-8 rang in my head.

Love is patient, love is kind.

It is not jealous, is not pompous,

it is not inflated, it is not rude,

it does not seek its own interests,

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Religious or not, you have likely heard these words many times.  Most likely at a wedding. While they are perfect words for any wedding, what is interesting is that the author of these words wasn’t writing them for a wedding at all.

He was writing them for life.

Imagine the incredible changes that could evolve at work and at home – all over the world — if we would slowly read these words, each and every morning, when we first awoke.

And then, as we put our head back on our pillow each night, what if we asked ourselves: How loving was I today?

Shortly after the book was published, I was having coffee with my buddy Al when he suggested an insightful companion question: How was I loved today?

Wow, I sure could have used that question for the unplanned ending of that keynote!  Two powerful questions – wherever you end or start.

After all, love never fails.

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts – of course, in loving way!

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Right Here. Right Now. Thu, 05 Sep 2019 12:00:58 +0000 I still remember the night I first heard Pete play the piano. What was most memorable, that night, was how much he sounded like my favorite group, Chicago, whenever he played any of their music. The following week, I would find out the reason – he was the pianist in the origins of the group, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). In the years to follow, Pete would become a most gracious mentor for me in my career at Arthur Andersen.

One of my all-time favorites of the CTA, was Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? In writing this article and reminiscing about this song, I stumbled upon this most heart-felt and energized rendition of a cover band playing it a half-century later in Kiev, Ukraine. It was a song about time that has stood the test of time … and was possibly even prophetic a half-century before its time. In so many ways, time is an illusion. Yet, time recently played its hand again in a planning call with my friend Andy.

Andy does a lot of meaningful and substantive work helping people connect to their true purpose. Recently, we were deep into a conversation on the nuances between one’s purpose and one’s integrity. While we knew they were different, it was fun to explore the systemic relationship between them.

As we gave each other a lot of grace in brainstorming possible insights that connected the two, an idea surfaced around one of the great treasures of one knowing their true purpose:  an inspiring aspiration and guide from here to there – now to then. As Andy expanded on it, I felt a sense of sequence and a passage of time. I had an image in my mind that “purpose” takes you places. It creates. It expands. My soul felt motion and momentum.

As I was feeling the building energy of purpose, I slammed into a stand-still realization about integrity. It has no motion, no ground coverage, no then or there. It only has connection.

In just one place. This present moment.

As a state of being, integrity is not an object that you have or hold. Integrity is a state of integrated connection that exists moment-to-moment in our ever-changing contextual landscape. You might think of your experience of integrity more like tuning a radio dial on a long two-lane road trip rather than mindlessly expecting seamless cell tower connection speeding down an 8-lane freeway.

It’s not that we have integrity, or we don’t. There are no haves and have-nots. There are simply those who are tuned-in or tuned-out. Well-defined core values are like your stations. The signal is always picked-up right where you are — in this present moment. Ten miles up the road or 10-miles back are irrelevant to being tuned-in right here, right now. Integrity’s value is found right where you are. Every moment.  Every day.

So, maybe it really doesn’t matter what time it is.

Until my planning call with Andy, I’m not sure I had ever noticed that integrity stands so still in a world that moves so fast. As a state of being, it is simply how integrity works – keeping you right where you belong.

In the days following our call, I pulled together this 40-second clip for social media posts. I hope it will inspire you and remind you, that when it comes to integrity, the only time we really need to care about is right where we are. CLICK HERE and enjoy.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts and insights below.

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Literally Metaphorical Thu, 01 Aug 2019 12:00:34 +0000 Recently, I’ve been wondering about the quandary of what we perceive to be literal. You know – the exact, the precise, the certain. It might be more accurate to say that I’ve been pondering the literal since literal leaves little room for wonder. I must confess that when you start to literally wonder about the literal, it takes you on quite a vague journey.

Figuratively speaking, some things may literally be literal. For instance, you need to literally stop at a red traffic light. Yet, at the same time, the sun doesn’t literally “rise” and “set” each and every day. It just seems like it does. But then again, on a cloudy day, it seems like it doesn’t. While the red light is literal, our experience of the sun is metaphorical. The sun isn’t rising or setting – it simply is brilliantly shining.

At times, in trying to prove a point, we may conveniently use literal, possibly overuse it or sometimes even abuse it. Our ego makes a lovely home for all our literal certainty. As do our emotions – after all, it feels so good to be right. Right? The illusion of the predictable feels pretty good too.

That which we perceive to be literal has a relational impact as well. It tends to draw those with your same literal certainty. It would seem that literal consensus lays the foundation for relational connection. After all, communities and tribes are sometimes formed by such.

Yet, then again, so are cults.

What if our illusion of literal be held accountable to the possible walls of bias, prejudice, exclusion and judgement? The limits of the literal may be one of the great prices we pay to feed a “healthy” ego. I wish I could get a refund for each of the times I thought I had something (or someone) literally figured-out. Maybe you do too. Yet, I have rarely traced it to the trap of knowingly or unknowingly trying to be too literal.

I’m not so sure we literally believe all that we claim to be literal. We just think we do. Literal makes a wonderful salve to nurture our fears and related illusion of control. Sometimes we construct the literal in our natural longing for truth. And in doing so, we confuse the two.

Literal and truth are not the same thing.

When the metaphorical evolves to a perception of literal it can move us from a light frost to a deep-frozen state of mind. While it may bring the comfort of a momentary sense of clarity, it can also bring a halt to creation. On the other hand, it seems that truth is born in stillness and moves into a flow – continuing to creatively show-up in many places in a number of ways. Rather than a finish line, truth continually offers a fresh new beginning — unlatching the leash that the literal holds around us. As we are searching for the literal, the truth is searching for us. In so many ways, the literal blinds us to the truth ever present around us. While the literal is experienced in just one way — truth shows-up in a variety of ways.

Our perception of the literal can take us through a field of illusion marching us toward our desired conclusion. On the other hand, truth invites us to the unfamiliar and the unknown – delightfully lifting us to a state of wonder. While the literal makes us feel smarter – the truth invites us to be wiser. In so many ways, metaphors lead us to truth, while our perception of the literal leads us away from truth.

If we let go of our love of the literal, truth could teach us to love.

When you really think about it, at any single given point in time, one person’s sunrise is another person’s sunset. This is true anywhere, at any time, and always. At the same time, neither the sunrise nor the sunset is actually literal. Yet, as an experience, both are true. Very true. While I know this analysis may seem oversimplified, amazing things could happen if we only realized how this truth played-out in so many other day-to-day real-life scenarios. Just imagine what depths of understanding could be built around a planet, throughout a nation, across a boardroom table, between the silos of the departments of an organization. within a family, and right into the depths of our own core.

What sunrise or sunset are you holding too literally? As always, I would love to hear your insights below!

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Shoulda Coulda Woulda Thu, 04 Jul 2019 12:00:33 +0000  

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

It’s an old mantra that in so many ways mocks a sense of truth from a number of dimensions: shoulda-coulda-woulda. It seems, most often, this old saying has been used to shine a light on needless regrets of what I should have done, could have done or would have done. It holds the rhythm of a yeah, yeah, yeah or more likely a blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Filled with hot-air, empty promises, or even hopeful delusion.

A different form of these words is each used to anticipate the future. What should you do? What could you do? What would you do? This is the basis of a lot of ethics training. It can certainly stir some thinking and possibly plant a few treasures to be mined in the event of an actual future ethical dilemma. Yet my long-ago historical experience in behavioral interviewing gives little credence to what someone anticipates their behaviors would be in a reality they have never experienced. It is why we specifically trained our interviewers to never ask these anticipatory questions and gave no credit to the answers they obtained when they did so.

They make for well-intended distractions.

This past week, in a meaningful conversation, the dialogue evolved into a reminder of the great risk that organizations face when the real truth isn’t put on the table. In some cases, it is referred to as the “elephant in the room.” Yet the “elephant in the room” refers to what everyone is fully aware-of, but no one is talking about. The greater risk is what is in plain sight, but no one is willing to see.

An Inconvenient Truth was a 2006 movie directed by Davis Guggenheim about Global Warming. While its style may have been too documentary for main-stream movie theatres, the film’s very title taught a very powerful truth about … well, truth.

The truth can be very inconvenient.

Or at least it can feel that way. And in most cases the dawning of truth usually is inconvenient in the short term – for it often invites you to a change. A change in awareness, a change in thinking, a change in behavior. It may invite you to a “giving-up” or “giving-in.” Change can be very hard when it’s headed toward truth – and very easy when it is not.

I’m not talking about our conveniences parading-around as truth. I’m talking about the kind of truth that is worthy of the wisdom so thoughtfully proclaimed by a great many thinkers and mystics – if it is true anywhere, it is true everywhere. Truth seems to be more introverted than extroverted. You can pretty much expect that the more hype you see, the less truth is being revealed. Truth seems to be more of a quiet invitation that ultimately has its say.

Instead of pontificating and boasting our shoulda-coulda-wouldas in meetings where we are looking for all the “right” answers, what if we started every meeting consciously and intentionally looking for truth. No matter what the conversation, the challenge, the obstacle, the risk or the opportunity – you can always count on one thing:

The truth is there, inviting you to discover it.

That truth won’t be flashy, glittery or sexy. And in today’s world, there-in lies the problem. As Walter J. Cizek, puts it, “The terrible thing about all divine truth, indeed, is its simplicity … all can be simply stated. And yet how curious it is that this very simplicity makes them so unacceptable to the wise and the proud and the sophisticated of this world.” Walter has every reason to know this truth about truth. As a Jesuit priest spending over four years in solitary confinement and 15 years in the work camps of Siberia, he had plenty of time and experience to honestly discover it and accept it.

Truth may be simple. Yet when you are truly searching for it, you will always find it to be intriguing.

Who knows? It may have been the very reason back-in-the-day that porches were originally put on the front of houses. They make for the perfect place to sit, wonder and eventually accept truth’s invitation. It seems like every organization could use a front porch. For no executive — regardless of their sophistication, or any organization — regardless of their innovation, is exempt from truth. For if truth is everywhere, there is always more of the same truth quietly waiting to be discovered in new ways. Indeed, truth is the pavement on the road to integrity.

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts below!

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Sight or Insight Thu, 06 Jun 2019 12:15:46 +0000 Sometimes a simple comment from an unsuspecting source in an unplanned location reveals an eye-opening reminder. The combination of all three may be what makes it immediately apparent and so memorable.

I was recently at one of my favorite regular destinations, The Morton Arboretum, with my wife Cindy. We were aimlessly walking the trails noticing this summer’s new display of nature designs made of Legos. Along the way, we decided to make the climb up the hill to revisit Joe the Guardian, one of the creative wooden trolls that remain from last summer’s display. This particular troll stands tall keeping watch on top of the massive earth berm that separates the serene arboretum from the bustling tollway that runs along the arboretum’s south side. Drivers along the tollway, without distraction, would have a hard time missing this 25-foot troll. While it is fun to see it from the tollway, standing directly underneath this troll puts his size in perspective.

It is worth the climb.

Like many places in the Midwest, spring rains have been overly abundant. As we were descending the climb, a grandfather with his 6-year-old granddaughter was in front of us. A father and his small son were coming toward us on the path. Without prompting, the grandfather called-out to the oncoming dad, “Just want to let you know there is a lot of mud on the path ahead.” The grandfather’s tone delivered an unspoken warning of a problem that read … turn-around and go back!

Yet, there was no time to absorb the warning. His little granddaughter in her sweet high-pitched voice immediately tagged-on, “It’s not a problem. You just go around it.” The confidence in her voice would have only allowed a fool to turn around. Both of them were factually correct. Yet, one closed the gate.

The other one opened it.

Noticing obstacles or problems, in itself, is not a bad thing. Sometimes it is necessary but can be limiting – especially if we let the problem define the moment. As we walked around their conversation and continued along the path, I looked at Cindy and simply said, “I guess some see obstacles and others see opportunities.

I continued hearing the little girl’s voice, in my mind, as we walked along. If the full truth be known, this little girl would have likely not gone around the mud at all. The pep in her voice gave-away a more playful scenario – just take off your shoes and socks and walk right through the mud. No doubt, given her own choice, she would have allowed her little toes to sink into the mud’s squishy goo while loving every moment of it.

While some would see the mud as an obstacle, others would see the mud in itself as an opportunity. It is precisely what I see when an individual begins to dig for their core values. I have often said that your own experience of wrestling in the mud of your own journey of discovery is as revealing as the values you discover along the way.

The mud can be difficult.

I think it is part of the reason most never get to their core. The one comment I’ve heard more often than any other is this – this is really hard. A few keep going in spite of the mud. The rest give warning to others just starting to dig — turn around and go back. Some stop in their tracks. After all, Joe the Guardian looms largely from the top of the earth berm. You can see it from where you are at the bottom. Why bother to climb? Or dig? This may make for a perfect metaphor for simply picking your core values from a list of paper. It is a good data point. A starting point. Yet, never the replacement for going deeper.

Standing at the foot of Joe the Guardian, then looking-up, gives you a whole different perspective. It certainly gives you a different point of view. So does digging through the dirt, mud and rock deep into your own core values. There is just something about where you see things from. It’s the difference between obstacle and opportunity – between problem and possibility. It is also the difference between sight and insight. In each case, it usually is a little bit of both.

And, if you get stuck? It’s not a problem. Just go around it. – or maybe even right through it.

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts below!

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