In my very younger years, I loved the rides of amusement parks. I especially loved the ones that would spin and mess with your equilibrium. Two of my favorites were the “Twister” and the “Scrambler.” Unfortunately, as you get older, you have those moments where you experience the same sensation those rides provided … without ever going on the ride! It was fun to be spun around on those rides … before life actually started doing it for you!
I find this to be the case for a lot of leaders. There is a lot of swirling around in their world. The relentless demands don’t only make their head spin, it has the potential to create a gravitational pull.
Another amusement ride I found fascinating was simple in design, but telling. Everyone entered a large round room … and while standing on the floor with your back to the wall, you faced the center of the room. This room turned out to be a large spinning cylinder. It started spinning very slowly, but then started picking up speed at an ever-increasing rate. As the spinning cylinder reached top speeds, the floor slowly started dropping out from under your feet … ending-up 8 feet below you. You, of course, didn’t drop at all because the force of the spinning cylinder held you firmly in place with your back against the wall. While the reason, for all you were experiencing, was obvious … it was also invisible.
A force field was at play.
I hadn’t thought about that ride in years, until a very different kind of force field reminded me of it. Recently, I was tucked away at a very secluded writers’ venue in Virginia working on the manuscript for my upcoming book, ROI: Return on Integrity. I don’t mean a little secluded … I mean a whole lot secluded!
For well over a decade, I’ve observed talented professionals, from various walks of life, seriously struggling to grasp the essence of the concept of core values. More importantly, they have felt exasperation at various levels of trying to come to grips with the specifics of their own personal core values. These frustrations surface in an array of formats … sometimes, while grasping for answers, they keep asking me more clarifying questions. Individuals struggle with trying to name something that cognitively seems like it should be easy, yet finding it to remain evasive … invisible.
On that amusement ride, a force field held our bodies against the wall of its spinning cylinder as the floor slipped away. The nature of our lives, with an ever-increasing speed, creates its own force field as our core (when left unidentified) slips away from us … or more truthfully … we drift away from it. Whichever way you want to look at it … the two aren’t one. On that amusement ride, you would’ve had to breakthrough the gravitational pull of the speed to jump to the sunken floor below.
Force fields can be tough to break through.
Recently, it’s become clear to me that the struggle for an individual to name, understand and embrace their core is not a cognitive issue. No matter how many clarifying questions, regarding the nature of core values, get answered … there will likely be more questions, frustration and confusion. That is, until … the invisible force field is penetrated.
It’s the force field I encountered at this secluded writers’ venue in Virginia. It wasn’t visible. You couldn’t touch it or hug it, but you could certainly feel it. While you couldn’t hear it … in so many ways, it was so loud it was impossible to ignore. It’s not that I hadn’t experienced it before. In fact, we all experience drops of it at some point every day. But not to the depth or length I experienced it in Virginia. It was the force field I had to penetrate to experience a break-through in my writing. It was uncomfortable and at times almost unbearable. I have personally watched a group of successful healthcare executives unable to endure even a 10-minute prescription of it.
It’s called … silence.
I’m not talking about an hour of silence followed by a discussion, with others, about the experience. I’m talking about hours building into days of complete silence with no one around to debrief about it. In the case of the healthcare executives, some only made it 90-seconds after being instructed to sit in complete silence and ponder a provided question for just 10-minutes. Most found the need to end the silence with the majority of the minutes remaining. The problem is that you can never penetrate what you end.
At my writers’ venue, there was no way to end it. I suppose you could run from it … which I actually considered for a moment … but you couldn’t end it. Unlike penetrating the gravitational field of the spinning cylinder of my amusement ride … silence isn’t something you muster a force of energy to push through.
Silence is something unto which you surrender.
In the midst of your surrender to silence, you begin to hear again. You begin to see again. It’s with increasing clarity that you begin to hear and see … the invisible … the thoughts that sit within your core.
While it may sound simple, it was a huge revelation to me as to why it’s been so difficult for smart, successful professionals to make an authentic connection to their core. A mile-long list of answered questions will never add-up to the clarity that days of deafening silence will reveal. I suppose, in years gone past, there were wonderful sessions of silence experienced on many a front porch!
I believe I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s a surface I will continue to ponder … in more silence. You might ask … what leader can afford to take a few days away to go into a complete seclusion of uninterrupted silence? Maybe the better question may prove to be … what leader can afford not to?
It may very well answer the question as to why so many people do not know the specifics of the values at their own core … or the core of the organizations in which they spend most of their waking hours.
It appears, on the surface, when you are digging to your core … that a lot of silence can go a long way!