Monday, December 3, 2018

BUSTED

A while ago I was speaking at a retreat for couples, sharing some clean communication skills and how to clear issues. Only, the issues they were bringing up in practice were, well, bland at best. Nothing juicy. And, I like juicy. I mean, if we’re going to work, let’s WORK!

So, I asked if one of the women would come up front and role play with me. I’ll be the husband coming in from work and have an issue, I said. She said, okay.

And, off I went. Only, I kept going. What was supposed to be a role play all of a sudden was waaaaay tooooo real. I was having a ball! My dark little internal predator was out to play and we were letting this poor woman have it!

She was a little shocked. And then, the other women in the audience came to her defense. “What was that?!?” they cried. I took a step back and breathed.

“You weren’t clearing an issue… you were on the attack!”

The men came to my defense. “What’s the problem?” they said. And the room erupted.

Finally, I was able to restore order and get a word in. “Okay. I’ll own that I was on an emotional roll. There was more going on than just this moment. And, I’ll ask everyone to own your judgments of the scene as just your judgments. I’ll own my part. You own your part, okay? And now... everyone breathe.”

So, here’s the deal. In a nano-second, some old emotional baggage found a crack and leaked out. My internal predator was driving my bus. So, instead of clearing an issue and talking about the emotions involved, my emotions were driving the bus in that moment. It's the difference between "being in" my emotions versus "talking about" my emotional experience.

When I stepped back to breathe, I was able to ask myself “What’s really going on here?” and own it and bring it out into the light. No defensiveness, just curiosity.

Later in the session, we all had a good laugh about how our emotions can sometimes drive the bus. A teachable moment indeed.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What is the Best Question?

And then he offered, "The value people like you bring to our table is not only asking good questions, but helping us ask the right questions. And, I've noticed that the questions I want to ask as CEO of a big organization are quite different then the questions I asked as I was moving up through the ranks. And sometimes, I forget that and fall into old scripts."

"Give me an example", I asked.

"Well, when I check in with a tactical question... "is the report completed?" for example, I get a tactical response- yes or no. Not very high value. If I ask a strategic question... "how will this report move us toward our desired outcomes?" I get a higher level response. And the home run is when I ask a generative question... "what's the story we're making up about the data in this report?" That's when I get the best from my people."

So, what's the best question for you to be asking today?

Onward!

V

Monday, October 1, 2018

First to Fall

A while back I was having a conversation with a young man attending a conference with his dad. Over the course of the two or three days, I noticed a certain discomfort or awkwardness between the two.

I began to craft the story that both the father and son were waiting for something to happen in their relationship. Perhaps they were waiting for the other to do something, to take some sort of step forward toward the other. It was like I was watching this unspoken game of “who will be the first to fall?” being played out.

“First to fall?” You know, the first to go vulnerable. To speak their truth. To state a desire in the relationship. Without a stated desire on the table it was just a game of wait and see. Of looking to the other person to take responsibility for the relationship.

“What would it look like for you to take 100% responsibility for your part in this relationship? “ I asked him.

“Well, I’d have to get clear on what I want first. Then I suppose I could take responsibility for that.”

Huh.

It seems to me that there is 200% responsibility in every relationship. I own 100% responsibility for my part and you own 100% responsibility for your part. I can’t own your part and I can’t control you… all I can do is own 100% of my part in the relationship.

When I look to someone else to define or create the relationship I desire, I give up the power to own and define my own life. Better to get clear and ask for what I want… recognizing that I don’t always get what I want. And, sometimes, I do.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

What Really Happened? (Or, Love Wins, Again)


Sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and ask myself, “what really happened?”  What I mean by “really” is… what was the visible, verifiable, observable, recordable by a drone flying overhead thing that occurred in real time?  

Because, my mind is very good at making up stories.  I can take a set of facts and have a field day writing a story of what I wanted to make whatever happen mean.

So, on August 23, I was with my Dad when he stopped breathing.  For several hours before, I had been quietly saying to him in his un-responsive place, “Dad, your job here is to breathe.  Just breathe.  And, you’re almost there.  You can do it.”  At 9:15pm he was breathing.  At 9:20pm he was not breathing.  A few minutes later, two nurses came into his room in the Care Center and declared that he was no longer alive.  Those were the verifiable and visible facts.

And...

I have a belief that there is an invisible realm.  We can see neither our “mind” nor our “spirit.”  They are invisible and non-locatable.  So, while my Dad’s physical, observable, body was no longer judged to be alive, I make up a story that his invisible parts are very much still alive and well.  Actually, in my story, my Dad’s invisible parts are better off than they have been since he started slipping into dementia years ago.  And further, like many many people before me who have reported similar experiences, there was the briefest moment in my dad’s passing where I believe (and, beliefs are just another story I make up) that the invisible realm became visible to him.  I saw it in his eyes.  I saw it in the smile that spread across his face like the one that always followed that first bite of the McDonald’s ice cream sundaes I used to sneak in for him.  “That’s goooooood” he would say in his gravely voice.  He was seeing beyond what I or any of us on this side of the line can see.  There was no fear.  Only love.  And, it was good.

Love Wins.  It’s the title of Rob Bell’s groundbreaking book.  And, it’s a theme for my life.  After 9 ½ years in the care center and perhaps a decade of decline before, Love won with my Dad.  The visible gave way to the invisible and it was good.  Many raised in the Christian tradition are a bit sheepish about suggesting that God might win the day with every single life that transitions out of the physical and visible realm.  It got Rob fired as a megachurch pastor.  I know I was skeptical.  It’s a scandalous idea when you’ve been taught to think in terms of eternal heaven and eternal hell.  And today, I’m here to say, Love Wins.  Every time.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Who Was He?

He was a little league coach, a volunteer ski instructor for the elementary school, a Gra-Y Club leader, and gave the daily business report on the local TV channel. He took us into the outdoors in blue jeans and cotton shirts, got us lost, soaked us to the skin, and reminded us that even with all the mishaps, “I brought everyone home”. He was a regular fixture on the sidelines of his kids and grandkids soccer, baseball, football, basketball, water polo, and roller hockey games. He supplied 6oz Coors beers at teenager parties so “everyone could look cool but no one got drunk.” He made world-class French Toast and spaghetti feeds for the masses. When asked for permission to do just about anything, he was quick with “do whatever you think is best.” He was kicked out of USC for running a panty raid and landing on the cover of Life Magazine. He knew how to throw a party, twirl a girl on the dance floor, and to the end loved the attention of a pretty woman. And, to him, all women were pretty. If he walked into a room of strangers he saw a hundred people who wanted to talk to him. He could have a pair hanging around his neck and another on his head and still toss out a string of curses for whoever had taken his glasses. Those who cared for him the last 9 ½ years knew his smile, wit, and charm were just waiting for the right moment to pounce, and even when he couldn’t string a sentence together he would laugh at exactly the right moment in the story you were telling and do a little jig in his wheelchair to Darktown Strutters Ball. He was Joey, Dad, Uncle Joe, Grandpa and Great Grandpa. He was Joe Corsaro. Born in Redondo Beach on March 29, 1931 and peacefully left us for the adventure beyond on August 23, 2018.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

You've Got a Friend


Mo and I went to see James Taylor last night at the Hollywood Bowl after seeing him together in 1988 or so.  I first hired Mo when I was 23.  She was 18 and we’ve remained friends through the years.  It was a stellar evening in our box seats with a little cafĂ© table where we enjoyed an awesome picnic and a nice bottle of Petite Syrah.  I cried through most of the concert.  Tears of joy as the songs opened-up a vault of memories… appreciating all the moments which form the fabric of life and stitch together to form the person I am today.


On the way driving from Palm Springs to LA, I also had a chance to catch up with Marcia on the phone.  When I was 15, 16, 17, Marcia would put a stack of records on the turntable… James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, others of that era… and we’d lie around on the white shag carpeting listening in her living room.  Her home was a place of refuge away from the chaos across the street at my house.  It was safe.  Peaceful.  Dinner on the dot at 6.   I’d often eat there before going home to eat again with my family.  Appreciative memories.  Her mom took me to the DMV to get my license on my 16th birthday.  They were my village.  

Memories of 17 anchor for me.  It’s when I was the youth director for our Countywide 4-H summer camp playing guitar in front of 300 campers and adult leaders.  It’s when I drove away in my green Chevy Vega to attend school at Cal Poly, SLO, full of myself as I jumped into the world.  

Life is full of moments.  Some I’m proud of, some bring me shame and heartache.  And as I rolled through the “tapes” in my mind last night the tears flowed.  And this morning, sipping a cup of coffee alone in my backyard, the tears continue to flow as James plays on Pandora. 

Today, I’m appreciating Mo and Marcia.  To both of you… just call out my name, and wherever I am I’ll come running.  You’ve got a friend. 

Onward!

V







Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What is Your Choice?

When I hear a similar story three times in as many days, I get curious!

The western world of medicine has an amazing ability to prolong life these days.  So, when is it okay to choose not to?  When is it okay to say "I choose not to treat."  Perhaps, it's okay at the moment of mature clarity that says  "I see my choices and I choose to not treat."

The three stories this week came from widely diverse circumstances across the age spectrum.  To me, the details are less important than the personal resolve.  The utmost clarity.  Acceptance and appreciation flowing freely.

What do you think?

Onward!

V

Monday, April 16, 2018

What have we learned?

Is there ever a bad time to take a step back and ask ourselves, "What have we learned?"  I don't think so.  And, how often is the crazy thing we are doing right now directly in conflict with a "lesson learned" from the past!  Capturing and anchoring learnings seems to me an important part of living in my maturity while aspiring to be an effective and inspirational leader.

Today marks the 103rd anniversary of a terrible atrocity in what is now Turkey against some 1.5 million Armenians.  The Armenians were living in their homeland (it was Armenia!) but their land was arbitrarily given to the Turks as the Ottoman Empire unfolded.  The Armenians were then systematically exterminated.  Many of the survivors of the genocide escaped to Syria... and have now been displaced over the past five years by the civil unrest in their adopted country.

And, while I can't solve the complex geo-political issues of our time, I can always look at myself and stay curious about...
  • "How are my actions imposing my will on someone else?" 
  • "How am I taking 100% responsibility for my part in this mess?"
  • "How might I create a win-win solution in this issue?"
And the list goes on.  My desire is to remember the lessons learned and in order to do so, I do well to stop, reflect, and anchor what it is I've learned, every day.

Onward!

V

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Just for Grins...

In the first ten minutes of a conversation, the CEO said,
    “I make really good decisions.”
“I am good at keeping emotion out of my decision making.”

“I do things right.”

I stopped the conversation.  “So, just for grins are you open to not being right about any of that?  Are you open to an opposite point of view?”
“What do you mean”, he asked.
 
“Just try any of these on…”
  • “Sometimes, I make poor decisions.”
  • “Sometimes, my emotions effect my decision making.”
  • “Sometimes, I don’t do things right.”
“I don’t like those,” he said.
 
“I know.  But, how does it change the way you might act in the situation?  How might you shift your perspective?”
 
“Well if I was concerned about a poor decision being made or my emotions were driving the bus, I might engage some people smarter than me in the conversation.  I might not assert my opinion so forcefully.  I might be more open.”
 
“And, what might happen with your team in that case?”
 
“Okay.  I get it.  They’d buy in.  They’d have a chance to weigh in.  I’d be getting the best from the people I’ve hired to bring their best.”
 
“So, both can be true? You can believe you make good decisions and you can also derive value by approaching a situation as if you believed you might make a poor decision?”
 
“Yes, Vince.”
  
Cool.

Am I Listening?

A while back, someone said to me, “Wow, Vince, you’re such a good listener!”  It made me wonder what it’s like to be a bad listener!  So, I ...