October 9, 2022
This is the Too Many Trees newsletter, where I share what I’ve been writing and reading in the realm of leadership and personal development. My coaching practice is centered around the idea that we are more effective in moving towards our goals when we become more conscious and intentional in focusing our time and attention, and learn how our unconscious patterns are holding us back. If you know somebody that could benefit from my perspective, please forward this to them or let them know they can set up a free intro chat with me.
[The newsletter went on an accidental summer break. Since I last published the newsletter on August 28th, I got Covid for the first time (fortunately a mild case) and recovered, took a week of family vacation (and actually read some books!), traveled back from Bulgaria (and dealt with the jet lag), caught up after vacation, then went to Tahoe for a week with the family. As you’ll read below, I invested what free time I had in the last month in socializing and connecting rather than writing, but it’s time to restart and reconnect!]
I am taking an Aletheia leadership coaching class, and as part of it, Steve March challenged us to practice our own leadership. As a provocation to find where we want to lead others, he asked us: “What is an impossible future that you so passionately care about that you are willing to reinvent your entire self?"
Those of you who read the last couple newsletters will not be surprised to learn that the “impossible future” I aspire to is a more connected world, inspired by reading Dr. Vivek Murthy’s words from his book Together (which I summarized on the blog):
"Creating a connected life begins with the decisions we make in our day- to- day lives. Do we choose to make time for people? Do we show up as our true selves? Do we seek out others with kindness, recognizing the power of service to bring us together? This work isn’t always easy. It requires courage. The courage to be vulnerable, to take a chance on others, to believe in ourselves. But as we build connected lives, we make it possible to build a connected world.”
The self-transformation required to lead myself and others towards that future was described in Kate Johnson’s book Radical Friendship, (which inspired a previous newsletter), where she shares the Buddhist idea of bodhicitta, the part of us that is always connected to others, because we are all one consciousness showing up in different bodies. I don't know if I really believe that, but I appreciate the Dalai Lama's love and joy in treating every human as his brother and sister, and would love to bring more of that energy in my everyday interactions. That shift towards connection would benefit my parenting, my partnering, my friendships, my coaching and my communities.
To show up like that regularly feels impossible, and it also seems impossible to create a world where we can all find connection in our family, in our friendships, and in our communities. And yet, I don’t have to create that world alone - I can just take the next step, and shift my day-to-day activities towards connection.
To that end, I gave myself a new mantra of “Connect with courage and vulnerability”, a more action-oriented version of my previous mantra of be courageously present. That bias towards connection is part of where my energy has been going the last month instead of writing - a few examples:
I took off early one afternoon and drove to Oakland to visit with one set of friends before having dinner with some Overlappers.
I crashed a VC networking happy hour in SF to meet some new people, before having dinner with two of my best friends.
I’m spending a few hours each week with old and new friends via in-person meet-ups and Zoom catchups .
Normally, I would say I’m too busy for such socializing, but reading Murthy’s and Johnson’s books made me realize how I want more connection in my life, so I chose to shift my 100 hours to invest in that area. That shift meant sacrificing writing and working time, and so far I feel like the tradeoff is worth it.
And I’m finding that everybody feels starved for connection after the pandemic. I met up with friends I haven’t talked to in years, and we re-connected with meaningful conversations. I opened up quicker with new people, and it deepened the conversation in wonderful ways. So I encourage you to take a chance like that - if you think of a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or a new person you’d like to know better, reach out and connect. I suspect more connection is always welcome these days.
And now for the normal personal development content:
LinkedIn: These are ideas that have helped my clients (or myself), and that I share via LinkedIn to help a wider audience.
Your body and your mind are connected. I’ve been experimenting more with using my body to change my mood, paying attention to my posture at my best, and at my worst. When I’m having a bad day, I am trying to straighten my spine and pull my shoulders back to open my chest to change my mood; Jerry Colonna calls this the “warrior stance” with a strong back and an open heart.
Good communication requires repetition. Building off an Adam Grant post, I share how I learned that getting a key message to be heard requires repeating it so many times in so many ways that you get sick of the message.
Where are you aiming? Don’t confuse your end goal with your tactics to get there. It’s easy to map out a strategy for “safety” and continue it long past the point where you are “safe”. Check in with yourself on who you want to be as a person, and let that be your guide.
Successful relationships require continued opt-in from both sides. Other people have choices, so building successful relationships means thinking through how to make yourself a top choice for them. Practice developing the empathy and awareness to understand their available choices.
Try the next step. People often get paralyzed by wanting to know the whole path and whether it’s “right” for them before starting. But you can’t know that. Instead, I suggest taking one step in a new direction, and decide if you want to take another step. If so, take another step, if not, take a step in a different direction. Repeat.
How do you change a system feedback loop you are stuck in? Try changing the one thing you can control, which is your own behavior. The baby step version is to notice the scripts that people play out, and point out how those default reactions are preventing change. And then try a different response than the script.
An important skill for executives is to give themselves credit. The executive’s job is to set others up for success while taking ultimate responsibility, which leads to an emotional asymmetry where they receive no credit, and get all the complaints. The feedback can feel relentlessly negative, so they need to develop their own internal metrics of success to give themselves credit.
Given the backlog of LinkedIn posts to share, I’m skipping the articles and resources I’ve found interesting section this issue, but it will be back next time.
Thanks for reading! See you in a couple weeks!