On messing up

On messing up

Some years ago I made a horrible mistake. (And yes, I’ve made tons of mistakes since then; this is just the one that comes to mind in the moment.)

I was president of a local arts organization, and in that role I was making the rounds of galleries during an Arts Walk. I was particularly struck by the quality of work in one gallery, and I said as much to the owners, who introduced me to the artist.

And then I said, “What’s a talented guy like you doing in a dump like this?”

I didn’t notice at the time that it wasn’t funny

I didn’t notice that my remark had gone over like a lead balloon. As I look back, I see that I wouldn’t have noticed because the same self-consciousness that gave rise to my insensitivity kept me from authentically connecting with the other people in the room.

I might never have noticed but that the gallery owners sent me a letter of complaint.

I was horrified and defensive

I got home late one night to find the letter. I was horrified and defensive. The gallery owners were being unreasonable. They had no sense of humor. They should have known that I had intended no harm.

I wanted to believe those things, but somehow I couldn’t quite settle down behind that interpretation.

I went to bed with a disturbed mind, and as I lay there, I got curious about what was behind my upset.

And then I saw the first piece.

I couldn’t resolve the gap between our realities

I truly had meant no harm, yet I saw that they truly had been hurt. I couldn’t resolve that gap.

I also had no clue how to avoid making a similar mistake in the future. How do you apologize for that?

If I acknowledged the reasonableness of their position, I would need to do something about being a smart-aleck, and I felt powerless to accomplish that.

It seemed to me that I lacked a key ingredient for a sincere apology, and that was insight into how to prevent a recurrence.

And then I saw the gift I’d been given

In a flash I saw that the key to having better awareness in the future was taking in feedback in the present.

I didn’t need to be able to second guess other people’s reality. I could simply care, invite feedback, and rely on willingness to do better and the ability to learn to do the rest.

I got out of bed and wrote an apology. I said that I had felt both horrified at causing hurt and that it had been unintentional. I told them that it was unintentional not to defend myself, but to underscore that in no way was my remark related to my experience of their professionalism or contribution to the arts.

I then thanked them sincerely for caring enough to complain and told them that, but for the feedback of friends like them, I would feel helpless to see what was clearly a blindspot.

Life gives us what we need

More and more I see that life gives us what we need.

Life, in the form of circumstances, experiences, and people, will give us exactly what is required for our next itty-bitty evolutionary step.
This is how we learn to walk, to talk, to love.

The less personally we take it, the easier the lessons go

It appears to me as I write that the less personally we take these lessons, the easier they are to learn. But you know what?

We’re going to take things personally until we don’t.

Like walking, talking, and loving, we learn not to take it personally as we go.

If you’d like to have an easier time with the lessons life delivers, consider The Art of Living

The Art of Living is a 12-week encounter with magic, meaning, and the in-built human capacity to evolve. Together we will explore the deeper intelligence available to every human being, an intelligence that can guide you in the creation of what you want in life, whether you think it is possible at the outset or not.

Almost everyone who has done this work for me comes back for more–not because they need more in order to be whole, but because they finally realize that they don’t need a thing. Participants report greater ease, optimism, and resilience. They feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience massive reductions in anxiety, second-guessing, and analysis-paralysis. And when they do get caught up in those things, they know how to find their way back home to peace of mind and clarity.

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The spirituality we seek is in what we look from, not what we look for

Often we long for spiritual connection and wish we could experience more of it in our relationships, our work, our world. But the connection we seek isn’t a function of what we are looking FOR, it is a function of what we are looking FROM. To experience more of it, we simply need to pause, settle down, and come home to what we already know about who we really are.

Tending the Seeds of Life Purpose

Tending the Seeds of Life Purpose

Last week I wrote about the importance of not-knowing, of hanging out in the mysterious and disorienting space between the person you have been and the person you are becoming.

At times like that it’s essential to wake up to purpose, and I don’t mean the kind of life purpose that we can wear like a top hat and cane as we soft-shoe our way to prosperity. No, I mean the kind of purpose that is emergent, mysterious, utterly our responsibility yet utterly beyond our control. (more…)

Teachers: Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket

Here’s a special Q&A with Jen Louden and Michele Lisenbury Christensen, creators of Teach Now. Together, they are working to empower teachers to be more visible, more confident, and more successful on every level. At the end of the interview, you’ll find a link to more Teach Now resources. Enjoy!

: What does teaching have to do with under-earning or vice-versa?

: Teaching has far too much to do with under-earning, at least until we change that story! Traditional teachers in classrooms are frequently underpaid. That reality carries over into our story about other kinds of teaching, which fosters the idea that teaching cannot pay well.

Disprove that story for yourself now. Look for examples of teachers making a good living. Michele and I are; so is Molly. Who else? If you haven’t earned what you need or want in the past, that it is not a result of the act of teaching but of other factors like what course or product you offered, how many people knew about it, and if you connected with your student’s needs.

: Teaching – as one stream of activities and revenue within a business – can help you overcome under-earning in a product or service-oriented business. It becomes a way to take clients and would-be clients through a number of learning curves, like:
​•​Understanding the need for your product/services.
​•​Learning how to use your service or product.
​•​Accelerating the pace of their growth through group learning vs. one-on-one work.

Being a great teacher, in addition to having great products or 1:1 services, helps you and your clients leverage your time so you can provide value at a greater scale, at a lower per-participant price.

Being great at making offers of teaching and at leading programs will truly help your business thrive.

: Is it possible to be a dedicated teacher and intentionally cultivate wealth?

: Yes, and doing so requires personal honesty and integrity. As a teacher, you have a sacred bond with your students, and that bond begins with “do no harm” and grows from there to cultivating love.

Becoming wealthy can also be a sacred act that is done for the good of many, including, of course, yourself and your loved ones. Where it gets rewarding – and takes a lot of consciousness and support – is holding both: your desire to be of service to your students and your desire to cultivate wealth. It’s a very sophisticated spiritual path. You have to hold both ends of the continuum in your awareness and keep choosing moment by moment.

: The key to melding these two pursuits – profound service and significant wealth – is to keep the exchange equal. When your work consistently delivers meaningful value that exceeds the investment your students make, AND is lucrative for you, you are building on the solid foundation of the Law of Reciprocity (giving AND receiving).
Charging more in fees than your clients get in value will lead to either a lack of integrity, a lack of wealth, or both. Under-charging grossly – not allowing people to pay you what’s fair to YOU – will lead to a lack of wealth and a different kind of lack of integrity: self-denial. Yuck.

To be a dedicated teacher AND cultivate wealth, offer great value, charge fairly for it… then make sure you’re getting the word out in ways that ensure your programs are filled.

: How does teaching (serving) jibe with earning and savoring?

: To serve (in all ways, including teaching), you must be resourced – you must have resources to draw on, beyond yourself, to keep you emotionally, physically and spiritually full and in touch with your truth. You can serve from an empty place but it usually hurts not only you – in exhaustion, burn out, resentment – but also whomever you are trying to help. It leads to power over and separation, rather than ““As I do unto others, so I do unto myself.” When we are earning what we need, and we are fully savoring this wild journey of being alive, we have so much better a chance of serving in a way that actually serves.
It’s not the model most of us grew up on. That was often a model of self-sacrifice to the point of illness or poverty. That model is very toxic. Let’s get rid of it now!

: The notion that it’s noble to serve without thought for earning, and to savor only giving, versus savoring what you receive, is a notion that leads to moral superiority and condescension toward your students. You’re good and giving. They’re grasping and greedy.
What if, instead, you create relationships that are reciprocal, and model sustainable ways of living and serving? Why not craft relationships with your students that contain the giving and receiving, as well as candor, self-awareness, and responsibility? That’s what we want in all our relationships.

: What do teachers need to remember in order to earn an ample living?

Jen and Michele
Ask yourself:
• What do I want to learn? (Successful teaching starts with your curiosity!)
• What am I passionate about sharing with the world? (Be honest.)
• What do I want to change in my world? (What makes you rant?)
• What do I see people struggling with? (Gather their words exactly and mull over them.)
• What solutions would I love to offer? (It doesn’t matter if you don’t fully know how yet.)
• How much is enough (to meet my needs, to provide for enough of my wants, to save for my future, and to give back in whatever ways feel best to me)?
Teaching is hot. The world is changing faster and getting more complex every week. People feel overwhelmed and stressed by all this change: what you know can change that and people will pay for that relief.
We’d love to help you claim your seat as a teacher or find the juice and joy in teaching again. We know it’s possible because we’ve done it again and again, for ourselves and hundreds of students.
The world needs what you know. Please, teach now.

Jennifer Louden
and Michele Lisenbury Christensen have taught since their 20s: everything from yoga to writing to leadership skills. They’ve created a transformational program called Teach Now that delivers information, insight and Master Teacher interviews with Molly Gordon, Natalie Goldberg, Mark Nepo, and many more. Get a taste of the program via their free videos and Action Guides here.

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