Good morning friends
How are you? No, really, how are you? Pause and take a moment to connect to yourself. Sit quietly on this Sunday morning. Close your eyes. Breathe. Scan your body. Where are you holding tension? Are your shoulders hunched up to your ears like mine? Relax them. Is your jaw clenched? Relax it. Again. Take this moment. For yourself.
I know my readers. You are the responsible ones. You are the driven ones. The optimistic ones. The strong ones. If you met Sisyphus, you’d be saying ‘step aside from that rock I can handle it for you. Push it every day? Sure. No problem. Can I do my meetings and teach my children quantum physics while I push?’ It is critical that you also care for yourself. So, rest.
This newsletter is more contemplative than my usual Sunday fare. This time there is nothing directly from the world of business. This time is an in-between time. It is a liminal space, one that has the possibility for renewal. And so, today’s invitation is to rest, reflect, reconnect and explore the possibilities of rebirth.
During the week, I wrote a ‘home guide’ for this time. I have tested it with a few people who all found it to be useful. If you’d like a copy, please email me. I’ll send it to you on Monday. We turned off all devices on Friday night. I have logged in to write to you, but then I am turning off again until tomorrow.
One final note. To each of you who message me during the week, thank you. Your messages are a source of energy and inspiration.
The Tao Te Ching was written in approximately 400BC. It is a guide to living with integrity. This moment needs integrity.
I have been reflecting on these four lines:
When Tao is lost one must learn the rules of virtue
When virtue is lost, the rules of kindness
When kindness is lost, the rules of justice
When justice is lost, the rules of conduct.
To bring this closer to conventional strategy, think of Tao as connection to purpose.
South Africa’s president has powerfully articulated the country’s purpose in this moment – to protect its most vulnerable. His ministers have been clear that if one is unable to stay connected to that purpose, they will apply the rules of conduct.
My letter on toxic leadership was one of the most read this year. It has struck me that when one encounters leaders who consistently apply only the rules of conduct, they are likely disconnected from justice, kindness, virtue and purpose.
To apply this in the current moment, think about your approach to your family and businesses this week. Have you been clearly articulating a purpose and guiding yourself and others to that? Or, have you been using the rules of conduct?
Two of my clients have defined their businesses’ purpose for this period as ‘being connected.’ Another has defined it as ‘kindness to self and others’, a spirit which has opened up a whole new category of clients as his business extends their services from that foundation.
A clearly articulated purpose helps reduce anxiety in the face of uncertainty. Your purpose need not seek to change the world for all eternity. Narrow your timeframe to the next week and define its purpose. It’ll help you and those around you.
This Ben Okri quotation came to me via Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday, one of my favourite newsletters.
“Beware the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”
It is undoubtedly presumptuous to add to Mr. Okri but I will nevertheless add ‘beware the stories you share, they are altering your world.’
We consistently tell ourselves stories. They are shaped by our histories. They are often not entirely our own stories but include others’ expectations or treatment of us – for good and for bad. Conscious journaling allows you the opportunity to observe and shape the story you are telling yourself.
Grab a pen and piece of paper, answer these questions:
- What did I learn about myself this week?
- What did I learn about others?
- What did I do this week that I am proud of?
- How did I show love and kindness this week (to myself, to my loved ones, to those I lead, to my colleagues, to strangers)?
- What would I like to have done differently? How will I do that this week?
And, if you’re wondering about the ‘love and kindness’ question, showing kindness is the most effective route to improving your mood. Being kind is a double espresso for the soul.
Remember to give others the opportunity to be kind to you. It has been my hardest lesson that being resolutely self-sufficient denies others the joy of connection.
There is no doubt this is a moment of transition and so much of my current reading and thinking is about those moments in life. The late Stephen Levine counselled people approaching their deaths for over 30 years. In his beautiful book A Year to Live he writes, “Just as yesterday we pretended to be dead, today we pretend we are alive. We walk the streets filled with presence. We watch the gratitude at our rapid recovery. We cut out the middleman of death, not needing to die in order to take our next incarnation, we take birth now, in the middle of the street, in the midst of a life redoubled by new birth. We enter life so fully that even if we died it would not spoil our day.”
This moment offers us the opportunity for a new birth. Take it.
Yours in solidarity