I recently came across Ibram X Kendi's book, How to be an Antiracist. It's not a new book, but it has recently been launched to the top of the charts in light of recent events.
Although I've only just started the book, two of the concepts struck me as so profound, and so utterly useful, that I wanted to share them in this week's Intentional Tuesday.
The first is the idea that we should change the way we think about the word "racist". These days we tend to apply this to "people" rather than to ideas and systems. This is a problem for multiple reasons. For one, it's incredibly easy to distance ourselves from the issue by saying ... I'm not a racist. It's never that simple. Racism is about ideas, systems and policies. To focus on people, we miss the bigger picture.
The second mind-blowing concept is that there's no such thing as neutrality when it comes to racism. It's not enough to say ... I'm not a racist, or I don't have racist...
Requests are one of the most fundamental building blocks in personal and professional relationships, yet many of us struggle with making and receiving requests. A huge part of the problem lies in the language that we choose. I’m talking about the difference between implicit and explicit language.
What’s the difference?
Implicit means that something in implied, or suggested, but NOT expressed directly. Explicit, of course, means that something is expressed clearly and directly.
In other words, implicit means we don’t have to actually say what we mean but the other person will still get what we mean. Simple enough. Right?
Most of us use implicit language on a regular basis. In fact, we tend to think of implicit language as a good thing, because it allows us to get our point across without having to spell everything out in detail. Although there are occasions when implicit language creates efficiency, for the most part I think the opposite is true. Implicit...
What can the craft of writing teach us about how to live? Lot’s actually. This week’s Intentional Tuesday is part of the WriteLife series, which explores the overlap between good writing and good living. You won’t want to miss it.
In his Masterclass, author Neil Gaiman explains a surefire technique for writing compelling drama. He encourages writers to constantly bring characters to a “fork in the road.” A point where they need to make a crucial decision. If the character feels the significance of the decision, the read will feel it too. Do this over and over again, and you’ll have a solid story worth reading. Pretty cool.
As an aspiring writer, I appreciate this technique. But what does it have to do with real life?
How many decisions do you make every day? Dozens? Hundreds? Some research indicates it’s in the multiple thousands of decisions every day. No wonder I’m so tired.
How many of those decisions are conscious? Intentional?...
Do you struggle to make requests? Most of us do, at least some of the time. It’s one of the most common challenges that I encounter, working with leaders in a professional setting. But many people struggle with requests in their personal lives as well. Sadly, the cost of this problem is high, because making and receiving requests is one of the most basic building blocks for healthy relationships. In this Intentional Tuesday, we’re going to explore some of the more common challenges with requests and share some ways to overcome them.
Before we get into requests, we need to make a crucial distinction. Without it, we’ll never be able to make requests skillfully. It’s the distinction between a request and a directive.
You probably feel the difference when you hear the words side-by-side. The word “request” implies the recipient has an option, whereas “directive” implies the recipient does not. The difference is huge, as we’ll...
When we find ourselves offended by another person, most of us choose not to engage that person directly and this costs us dearly. It has cost, both at the relationship level and at a societal level.
Whenever we are offended or insulted, we have two choices. Think of this as a mild fight vs. flight response. We can choose to engage the other person or we can choose to not engage. Last week’s episode was all about how to skillfully NOT engage.
As a general rule, engaging is the higher-order action. It takes more effort and potentially yields greater benefits. I appreciate that direct engagement is not always possible or preferable and I often choose not to engage in my own life. That said, when we choose to avoid direct engagement, I do think we miss a massive opportunity to learn, both individually, and collectively. It feels like society continuously reinforces the message that direct engagement is undesirable. Instead, we are encouraged to ignore the offense, or we are...
When was the last time you were offended? We’ve all had this experience and it’s never fun. How did things turn out? How is your relationship with the offending party now? Is there any residual resentment? Probably.
On two occasions last week I had someone tell me they were offended by something that someone else had said. As an outside observer, neither of the situations struck me as particularly offensive, yet I could see the fire these events had stoked within my conversation partners.
I asked my conversation partners whether they planned to do anything about the situation. Neither of them planned to follow up with the offending party. I find this heartbreaking. In both cases, relationships have suffered, and there’s no plan to repair the damage. There’s a good chance the people who committed the offenses are not even aware that something is amiss.
The more I thought about these two situations, the more something became clear to me. I see a...
Are you an artist? What would change about your work if you thought of yourself as one? A few things, I suspect.
For one, that word, “work,” would take on an entirely different meaning. Most of us live with a distinct boundary between work and, well, life. Not so for the artist. There’s nothing to balance. It’s all one harmonious flow. It’s all life.
Of course, you’ll hear artists talk about their “work,” but they are talking about something different. The artist isn’t talking about some “obligation” they have to fill for 40+ hours a week to put food on the table. To the artist, “work” refers to the moments when the artist is engaged in deeply intentional expression.
Can you feel the difference?
What else would change if you were an artist? The reason for work would be different. Work would still be necessary, but for very different reasons. Most of us have to work because someone has to pay the...
The other day a friend and respected colleague posed an interesting question to me … isn’t feeling “stuck” part of the normal change process and therefore not something that we should try to escape?
I believe her question points to a larger problem … our unwillingness to honor the full range of feelings, emotions, and experiences that we all have through the course of our lives. We love the good stuff, but when bad stuff happens, we try to get away as quickly as possible. There are some serious flaws in this approach.
On a personal level, if we are unwilling to experience certain emotions and feelings, we are dooming ourselves to experience them all the time. It’s like when someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant and suddenly the pink elephant appears. Pain, suffering, sadness, anger, and fear are inevitable parts of life. Trying to eliminate the darker experiences will cause you to notice them even more. On top of that,...
We’ve all made bad decisions and, whether we believe it or not, we’ve made many-fold more good decisions over the course of our life. Why is it so hard to learn from those experiences and apply them to make us more effective right now?
I think the problem is that most of us don’t have an explicit process for analyzing our past decisions. We just hope the lessons are already running on our brains like some kind of an automatic software update. Is this really the best strategy?
Most of us know the experience of making the same mistakes that we know we’ve made in the past. And, from time to time, most of us struggle with important decisions, second-guessing ourselves and holding our decision-making to an impossibly high standard. We know logically that we’re good decision-makers, but in the moment, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. We need a new strategy.
The US military has a formalized strategy for using past experiences to accelerate...