Leaders Eat Last

Today…I really fucked up. No way around it- I just sucked as a human today.

It’s funny how the things we want to become most often produce our biggest mistakes. There is something inside me that has always wanted to be a good leader, and for most of my early life and career, I’ve been placed into positions of leadership. Not to be self deprecating, but I’ve definitely not been a good “leader” by any thoughtful standard.

While charisma, passion, and dedication have landed me these position, my selfishness, impatience, and insecurity have lead me out with an indignant thrust, lead by justification that someone other than myself, was to blame.

But reality has come a’ knockin’ and I’m embracing the reality that I alone am responsible for my actions.

A bit late in life…but better late than never. So here’s my big epiphany:

Being entrusted to lead, is to be trusted to take responsibility (especially when you fuck up.)

This requires acting humbly- making decisions that benefit others- acting as a servant rather than a “boss.”

While the organization I’m stepping out of now has likely been one of the worst I’ve ever worked for, it’s also allowed me see the worst in myself.  

Truth be told, I never learned to be a servant. Most of my career, I’ve been placed in roles that require responsibility without really having learned the value of leadership. I’ve taken that position, and people, for granted – creating a world in which my idealisms (mainly of being praised and running operations smoothly) meant more to me than people’s best interest.

If I were to “do my time” in this terrible company over again, I would practice the art of  keeping my sour opinions to myself, my emotions in check, and being an encouragement to my team instead of commiserating with them.

To summarize a bit of my experience this past year: I was designated to manage people who would come to work intoxicated, those who were completely belligerent toward me (embarrassing the shit out of me in from coworkers and customers), those who couldn’t go a day without gossiping about another coworker, customers who would create the most elaborate stories and accusations to get something for free, managers who played favorites or would take every opportunity to remind you of how you screwed something up (like, something that they never addressed you about but told everyone else you screwed up), and other employees who were just all together miserable.

Not much different than what any manager deals with at some point in his or her career…not to mention what Jesus encountered in His ministry, I’m sure.

And within a crazy environment, you have a choice. 

I could have risen above the crap and served with cheerfulness and integrity. Instead, I stooped down and met my team in their misery- but in commiseration- not to uplift. What’s more is that I actually posses the ability to be annoyingly encouraging and keep my shit together when things fall apart, but instead, I chose to add to their misery with reactive behavior.

I choose wrong…

True leadership is a choice- a choice to serve others regardless of the circumstances.

It is incredibly difficult to keep your opinions to yourself when everyone has a criticism about the way things are being run (and you, if you are even slightly willing to rise above the noise.) It’s difficult to keep personal woes and heartache out of your work when your upper management is criticizing you rather than supporting you. But it’s even harder to continue being a servant when others treat you like one.

Pride is the enemy of leaders.

And my pride has taken what would have been a successful year in this position and turned it into relief to my team in my departure.

That makes me so sad, but i know it’s true.

Reflecting on the past decade of working in various companies, I’m understanding that I’ve taken so much for granted. The skills, experience, and overall ability to be the person I’m capable of being are things I’ve neglected. I’ve not valued my value, thus, have continued operating like someone who deserves to be proverbially “abused.” Insecurity is a bitch, but overall, my attitude has been the real problem.

I’ve spent the last decade like a beggar- open handed and expecting advancement but giving only complaint in return. I’ve acted like an entitled child- throwing tantrums and shifting blame without acting like the person I’ve been entrusted to be.

I had so many opportunities this year, in the face of ugly gossip and tyrannical opposition, to step into the role of a leader…and I failed. I let petty comments and poor organization change me into a petty and poor “leader.”

But the buck stops here.

Awareness of where I have failed is more clear now than it’s ever been. Today forward, I claim my responsibility to give what I am expected to give – within boundaries and clear understanding. And despite poor management, organization, or being treated like a servant, I have decided to serve like a leader…

And servants are the only ones who deserve to be in leadership anyway.

I have no idea what opportunity will come next in my career. I honestly feel a bit lost without knowing what’s next. But for now, I hope to step into the identity of a servant – an aspiring “leader who eats last” – one that people will trust to lead with integrity and ability to serve in face of opposition.


Forward:

This post is inspired by my literary mentors Simon Sineck, Nadia Bolz- Webber, and Seth Godin who have taught me what real leaders are made of. It took a while for this piece of their instruction to settle into my reality, but if I keep learning from them, I’m certain this next decade of work will be something I can be proud of.

 “Leaders Eat Last” is an incredible philosophy (and book) coined by one of today’s most influential thought leaders in the business world, Simon Sineck. If you don’t have the time to read this, listen to his bad-ass presentations on the subject. You may experience “reality-whiplash”- but you won’t regret it.

Practicing Presence

Lately, every where I look, God is reminding me that with Him, all things are possible. This is strange to me- but only because I don’t really know what to make of it.

Considering the state of life I’m in, I may be undergoing a bit of a crisis. But not a crisis as in a dark hole I can’t escape- but one that’s reshaping how I think about life and what it means to live with purpose.

The last couple days, I’ve felt crippled by nostalgia.

Missing my family. Missing my dad. Missing NY…CO…Germany…Turkey…NJ…Uganda…every where I’ve called home for a short or long period of time.

Our psychology, when we are sad or feel unsatisfied with life, tells us to go back to those the place we were “happy.”

But reality tells us there is no going back.

That coffee shop I loved on 110 and Amsterdam- with it’s mahogany interior, amazing cupcakes, multi-ethnic staff, and disco ball – has likely been turned into some trendy record shop in it’s decade of gentrification (or worse- it’s been turned into some dumb-corporate vitamin store.)

Point is: those times and places we once loved- those friends we used to share falafel with on a perfect spring, Midtown Sunday- that time is gone. And there’s no going back. 

But there is forward. What remains are new choices and people and foods and places to paint the next memories we cherish for nostalgia.

It’s been said that we grossly underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade and overestimate what we can do in a year. As I reflect on the last decade of my life, all I can think is that there must be some truth to this sentiment considering the several lives it feels I’ve lived in the past decade.

One of the greatest things I can come away with is how much of my life experience of my 20’s has been proving my assumptions wrong. In the areas of faith, boys, friends, sci-fy, the lasting and fading of good things- all stand corrected. Not for the worst. But for the reshaping by present experiences.

When I consider how many times my assumptions have fallen victim to the framework of my experience, I’m forced to consider how many new realizations are waiting for me on the other side of the next week, month, or decade. And – how awesome that most of my faulty framework on the fundamental conditions of human experience have risen triumphant in the face of tragic, predicted outcome (or as one of my favorite pastors calls it, the miracle of “flowers growing in garbage.”)

Currently, my framework for love, career, and what it means to be human are all floating around in my brain like a Van Gough painting.

So much of what I’m thinking about has such little relation to what I’m actually experiencing emotionally. As I struggle to connect the dots between past and present, I’m longing to escape this current state with some irrational, bad life choice…but something greater is brewing. I know I need to sit with these these emotions and memories and feelings until something gives.

I really feel crazy in this space, but I wanted to try to describe what it is I’m feeling- for if I ever return to this place of what feels like an out-of-body experience, I could recognize what this is like.

Realistically – I can only sum it up as feeling like I’m living in a dream. 

Here’s a summary of what’s happening: In my emotional state, my heart is bouncing back and forth between how grateful I am to experience where I am in life right now – being present to the laughter of friends and kisses of my husband. Then, this warm feeling of things I’ve loved – like Christmas, the magical turning leaves of NYC’s fall season, past boyfriends/crushes, and the warmth of being in my Aunt’s home listening to stories of my great grandparent while the smell of cigarettes lingers in the air.

While driving, I’ll have flash backs to times with my dad – cruising around Jobstown, NJ (no one outside of South Jersey knows where this is…lol), listening to “Georgia Satellites.” Or times with mom, driving with the top down into Waikiki listening to Jay Z and rapping every word like the ghetto drug dealers we’re pretending to be.

There is so much about New York I miss – the steamy A train in the summer-  with performers and street drummers filling each station with entertainment. The freezing air and lovely stillness of the Amtrak in the winter – held in perfect anticipation of stepping onto the business of 34th street after a short 1 1/2 hour train ride. Perfect snowfall in the street lights of Harlem, slushing snow under feet, while spooky cars pass as I make my way to my uptown apartment (so scary and yet, I miss it like crazy…weird.)

As I write these memories- it feels like grieving. The tears that fall now are for a time for which I can never return.

Most of life has felt like a movie for me. It’s times like these that all I wish is to hit the rewind button and really drink in those experiences. Instead of thinking about how fucking cold I am standing in Madison Square staring at a ridiculously large Christmas tree-I would instead bask in the beauty of the moment.

And perhaps this realization- right now – is an answer to prayer: the prayer I’ve prayed to be more connected to the present.

Maybe we can’t truly appreciate the present until we grieve the beauty of the past. 

In a conversation with my pastor one Sunday, I casually mentioned my fear of moving into this exciting (and terrifying) next season of life- going full-time into my business…for the second time. His casual but profound response: “There comes a time in life when success is no longer our teacher. Failure is what will move us forward.”

This may be what I’m actually grieving now. My season where knowing “success” in all I do, is over. The new season I’m entering will be lead by a new teacher: curiosity.

Curiosity leads us into incredible growth. Not because it leads to success but because it’s a sly and precarious element that escorts us into experiments that require testing, and testing requires resilience and patience to try things that are likely to fail. Some things we test may lead to success. We don’t really know. That’s the point. 

After living so many “lives,” I wonder if it’s possible to live a reality most authentic to my truest desires: a reality filled with unbridled grace, freedom to not only create success for myself but for others, a marriage filled with joy, honest faith that inspires people to seek Jesus for themselves, and memories untarnished from regret of not having been more present.

This next season may be filled with tremendous failure, but it may also be a season defined by the success. At the least, success defined by a heightened awareness of the present moment.

All things are possible, with God, after all.

Parasail Perspective

What do you do when you feel like your life is missing something indelibly important?

For me: I usually imagine life from the perspective of the parasail: far above the earth, but close enough to feel the wind on my face, and yet possibly die from falling (which I’m unsure is physically possible, considering parasailing happens over water…but you get the gist.)

Getting to this perspective usually involves talking with people from my past or really close friends in my present. As of now, all of my really close friends have either moved or are in the process of becoming parents – so…I’ve been talking to friends from my past. The problem with this is the element of nostalgia.

There’s something about nostalgia that allows us to both hate and love life, simultaneously.

We reminisce over what we’ve experienced and feel thankful for what we’ve had, then, we feel shitty for not feeling the way we once did. Nostalgia is tricky. It’s a two-edged sword that can leave us spiraling down a very strange staircase of emotion asking questions like “what the hell have I done with my life?”

So here I am. Down the staircase of nostalgia, about 27 floors.

How I assume nostalgia should work, isn’t quite how it actually happens for me. I feel like if choose to remember the things I miss, it shouldn’t throw me into this place. So I’m trying to understand why I’m here- instead of asking, “where the hell am I?” – I’m asking “what do you feel is missing?”

Well…for one. Close friendships. I’m totally missing the intimacy of close friendship. After looking over some photos from my wedding, it seems that nearly my entire wedding party (on the girls side) has moved off island. Granted, there were only five on my side- but my point is that half of my friends, the people closest to me and celebrated with us that day, are no longer on island. Wft.

Really- I know greater intimacy is available in my new relationships…

but I’m unsure of where to start or honestly, how close I want to get. I have an incredible group of friends, but most are really busy with their own lives and I suppose I am also. It would be easy to simply place the lack of closeness in my current friendships to time deficiency, but really – I’m afraid to invest in any of my relationships here because every time I do, that friend leaves the island or moves on to their next phase of life.

Maybe that’s just the curse of the late 20’s. That and the fact that my residence is a tourist destination where people seem to come for a time and go within a year or two. This is likely my rational for why moving back to NJ sounds like a good plan: live in a place where people generally stay. But wait…

There are people who stay. They are here…in my friend group. So maybe I risk it.

Maybe I take the chance and enjoy whomever God puts in my life for as long as they plan to stay.

I’m praying that there is some break in this emotional limbo. I’m praying that I’ll look up and realize I’m really not 27 floors down the scary spiral of nostalgia- but I’m looking down onto the water and over the city – from the perspective of a parasail.

Living Bravely

You know those times in life that you read over your journal and wish you could be brave enough to share what you’ve written? Or better yet, that you would have the courage to live out the lessons you share in your diary. I’m having one of those moments.

I started an anonymous blog last year (this one) and after reading over my thoughts, I can honestly say it’s some of my better work; unfiltered, barely edited, and following a straight line of thought.

But while we’re on the subject of honesty, let me say that it’s that kind of writing I doubt I’ll ever have the gumption to share.

Precarious Ideas

It’s a pretty normal occurrence for me to ponder subjects like morality. This may be caused by a natural proclivity toward questioning the state of human logic and faith, or perhaps is an underlining development of cynicism. Regardless of the reason, it’s becoming more common for me to find fucked up questions arising in various day-to-day activities.

For instance, today I was walking through a grocery store – watching law abiding citizens carefully placing their grocery selections in a basket and carefully proceeding to the line to pay for their overpriced items (I say overpriced because it’s Hawaii). But here was my thought: if the island faced a strike from Matson (our supply shipment company) or endured some natural disaster that left people scrambling for food, humanity would look much different than it does in this moment. 

Humanity’s truest resemblance is best defined by a turn of events leading us to the kind of anarchy madness seen in Lord of the Flies, is it not?

Then there was Africa…

This thought made me think of the time I spent in Uganda. While visiting the prisoners there, you heard story after story of the morally gray (and not so gray) “crimes” that were committed to confine futures to a filthy, four-walled cemented hell-hole with a half-intact roof, and no promise of freedom. Someone stealing bread for their family- domestic issues- the list goes on. I remember thinking, “how can people live in a country like this?” Then I remembered; my country is one where citizens are protected and relatively safe, if only control is maintained by the government.

Obviously, the proverbial “stealing of bread” then takes place not in the lives of the citizens (for the most part), but in the high society we task to enforce the laws that seemingly protect us.

This perspective shift – tied into all of the philosophy, psyche, and religious text I’ve ingested – amounted to a simple realization: the line between living with honesty and boldness is some form of fear (or lack thereof.)

*Of course this statement begs for a discussion on political environments, but let’s skip to internal fear*

Some fear is a good thing. Fear keeps (most of us) from doing really stupid things. But there’s irrational fear – fear that’s engrained in us like a bad tattoo we gave ourselves in the 7th grade.

Have you ever questioned your fears?

This is a really, really hard one for most of us.

I’m currently reading a book that’s reshaping the way I thought a “good Christian” should act. The fear of not being “Christian enough” or “too preachy” is one that has sadly molded much of my restraint in loving people with lifestyles I don’t understand, telling my hurting friends about the comfort of the Holy Spirit’s presence, or standing up against religious folk acting like self-righteous ass-hats.

But..from the life of Nadia Bolz-Weber – a fierce, foul-mouthed, Lutheran Pastor – I’m learning that radical faith can look very different than I suspected.

In her book “Accidental Saints,” I’m reveling in every F-bomb dropped within her love-drenched, grace-filled, stories. Her book is radically reshaping the way I’ve understood faith. Better still, discussions of her book have spared on some pretty fantastic conversations of “who’s the biggest asshole” in my group of Jesus loving friends. It’s actually making me giggle thinking about it.

If you read about the life of Jesus, it couldn’t be more obvious that He spent his life surrounded by and loving the most broken people. He chose some of the weirdest group of misfits to preach the gospel, chose a women to tell of his resurrection (which was pretty risky business in this culture and framework of history), spent meal after meal with the most hated members of society (the protitutes, tax collectors, ect.) and rebuked the high maka-maka (self-rightous folk) who questioned his faithful acts that displayed what they only spoke in regards to practicing faith.

Despite knowing this about Jesus…

I never knew that it was okay to be a friggin’ walking-paradox. Jesus made a point to show that those who are “least deserving” are still capable of incredible things with God’s strength and grace. I still don’t know if I’m a “good person who does bad things” or a “bad person who does good things,” but what’s comforting is that I don’t have to know.

Through Nadia’s confession of loving God in an imperfect way, and loving people the best she can through God’s grace, brings freedom to my life that invalidates the arguments against myself. We are all inevitably part ass, and part holy.

At this point in time, I’m aware of my deepest flaws, and simultaneously aware of how ridiculously loved I am by God (and less awesomely, but still meaningfully, loved by my friends and family.)

And for my underlying cynicism; I’m working at finding the light in humanity when I only sense the moment of anarchy on the horizon. Courage and fear come with their ebb and flow, but I’m…

Thriving in the purity of honest confession.

James writes “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” -James 5:16 ESV. I’m finding this to be true – not only as to why we should live honestly for ourselves, but for the healing of the lives around us -evidence is my healing though Nadia’s confessions.

Maybe to discover our fears, we have to be confronted by people living their most honest confessions. Perhaps seeing that everyone may experience some version of Lord of the Flies playing within themselves is the freedom we need to live our bravest life.

What kind of life do you need to witness to live your bravest?

Magic Lives

November 6th, 2016

You know those days that just remind you how good it is to be alive? Today was one for me. I started the morning energized and early (despite an anxious night’s sleep), met up with an old friend at one of my favorite spots for brunch, experienced serendipitous connections walking around the city, and finally accomplished a days work with smooth sailing. Not only that, but my husband brought me my favorite pesto salmon and a little massage over my break. Days like today are like the proverbial rainbows after the storm. 

A few days ago, I also experienced an incredibly healing conversation with my mom. It wasn’t a long hoopla of apologies and emotion. It was a simple, “this is why I didn’t tell you what I needed…I’m sorry” with reciprocated compassion. It was likely the most mature conversation I’ve ever had with her. Basically, she and I have had a volatile relationship most of my life. I would like to say that its because she’s fantastic at holding a grudge- but the truth is that I have had a tendency to harvest my hurt by denying my offense and holding the stick to her when she gets crazy. But for some reason, I feel like those days are over for us. Maybe we’ve both just gotten old enough to realize life is too short to nurture bitterness. Whatever this place is, I’m happy to know we’ve discovered it.

Over all, this fall season, like most magical autumns, is bringing on the magic. I’m feeling a flow of life that presents challenge, growth, and even if just an illusion, some sort of consistency. The struggles are real, but somehow, that Bible verse about suffering producing character is possibly proving to be truer than I assumed.

Furthermore, after giving some thought to why I began this blog, I’m finding that it truly is my journey into fearless living. I’m surrounded by so much goodness that it’s difficult not to feel beautiful gratitude for this place and time- without the insistent criticism I’ve used to beat myself into conformity. Even if it’s just for today, life is good and magic thrives on. 

Here’s a little bit by Alan Watts that I think pairs well with this day-

“The mystical experience is nothing other than becoming aware of your true physical relationship to the universe, and you are amazed, thunderstruck by the feeling that underneath everything that goes on in this world, the fundamental thing is the state of unbelievable bliss.”

Alan Watts

Breaking Free

November 5th, 2016

What a shit-storm of two weeks I’ve just survived! The main thing I’ve gained from the mess? I’m a frickin beast! While my natural tendency goes to self-deprecation and self-criticism, I have to say that the fire has proven to reveal a flippin’ warrior who can persevere through the worst.

Perseverance for me has always been touchy. Being the fairy that I am, when shit gets tough, I usually strap on my running shoes and bolt. But after recognizing how much I’m capable of, it suffices to say that I’ve grown a bit. Facing the reality of my complicated marriage and difficult work life, I’m settling into removing the unnecessary pressure I’ve placed on myself for too many friggin years. Yes, I may be pushing thirty, feel that peculiar maternal clock ticking, and feel that I’ve accomplished very few things that I’d hoped to by this time- but I realized that my time line is my own. I do not have to subject myself to society’s stupid fucking expectations of what a woman pushing 30 should do (in the words of my mother. Thanks, mom.)

There were a few things that I needed to take action toward this week to implement this newfound awakening. First of all, I had to let go of a toxic, four-year friendship. Second, I had to own my skills and confront my supervisors on what I believed to be a shitty business decision. And third, I stopped trying to force myself into feeling or doing things in my marriage simply for the sake of keeping things “good”. Basically, after a week of hell, I realized that people pleasing was causing the biggest distress in my life and I, alone, was responsible for changing things.

While the world has all its rules and expectations about how people should live their lives, it’s truly the rebels that live outside of the box and do meaningful things. It’s the rebels that challenge the systems and confines of traditional thinking that make an impact on the worlds they leave behind.

It occurred to me that if I want to live a life that matters, I absolutely cannot use the measuring stick of modern American life against my own; for example, being a consumer of a life I can’t truly afford is a sticky web I want to avoid at all costs. Living without a car is inconvenient at times, but it also means living without a car payment, insurance, gas, and parking expense. Sharing a run-down studio apartment with my husband is a bitch at times- but we also pay nearly half of what our friends with the same income do. These are all simple examples of rebellion that dwell on lifestyle, but then, most of my concerns about the future and identity have been connected to performance and some illusive ideal of status.

If I am ever to live the life I imagine; enjoying the pleasure of running my own business, building incredible wealth so I have to option to retire at 50 if I’s like, and living out intimate relationships built on vulnerability and brave trusting, I must first embrace the journey and learn to challenge what needs to be confronted. That is what your twenties are for, right? Learning what the fuck you want, what you can and cannot control, and face the fears that threaten to suffocate your dreams to death….oh, and taking action toward what you learn. Otherwise, what you learn doesn’t mean shit. 

So here I am! Do you see me? I’m a fearless be-atch and I will leave my imprint on this planet! Or maybe I’ll just leave a few imprints on the lives in my world. I’m ok with either. As long as I live free from the confines of a plastic reality.

Sparking Fire

October 25th, 2016

Yesterday, I decided to try and spark the romance between my husband and I. Dirty and sweet text messages…attempting to build some anticipation. Though sex-ting inst my hub’s strongest talent, I spent the day looking forward to some naked play time when I arrived home from work. Instead, I was welcomed by sweet catering; my favorite mixed drink (vodka and sparkling grapefruit) and a sensual massage. By the time we got to the kissing, I really wasn’t into it. He was just kissing me. There was no caressing my body or feeling me up. Just… kissing…

I felt terrible telling him but it was that or try to force sex. When I expressed that I wasn’t really feeling it, he told me “it’s all in your head. You’re only dwelling on an expectation.” He was right. I expected him to ravish me. I expected to feel desired; things I knew he wanted me to feel but I simply didnt.

This morning, my husband snuck out without giving me a kiss goodbye; usually his sign that he was upset and wouldn’t talk to me for most of the day. As I began to process the wrestling of wanting to reach out and apologize for the night before or let him be, I decided to journal and realized that it wasn’t just the attraction issue I was up against. It’s been in large part due to the response given to my pleas for what I desire. Lord knows that I’ve coached him openly about what I like and what I don’t. The problem, I think, is that he needs affirmation- he desires me to pursue him when I’m desperate for him to pursue me.

One of the other issues I believe we’re facing is do to our past experiences. B was a virgin when we got married and I’m the only one he’s been with. While in the past he’s expressed that this isn’t an issue for him, my having such a rich experience with past lovers (ya…I got around a bit), but the truth came out in our last conversation. As I was sincerely explaining the hurt I was feeling about the state of where we are, I began saying “I love you so much and cherish what we have…” he interrupted me to say “No. You cherish the experienced you’ve had with other men.” That didn’t go over well. I followed that statement with a conclusion that we either start seeing a counselor or pursue separation. He concluded we seek counseling. 

This coming weekend, we have a little romantic trip planned over the course of our friend’s wedding. We are heading up to an incredibly romantic resort, and hopefully doing more than just sleeping; and by that I mean enjoying the resort and maybe…just maybe, some steamy action. We haven’t had sex in a few days and I truly have no desire to, but maybe a change in the monotony of life will spark some romance. Here’s hoping!