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I've just started a really great book "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi and it reinforces my belief about the power of connections. If you've read anything I've written here before, you know how important I believe relationships to be in all of human interaction.

I believe the core of this book is the answer to making our business lives more happy and fulfilled - oh, and by the way, more productive.

It seems often that in the quest to fulfill the needs of our shareholders (whoever they might be), we forget the elements necessary to create that productivity. And this usually involves the issues related to the more human characteristics of our existence.

This book connects characteristics like relationship-building with external success (read: bottom line financial success).

Why is that surprising? Yet there are still those leaders within our business world who don't understand the importance of those characteristics like relationships, effective communication skills, and - dare I say - LOVE. It comes down to the disparity between fear and long-term success within the business world.

As I'm writing this I'm watching Clean Sweep on TLC - the show where couples get rid of their clutter by having the show come in and help them start over. It's a great metaphor for that point at which we determine we want things to be different - whether in our home lives, our work lives, or any part of our lives.

In this episode Peter, the host, is identifying how the language the couple uses affects not only their clutter but their relationship. Both Janelle and Shane have gotten into the rut in their marriage of separating their clutter into "his" and "hers" and then they end up justifying their attachment to their individual stuff and end up blaming the other for keeping the stuff, which causes the other to feel more defensive and keeps the attachment to the stuff stronger than their commitment to a clutter-free life (or to each other). It's a classic example of collusion.

It's a great metaphor for business relationships, too. Where are we setting up our connections? In places they can come between working relationships by helping us justify our traditional behaviors and mindsets? If we're considering external connections (those outside our companies) without considering the effects on our internal connections (those within our companies), we may actually be building walls rather than tearing them down.

It's another example of how giving up our need to be right can give us more satisfaction with our connections with others than our self-justification will provide in our being alone.


The 4- (5, 12, 25, etc.) Step Method Approach to Life

I've been thinking a lot lately about all the books out there that give you a "tried and true" or a "guaranteed to give you results" or a "follow this and you're sure to succeed" promise that will change your life. I'm thinking about why the surefire answer approach just doesn't sit well with me.

Maybe it goes back to my need to find THE answer to all the challenges I wasn't even able to articulate in my own life. I've always been a seeker, an eager learner and an overachiever, so I was a sucker for anything that would promise me results - especially those I could obtain outside myself.

The very reason I've titled my blog "You Already Know This Stuff," I think, is why I'm unsettled by having someone else tell me what I should do or guarantee me results based on their formula for success.

I get that there are certainly great ideas that others have learned from their own experience and that they want to share with others. I'm the same way. I'd love nothing more than to be able to share all the things I continue to learn about my own life so that others might be able to subvert those experiences themselves and get to more important work more quickly.

But for some reason I have a problem with some guru promising others THE way to success. Maybe I'm overly sensitive since reading Peter Block's The Answer to How is Yes, which really altered the way I ask questions to support people in connecting with what they already know.

I'm all about connecting with our inner KNOWING. Maybe it starts with defining that inner KNOWING - the collection of all the wisdom we've accumulated over the years and either discounted because it didn't fit with who we are or accepted because it did. I wonder if we get to a point in our lives that we've accumulated enough inner wisdom - a critical mass, maybe - that makes it easier to trust both WHAT we know and THAT we know.

I can't promise that someone's life will be altered by reading this or any blog, or any self-help book out there. But I do know that there comes a point in everyone's life - Lance Secretan in the book "Inspire" says that sometimes it happens on people's deathbeds, but it does happen - when they connect with their destiny, when the switch flips and they realize that they can have a life they love.

I don't want to wait until my deathbed, and I'm learning every day - every minute. Yes, as the Beatles tell us, "Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see/It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn't matter much to me" (from Strawberry Fields Forever).

Don't let fear of the unknown keep you from living with eyes open, learning to understand all you see. It's a much more enlightening place to live as you figure out your own, personalized approach to life!


All Wrapped Up: A Lesson For ME!

Wow, it's amazing how readily those pesky life lessons can appear - and how prevalent they are when we have something to learn!

The funny thing about lessons is that they are so personalized! Served up on a silver platter, tied up with a beautiful bow, and complete with a gift card with my name on them!

Did you ever wonder why the exact same situation can totally tick one person off while another person in the same environment doesn't even notice? That's the fancy gift-wrapped lesson with the personalized card on it. I'm learning that the situations that bug me the most are the ones with the most important, and often the most pressing, lessons for me to learn.

I'm finding some situations are appearing in more than one package for me recently. They might not look exactly the same on the outside (one's got a gold bow and one's got a red bow, for example), but the lesson inside is exactly the same. Until I figure out why these gifts are still being presented to me, I'll be destined to keep unwrapping the packages - hoping to find new gifts inside, but finding the exact same thing in the box. It's not enough for me to say to myself "I've already got one of these" ... I've got to really ACCEPT the gift for what it is - a lesson for my entire life. When I get that I have a choice to really accept the gift as a GIFT, not a reprimand, an "I told you so" or a form of punishment - I can get beyond this gift and beyond the situation that presented me with the gift, and on to other opportunities to learn and apply.

It's not enough to just understand this insight ... I now need to actually DO something with it. The true test will be whether I'm presented with this gift yet again. I'm banking on getting something brand new next time!


We're Ready for Bigger Small Talk

I'm convinced that, in general, we humans are getting to the point where talking about the weather, sports, politics and recipes is not as fulfilling as it used to be. Sure, we have to start somewhere in our conversations and the aforementioned topics are great places to start. But I get the feeling that most people are dying to connect on a deeper level which will lead us to all kinds of unpredictable relationship opportunities.

I'm reminded of a former boss who once told me that business has nothing to do with relationships. It is that type of thinker I used to think really dominated the world of work, but I'm beginning to change my mind.

I spent 2 days last week working with top-level executives about leadership - more specifically, about how we as leaders are ultimately responsible for the results we get from our work teams - and even with our friends and families.

Although there are still those people in leadership roles who believe the best results can be obtained by force and fear, and will show you the results they get by use of that leadership style (at least in the short term), I'm very encouraged by the leaders who do want to go beyond their traditional leadership practices.

Fear may well be a motivator and can get quick results, but rarely will that tactic work with human beings over the long haul. When we treat human beings as objects to be used for our own gain, we rarely get much real satisfaction.

Maybe the problem is that few of us really want to know how our behavior impacts those around us. We all know the statistic from the Gallup poll that says that 80% of employees leave jobs because of their immediate supervisors, yet I'm guessing that old 80-20 rule applies here too: 80% of those supervisors who the employees are leaving probably don't look in the mirror to figure out why the employees are leaving.

Ben Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic orchestra, and co-author of the book "The Art of Possibility." He also conducts leadership seminars and has produced, with his wife Roz, two training videos which are outstanding. In one, "Leadership: An Art of Possibility," Ben shares that one of the ways to see the impact you as a leader have is to look for the shining eyes of the people around you. Shining eyes are evident when the spark of possibility is present. Ben says if he doesn't see shining eyes around him, the first question he asks himself is "What am I not being that their eyes aren't shining?"

If things aren't going exactly the way you would like them to go in your life - whether that's as a leader or as a parent or as a student or as an employee or really as any of the many roles we all play - consider Ben's question for yourself: "What am I not being that things aren't going the way I'd like?"

When you take that honest look at yourself with sincerity and authenticity, you might find huge opportunities to move beyond your own personal status quo and be well on your way to creating significant lasting transformations in your personal and professional relationships.

A great place to begin is by listening to the small talk around you. How might you contribute to raising the level of that small talk? Of course it can't end with the talk - we need to figure out together how to move beyond talk to action. But it's got to start somewhere.


Where Have All The Gordon MacKenzies Gone?

Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself: "I wish I would have written that!"? Well, this is my book like that.

I'm just re-reading "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by the late Gordon MacKenzie and I'm inspired all over again.

How is it that I'm just figuring out all of this "bring your whole self to work" stuff and so many people have gotten it so many years ago? Case in point: Gordon MacKenzie.

Back in the early 1950s, according to the back cover of this book, Gordon flunked out of the Univesrity of British Columbia and later stumbled into a job as a cartoonist and writer for the Vancouver Sun. While at Hallmark Cards, Gordon didn't find so much as he created his niche. His title there was Creative Paradox.

Gordon imparts so much wisdom in this fabulous book and it's a blast to read, too! Here are a couple of little snippets:

"Being infinite, the whole of reality is too much for the conscious human mind to grasp. The best any one of us can do is to take the biggest slice of Infinite Reality we can hold - intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally - and make that slice our personal sense of what is real. But no matter how broad it is, any human perception of reality can be no more than a tiny sliver of Infinite Reality.

"Civilization also has a limited perception of Infinite Reality. And with a haughty self-assurance, it imposes that perception on us until we think it is our own. The same is true of the companies we work for. They have their perceptions of reality and they impose them on us. As a result, we are wrapped in a cocoon of realities perceived by others who came before us. It is a cocoon that gives us a sense of emotional security through connection to a shared belief. But it is also a shroud that binds and cripples us as surely as the ancient social abuse of binding Chinese women's feet crippled them." (p. 45)

Through his original stories and drawings, Gordon shows us what happens to organizations when they stifle individual creativity. Policies, procedures, rules, regulations - all become hairs which join together to form a giant hairball which eventually develops its own gravity. People are sucked in by promises of security, benefits, salary but often lose their souls in the meantime. Others, daunted by the structure, leave the organization to find more suitable employment. Gordon shows us that in order to have the best results both for the organization and the individuals within the organization, we need to help those creative beings find a way to orbit the giant hairball so they are not so close they're are sucked in, but not so far away that they leave.

Gordon's take on corporate America and his style of storytelling coupled with his original sketches makes this a must-read for anyone who feels the call of creativity within their corporate environment.

Can we carry Gordon's torch and light up our workplaces without succumbing to the suffocation of the cocoon or the gravity of the hairball?

It takes courage and persistence, both of which Gordon exhibited and both of which I'll do my best to follow. Who's with me?