How I'm Trying To Process Things Right Now

I had so many things that I wanted to write you about today, but they all seem stupid and not very important in the bigger scheme of things. I'll save them for later.

What's been happening in our communities in the last week feels a lot more unsettling than the pandemic. There's too much talking and not enough listening (and I hope this doesn't add to that imbalance).

I've cried and yelled at what happened to George Floyd, and been sick to my stomach at some of the responses I've seen.

One of the most challenging aspects of your job as a leader of a small entrepreneurial enterprise is the competing demands for your attention. You can take a break from "running things responsibly" for a short time, but your business will spin out of control quickly if you're gone for long. This is one of those times because you have to ramp up your engagement by flying the plane but also monitoring how the situation around you is changing so quickly. It's like doing your job, as they say, but doing it as a human.

Doing the right thing can mean a super-human act of civic leadership, but in most cases it looks a lot less glorious than that. It's more typically giving every person in our own orbit an equal opportunity, a fair amount of leash when they just didn't know how to say something, or plain ol' grace as they stumbled to a more informed perspective.

Here's what I'm telling myself:

  • Do a lot more listening, but it's not a zero-sum game, because...
  • I can do more speaking, too. I feel a lot of hesitancy in myself and I see it in you, too. We're afraid that we'll be criticized for what we say and even how we say it. Don't let the criticism dissuade you from trying to lead. There's a paralysis about decorum.
  • Try to empty my heart of defensiveness. Don't cling to being misunderstood as an excuse to lash out or write someone off. It feels like torture to let someone criticize me and not respond in a protective fashion, but rather just let the point they are making sink in deeply. Feeling misunderstood is not going to kill me.
  • It's not helpful to let someone else frame my response, insisting that I say something in a specific way as if I can keep up with acceptable linguistics. But, it is still helpful to listen to how they hear me and adjust where I should. It's a process, and people are justifiably very angry.
  • If I'm aiming to change things, I'm more likely to do that by engaging with all sides, and there's going to be an inherent messiness in that. I don't like messiness. I want every piano chord to be resolved, but that's a fool's errand and it's a stupid luxury.

What am I even saying in this rambling note to you?

  • Don't abandon your firm during the added uncertainty and confusion. You're running a benevolent dictatorship within a democracy, and there's influence at your disposal.
  • Listen as deeply as you can, and with as little defensiveness as possible. This is my biggest challenge right now.

The image I want in my head is not screaming at each other from well-entrenched perspectives on FB, but rather sitting around a campfire with a drink and listening intently to people we may not listen to normally. Looking at the essence of what they are saying and not the wrapping of those essential truths.

I'm doing a free webinar on Friday (1p eastern) about unwinding the COVID discount you're been giving to some of your clients. Join me if you think it'll be helpful. The earlier six webinars are listed here.

Be good.

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