Being mindful

I got a call from a friend over the weekend apologising that he hadn’t been completely honest with me. I’ve sensed issues and asked gently leading questions which he’s responded to with a straight bat. That’s his nature, private to the point of being reserved. I know that and I’ve accepted his answers without completely believing. And so it was, there are issues, he hasn’t been open with me, and so he apologised.

His apology came on the back of Landmark, which he had been immersed in over the weekend. He seemed invigorated by the concepts he’d learned and keen to put them into practice. All power to him. I know well myself the power of opening up and letting go of the secrets and lies. At the end of our conversation he invited me to attend his graduation on Tuesday night.

He’s tried a few times previously to come along to some information sessions and I’ve resisted. This time I agreed, but only because it was his graduation. I would be there to support him, but there was no way I would contemplate signing up, and I told him that.

So come Tuesday we catch up for a quick dinner before rocking up to the venue. It’s crowded and hectic as people register and search for seats. There’s a busy vibe, sizzling with energy. Then the evening begins.

I don’t go along with everything espouses, but as far as I’m concerned a lot of what they say is common sense, even if it isn’t self-evident. I figured a lot of it out years ago, and more again recently. That doesn’t make me a convert, however.

The presenter was warm and engaging. She had us laughing at times and once more I could go along conceptually with what she said. Of course there was a lot of raise your hand if, and conditioned applause after every audience contribution. Needless to say I didn’t raise my hand on demand, nor did I applause unless I wanted to.

If I impressed by anything it was the people I heard testifying to their experiences, either in the forum or one on one, were universally blown away by the results of their weekend. Many claimed it to be life changing. There was something very endearing in their fervour and I found myself rooting for them. I have no doubt most of us have layers of baggage, and the more we can shed ourselves of, the better.

Towards the end of the night the selling began. Most of the participants had brought along guests, and many of those guests seemed ready to sign up at the word go. I was surprised by how many. A few more teetered before being coerced into taking the plunge. Then were likely a few more again, like me, with no intention of signing up.

I had someone approach me about it but I shut him down pretty quickly. I wasn’t rude, just decisive. Thanks, I’ve done it before, impressed by the passion, not something I’m interested in doing. Thanks again. As much as anything it was my body language and certainty that convinced them I wasn’t about to change my mind.

As I said to my mate, maybe this might have been something for me last year, but I’ve managed to navigate my way out from the worst from it, and still going. I don’t discount help or the assistance of professionals, but ultimately it’s my call and as much as possible I want to do it myself. That’s my way, but it recognises the fact that no-one knows me better than I do, I’m a stubborn bastard, and I don’t like being told what to do. Plus I’m sceptical of formulas.

He asked me then what would I say I need to change if push came to shove? I scratched around a few moments searching for an answer. I thought about the girl at work. How do I resolve situations like that? I said, half-jokingly, though that’s a human problem. Maybe be less intimidating to my seniors I said, though I hardly care about that either.

It occurred to me as we drove home that I’ve progressed to another stage in my re-development. I’ve always had a strong character, but since recovering from my tribulations I’ve become a harder person in key aspects. Last year some of it came from anger that I should suffer so unfairly. It wasn’t consciously articulated, but it simmered beneath the surface. Much of that has now dissipated and I don’t think I’m angry at all now. In fact a large part of my healing comes from acceptance.

My experiences left me with a direct way of experiencing things, however. It stripped away a lot of the irrelevancies and posturing and stories and artifice. A lot of the language as these Landmark people would say, and false realities. What it left me with is an authentic perspective on life.

In some ways that has meant I see through things that once meant much more to me. It means I deal with people on a much more honest level.

I’ve always been pretty blunt, but some of it was persona. I’ve always had a strong character, like I said, but I was conscious of it. I had swagger and ambition. I was in it for myself and my ego was much more present.

I still have some swagger, but much less conventional ambition. I can’t do away with my ego altogether, but I’ve recognised the dangers of him. And if I’m blunt now it’s because the crap isn’t worth my time.

Apparently I intimidate some people, but they’re all senior to me. I can see it sometimes, but only in retrospect. There was a situation the other day when frustrated at not getting something out of a department I visited the manager. I stuck my hand out and introduced myself. We shook hands and I told him what I need, following it up with an email laying it out. It was only hours later I realised that this guy was much senior to me and he might be put-out by a big and overtly confident guy marching up to him and expecting results. I’m not the complete alpha male, but there are occasions when I’m the most alpha of alpha males.

Now, to parse this experience I would excuse myself by saying that I’ve never been a natural or particularly good subordinate. I’ve never really seen myself that way and was inclined to some intellectual snobbery. No real excuse, but to be fair before my problems I wasn’t subordinate to many – the CEO maybe, the CFO – and was out of practice. But, there is a more fundamental reason now, I think.

Before I saw the issue or the challenge within structural constraints. There was a hierarchy and a defined pathway to follow. Human nature is that we vest a lot in that hierarchy and attend to the status that hierarchy gives us. Our ego is fed by it.

Having survived extreme hardship a lot of that appears irrelevant, if not downright silly to me. It’s like a lot of the things I set store in before, nice but ultimately meaningless. That you’re the assistant senior manager of something or another is ultimately a construct, necessary in a organisational sense but without intrinsic meaning. It’s a label.

Now none of this crosses my mind. I’m past being conscious of it. I don’t see a manager, I see someone who can help me, or has information I need or access to something I need to get to. I go to them with my problem or issue or request and that’s all that has meaning. Whether they work in the mailroom or run the show is meaningless, what is meaningful is that they can help resolve my problem or issue or request. As I keep telling my manager, it’s not personal, it’s about the work.

That makes me a bit of a savant these days, and in hindsight I understand it might unsettle some (though it only really worries those less capable or competent, those for whom entrenched position and status is more important). I’m like an Exocet missile homing in my target, and about as mindful as one. This makes me very effective, and there are many who value my focus and determination, but…

Now, I’m pretty indifferent to this, but I’m starting to think I shouldn’t be so switched off. There’s a tweak required. I understand why I’m the way I am, and maybe my perspective is more true, but if it makes me out of step then the truth is subject to societal perception. Reality is that as a world these petty conventions count; egos must be considered and stroked as required; the unspoken rules must be attended to.

That’s the practical consideration. The personal consideration is that I should be flexible enough and sensitive to pay due respect to these things. It’s not for me to trample on the ego of others, even if blindly. I don’t want to intimidate others. To achieve this I just have to be more mindful, which is the path towards so many solutions. And I don’t need Landmark for that.

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