April 2, 2018
I hesitate to be such a downer, but things aren’t okay. My father is in hospice. My country is dealing with disarray on a scale that is mind numbing. (To give a specific or two, the Secretary of Education isn’t a good fit for the job, to say the least, and students as young as elementary are walking out of school because they wish to feel safe in their own classrooms. Oy.)
Steven Pinker in his newest work, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, speaks to the fact that things are better. A positive review in the New York Times refers to Pinker’s data as telling us we are safer, healthier, less violent, more prosperous, better educated, and more tolerant than in the past. All true. Looking through the lens of history, I cannot disagree.
Yet, the #MeToo movement, gun violence in schools, white supremacists running for office, climate change deniers, cancer and so many uncivil moments on social media and in the news give me a sense we aren’t healthier yet.
I often sink into a funk. I gossip. I complain. My gestures get bigger. I swear more. And then while sitting in this stew of unproductive dissatisfaction, I heard from a voice who didn’t shush me or ask me not to feel the way I feel. Instead she said, “I get it. Now what’s the right work we can do at this time?”
Margaret Wheatley, organizational development consultant, and author best known for Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, is both a realist and an healer. She gets things aren’t good. She acknowledges there is both rage and grief. And then she asks the question, “Who Do We Choose to Be?” This is the name of her newest book, Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity. Wheatley writes, “This book is born of my desire to summon us to be leaders for this time of profound disruption, to reclaim leadership as a moral profession that creates possibility and humaneness in the midst of increasing fear and turmoil.”
Wheatley also spoke about her work on Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon’s set of interviews with leading spiritual teachers and luminaries [who] explore their latest challenges and breakthroughs—the leading edge of their work.”
Hallelujah. Someone who acknowledges things are bad and people are sad. And, someone who asks us to face that reality and choose what to do next given that this is what it is.
Boy, is it good to be seen first and then asked, “Now what should we do next?” Acknowledgement goes a long way. For me, the right next steps include being with my grief of an upcoming death of a parent; include being with others who don’t accept the status quo and are working in their own locations to do what they can with what they have got, and include living with more empathy for myself and others on this wild ride we are on. It is what it is.
I am not okay and I have some feelings about it. And, I am working on my right work for this time in my life and in our collective life. What’s your right next step?
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Many a great moment this past month…here are two great resources from two of those encounters.
Had a great meeting with my colleague, Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, Executive Director and Founder of ROX – Ruling Our Experiences. “The Mission of ROX is to Equip girls with the knowledge and skills necessary to live healthy, independent, productive and violence-free lives.” ROX put out The Girls’ Index – an enlightening and sobering research brief that “is the first-of-its-find, large-scale, national survey designed to develop a deeper understanding of the thoughts, experiences, perceptions, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes of girls throughout the United States.” Check out ROX and their work.
I had the fantastic gift of being coached by a colleague, Dana Carmichael, who is going through a Growth Edge Coaching Certification. Growth Edge Coaching is the sister site with Cultivating Leadership, a consultancy. They do work in NZ and the USA. And Cultivating Leadership has some terrific short bursts of videos on taking multiple perspectives, asking different questions, etc. Check out both sites.
And, just one more… another shout out for the podcast, On Being. On Being takes up the big questions of meaning with scientists and theologians, artists and teachers — some you know and others you’ll love to meet. Each week a new discovery about the immensity of our lives. On long drives, Krista and her guests keep me company.
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
Work with Jennifer
Praise for Jennifer
“Our school’s work with Jennifer Abrams has sown the seeds of stronger communication skills among the adults in the building. This has only served to strengthen the integrity of communication between staff and students as well. We’ve added her language to our expectations: honest, humane, and growth-producing conversations occur regularly.”