Chutzpa and Humility
In business we appreciate boldness, swagger, the “masters of the universe.” We track the tickertape of better, faster, cheaper, smarter. Then…something happens. Like when an Indian friend told me about the executive who flew to San Francisco first class; and returned in the cargo. We pause…as we are reminded of the great question: “Since death alone is certain, and time of death uncertain, what should I do?”
Should I live for my resume or eulogy? The sages suggest we do both. Moving between doing and being, tempo and the timeless, change and the changeless. Appreciating the active life and amplifying the reflective life.
Not too Tight - Not too Loose
Living systems have a pulse, a rhythm: day and night, ebb and flow, inhale and exhale, work and rest.
As we take on greater responsibilities, we need to reflect more deeply and connect to what matters most. With a stronger center we become balanced, more uplifted, and more agile. We are then trusted to take on even larger challenges. Then, with success comes sycophants and great press. And as their voices grow louder, they drown out the inner voice; the better angels of your nature. You get off center, you loose your magic. The way to recover is to slow down and reconnect to timeless principles.
When Peter Drucker was asked what he read, the answer was: “I don’t read management literature, I read Shakespeare.” Inspired by Drucker I decided to watch the epic Kings Cycle when The Royal Shakespeare Company visited New York. Four plays in three days, 12 hours of total immersion. And though the plays are 400 years old, the stories of power, greed, jealousy, and fear are timeless. Like leaders today, these kings wrestle with their capacity for power, loyalty, courage, and honor.
Build Your Ensemble
If all the world is a stage, and we are mere players who have our entrances and exits, consider the cast of characters with whom you want to perform.
As you do, Beware the Busy Manager (HBR Classic). That is easier said than done, because 90 percent of managers show up as distracted, disengaged, or procrastinating. Only 10 percent are truly purposeful. You will recognize those by the way they pick their battles with far more care that others, and by them being more self-aware, more intentional, and more confident.
As you gather your ensemble, think about the many things that inspire you to be your best. This may be an eclectic mix of people, places, ideas, scriptures, art, apps, etc. The podcast On Being is one of my favorites, as the guests show an intriguing mix of chutzpa and humility. Here I get to experience the wonder of physics with Carlo Rovelli, the joy of music with Bobby McFarrin, the awe of black holes with Janna Levin, and the magnificence of elephants with the Kathy Payne.
And then there is the great Mary Oliver, whose poem The Summer Day closes with this beautiful question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life”?