Lies, Truths, Life

“How good of a liar are you?” I was giving a talk last week in front of a group of smart young aspiring entrepreneurs – and we were discussing the pros and cons of opening up to people you don’t really know. I challenged them while asking them to lie. Yes, lie!

While we all lie – from little lies to bigger lies to twists and turns and small distortions which end up making the conventional parts of our lives – we also learn to cut through the BS of small talk, boasting, “politicking” and spin. And in order to know the truth and what’s real you need to experience the lie. The exercise was not a morality test but an experiment in getting out of your comfort zone, listening, being bold, being you while keeping your shyness. It was a debate on the axioms “cash is king” versus “people are kings.” It was all about business – yet the art of business cannot be an art without the people who make art out of their business.

Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception gives her analysis in her TED talk:

“… When you combine the science of recognizing deception with the art of looking, listening, you exempt yourself from collaborating in a lie. You start up that path of being just a little bit more explicit, because you signal to everyone around you, you say, “Hey, my world, our world, it’s going to be an honest one. My world is going to be one where truth is strengthened and falsehood is recognized and marginalized.” And when you do that, the ground around you starts to shift just a little bit…”

So, just learn to shift through the sand – pause and think and never take anything for granted. But don’t neglect to shut out negativity: 100 people could tell you how freaking amazing you look today, but if one person says you look like crap, those 100 positive messages won’t matter. And it’s up to you to figure out those truths that matter and the lies that don’t.

Change

changeGreeks were loud and clear yesterday. Political ideologies aside, they voted for change.

The range of emotions is interestingly distended.  Elation, fear, excitement, trepidation, anger, disappointment. It’s understandable: It’s a huge change and it will take time to adjust and absorb the transitory loss of balance.

Dodging risks and seeking rewards are prioritized differently by different people. Some of us are less risk averse than others. In my book, I don’t want “to be neither scared stiff by too much novelty and change nor bored by too little.”

Winifred Gallagher’s New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change” gives some interesting perspective.

“…Like individuals, societies struggle to balance the need to survive, which prioritizes safety and stability, with the desire to thrive, which requires stimulation and exploration. For most of history, this tug-of-war has inclined cultural change, like the biological sort, to occur not in a smooth progression but in an uneven, unpredictable process, of fits and starts that scientists call punctuated equilibrium. Something new, whether climate change, an important tool such as the plow or computer, or a political upheaval, prompts a period of innovation that takes a society to the next level…”

So, while the dizziness from the sleepless election night has not yet faded, manage the fear of the newness. Make sure you give yourself time to think. Try and understand if you’re talking about something you really know something about or if you’re just regurgitating some talking head you heard on the news last night or this morning. Especially that…

Uncertainty: Just like rock-climbing

A friend sent me something about dyno today – a movement in rock climbing where the climber must let go of everything, leaping through mid-air in order to surpass an otherwise insurmountable obstacle. Sscareince I am not a rock-climber I took it figuratively and did my usual imaginary leap. After all, this is the Age of Uncertainty.

Living in Greece the feeling is exacerbated by political and economic turmoil and impending change. National elections this coming Sunday is all we all talk about. Yes, the public agenda is dominated by possibilities, exit polls, prognostications, doomsday scenarios, “Grexit” speculation and future outcomes. And the cacophony of politicians is deafening while our brains are desperate for some quiet time to reflect and regroup.

And here comes the rock-climbing and the jump, the dyno, the forward movement on the hard rocky surface of our reality. We each have our own dyno move inside us. Take it as the equivalent rock-climbing ‘thing,” our risk, our leap, our bet with our own limits.

“…If you have ever had the chance to watch elite climbers, you can see that their climbing looks graceful, effortless, almost like a surreal dance. How can they hold onto seemingly nothing at impossibly steep angles? How do they move from those unimaginable positions to other equally unimaginable positions further up the wall? ­­Aside from having a very advanced level of fitness, they have mastered several essential skillsets that allow them to climb in the most effective ways possible. Fine-tuning these skillsets, or techniques, allows them to ascend through a series of moves with optimum efficiency. The utilization of energy in the most efficient manner is the driving principle behind elite climbing technique…”

So, what will it take to take advantage of our own energy? Won’t life will go on regardless of the election outcome? We will do what we all must do to go on.

While crystal balls tend to be inaccurate plenty of times, our own intuition, awareness, flexibility, creativity and consideration of alternatives and possibilities can help us. The better we understand the forces that shape our lives, the better we can exercise some control over them. The pain is unavoidable and sometimes necessary. People change when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the fear of making the change. And yes, the possibility of crashing down hard is real.

But maybe once in a while, just think like a rock climber – and try practicing your own dynamic jump.

Grandparent Dilemma

thano and baby

Meet my brand new grandson with his dad!

He was born less than two days ago, a healthy 8lbs 1 oz little boy. I skyped into the birth room a few minutes after his birth. Not being there to share in the joy of holding him was weirdly painful, the feeling of a bottomless pit in the depths of my core. He is my son’s son; he is my first grandchild and I wasn’t there because we live a continent away and we had planned the trip around the delivery date – of course not knowing exactly when he would arrive. I will be there in a couple of days but this – now – seems so not enough!

Not being present in your kid’s most important moment is one of the hardest and most painful choices a parent can make. And this is not as innocent as all the ballet and soccer games you might have missed because of meetings going overboard.

Having kids very young is fantastic (it was for me). However, this also implies that the role of grand parenting has gone from the traditional model of white haired benevolent old grannies and grandpas to active middle-aged folks who have other obligations, responsibilities and as an extension, choices to make. And hence, the grandparents’ dilemma!

I think about him and my son and daughter-in-law all the time, living in their timezone – carrying around my cell with all the gadgets and the portable technology that allows me to be hooked into their lives.

Hindsight is easy and beating yourself over something that was done is not helpful so I am trying to get some sense into me as I am writing this. I love my son – and raising him to value his family and his child the way he does is partly attributed to the way he was raised. I am proud of him for who he is, his vulnerabilities, his tenderness, protectiveness and toughness. He fell in love with his son – and he brings tears to my eyes as he is describing his perfect baby to me. I teased him yesterday saying that my son was much better looking than his. He simply answered: “Just wait till you hold him.” I raised him to be wise. I know he is right and I can’t wait to admit it.

Women Leaders: Competent but Disliked

talk behind you
“…Women leaders experience social backlash because of their success. They are expected to be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing. So, if a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she “should” behave…” Marianne Cooper, Harvard Business Review

I have taken a public position on gender discrimination: Each one of us, (man or woman) is responsible about what we leave behind regardless of the obstacles we all face. But at the same time, one cannot turn a blind eye on the reality of perceptions, expectations and norms – and specifically about issues at the workplace and how women in power are perceived.

Powerful people are powerful regardless of their sex, color or money. It’s the character that matters, the heart, the determination and stamina to fight. Yet, the older (and wiser (?) I get, I am often blown away about how “progress” sometimes is going backwards.

How many more years, decades, centuries do we have to go through to get over this stereotypical idea that women in positions of authority are supposed to be nicer than men?

Consider the famous Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins US Supreme Court Case:

Ann Hopkins worked for Price Waterhouse for five years when she was nominated for partnership after playing a key role in landing a $25 million contract with the U.S. Department of State. At the time, the accounting firm had 662 partners, only seven of whom were women, and Hopkins was the only woman out of 88 people nominated for partnership that year. Hopkins’ efforts were described as “outstanding,” but her partnership was put on hold because her perceived aggressiveness rubbed fellow employees the wrong way. One partner described her as “macho.” Another suggested she take “a course at charm school.” Yet another suggested her chances for partnership might improve if she learned to “walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear makeup, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry.” The U.S. Supreme Court, which heard her appeal when she sued, agreed she had a case for discrimination. “We sit not to determine whether Ms. Hopkins is nice, but to decide whether the partners reacted negatively to her personality because she is a woman.”

Think about it: You certainly know of similar situations and specific environments where some women – and particularly women managers – are perceived as too soft or too tough but never just right. They face higher standards and lower rewards than men leaders. And some are perceived as competent or liked, but rarely both.

This is not about feminism (the mention of it alone has become an anathema to many of us – no, I don’t like labels, thank you very much). It’s about the realization that acting human is always the preferred way…

 

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