searching for “both-and”

el capitan riccardo-oliva-7_5D2sLtP3Q-unsplash

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park – Photo credit: Riccardo Oliva – Unsplash

The other day my team was considering options that could help our co-workers all around the world continue to grow in authentic and dynamic faith, endure and persevere in times of suffering, and learn and thrive in community. As I listened and evaluated the suggestions, all I could think to say was… “Yes. And yes. And yes. And yes”.

It turns out we could likely use all of those options. Each particular need might vary depending on the situation, the personality, the timing, etc., but realistically, so many of the ideas were helpful and valid and worth offering. We didn’t need to eliminate one for the other. If we implement a variety of options, it will benefit more people.

After spending several weeks heart-broken and discouraged by the vast, complex, emotionally-charged challenges facing our world today, reflecting on that exercise has given me some hope. 

I am reminded today that most things are not “either-or” situations.

We are not playing a zero-sum game.

One doesn’t have to lose for others to win. We achieve more when we find “win-win” options. There is undisputed power in teamwork and shared best practices and collaboration involving a diversity of opinions and experiences and skills. We are amazingly creative, innovative, capable, productive people – when we work together.

I watched two documentaries this weekend about Eliud Kipchoge, who has run a previously-considered-impossible sub-two-hour marathon time, and Alex Honnold, who free-solo-climbed (no ropes or protective gear!) the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Both incredibly inspirational triumphs of human accomplishment.

Although they achieved individual feats, neither of the two extraordinary athletes I learned about this week succeeded alone. They both had mentors, friends, and abundant input from others with unique ideas and specialties. 

Their stories have moved me from agonizingly searching for one correct answer or one side to join, to breathing more deeply and feeling more encouraged as I view possibilities from the “both-and” perspective.

I believe we can care for each other, find cures, and survive with resilience – if we learn with and from each other, rather than judging and attacking before listening. We can correct our mistakes, forgive each other, and find better solutions – if we do it together, rather than separating ourselves into rival camps who cannot speak to each other civilly.

Rather than arguing that one solution inevitably rules out another, I am beginning the search for how to answer with “Yes. And yes. And yes”. I am not looking for 100% agreement – we’ll never have that. We will most likely need many of the options presented and some still-unknown-to-us-today combinations or inventions.

I am working hard to listen respectfully to many differing opinions and push through the anger, disrespect, and unilateral demands to identify the valid, helpful elements of truth in each perspective. This is not easy to do. Putting aside my selfishness, self-defense, fears, and hurts to listen intentionally, admit my errors, and change is very difficult work, but I believe it is an essential effort.

I am praying that many other people will offer their willing, compassionate hearts and humble, teachable minds to work together for “both-and” solutions and hope. Maybe you are one of those people.

How do you sort through disparate ideas? What helps you discover “both-and” possibilities?

 

 

 

 

life story inspiration

Starbucks coffeeStarbucks is my coffee of choice. I always order the same thing – a “grande” house blend, bold, with no room for cream. Every now and then, I accompany my coffee with a healthy oatmeal or a not-so-healthy cinnamon scone. I enjoy the community atmosphere, the comfortable seating for reading or study, and becoming a “regular” when I frequent the same Starbucks for any length of time. I especially like feeling “known” when the barista begins to pour my personal choice before I even reach the counter.

Given my affection for the coffee, I was excited to read about the Starbucks story in a book about authentic leadership¹. A man named Howard Schultz created the Starbucks atmosphere we know today. Schultz wanted to offer a coffee-house with the community feel he had experienced in the espresso bars he visited in Milan, Italy.

“The reservoir of all my life experiences
shaped me as a person and a leader.”
                                              ~Howard Schultz

In addition to community, Schultz integrated other life values into the Starbucks culture. Schultz was born in 1957, and he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, living in the Bayview Housing Projects. As the son of a blue-collar delivery truck driver and a stay-at-home mom, finances were always tight, especially after his dad injured his ankle and lost his job and their health insurance. There was no workman’s compensation in those days, and an injured driver was useless and dispensable.

Those years of struggle etched deeply in Schultz’s memory and compelled Schultz’s vision to lead a company that valued and respected the staff and offered higher pay, stock options, and health care benefits even to part-time employees.

Schultz’s story built his character. From his mother, Schultz heard many times that he could do anything he wanted. When Schultz saw his father’s lack of success and accompanying bitterness, Schultz developed a fear failure and self defeat, and became driven to achieve and succeed.

“You must have the courage
to follow an unconventional path.”
                                        ~Howard Schultz

Over the years, Schultz intentionally “re-framed” his opinion of his father and chose to emulate his father’s integrity, work ethic and commitment to family. Schultz learned to appreciate his story of family hardship as the source of his values and his motivations, and to this day Schultz remembers his humble beginnings and intentionally integrates his story into his leadership and his company.

I am learning to “re-frame” many of my life experiences too; letting go of hurts and bitterness and choosing to emphasize and apply the positive character traits that I gained as a result of struggle and hard times.

Whenever I drink my coffee now, I try to remember how my life story can inspire my leadership.

What experiences from your life story inspire you?

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¹More details of this story (and others) are found in the excellent book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George.