living intuitively

blog

Posts tagged happy
Following T H E Leader
Images by Trey Staff/ @treyshotz

Images by Trey Staff/ @treyshotz

Like many people, I’ve read multiple books on leadership. I’ve held and hold leadership positions.

I’ve pondered what makes a truly great, effective leader. Why some are effective and others aren’t.

One of my earliest and lasting impressions has been that not all leaders and situations are the same. What works for one leader may not work for another. What yields success in one circumstance may cause catastrophe in another.

I seemed to be the only one thinking this, as book after book I read offered checklists/attributes/traits/steps/formulas/characteristics/formulas/steps exhibited/adopted by all “true” and “great” and “effective” leaders.

Until I found General Stanley McChrystal’s new book he wrote with Jeff Eggers and Jason Mangone titled, Leaders: Myth and Reality.

FINALLY.


Note: If you’re not familiar with Stan McChrystal and don’t know why the hell you should take advice from him, TRUST ME - bro knows his stuff. He served for 34 years in the US Army, rising through the ranks to ultimately command all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan as a four-star general. Those four stars aren’t the gold stars they give out for just participating. He’s a leader through and through, and I highly HIGHLY recommend the book. He profiles 13 famous leaders from a wide range of eras and fields (Walt Disney, Coco Chanel, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, etc) to explore how leadership actually works in practice, and to challenge the myths complicating and clouding our thinking on this key topic. It’s actually a fun, interesting, and engaging read and is brilliantly and clearly written.


First of all, let’s talk about timing.

It’s often overlooked. What we call “leadership“ is often some combination of the leader’s actions, along with serendipity or other contextual factors that make for a positive result.

Leaders are separated not only by time and place, but also by what kind of leadership style would make them effective in their specific roles and place in time, moment, and framework. Yet too often we revert to vague assessments of “strong“ or “moral“ leaders, as though those things consist of formulas to be replicated in diverse contexts.

Spoiler alert: THERE IS NO FORMULA, y’all. Context matters!

This totally echoes my thoughts and observations over the years that never seemed supported by literature and guidance on the topic.

Moreover…

Leadership is never about the capacity and impact of a single person. We typically attribute far too much to an individual, the figurehead, the one with visibility, whom we can see and idolize, and ignore/dismiss/overlook the system as a whole and its contributing parts. (And as Stan the Man acknowledges, there are multiple reasons for the idolizing.) Yes, there are some phenomenal people out there, but none so amazing they singlehandedly drive a movement/achieve results/make it all happen. Turns out Coach was right: teamwork makes the dream work. There are many contributing factors to any event/movement/force/etc.

leader image 2.jpg

And to be judged fairly, leadership styles must be viewed not just at a specific time but also in a particular framework. The context of an enabling institution is often necessary to substantiate leadership.

The culture, the environment, the location, etc must all be examined. Consider the presence/degree of such factors as hostility, resistance, acceptance, apathy, sympathy, motivation, momentum, etc. The quality and quantity of resources.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of hero worship. It’s fun and energizing and helpful to cheer for a hero. Having someone to look up to and aspire to emulate.

We intentionally live with the gap between myth and reality [in part] because we like to do so.

Really think about that. Think about why we do that, and how it could benefit us.

The truth is that when we look closely, we see leadership as much in what our leaders symbolize as in what they actually accomplish.

A hero’s particular actions take on broader significance because the results they achieve resonate with group values.

It’s less about the tangible results they achieve and more about the expectations they defy and symbolism they uphold.

It’s for what they stand for, not just for what they do. Some leaders ride waves more than they cause them.

It is simpler and more satisfying to see the power contained within a single person. Do you relate to this, that it’s easier and more satisfying to have just one person represent all you strive for and admire and respect?

Rather than ask “ How do/did they lead” ask: “Why did they emerge as a leader?” and more specifically, “What was it about the situation that made this style of leadership effective?” These are questions I constantly ponder when studying leaders and their impact.

leader image 3.jpg

Beyond a taste for narrative and belief in our own causality (basically meaning we love a good story, and we love knowing we can have an effect on our lives), we also have a preference for simplicity. Boiling things down to distinct actions by a specific cast of prime actors is more relatable, and makes attributing success and blame easier. And most people prefer easier, right?

Reductionist explanations are somehow more satisfying than the complex, estranging, but usually more accurate accounts. Reality is complicated and even boring, and the mundane messiness can be unsatisfying. It can leave us craving the feel-good feeling. Life is more interesting and pleasing either when it is simplified or, in the other direction, sensational. And we’ll sooner accept the simple or sensational explanation over the accurate one.


Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.
— Seth Godin


Leaders are made powerful not so much by what they do, or even by, what they say, but by what their followers perceive they have to gain either individually or collectively by buying into what their leader is asking.



Great leaders believe they work for their team. Average leaders believe their team works for them.
— Alexander den Heijer

Those who emerge as successful leaders are not necessarily those with the best values, or the most comprehensive record of results, but those who align with sources of human motivation (political leaders are great examples of this!). If a leader can tap into fear or any of its derivatives, GAME OVER. Just add a “villian” and it’s a done deal. That leader instantly has devotees.


A boss has the title. A leader has the people.
— Simon Sinek

Fear is powerful and overrides reason/values/empathy/etc and activates people’s primal survival instincts. Just ask Hitler. He targeted people’s fear of marginalization/poverty/survival and vilified Jews, offering a group to blame. So just as the first line of the previous paragraph asserts, it’s all about connecting with human motivation. Did Hitler have the best values? I’mma go with NO. But he undoubtedly aligned with human motivation: Germans’ desire to survive and prosper.

Same with Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Even upon losing battles, his homies still rolled with him. Not because he had the best values (slavery is NOT COOL) or the best record (he lost key battles and eventually the war) but because he was tapped into the southerners’ motivation to maintain their way of live, human slaves and all.

This explains why followers might turn their attention to the hollow optimistic leader, or people dig the leader who talks a big game but who holds a weak record. Just as we look to heroes as a symbol of what could be, we look to leaders more generally because we hold out hope for an alternative future, or because we fear a coming threat, and the leader becomes the repository of that hope or the guardian against that fear. This is compelling, and even necessary, since hope and fear are both essential to pulling human society forward.

leader image 4.jpg

Leaders should understand leadership as a system, see themselves as the enablers of that system, and learn how to adjust their approach based on the needs of that system. It is the function of leadership to improve the overall progress of humanity. We should see our leaders as part of us, and ourselves as part of the solution. As I’ve said many times before, we’re all in this together.

xx,

-w-

leader image 5.jpg
Copy of d a r k . 2. L I G H T
Concept and images by me  Model: Byron Hunt

Concept and images by me

Model: Byron Hunt

I don’t live in darkness. Darkness lives in me.

We’ve all faced darkness. Sure, some more than others but we’ve all been there, experiencing it ourselves/encountering it in others.

We’ve also all experienced challenges and struggles; again, to varying degrees.

It doesn’t matter who you are or how much you have in your bank account. It doesn’t matter if your social life is poppin’ or if your abs pop. Darkness is equal opportunity. It affects people of all classes, of all races, of all backgrounds.

Some people have enough inner light to repel it. Yeah, they might feel down and out for a bit, but ultimately, the light triumphs. Glow baby glow.

For some people, the darkness permeates, and sometimes it’s harder to shake.

It doesn’t matter what your experiences are - being a human can be tough stuff! Just as we’re advised not to compare our highlight reels - we also should avoid comparing our “lowlight reels” so to speak. Our behind the scenes. Our challenges and obstacles. Our sucker punches life throws us.

We’re all on different journeys, with different psyches and pasts and mindsets and cumulative experiences. Maybe you’re a single parent eking out a life for yourself and your young. Maybe you’re a cancer patient fighting to keep a smile on your face and a resolve in your heart. Maybe you’re a teenager navigating your way in a world of bullies and heartbreaks. Or maybe you have a fantastic life by all general standards yet still feel empty.

dark image 2.jpg
How beautiful is the relationship between the moon and the dark night sky. So contrasting, yet so incomplete without each other.

It’s all hard!! Try not to compare your “hard” and try not to feel guilty for feeling knocked down by life sometimes.

Just accept! Accept your emotions. The more you deny yourself feeling them, the stronger they become. As they say, what you resist, persists.

Life offers ebbs and flows. Peaks and valleys. No two experiences are the same - even within your own life! It depends on your current mental/emotional state.

Think about it - sometimes an issue that would normally knock you on your face barely fazes you, while other times, merely dropping a pen can elicit instant rage and a “F M L!!!!!!!!!!”

And the comparison can flow the other way too! Try not to diminish/discredit others’ experiences. Just because someone hasn’t confronted the same quantity/quality of challenges as you doesn’t mean their life is easier. Like I said, it depends on their current mental/emotional state, which depends on multiple factors: their upbringing, their relationships, their health, etc. Shoot, even their current spot on the hanger scale! We truly have NO idea what people are working with and feeling. So let’s all hug - or at least high five - one another - and show kindness and empathy.

It fascinates me how we all have inner worlds to which no one else is privy. Every time I pass someone on the street, I want to know their story: challenges they’ve overcome, accomplishments they’ve achieved, etc. WE ALL HAVE STORIES.

dark image 4.jpg

I myself have experienced my own share of darkness. I’m definitely an empath, so when i feel, I friggin’ F E E L. And I take on other people’s energies/emotions. This sensitivity is both a benefit and a drawback. I appreciate it because it allows me to relate to and care for people on a whole other level (you fellow empaths can relate!), but it also gets me down and stresses me out. I feel the injustices of the world so acutely, particularly as they apply to others. Almost always, when I’m bumming/stressing, it’s on another’s behalf.

I’m still working on setting the boundaries for worrying about others, but as far as my personal darkness - my tried and true method for banishing the blues and maintaining a lasting zest for life - no matter my current situation - is facing it. Not denying it, or fleeing it, or resisting it. Leaning into it. Analyzing it. Letting others in. I’m a big advocate for therapy (and if you’ve tried therapy but didn’t connect with your therapist - keep looking! Vibing with your therapist is key).

And finally, be G R A T E F U L. Gratitude is deceptively powerful. So simple, so cliche…yet SO TRANSFORMATIVE. It truly makes all the difference. It may take significant effort initially to adopt an appreciative mindset. It’s a muscle you must strengthen, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

My trick is whenever I encounter a sucky situation or draining emotion, I think of three things for which I’m thankful. It’s straight MAGIC. It kicks those good vibes into gear and lights you right up.

No, really. Try it.

I also think of three ways the situation could be worse - and THAT also is profoundly effective. Suddenly, you’re feeling pretty dang good about your current status.

dark image 5.jpg
To deny your broken bits is doing yourself a great deal of injustice. It is the broken parts of you that grew you the most.

You’ve heard it before but that’s because it’s da TRUTH: Every challenge/obstacle/hardship you face is a b l e s s i n g. It’s an opportunity to grow and evolve. To get smarter, stronger, and better. To relate to others and inform your future experiences.

Acknowledge, accept, and honor your challenges. Be grateful for them, for they’re specifically what you need to evolve. Customized launch pads to strength, success, and wisdom.

xx,

-w-

*This post is not meant to discredit the use of psychotropics. Take control of your own health and please also consider consulting a psychiatrist/other mental health professional if necessary!











Y tu?!
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

I have the kind of friends who make you feel like you’re the coolest person on earth. They make you feel like there’s nothing they’d rather be doing than hearing about your newest venture, or your date last night, or your upcoming getaway. They actively listen and ask follow-up questions. They present the appropriate corresponding facial expressions (eye rolls, knowing looks, cheesy grins) and happy dance as necessary.

They friggin’ rule.

They also inspire me to be better.

I hope you have friends like this too, because as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, not everyone is like this. If you don’t believe me, tag along on 90% of my dates!

For a number of reasons (social anxiety, lack of self awareness, self absorption, insecurity, all of the above, etc) people keep the spotlight on them. They’ll tell you allllll about themselves and once you’ve finally politely excused yourself, you realize that after 20 minutes of “conversing” they didn’t ask you a single question about you…but you know all about their new car and their daughter’s bout with the flu and their upcoming vacation and and and…

In moments like this, it’s easy to get annoyed, but important to remember some people just don’t know better! And/or they’re socially unsure of themselves and find it easier to rely on what they do know: themselves/their lives. It’s their comfort zone. It doesn’t even dawn on them to ask about you.

y tu image 2.jpg
Don’t try to impress others. Be humble. Take an interest in others.
— Philippians 2:3-4

Another reason for monologues is they feel compelled to “peacock” and show/tell you how great they are. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dated some awesome, considerate guys, but man - I’ve also dated beyond my share of peacocks. I’ll get to the end of the date and know they couldn’t tell you three facts about me because we focused solely on them the.entire.time. They didn’t bother to reciprocate any of the questions I initiated. Or if they did…they’d interrupt me to hijack the spotlight and turn it back to them. Not very enjoyable, as I’m sure you can imagine. When I’m particularly maxed out on their showboating, I’ll just clam up and stop supplying questions/conversation starters. I’ll watch them fidget awkwardly in the silence, marveling how they don’t realize that to end the silence, all they have to do is ASK ME A QUESTION. These guys.

y tu image 3.jpg
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in others than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
— Dale Carnegie

Feeling and expressing a genuine interest in others is an INVALUABLE friendship trait. Hell, not only a friendship trait - a human trait! Making people feel worthy of interest and attention is the surest way to not only win people over but - more importantly - to connect with them. Making an effort to listen to and connect with others fosters empathy, understanding, mutual interest, etc. All the good things!

Tips to be more charming:
1. Smile more
2. Remember names
3. Be authentic
4. Be curious
5. Offer value

But genuine is the key word here. Authenticity is crucial. People can immediately sense when you’re merely going through the motions and just posing. Ain’t nobody likes a poser. And it’s not enough to just ask questions - you must also listen! How obnoxious is it when someone asks you a question then immediately checks out by scanning the room/scrolling on their phone/interrupting your story/etc.

Here are some tips for enhancing your social interactions by cultivating and expressing genuine interest in others. In other words, here’s guidance on how to be the kind of person others want to be around!

  • Offer customized compliments

    • Sure, it’s nice to hear “You look good” but how much better do you feel when someone notices and compliments you on something special and specific to you?

      • Examples: “That color looks amazing on you!” or “Your home has the most inviting energy!”

  • Ask specific, attentive questions

    • Show you’re truly interested in learning more about the person/the topic they’re discussing. Listen to what they say and ask follow-up questions.

      • If you’re not sure what to ask, maybe request clarification or note how interesting what they said is and ask, “What do you mean by ___?”

    • It’s important to come from a place of curiosity, rather than judgment.

    • If you happen to know more on the subject - keep it to yourself! It’s not a “who knows more” contest so just chillaxxxx and let them share what they know. And who knows - you might even learn something from them! At the very least, you’ll hear a fresh perspective.

    • Try to maintain that balance of showing interest without getting all up in their business. Ensure you’re on solid footing before asking probing questions.

  • Reciprocate their questions

    • Piggybacking off the previous point, is a great hack for when you’re feeling socially unsteady and not up to carrying the convo is simply to ask them what they asked you!

It’s important to mention some people don’t like talking about themselves: they’re shy, they’re insecure, etc. So honor where they are and try to find a common interest, or focus on safe, general topics like current events/mutual contacts (sans the gossip because gossiping is ew).

The more you really listen and get to know people, the more you realize how FASCINATING people really are! I can’t tell you how many times people have surprised me with their experiences/back stories/insights/etc. Everyone has a story and everyone has something to teach us.

xx,

-w-

When you are alive with joy, gratitude, and genuine interest in others, you are your most beautiful. Remember that. Now go stun the world.
— Brendon Burchard
y tu image 4.jpg



L I T T L E white T E E
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

I like the sort of nothingness of the jeans and the t-shirt.
— Marc Jacobs

There’s just something about a basic white tee that is so classic. So fresh and so versatile. So timeless.

It can be easily dressed up or down.

white tee image 2.jpg
Make it simple but significant.
— Don Draper

Throw on some sandals or flats or sneaks, and you have a clean, chic look. Slip into stilettos or platforms, and you have a look worthy of a night out. From statement shoes to statement accessories, you can really pump up the look or keep it low key.

The basic white tee is like a blank canvas open to whatever vibe you’re feeling.

white tee image 3.jpg
With good basics you’ll have endless options.

As you can see here, I played around with belts, shoes, and a hat. Simple changes can yield powerful results.

xx,

-w-

white tee image 4.jpg
white tee image 5.jpg
white tee image 6.jpg
white tee image 7.jpg
white tee image 8.jpg
white tee image 9.jpg



L E T it G O
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Newsflash, y'all: We're human! This means we lose our cool. We get impatient, sad, and unreasonable. We snap at people and occasionally act a fool. We sometimes feel anxious, fearful, and unsure.

We've all been there! We all get it. It's not something for which we should hide or criticize ourselves. It's all part of the human experience, amigos. 

The key lies in how quickly and effectively we can get back to good. How speedily we can release those negative vibes and return to those good vibes. 

Exercise the letting go muscle: the healing is in the return, not in never having wandered to begin with.
— Sharon Salzberg

Salzberg is a New York Times best-selling author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West. Cool lady, I'll tell you that. As she indicates, our "wandering" from peace and happiness is not the focus; rather, it's the return that matters. We're all going to wander - some of us less often, some of us more often, than others. Forget about the frequency. Focus on strengthening the "return" muscle. The more we train and use it, the stronger it gets. The faster and more often you can let go and release those negative emotions, the better you'll get at it. 

Let it go image 1.jpg
The art of concentration is a continual letting go.
— Sharon Salzberg

Letting go can be tough stuff. It could be letting go of a toxic thought, a resentful feeling, self shame or guilt, frustration, worry, rage, whatever. Sometimes it's not just a snap of the fingers to bring instant relief. It's important to feel those negative emotions (so they don't become repressed and fester), and then let that shiz go. The secret is self compassion. Maybe you made a mistake (yelled at your kids, or wrongly accused your friend) and feel awful about it. It's okay! Genuinely apologize if necessary (if the situation calls for it), make amends if you need to, and move the heck on. Come back into balance with kindness toward yourself. This makes the process faster and restorative. 

Meditation trains the mind the way physical exercise trains the body.
— Sharon Salzberg

Same concept if you're meditating. If you've ever dabbled in it, you know how challenging it can be! It's not about sitting there in perfect, no-thought bliss. Your head will likely be swimming with thoughts, like, "I'm hungry." "I'm tired." "Oh, shoot, I have to buy a birthday present for my friend. I hope I remember to do that!" "How long has it been?" And on and on and ON. But as Superstar Salzberg advises, "The healing is in the return." That right there is why you're meditating: to get better at returning to peace. And if your thoughts keep coming, great! More opportunities to strengthen that "return" muscle and get crazy buff. 

let it go image 4.jpg
This universe is much too big to hold onto, but it is the perfect size for letting go.
— Sharon Salzberg

And if anxiety is your thing? Letting go is the antidote! This takes time to master, but once you get the hang of it - it's a beautiful thing. Utterly miraculous. When you're fearful/anxious, you're trusting in your own strength. When you're at ease, you're trusting in the strength of the higher power (God/Universe/Allah/whomever). My favorite mantra recently is: "I relax. I let go. My life is in perfect flow." I repeat this to myself over and over when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Let me tell you, it really comes in clutch every night when I lie down to sleep and have a zillion thoughts sprinting through my head. It grounds and calms my thoughts, serving as a focal point to instantly relax me. Try it!  

xx,

-w-

let it go image 3.jpg