Step Into "What's Next" with Integrity and Intention
Compassion is often conflated with empathy, but they are very different impulses. Empathy is the ability to feel and understand the state of mind of another. Compassion is feeling compelled to act on that recognition and to assist.
But empathy is not enough. It is only a step, albeit an important one, on the path to compassion. Paul Bloom’s masterful and compelling book, Against Empathy, offers scientific research that supports this claim.
Empathy requires effort; compassion demands action. Indeed, compassion is empathy in action. But there are still several important distinctions.
Empathy is subjective; compassion is objective. Empathy is exhausting; compassion is energizing. Empathy is most often singular; compassion is more often plural.
Empathy is the gateway; compassion is the way.
For your endeavor to be done with intention and integrity, compassion is required.
And like grace, you must extend compassion to yourself if you are to effectively and honestly extend it to...
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within our control, and some things are not.” - Epictetus
Agency is as intoxicating as it is elusive. When the breaks go your way, it’s easy to believe it’s due to your intelligence and planning. When things go awry, it’s easy to blame others or fate.
The truth is, very little is within your control, but at the same time, you do control everything required to maintain your sense of well-being and prosperity.
You ultimately control only two things. You determine how you choose to perceive yourself, others, and your situation. You also control what you decide to do next.
Everything else is beyond your control.
Your body is subject to disease, decline, and ultimately death. The attitude and behavior of others are for them to decide, not you. And there are forces far more powerful than you at work in the social, political, economic, cultural, and geographical arenas.
Ultimately, it is impossible to know if an endeavor will succeed. What does “success” even look like? Too often success is confused with popularity and profits.
What if you measured success by the well-being it generates for yourself and others? What if success is doing well enough today so that you can get up and do it again tomorrow?
Take care of the important things, like maintaining your integrity and stepping forward with intention. The less important things, like how much recognition and reward you receive, will take care of themselves.
One thing is assured. If you never start your endeavor, you’ll never know if it has legs. Traction requires movement. If you don’t build it, they certainly won’t come.
And what if your endeavor fails? Everything you do rubs up against the possibility that it might not work. It’s very likely that your effort won’t unfold as planned. But that’s precisely how integrity and intention are tested and...
It's more than a hobby, but not necessarily your job or role. It’s a vocation found at the intersection of who you are, what you're good at, and where you belong. An endeavor is work that you are meant to do now.
An endeavor cultivates gratitude because you don’t have to do it, you get to do it. It also generates appreciation in others because it is a gift generously shared with those who need it.
Endeavors shun the status quo. These efforts intend to transform. Endeavors strive to help people get from where they are to where they want to be.
Endeavors cultivate fulfillment and well-being. They align who you are, what you do, and where you belong. These enterprises encourage a sense of passion and purpose. Endeavors inform a healthy perspective about your status and level of prosperity.
You might luck out and “wander” into a vocation, but a thoughtful approach gives you better odds of developing and delivering work that is significant and satisfying.
Shame is an invitation you do not have to accept.
There is no shame in sufficiency.
You can’t advance any endeavor without making mistakes. Getting things "right" involves going through a lot of "wrong."
And some of those "wrong" choices come with a heaping helping of regret. And when regret appears, you can be sure that shame is following close behind.
But here's the thing, when shame comes to visit, you don't have to extend it an invitation to stay for a week or even overnight. You’re not required to ask shame to lunch or tea.
Don't draw the shades and lock the door. That only encourages shame to hang around. And shame is very patient and extremely persistent.
Instead, meet shame at the door and thank it.
"Thank you, Shame, for coming by. Your presence indicates I have work to do. A mistake to own, an apology and amends to make. Sitting with you, for even a minute, will only get in the way of the important work I must do. So, thanks again for stopping by, I'm quite...
Generosity is the expression of kindness, understanding, and selflessness. It’s an inherent impulse born of our social nature. This primal quality explains why giving and helping makes you feel good and why being selfish and stingy feels terrible. As with gratitude, there is good science supporting the assertion that generosity also boosts your health and happiness.
Generosity requires the recognition of others and therefore cultivates empathy and compassion. It leads to a feeling of “oneness” with others which enhances the experience and emotional health of both the giver and receiver.
Developing your generous nature enables you to move beyond need and desire. Generosity helps you recognize that you are, and already have, “enough.” You already possess an abundance of gifts. These gifts only have meaning through developing and sharing them.
Generosity creates bonds, encourages collaboration, and fuels reciprocity.
This is an excerpt...
In any endeavor worthy of your time and talents you'll face challenges, obstacles, and problems. There's a time and there's a place for educating yourself, preparing, and planning for these moments. There's also a time to dive in and thrash your way to clarity and resolution.
Thrashing is the process of learning, iterating, and improving by doing. This needs to be done strategically, with intention, and in service to the change, you seek to make. Without having a goal in mind and a clear idea of what success looks and feels like, thrashing can become exhausting and frustrating.
Thrashing can also become a seductive invitation to hide in busy-work and avoid the more important emotional labor of connecting and collaborating with those who need you.
Done well and done right, thrashing can be exhilarating and encourage a greater sense of flourishing. In addition to bringing your endeavor into clearer focus, this approach encourages forward motion and builds resilience.
The composer knows the rules. He's studied and done his homework. He writes well-crafted arrangements. Specific and carefully chosen instructions are included. The work of a composer reflects his character and purpose, especially when played by those who know how to do as instructed.
The improviser has the same training, but a different approach. She understands the structure and intent of a piece and sees the possibilities. The improviser's stance is, "Let's play with this and see what we can come up with." She serves the song but isn't enslaved by it.
Composition and improvisation are equally professional approaches to the same situation. There's a time and there's a place for composing, especially when you want things to turn out as expected. But when you want to investigate and innovate, the improviser's process is better suited for that endeavor.
The composer relies on what's been done. The improvise leans into "what's next."
Composer or improviser. Which posture will...
A 100-year-old Stayman Winesap apple tree in full bloom is a pretty majestic sight.
That's all my wife and I remembered from a tour of the 38-acre farm in Check, Virginia that we purchased soon afterward.
We raised our two sons there, in addition to dogs, cats, chickens, fruit trees, berry bushes, a vegetable garden and more than a few eyebrows.
Every year the apple tree bore fruit in such abundance that we couldn't keep up with processing and canning apples or pressing them into cider. The boys spent endless hours climbing that tree. My wife spent countless hours gazing out at it from her office window.
One spring, the apple tree was so loaded with blooms that it visibly vibrated with the pollination activity of bees. The limbs became so loaded with apples that they had to be propped up with two-by-fours.
The very next year the tree was obviously in distress. It appeared to be dying. My wife and I, and our boys, were devastated.
We called the county agricultural agent out to take a...
“I’m not good enough.” Or, “I’m a work in progress.”
“I’m stuck.” Or, “I’m ready!”
“I can’t catch a break.” Or, “There’s opportunity in every obstacle.”
“I’m scared.” Or, “Isn’t that interesting...?”
“No one ever helps me.” Or, “Let’s go!”
“I don’t deserve more.” Or, “I am worthy.”
“I must put my family first.” Or, “I must take care of myself to best serve others.”
“I need to learn more.” Or, “I know enough to start.”
“I don’t know how to start.” Or, “I’ll start where I am.”
“What if I fail?” Or, “Failure is not fatal.”
“What’ll people think?” Or, “Shun the non-believers.”
“I can’t afford the time or...