What are you reading at the moment?
There are three books that have been on my bed stand all of this week, and for good reason. The first is a memoir by Dr. James Doty, called Into the Magic Shop. The second is a book by a dear friend, Rajesh Setty Upbeat. The third book on my bed stand is my book The Fifth Revolution. The Fifth Revolution is an ambitious effort to provide the inspiration, skills and tools to practice compassion in workplaces and as leaders. But anyone who has published a book knows how exhilarating and draining launching a book can be. I needed all the energy and encouragement to navigate the launch, which I am gaining from the first two books I mentioned.
“Of the over 1,000 leaders we surveyed, 91% said compassion is very important for leadership, and 80% would like to enhance their compassion but do not know how. Compassion is clearly a hugely overlooked skill in leadership training.” — Harvard Business Review
What’s keeping you awake at night?
The seeming callousness of the human species to the destruction of itself has been keeping me awake at night. The recent Amazon fires for example. The news headlines did not want to give it its due space. The political will locally and internationally was clearly lacking. The fear that we will be leaving a sub-par future for our children, because of our selfishness and callousness makes me feel helpless.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without? The one thing I cannot live without is purpose. The bushmen of the Kalahari talk of two hungers- the small hunger is the hunger of the belly and is easily filled. The greater hunger- the one that is harder to fulfill- is the hunger for meaning. I feel that purpose and meaning is what wakes us every day and keeps us moving. I started out as a cancer scientist, became a senior care agency owner, wrote books, now teach compassion in companies, life coach people, have co-founded a company- all because there is an underlying desire to make a difference in the world I am in. This meaning is my oxygen. Without it I will cease to be.
What is the hardest thing you overcame?
The hardest thing I have had to overcome is my fear of vulnerability. I am not one of those people who was primed to observe suffering and death at close quarters. But that is exactly what happened when I ran my senior care agency. Watching the people I cared for, suffer and die drove me to depression. I had sensed this, but was not vulnerable enough to admit it, because mental illness was taboo in the culture I grew up in. Fortunately for me, I have an understanding friend in my wife, and I was able to overcome the challenge with grace. Being vulnerable about my pain was one of the hardest experiences. Yet, it was also one of my most liberating experiences.
How did you get out of your own way?
This is a very special question. As a life coach this is one of the primary experiences I strive to create. Each one of us carries baggages of GAILs: gremlin voices, baseless assumptions, misplaced interpretations and limiting beliefs. I have my GAILs. Any day I discover a GAIL blindspot in myself, I discover one more way in which I am in the way of my own success and happiness, and then I am able to do something about it. I believe awareness of my own GAILs and a desire to address them is the way I am striving to step out of my own way.