February 20, 2021

Follow Your Bliss & Blisters: Leadership From the Inside Out

As we step a fresh foot into this New Year, many of us are still running in low-battery mode, reeling from the aftershocks of 2020  – and now 2021. We may see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we are most definitely not out of the tunnel.

The insurgent storming of our Capital was not only violence and gross disrespect but a Group Think mentality: the collective practice of thinking or making decisions that discourages creativity, individual responsibility or complex problem solving.

The rioters had other options, and even ways to demonstrate genuine leadership – because we all have the opportunity to serve as leaders, whether formally or informally throughout our life.

But leadership is not about action first.

Great leaders are built from the inside. You must start with character. The four cornerstones of character are integrity, humility, accountability, & courage. Then comes competence. The four cornerstones of competence are learning, change, judgment, & vision.” ~ Timothy R Clark, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Just think of the profound impact on our relationships, teams and society if we were to collectively heed this call of character. It is surely an uncomfortable journey much of the time, a journey of self-development.

In this New Year, may our blisters be our blessings.

This is my wish to you, your team and organization after reading this provocative article What You Should Follow Instead of Your Passion.

Follow Your Blisters

The author suggests that following your passion is a bit too glib for reality. Instead of the Follow Your Bliss bumper stickers he used to see on hippie cars in North Carolina, he’s decided his bumper sticker would read: Follow Your Blisters. He continues:

A blister appears when something wears at you – and even chafes you a bit – but you keep getting drawn back to it. What I like about the phrase is that it implies something about perseverance and struggling through tasks even though they are not always blissful.

He reflects that the work he comes back to over and over again, even when he doesn’t succeed and the process is arduous, is where he is most alive.

Personally, I’m loaded with blisters. I’m often the goat climbing straight up the mountain without any obvious foot hold. But this endurance is drawn from my well of YES within. Like a moon-shadow, my YES is a place of mystery that is so beautiful, and infused with so much longing, that I simply have to follow it into the unknown.

Follow Your Bliss

So I probably Follow My Bliss. But let’s talk about this expression, which decidedly is not fluff. It comes from the work of Joseph Campbell, a prolific American author and editor who wrote on the universal functions of myth and culture and their relationship to our lives. In a conversation with Bill Moyers, Campbell explained:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

Chop the Wood, Carry the Water

My colleague responded that while she does follow her passion, what resonates most for her is to chop the wood and carry the water, a Zen Buddhist expression that comes from the quote:

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

One interpretation is that the key to everything is that everything is chopping wood and carrying water, and that if one does everything mindfully then it is all the same. There is no separation.

Rose, Thorn and Bud

That same day another colleague invited me to participate in a New Year’s exercise, and one that she uses regularly with teams called Rose, Thorn and Bud. Together we reflected on 2020, but this exercise can be equally effective as a one week, one month, even one day look-back and analysis for business partners, teams, grown-ups and kids alike. It goes like this:

The Rose: Reflect upon and share a highlight, success, small win, or something positive that happened and has a positive impact on you.

The Thorn: Reflect upon and share a challenge that you experienced or something where you will benefit from more support.

The Bud: Reflect upon and share new ideas that have blossomed, something you are looking forward to or places where you are curious to learn and grow.

So how is this all related to thriving in chaos and creating safe places where we and others can blossom and thrive in this New Year?

The most successful teams integrate a diversity of perspectives. In this safe environment, all perspectives are welcomed and situational leaders emerge at every level. There is an infectious, positive energy, a bliss that accompanies the blisters of growth. Dialogue is embraced with respect and rigorous dissection, and problems are discovered before they become crises.

But we can’t get there without knowing one another, without talking about the things that matter to us personally and professionally. 

So crack yourself open. Model vulnerability. Be the leader from the inside out. And celebrate and share the bliss and blisters of your individual and collective experiences together. 

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Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development, Psychological Safety, Uncategorized
About Deene Morris
Engaging Emotional Intelligence | Team Think Generator | Psychological Safety & Inclusion | Moving Positive Change Forward

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