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#47 | FORTY-SEVEN WEEKS

“You are only ever one decision away from a totally different life.”

—Mark Batterson

 

Forty-seven weeks ago I published the first post of this yearlong series on the power and potential of heightened self-awareness resulting in respect for all voices, beginning with one’s own.

Next week I will publish the last post of this year-spanning, idea-sharing journey.

What I wrote forty-seven weeks ago will endure, but it’s likely that it no longer represents exactly what I think and feel. You see, in these forty-seven weeks, I have already changed.

* * *

The acts of writing, conversing, and idea sharing are generative. When you process a perspective and articulate it to yourself and others, that perspective naturally evolves. Ideas sharpen, clarify, and even morph into something new and unexpected through your willingness to self-examine and share them.

I am not who I was forty-seven weeks ago. Related, yes; identical, no.

Everything that exists is in motion.

Everything that exists evolves.

Nothing stays as it was.

Everything is on a journey of becoming.

In response to the essays I’ve shared, people have written to me and espoused different views. On numerous occasions those perspectives changed my own. My line of sight was adjusted.

This is the whole point of exchanging ideas. I engage in dialogue not to convert others but rather to expand and broaden the set of possibilities that I can hold space for. Writing changes the writer as well as the reader.

In 2015 I published my first book, NOT FOR SALE: FINDING CENTER IN THE LAND OF CRAZY HORSE. That book chronicles my first six trips to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation between 2012 and 2014. By the time I finished the manuscript there were parts of it that I wanted to rework because they no longer represented the full scope of what I thought, felt, or knew. But then a friend reminded me that it was important to leave it as is, because it memorialized a certain period in my life.

“The book captures you at a moment in time, not you across all time,” she told me.

In the end we are each like a comet streaking across the sky: We create and leave a trail. Your life across a stretch of time is a collection of experiences from which you are meant to grow and evolve. Nothing stays the same and this is why we can never give up on ourselves or others. It’s why we can never assume we know how someone will act or manifest in the future. It’s why we never fully lose, or win.  Each of us is a journey in motion. We are evolution. When you learn to honor this fluidity, an entire new set of possibilities emerges.

Once we internalize these understandings, we heighten our ability to see and guide our own lives.  The recognition of constant change increases respect for the present moment. Your current experience is but a pinpoint on your cosmic journey. Your sense of wonder expands when you realize you are just passing through.  So learn to see the fluidity of it all. You are in motion, and so is everything around you.

Respect what was.

Absorb what is.

Expand what can be.

Ben Zander, the former conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, calls this the art of possibility. It’s all about envisioning a broader set of potential outcomes—first for yourself, and then for those around you.

You are in motion, and motion creates change.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 

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Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

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This is the forty-seventh post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!

 




#30 | THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS

“The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution born anew in the brain structure of every individual.”

—Carl Jung

Speaking mostly in Lakota, Medicine Man begins to talk, then chant, then pray, then sing. Others, circled in darkness, echo in response. The heat within the hut quickly intensifies and the sweat comes easily.

This ceremony could be taking place one hundred—or four hundred—years ago. My body is covered in sweat, which mixes with the dirt on my hands, arms, legs, and chest. This is a sacred ritual of the Sioux known for generations as “the making of relatives,” and I am fully immersed.

Later that evening as steam dissipates from our bodies into the cool night air of northern Nebraska, my newly anointed brother, Lester Lone Hill, is sitting beside me on a log.

“That medicine man is a ‘trickster,’ ” Lester explains. “He brings humor and the element of surprise into his ceremonies. He likes to keep everything light and entertaining.”

* * *

A week later, back home in Maine, I am reading about indigenous rituals when I come across the “trickster” persona. It turns out he is present in the mythology, folklore, and spirituality of many tribes across the globe. From North America, to Africa, to Australia, the trickster is an honored ceremonial figure. How could the same thematic character manifest globally among disparate cultures separated by oceans and epochs?

Carl Jung, the nineteenth-century Swiss analytical psychologist, understood why.

The answer lies in what he described as the collective unconscious of the human race which represents the cumulative learning of all humans across all human time. It’s the shared experience of humanity, and it’s passed from generation to generation through stories. It also manifests as instincts and intuition in newborns and children. Think of it this way: If you believe that an individual human soul survives a body’s death, then it stands to reason that the collective experiential energy of all human souls survives as well.

Mythology, Jung said, is the expression of this collective unconscious. It’s how we give earthly context to that which we intuitively know in the inner depths of being, where soul resides. That’s why it’s common for the stories and symbols of different cultures to share similar characteristics. The presence of good and evil is one example that appears universally in all mythologies.

The hero archetype also lives in the stories of every human culture. The hero generally starts out as an ordinary person, living an ordinary life. A challenge then arises which disrupts much of what the hero holds dear, forcing him or her to confront their circumstances in a saga that ultimately transforms them into someone different than they were before. The external story, which may feature strange beasts, threatening gods, and foreign lands, is actually an archetypal adventure symbolic of the inner journey of transcending our unconscious fears.

As Jung once said, Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

What’s the relevance of this to an essay series devoted to self-awareness, shared leadership, and dispersed power? The answer is that each personal life odyssey is both an individual and a collective experience. What happens to one happens to all. Progress by one is progress for all. As each individual moves his or her karmic energy forward, it becomes a drop of learning in the larger pool of all human experiences.

This is why awareness of our shared humanity is essential. Your experiences, however trivial they may feel, ultimately impact the entire trajectory of humanity through our shared collective unconscious. And this is why we must create the change we wish to see by working first on ourselves.

All human journeys matter and this is where love comes in. We must aspire to bring unconditional love (acceptance of people as they are) into our daily lives. Each seemingly ordinary shift at work and each “chance” encounter with a stranger is never really just that. It’s more. It’s always more. Every moment yields another journal entry into the collective unconscious of humanity, which ultimately determines both our personal and shared trajectory across space and time.

In the end we rise, plateau, or fall together.

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

—Carl Jung

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This is the thirtieth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin Hancock to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021, in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers.
My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them.
On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk.
To receive future posts from Kevin, simply click on the link below. This will trigger an e-mail where you can confirm and subscribe. Thank you!



#25 | UNSUBSCRIBE

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.”

—Dalai Lama

Several months ago I was sitting with the vice chair of our board of directors, Jim Buchanan, at the Hancock Lumber home office in Casco. Across the street logging trucks were arriving, the sawmill was churning, and the smell of sawdust was in the air.

“What have you been up to lately, Jim?” I queried.

“I’ve been freeing up brain capacity,” he replied.

Curious about that statement, I pressed the question.

“Tell me more. What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Well, you know, I’m just letting go of low-level or outdated information in order to make space for new and higher thoughts to come into my life,” Jim said.

“Brilliant,” I replied.

* * *

That thought-provoking exchange with Jim reminds me of one of my favorite work exercises. Each day, without fail, I take the time to scroll through my in-box of e-mails and UNSUBSCRIBE.

In a world in which we are all incessantly streamed an overflow of information, unsubscribing is an act of healthy defiance and assertive self-control. It’s also a manifestation of Jim’s sage advice to protect the intake valve to one’s precious emotional, spiritual, and mental capacity.

We are all encouraged to be intentional about the food, beverages, and toxins we consume. We don’t want to clog our arteries or fill our lungs with detrimental substances. The same holds true for our mental and spiritual capacity. Just because I went to Walgreens yesterday does not mean I want an e-mail from them today.

I find it therapeutic to open my e-mail in-box and watch the new candidates for deletion emerge. I wait for an instant, feeling empowered (lighter, even), before selecting a message and scrolling directly to the bottom in search of the word today’s digital marketers most try to hide: Unsubscribe. I even take time to select the reason code: “I never signed up for these e-mails.” The message originator then thanks me as their inquiry swirls off into the blackness of Internet purgatory. It’s a liberating moment. Fifteen seconds invested eliminates one small but repetitive mental distraction for life.

No, I don’t need to learn about your “5 amazing strategies for doubling sales in 90 days.”

No, I don’t need “a third pair of socks for free.”

In our digital, consumeristic, 24/7 media age, each of us is being fed an indigestible volume of information, most of which is irrelevant to our personal mission, values, and priorities. Sorting out that clutter is the closet-cleaning challenge of our time.

Self-awareness requires being intentional about what we take in so as to stay focused on our unique priorities and personal mission.

What information do you need to know, and what information is a distraction? What are your strategies for maintaining control of your finite emotional, spiritual, and mental capacity?

Rest assured, in the absence of being intentional, you will be taken for a grand ride.

* * *

Another favored move of mine to free up brain capacity is to watch and read less news. It’s been said that if you read the news once a week you would know as much as someone who does so every day.

Never has this been truer than during the era of COVID-19. Think about it. The virus formally arrived in America in March of 2020. By April you knew everything you were ever going to need to know about that infectious agent. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. When you can’t distance, wear a mask. If you feel sick, stay home. A vaccine is coming.

That’s all you needed to know about the world’s most famous pathogen.

But if you are CNN, well, you need to talk about COVID-19 every day, all day, and through the night, for over a year. And the worse the data becomes, the more likely the virus is to grab the headlines.

All of this reinforces one fundamental conviction: The world right in front of you is more manageable than the world as seen through a screen.

When I turn on the television news, within minutes it feels like it’s all over—like we can’t possibly survive another day. Yet when I open the front door and enter that day in person—so far—every day, I have survived.

Unsubscribing is a powerful act. So is watching and reading less news. Reducing your daily intake of external noise and drama allows you to gain and maintain control of your personal airspace. We are what we watch. We are what we listen to. We are what we read. We are what we unsubscribe.

“No one can bring you peace but yourself.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the twenty-fifth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin Hancock to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021, in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk.



#17 | AMERICA ALWAYS GETS WHAT IT PAYS FOR

“The devil doesn’t come in a red cape and pointy horns.
He comes as everything you ever wished for.”

—Tucker Max

On Thursday, March 11, 2020, I left the Wild Dunes Island Resort and headed for the Charleston International Airport. I had just given a talk to the New South Construction Supply management team about the benefits of leadership strategies that disperse power and strengthen the voices of others. A short time later I found myself walking through an all but deserted terminal as CNN reported on the arrival of COVID-19.

Who would have guessed in that moment that demand for lumber and building materials across North America would soon be surging, or that shelves in grocery stores would sit empty for lack of supply, or that a global boom in manufacturing was about to ensue?

By the summer of 2020 retailers, distributors, and manufacturers were racing to keep pace with demand for consumer goods. Freight deliveries via truck, train, and ship fell dramatically behind. Inventories plummeted, lead times expanded, and prices increased. This all happened during state-imposed stay-at-home orders of unprecedented duration and magnitude.

Looking back on it all with more than a year’s perspective, it was quite predictable. America, once again, had gotten what it paid for.

* * *

In the decades that followed World War II, the Toyota Motor Corporation would become one of the first businesses to implement and advance the concepts of Lean manufacturing. The essence of this system was the elimination of “waste.” Waste was defined as anything more than the exact amount of equipment, employee labor, parts, and inventory needed to maintain consistent production flow pulled by demand. Companies that learned to operate this way saved cash, increased their return on asset performance, and grew profits. Investors rewarded them. Today virtually all businesses are a by-product in varying degrees of that Toyota-born economic system.

The quest for peak efficiency then rippled through the nonprofit sector, where just enough teachers, school buses, and nurses also carried the day.

This system of Lean thinking has numerous benefits and one big problem: It can’t adjust to a dramatic, unforeseen surge in demand. Why? Because for decades companies around the globe have been rewarded by both investors and consumers for eliminating their excess capacity.

And which country has led this charge with the most powerful investor community and most sought-after consumer market?

Yes, that’s right—America.

For example, the less inventory Walmart carries, the lower their cost of doing business becomes. The lower their cost of doing business becomes, the lower their selling prices can be. The lower their selling prices, the more customers they attract. The more customers they attract, the more profitable they get. The more profitable they get, the more investors are willing to pay for their stock. The wheel of “Lean” just keeps on churning.

* * *

But here’s the secret of the story that’s easily missed. It was consumers—not corporations—that enabled this system.

Corporations are rewarded for listening and responding to public demand and penalized for ignoring it. Successful companies only ever mirror their society as a whole. Walmart, by way of just one example, gave America exactly what it wanted.

According to Businessinsider.com, the average Chinese worker made $9,470 per year in 2019 in adjusted US dollars. That compared to $62,850 in the United States. Do you need to know anything more than that as to why so many products (or components of products) that you choose to buy come from China?

Chinese suppliers make 70 to 80 percent of the products Walmart sells. That means the rest of the world (including America) has the opportunity to provide 20 to 30 percent of what Walmart sells.

In 2011 I toured a series of wood products manufacturers in China. This company makes picture frames primarily for American and European markets. In this particular factory the workers were all women (the managers, all men). There was no heat in this building, no lights on the ceiling, no work stations, and no power tools. You get one thing from this plant: low-cost picture frames. Americans create this by rewarding it economically with order, after order, after order.

Again, here’s the point: Walmart didn’t do that. You did. I did. We did.

As a country we love berating corporations for giving us what we demand.

The United States is the largest consumer market in the world, and corporations globally have set themselves up to give that market exactly what it wants.

America always gets what it pays for.

What does all of this have to do with heightened self-awareness?

Everything.

As a country, we need to strive for more economic self-awareness as demonstrated by what we do and do not buy.

Think about the irony of rightfully championing a living wage in America while simultaneously demanding that Walmart dedicate 70 to 80 percent of its shelf space to products made on Third World wages.

So, the next time there’s no toilet paper, remember that you and I are the reason why.

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

—Anna Lappe

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the seventeenth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!

 




#16 | THE FUTURE TRAVELS THROUGH THE PAST

“No future without forgiveness.”

—Bishop Desmond Tutu

It’s not just those in positions of leadership or privilege who must become more self-aware.

In the last two essays I have discussed how it’s important for me as a white, Christian, male CEO to reconcile my inherent privilege in Western society. This is done not to engender feelings of shame or remorse. No one is responsible for the date, time, and place of their birth. Everyone must love all facets of themselves in order to show up full of love for others.

Heightened awareness is the only goal. Awareness, in and of itself, is a powerful act.

Ultimately it’s incumbent upon all humans to strive for expanded self-awareness. For example, individuals and communities that have been historically marginalized, oppressed, and exploited must also find and sustain the will to heighten their self-awareness. We all must revisit our stories in order to transcend them.

I have a dear friend from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by the name of Catherine Grey Day. She is a Dakota elder who has experienced firsthand the callousness that Native Americans and tribal communities have often faced. Catherine eloquently summed up the importance of self-reflecting upon her racial inequity experiences as we sat at the kitchen table one evening at the Singing Horse Trading Post:

“It’s just about being worn down, generation after generation. The cavalry, the missionaries, the government, the boarding schools—you wake up one day and it has all been internalized. When you have been oppressed over generations and generations, the oppression finally takes hold within you. And once it takes hold, it is perpetuated from within. We act out the oppression on ourselves. That is how deeply it has been ingrained.”

I had never contemplated “internalized oppression” until Catherine defined it for me so authentically that night. To truly understand the nature of her soliloquy requires some context. There was no malice in Catherine’s statement. There was no hate, no shame, no guilt—no quest for revenge. She was perfectly calm. All of her energy was centered and grounded within herself. Catherine was demonstrating awareness of her past experiences not to reinforce that she was bound by them, but rather to liberate herself and transcend them at a soul’s level, within her very spirit.

*          *          *

There is another potentially unexpected component of the Lakota story that requires heightened self-awareness, as it threatens the historic narrative that most Sioux tribal communities prefer to remember. As Americans historically and intuitively understand, the tribes of the northern plains were systematically extracted from their native grasslands and sequestered on unforgiving and barren reservations in the last decades of the nineteenth century. These proud indigenous communities were ultimately overrun by America’s “Manifest Destiny”—specifically, the quest for gold.

Yet the Sioux themselves had long been conquerors, crossing the Missouri River with guns and horses to explore and expand their own empire on the plains, generations before the reservation era began.

Consider the following excerpts from the book Lakota America by Pekka Hamalainen:

“In the course of the 1830s and 1840s Lakota fought and defeated scores of people and absorbed uncounted numbers of captives.”

“Lakotas fused trading, raiding, coercion, and diplomacy into a protean economy of violence that allowed them to simultaneously exploit and embrace others. Sustained expansion was turning them into an imperial power that commanded extensive hinterlands.  Numerous Indigenous groups found their fates intractably linked to the Lakotas, some of them becoming victims or vassals, others blending into the Lakota fabric as allies.”

You see, the Lakota, too, were warriors and conquerors. They too had been military and political strategists who expanded their empire, built trade alliances, and controlled the economic resources of a vast territory. They also defeated, exploited, and assimilated weaker tribes.

The ultimate unsettling irony is that the Sioux lost the Black Hills the same way they had acquired them.

None of this excuses America’s transgressions. Genocide occurred and America justified it through stories backed by force. It’s a horrible tale that has yet to be reconciled. Nonetheless, modern Lakota communities still need to strive for heightened self-awareness. The capacity for conquering does not just live externally in others. It lives within us all.

Human communities carefully select their narratives. Our shining moments and best features are aggrandized while other less-noble chapters of our full story are delicately placed to the side. We see this in the American story where indigenous genocide, black slavery, and racial injustice have been, until recently, historically downplayed. But you can also find this propensity to carefully cultivate one’s narratives in places like the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

All of this being said, my heart is with Pine Ridge and filled with love for the amazing people who live there.

The need to critically self-reflect and achieve heightened self-awareness resides within us all, along with the courage required to make it happen. The process of looking inward is universally essential, regardless of circumstance.

We all become the stories we tell.

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one: They promised to take our land, and they took it.”

—Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux

This is a picture of my dear friend Catherine Grey Day sitting on the porch at the Singing Horse Trading Post while looking at the manuscript that would become my second book (The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey in the Business of Shared Leadership). Below is an excerpt from a statement she shared with me that day:

“Misun [little brother], it was you who opened your ears and heard Wakan Tanka [The Great Spirit] speaking to you through other voices—sending you to a beautiful place and beautiful people [Pine Ridge]. Although we have suffered injustices, we find ways to live and survive. Wakan Tanka sends powerful spirit helpers. Keep listening to positive voices. We also learn from the negative. It is up to us to find the balance. God is good! I love you bunches, Misun! It was Wakan Tanka who placed you in my path.”

—Catherine Grey Day

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the sixteenth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!

 




#12 | SUNSETTING MY IPHONE

2021 IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE SERIES BY KEVIN HANCOCK

If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night I bet they would live a lot differently.”

—Bill Watterson

It was cold by Southwest Florida standards.

As a result, nobody was around.

Cool, cushioning sand encased my bare feet as I meandered without intention or destination. The wind blew diagonally from the north and the surf responded. I watched the waves. No two were alike, yet all were the same.

I veered toward the tall grasses that swayed as they marked the outer limits of the sand’s domain. I was waiting without a watch or a worry as all who have known the draw of the ocean have done before me.

In this case, I was here to witness the sun fade into the Gulf of Mexico as it had done more than twenty thousand times since the day I was born.

As I left the tall grass and descended toward the water’s edge, I startled a small black-and-white ocean bird. It’s the kind you always seem to come across where the land meets the sea, a bird you recognize by sight but not by species or name. This one, I feared, was not long for this world. She was alone in a place where her kind typically congregates in a flowing mass.

As I passed she tried again and again to shake her wings and will them into action, but flight was impossible. The seashore is an unforgiving place for a tiny, wounded bird that cannot fly.

I unexpectedly reciprocated her shiver and let out a sigh. The outcome seemed certain. The words of American mythologist Joseph Campbell came to mind: Life eats life.

I checked the sun and moved on, plucking an occasional shell from the beach and contemplating its uniqueness before letting it fall back to the sand and surf.

Now the sun seemed to accelerate as the inevitable collision of sky and earth drew near.

Before me sat the remnant of a Game of Thrones–like castle formed from the sand. Most of it was gone, but two towers at the far corner clung together.

I sat before the ruins where the sun could be seen between the two remaining pillars. A formation of pelicans drifted by. The sun fell further and there I sat, alone yet at peace with all the world. My breathing became rhythmic and for a moment I was seeing in what Black Elk called “a sacred manner.”

And then, almost instinctively, I decided I should take a picture and post it to Instagram, so all my followers could see what I see.

How artsy this is . . . the sun falling into the sea between two sand-castle towers. Everyone should see this. Not only should they see it, they should see it now. In real time. In full color.

So I groped for my phone, finally extracting it from my back pocket. The momentum of my immersion into the landscape was broken.

I took a picture, then another, and then another. None satisfied me. Suddenly time was not on my side. Moments earlier, time had had no side.

Each picture was not quite right. In many, a red blot from the light of the sun would reflect and appear in a place where it shouldn’t be, as if intentionally defaming the authenticity of each shot.

The sun continued to fall.

I tried again.

And again.

My timeless moment had become a chore. I had returned without thought to that which I had come here to avoid—tasks, timelines, and the need to please the outside world.

*          *          *

I did eventually post a picture and it came out okay. It got fifty-eight likes, and that was fine.

But my personal solo sunset experience was not enhanced. I had, in fact, detracted from my own encounter.

In the end everything was still, of course, all good. I was thankful for the visit to the beach and I biked away in peace, but as I pedaled a part of me wished I had stayed more focused on the experience of personally witnessing the sun dropping for its one and only time between those two towers of sand that would not survive the evening’s tide.

*          *          *

I once had a powerful vision-quest experience alone on a large rock, warmed by the sun as I looked up at Devils Tower in the Black Hills. After closing my eyes for some time a white buffalo appeared before me. I learned later that the white buffalo is perhaps the most sacred sight a person of Lakota blood could see.

One day I told a friend on the Pine Ridge Reservation about my vision.

“Wow,” he replied simply.

“I don’t know how I’ll share that experience with others,” I said, breaking the silence.

“Kevin, that vision wasn’t meant for anybody else,” he said softly. “It was just for you.”

There are moments for phones and picture sharing, but there are also a few sacred moments meant for you alone. The strength gained from a sunset viewed alone is in fact shared with all the world through the generative act of serving yourself. When we honor ourselves, we strengthen from within. When we strengthen from within, we expand our capacity to serve the world.

“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.”

—Black Elk

____________________

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

____________________

This is the twelfth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!



#7 | THE FUTURE-BASED SELF

2021 IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE SERIES BY KEVIN HANCOCK

 

“What you think, you become.

What you feel, you attract.

What you imagine, you create.”

—Buddha

Despite an incalculable myriad of differences in backgrounds, experiences, and opportunities, every living human shares one common truth: We must all move into the future from the spot we presently occupy.

Wherever you are at this moment is your launching point for the future, and nothing can change that. We take our next step from the piece of ground we now stand upon.

“Everyone has three selves: a past-based self, a future-based self, and a present-based self. The past-based self is the person an individual thinks he or she used to be. This self-concept is influenced by powerful memories. The future-based self is the person the individual imagines he or she is going to be. This is influenced by powerful goals (or the absence thereof). The present-based self is a combination of the other two selves, with either the past self-concept or the future self-concept dominating.”

—Dan Sullivan

An essential component of self-awareness is recognizing whether or not our thoughts are led by the future or the past.

I have learned this lesson the hard way many times, most recently through my voice condition. In 2010 I acquired spasmodic dysphonia (SD), a rare neurological voice disorder that makes speaking difficult. At its worst it feels like a seat belt has been tightened around my throat when I talk. The condition is particularly restrictive in group settings, on the telephone, and anywhere there is background noise.

In 2018, after living with SD for nearly a decade, I began seeing a hypnotherapist by the name of Maggie Clement. Once a month I would travel into Portland and meet with her in a small first-floor brownstone office near Maine Medical Center. The first half of each session was an open discussion where Maggie would ask me questions and listen as I described my emotions and experiences with respect to SD.

“How often do you think about your voice?” Maggie asked me one day. “And when you think about it, are your thoughts positive or negative?”

These two questions would come to mark the turning point in my ability to navigate and transcend my affliction.

I left her office that afternoon and drove home in a reflective silence.

The following day I began counting every time I thought about my voice. Additionally, I noted whether the thought was positive or negative.

I realized that I thought about my voice more than one hundred times a day, and each time, it was negative. I was constantly thinking about the difficulties I had encountered in the past and then projecting an expectation for continued difficulty in the future.

For example, if I was going to a restaurant that evening I would momentarily think of it dozens of times that day, with the expectation that the chatter and clatter would overwhelm me.

It turned out I was unaware of both the frequency and fragility of my thoughts. I did not know, until Maggie called me out, that I was constantly worrying about how my voice would perform in the future based on my experiences from the past.

After months and months of training Maggie helped me to break this self-fulfilling prophecy. Today, thanks to my heightened self-awareness, I recognize a negative thought about my voice as soon as it arrives.

“Ha, I’ve caught you!” I now say to myself when such moments manifest. “Now, go away. You are nothing but a self-contrived negative thought about the future based on past experiences.”

Today I deliberately put positive thoughts in my mind with respect to my voice. I envision it performing. I imagine myself healing.

The difference in my vocal performance has been dramatic. I still have a shaky voice at times, but it no longer dominates my thinking or expectations. As a result, I’ve improved a condition that the medical community defines as incurable.

This was one of many lessons I learned regarding the limiting powers of a past-based mind. Thankfully Maggie taught me that this was my mind we were talking about, and as such, I had the ability to fill it intentionally with future-based optimism.

“The future-based person achieves freedom from the past.”

—Dan Sullivan

(Note: Dan Sullivan is the creator and author of the book and audio series HOW THE BEST GET BETTER: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS.)

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Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

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This is the seventh in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!