Thursday, October 23, 2014

Acceptance versus control

When I'm working with my Life & Career Coaching clients, I emphasize balance and judgment calls, and I use the yin-yang symbol to illustrate the point.

To have as satisfying and smooth a time as possible, it's helpful to balance two very opposite approaches to life. The first is acceptance of the things that we can't change. The second is having the vision, drive, and work ethic to change things. (For more information, see the Serenity Prayer.)

Now, Life Coaching is all about having a vision of what you intend to accomplish, setting and prioritizing goals that get you to that vision, and staying on task as you complete goal after goal. It's great stuff. It's an example of the Change side of the equation. It's good to make plans, have goals, strive, affect change, and make things better in your life.

At the same time, everyone encounters aspects of themselves, their lives, and what they are experiencing around them that cannot be changed—or can't be changed any time soon. These are times when Acceptance is the better approach. It's time to play nicely with others, be flexible, delay gratification, and make the most of the situation that's been handed to you (when life hands you lemons, make lemonade). 

That brings me to the recent news about Renee Zellweger's plastic surgery. 

On the one hand, she seems pleased with her decision, reporting that she's now living a "happy, more fulfilling life." I'd say that that should be the primary focus and the number one priority for all of us. I am truly happy for her. In addition to that, the new look may improve her odds of winning different types of roles in movies for which she hadn't been considered in the past. Good for her!

On the other hand, making the best of your appearance without plastic surgery is an opportunity to practice acceptance and making the most out of what you're given. (I love actress Laura Dern's quote about plastic surgery: "All my peers are going to tighten up their faces, so I'll be more likely to get all the roles that require a few wrinkles!") 

Is it wrong? No. Is it bad? No. But it is a missed opportunity to practice a skill that's very necessary for a deeply satisfying life: being able to be happy and fulfilled without having to control looks, other people's impressions, or what's happening around you.

In conclusion, the great thing about life is that it usually gives us lots and lots of opportunities to learn lessons and build skills. It's no big deal that Renee chose Control over Acceptance in this one particular case. There will be plenty of other opportunities to practice Acceptance elsewhere in her life, I'm sure. 

I wish everyone well on our journeys, and may we make wise choices for ourselves about Acceptance and Change. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Team up with people who have skills you lack

I was a huge second-generation Beatles fan when I was young. The band had broken up years ago, but their music—in particular, their studio artistry—inspired me. Hungry for more and eager to learn their secrets, I absorbed as much information about the band as I could.

I still recall how the band members met each other and joined forces. Paul McCartney attended a performance by John Lennon and his band. As I recall, John wasn’t particularly impressed with Paul as a person, but Paul was able to play guitar a bit better than John. Putting his ego aside, John brought Paul into the band.

Later, Paul introduced John to a younger boy named George Harrison who knew how to play more guitar chords than either of them. George demonstrated his guitar licks for them on a bus, and, after observing his skills, he was welcomed into the band.

The inclusion of Ringo Starr was messier, in that they had to fire their current drummer in order to include him. Ringo had been a very popular member of a competing band, and the boys knew that Ringo could only expand their fan base. He was more popular than the three current members of the band.

I think of this story often regarding how to form a team or an organization. When faced with the decision to stay “top dog” by excluding someone more talented, the members of the Beatles consistently chose to bring in someone stronger, someone with more talent. Each of the members was able to put their ego aside (for a while) in order to strengthen the group. And the rest is musical and pop-culture history.

In what ways are we rejecting and ignoring people because they threaten us? How much more powerful would our teams and organizations be if we not only permitted more talented people to join us but sought out such talent?