EQ Reflection: Monuments

Due to the foibles of flight schedules, I had some unexpected downtime in DC, and found myself wandering the Mall. I don’t think I’ve been here since I was in eighth grade, and it made a very different impression on me now. I suspect that the first time, I was much more concerned about the pressing matters of who I’d sit with on the bus, and what those girls were whispering, and when we’d be able to shop for trinkets that made us feel somehow more complete.

Now walking through these monuments I thought about the sweep of history. About the times of great challenge when exceptional women and men stand up and stand out, not for themselves but in service of hope. About Martin Luther King Jr standing on this very place, his magnificent voice booming over this wide arcade and around the globe. Giving himself utterly to a higher purpose, his message echoing through the hearts of those for, neutral, and even opposed, calling something deeper in them.

And in that same park, stones with golden signatures from the Declaration of Independence. People standing up for something “impossible,” something bigger than their own gain — and in so doing galvanizing hope and reverence and the power of human spirit. Again, in giving to a larger vision, these leaders opened a door wide enough for allies and enemies alike.

Sprinkled though this garden are monuments to wisdom and to sacrifice. It’s so difficult to tell in the moment-to-moment of our daily lives, but in the sweep of history it becomes clear. Great purpose requires the most exceptional commitment, but there’s a razor-edge between sacrifice for pride and sacrifice for promise.

On a more personal scale, I finally saw the Vietnam Wall — it wasn’t here when I was a boy-hoping-to-be-a-man. I thought of Hank, my father, and how many of these shipmate’s names were carved into his heart as indelibly as they are carved into the granite. I thought of all these other men who’s names are carved in the granite, who now might be grandfathers too.

In the brilliance of this monument I couldn’t help but see generations reflected in the stone. The passing crowds of all ages, bright colors dancing on the wall. Some faces closed in loss, some somber in reflection, others chatting about the pressing matters like who they’d sit next to on the bus… Then finally I willed myself to look at my own reflection in the stone, and thought of the legacy of war and how it’s a part of my own story. I could see myself through the names of those who died so far away fighting for a myth of pride and arrogance and fear.

I wondered what kind of monument we will make for the women and men fighting today. I wondered if those who toil in the marble corridors of power take time out to look over at this somber granite and consider the way their choices will reflect outward in the lives of ordinary people, into the faces of future generations who walk by remembering. It’s so easy to point a finger at “them,” but if I’m going to learn something here I recognize I also need to look at myself in this wall.

Here we are in an era of upheaval, with fear and uncertainty rampant, with nearly desperate problems on every side. Perhaps the most profound challenges humanity has ever faced. What can I do, one ordinary man, amidst all the difficulties we face? Isn’t there a new hero who can save us?

Perhaps in times of greatest challenge it takes both the most ordinary and the most exceptional women and men stand up and stand out, not for themselves but in service of hope.

In the past, we’ve needed someone stand on the marble steps and call forth our commitment. Perhaps today’s challenges will also require us each to do so. There is a quiet voice of wisdom that dwells in every one of us, but it is easily shouted down by the clamor of what we each want now. That quiet voice of wisdom speaks quietly through a feeling of what’s truly precious — we know when we are in integrity because we feel it.

So where do we find the wisdom to step out from those compelling immediate concerns of daily life and to commit to something larger? This commitment is not comfortable, it’s much easier, and perhaps even more in our nature, to attend to the “seat on the bus matters” rather than the “sweep of history matters.” In either case it’s emotion driving us, but perhaps there are multiple voices of those feelings. For example, fear can sweep us unconsciously into matters of unimportant urgency, into a bid for comfort. But if we use emotional intelligence and look deeper, that same fear can tell us something truly vital is at stake.

When we do get that deeper insight, we also get an important benefit. Emotion is information, and it is power. When we tune up our awareness and attend to what’s truly important, we liberate the energy of those strongest of convictions. Then we can use the power of our feelings to commit, to sacrifice for what matters.

Perhaps in a hundred years there will be a new monument here, not commemorating a great woman or man, and neither honoring lives cut short, but reminding future generations of how people like you and I did what was right. About how we shifted our attention away from comfort and convenience and toward the survival of our communities. Away from being right over others and toward caring-in-action. Away from taking and toward healing our shared home.

Are you ready?

Freedom and Love

Dear ones,

a gate in Capri by JoshTomorrow the Jewish holiday of Passover begins, so I’ve been thinking about freedom and about love.

Passover commemorates the time when Jews were enslaved in Egypt and then Gd, through Moses, led them to forge a path toward freedom. Moses didn’t want the job — he felt unqualified, incapable… uncertain and hopeless, but he chose to say yes.

It was a terrible journey — both the journey of enslavement, the journey of release, and then the period of cleansing in the desert. At Passover we do not celebrate a defeat of Pharaoh and his people, instead we express our sorrow at the suffering and our gratitude that so many before us have accepted the struggle for freedom.

Freedom does not mean getting to do whatever you want. Patty and I were talking about what our kids would say — they seem to think freedom would be growing up so no one would tell you what to do. And we might imagine freedom as being eight and getting to come home from school and play ’till dinner. But neither is true or possible.

Freedom means taking responsibility to walk in the path of what is right. It a process of ongoing effort and care. It is a terrible burden, but also a joyful one. It is terrible because when you accept freedom, you can no longer take the easy path of blame. You can not ride along and then be mad when someone takes you to a destination that isn’t what you wanted!

There are so many ways to give up freedom. Being on “autopilot” and blindly following patterns. Being a victim. Being a dictator. Deluding yourself. Breaking your own integrity. Letting yourself be seduced by superficial wants — or maybe confusing “wants” and “needs.” Compromising your values, or devaluing yourself to seek approval, status, affirmation, or power from the outside.

But at the same time there are so many gifts. Not just gifts of freedom itself, but gifts from the struggle to be free. Perhaps without the struggle there is no real freedom — or at least none of the heady bliss of finding it. In the struggle we have the opportunity to confront ourselves and one another. To question what truly matters. To challenge assumptions and the status quo, not changing for change’s sake, but changing for the sake of liberating our highest and best selves.

stairs in Montreal by JoshIn the struggles there are an abundance of difficult feelings. My dad (stepfather) is struggling w cancer and it’s brutal. On one hand I am feeling so sad and afraid and hopeless — and on the other hand these terrible emotions feel good. They feel “right-but-hard” and are reminding me of our love and the gifts he’s given me and our whole family. So the pain is really love in disguise.

Recently Max was in struggle because he left his “best Pokemon cards” in his pocket then put his jeans in the laundry — they did not fare well. On the one hand he was helpless, a victim of bad fortune. On the other it was an opportunity to receive loving support from us, and to take action, to take ownership of the future. To be free.

While I was in the midst of struggle post-emergency-knee-surgery I was feeling pretty low. I felt helpless, powerless, dependent, stuck. But at the same time I was able to receive so much love and care. I thought a lot then about what it meant to be free. Did it mean being able to put socks on myself? (that felt like great liberation!) Or did it mean being able to choose to be grateful for the care? Even grateful for the pain? (because it was a sign of the process of recovery)

I’m struck that freedom is so much about feeling. About feeling despair versus hope. About feeling unworthy of and unable to love versus abundant in it. So many people are afraid to love and to be loved. They are so hurt that the hurt itself becomes a kind of shelter. They make walls of rage to barricade their fear, they keep their hurt close at hand in a desperate attempt to prevent it from overwhelming them. Maybe this is the ultimate slavery, the self-imposed slavery of denying that we are worthy and capable of love.

This is a prison whose wall grow thicker each day. The more we see ourselves as unworthy of and unable to love, the more depleted we become. We become more and more closed to love from all around, and less and less able to love others. Paradoxically the door opens by giving; it swings open outward from self acceptance.

The good news is that no matter how thick we make these walls, freedom can come in the blink of an eye. So impossible, then so simple. It can feel like betrayal of a promise, though, because we do not stay free.

Max in ItalyWe must choose again. Each time it feels impossibly hard, then suddenly, miraculously, easy. Then we find another challenge; this is the journey of freedom. Without the opposition we go back to autopilot, back to coasting. So the walk toward freedom is embedded in struggle — we find jewels among life’s travails. While there will be struggle, there is also choice — a balance that is a process.

Freedom, then, is decision made over an over; a string of choices. Not choices of circumstance and power, but choices of heart and will. Love and effort. Made over and over, strung together on a necklace, each bead buffed to luster by the challenge inherent in the decision to be free.

Does this perpetual struggle sound grim and dark? I don’t see life that way. I see it as beautiful, part of the abundance and wonder of our world. Each time we choose freedom we become stronger, deeper, and brighter — contributing, as have so many before us, to the vast pool of liberation.

With love,
– Josh

Jasmine, Insecurity, and Being Stuck

jasmineIt feels like summertime here – glorious, peaceful, and relaxed. The scent of jasmine is pouring in through my office windows along with the gently cooling evening air.

Yesterday I was talking with a client/friend about where he needs to put energy in his business. Hands down: “relationships.” Reaching out and connecting, mostly externally and also internally. He admitted he wasn’t doing it the way he wanted, and part of me wanted to say, “but that’s so easy!”

Then I realized that his reason for not doing this is much the same as my reason for not exercising (something he’s great at, by the way): In two completely different challenges, we each feel inadequate – incompetent – and without real hope that our efforts will work.

And we each find it incredibly difficult to persevere… and all too easy to slide that task to the bottom of the pile. I am sure there is value and insight in this feeling, some clarity to be found, but even in this quite jasmine gentleness of evening, the wisdom is beyond me.

Rational Thinking = Better Decisions? Not.

A new study released in Applied Psychology found that people with a highly rational thinking style actually became more biased as the stakes went up.  The authors suggest that in an escalating situation, the highly analytical thinkers were less able to tune into the dissonance that would cause them to challenge their own assumptions.

In other words:  They ignored the feeling that they were on the wrong track.

The common view is that we need to be rational to make optimal decisions, but it’s just not true.  The last century has been driven by this paradigm and the results are clear – while we have incredible technical excellence, we are failing as a species.  My contention: “Analytical = Better” is one of the most pervasive and destructive myths of our era.

If wisdom is to be found, it is not within the paralyzing prison of logic alone.

Source: Kin Fai Ellick Wong, Jessica Yuk Yee Kwong, Carmen K. Ng (2008) “When Thinking Rationally Increases Biases: The Role of Rational Thinking Style in Escalation of Commitment,” Applied Psychology 57 (2) , 246–271  (Article Abstract)

With Age Comes Wisdom? Emotional Intelligence Through the Years

More about this…

The new White Paper by the Six Seconds EQ Network found that there is a correlation between age and emotional intelligence — but it’s slight and not true for all parts of EQ. Previous research by BarOn and Salovey & Mayer also showed that EQ increases with age. What’s new here is that on the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Assessment there were some areas that did not increase.

Researcher Lorenzo Fariselli of Six Seconds Italia (www.6seconds.it) conducted the analysis,

“The finding suggests emotional intelligence is a developing ability; it is likely that accumulated life experiences contribute to EQ.”

The study also challenges many popular beliefs about “with age comes wisdom” and the widespread perception of a “generation gap” in motivation and altruism. The relationship between EQ and age is very slight – meaning there while a majority of older people are higher in EQ, there are many young people with higher EQ scores than their older counterparts. In addition, some of the aspects of EQ can only be developed through training. So in an era where emotional intelligence is a critical competence for success, this finding shows that young people committed to their own development have a edge.

Massimiliano Ghini is President of Six Seconds Italia and a leading authority on using emotional intelligence to improve business results. His hypothesis of the link between “Give Yourself” and age comes from the responsibilities of adulthood:

“For many people, adulthood and aging introduce increased need and opportunity to connect with and lead others – for example engaging a team or developing an organization’s vision. As people age they have more opportunities to practice these skills.”

Again, the link between age and Give Yourself is modest – so age is no guarantee for vision and wisdom.

Read the White Paper: Emotional Intelligence and Age.

Emotional Intelligence and Age

I just finished posting new research on emotional intelligence and age.

This study started in a workshop where we were talking about Noble Goals. In our model, the “capstone” competence of emotional intelligence is Pursue Noble Goals — there are two reasons:
1. When we engage in the pursuit of purpose we are less defensive and reactive — less about our own ego and more about the larger vision. This allows us, even compels us, to manage our emotions more effectively.
2. Really, what’s the point? We can teach people to be more intelligent at problem-solving and they invent ways to hack the net. We can teach people to be more intelligent at engineering and they develop better ways of killing. We can teach people to be more intelligent about emotions and they become master manipulators. Voila, job done, let’s call it a day. Oh – wait – missed something…. So “intelligence” isn’t enough. We need to apply that intelligence — this is wisdom. So Pursuing a Noble Goal is a way to focus our emotional aptitude and move toward wisdom.

Anyway – point of the story: One of the managers I was training said, “Aren’t older people naturally better at this competence? It seems like young people, at least in my company, don’t really have a vision.” Hrmuph.

So I asked our research team to find out.

The answer is yes – older people are slightly more likely to be emotionally intelligent – at least in four of our eight competencies. I’m excited about this result – it shows that EQ is learned and it does develop with life experience and that age isn’t enough: You have to work to learn these skills.