Those of you who follow me, likely know that I live about a quarter of the year in Bath, United Kingdom. And of course literary buffs know that Bath is the home of the renowned author Jane Austen. I’ve consulted the work of William Deresiewicz’s book A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter on the following key lessons:
- Austen teaches us through the character Emma that moral responsibility means taking responsibility for the little world (what’s in our immediate control) not the big world. It means taking responsibility for ourselves!
- Pride and Prejudice, though the character Elizabeth, reinforces that growing up is about the character and conduct we embrace when learning from our mistakes. We are born with a whole novel of mistakes in front of us. How we are self-accountable and learn from them is most important.
- In the novel Mansfield Park, Jane Austen teaches us that love is a verb not a noun. Her story weaves and reinforces the concept of usefulness and value to other. In conclusion she reinforces that people’s stories are the most thing people have. Subsequently paying attention and listening to people’s stories is one of the most important things we can do for them.
- The world’s best literature, from Austen to Shakespeare, has wonderful lessons for us. Let’s give ourselves time to read and learn from them. This is almost counterintuitive to the fast paced world of the web and other media.
- Jane Austen’s conveyance of the importance of applying self-accountability, respect, and abundance flows through all of her novels and their rich characters. Recognize that there is something powerful to learn from the characters in novels and other media that passes the test of time.
Yesterday I walked past Jane Austen’s former home and through Sydney gardens where she famously walked daily. It made the sense of her work, which I once dismissed as “fluff,” now feel authentically very meaningful.
Love is a verb in Jane Austen’s Character Triangle,
Do you and I create authentic value? As we build our personal brands do we try and differentiate ourselves by demonstrating how we’re better than others or do we try and differentiate by making a positive difference to people, communities, and society. This challenge may sound a bit ambitious for a blog. But I believe that if each of us committed to adding authentic value at every level in our lives can be revolutionary.
Many of us are pissed off at the banking system and at being stuck in our current (and apparently worsening) economic malaise. We know there was no constructive value built into making credit available in irresponsible ways and making the system sick with obtuse financial products that few could even understand. Financial institutions hid and shifted costs from each other for profit and greed until it all fell apart. It wasn’t authentically sustainable. Many of us participated directly or indirectly and are now living with the consequences.
In his thought provoking book the The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business Umair Haque challenges the current industrial model and challenges business to ensure our products and services result in tangible, positive benefits to each other. Read the book to gain insight into how that $/€/£ 3.00 burger may really cost us ten times that much. (…I love burgers…) Umair is a capitalist but really gets readers thinking about whether the principles under which many of us operate continue to serve us well.
Character Move: most of us can’t control much of the macro economy, but you and I have control over what we do regarding our daily actions:
- Do our daily actions add to the well being of others? How?
- Are you and I metaphorical equivalents of a gas guzzling, road hogging Hummer? (i.e. “It’s about us.”)Clear the road baby!
- How do we make a tangible lasting difference by authentically adding value? I’m not talking about saving whales… Just you and I CONSCIOUSLY adding “better” to others in our daily interactions.
Being big and juicy – being BETTER – in the Triangle,
In our current recession-framed, uncertain economic environment, heads are down, tails up and understandably focused on survival in the work place. Under these conditions, it’s easy to lose sight of our humanity. Organizations are only as complete as the people that make it work.
I’m not talking about BIG things here; how about the small stuff that leads to the big stuff? …greeting team members with a smile and personal acknowledgment? …getting to personally know people outside of our immediate area? …having fun and hoopla in the work environment? The preceding things require the investment of care and intention for each other. In most cases acting on them is totally FREE if we want it to be. So the recession and related impacts can become a big lazy excuse for not taking care of each other. It’s all too easy to have work become just a place of commercial or political transactions. When we spend as much time at work as we do, who wants just that? Great teams are full of life and energy. They have fun together. They respect each other. They recognize that collective success is based on connected, vibrant, individual contribution – the weakest link concept.
Character Move: honestly evaluate yourself on the following, regardless of what role you have in the company or organization you’re part of:
- Do you greet people with a respectful acknowledgment when you interact, even just passing by? Do you know their names and something about them personally? That is to say: what they like to do, what they’re good at and the contribution they make to the company.
- In your sphere of influence (regardless of how small or big), do you influence fun and hoopla? Do you: Bringing in cupcakes? Having a pot luck? Having contests? Sports pools? Baby picture contests? Cube decorating? Birthday celebrations? Anniversary celebrations? And 100s of much more creative ideas?
- If you want to get blown away look at the “free” stuff great companies like Zappos do?
Sometimes we all need a good kick in the pants. This blog is everyone’s, at every level of responsibility. If respect and fun are left to the HR department or any other function, my belief firmly establishing these principles will not become deeply and permanently embedded in the corporate culture. We need to care for each other and to have fun.
Respect and Fun daily in the Triangle,
Albert Schweitzer has this great quote: “In everyone’s life, at some time our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
In his fabulous book “Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose through the Power of Words” author Kevin Hall talks about the concept of inspiration in one of his chapters. In it he refers to a remarkable quadriplegic named Art Berg. When Art was 21 he got into an accident and became permanently paralyzed from the neck down. After some time of darkness and feeling total helplessness, Art became inspired by the poem Invictus, written by William Ernest Henley. The last stanza reads as follows:
It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul
Art went on to do all the things he aspired to: marriage, family, author and most of all, becoming one of the most sought after and inspirational speakers in the country. He even helped the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl. One word is inscribed on that team’s super bowl ring – Invictus
Character Move: recognize that we all need inspiration from other human beings. Reach out to someone who really inspires you. Learn what they did or do, their habits to drive their purpose and contributions in life. Apply those lessons to our own where and how we can. Many of these people are just like you and me. The remarkable ones turn purpose into habit and positively impact everyone they touch. Who inspires you? Why?
Also we each can be an inspiration to others. If we resolve to leave every person who meets us better because of it, we are an inspiration. Who have you inspired? Why?
Inspiration is a two way street. We learn and get fired up from others. We pass it on to those who know us.
Most of us have a very short 90 or so years to live on this earth. Why not inspire and be inspired? Have an impact!
Inspiration in the Triangle,
Being self accountable has a set of principles and behaviors that puts us more in control of our actions and desired outcomes. A related but different set of behaviors revolve around the concept of self-control. Roy Baumeister has been studying self-control for more than two decades and he has just published a new book, Willpower, written with John Tierney, which summarizes his conclusions. “Self-regulation failure,” Baumeister argues, “is the major social pathology of our time.” However, many of us may be taking the most difficult and least productive approach in personally managing self-control?
Tony Schwartz is the Performance Expert and CEO of The Energy Project, which is devoted to helping people and organizations improve sustainable performance, in large part by more systematically exercising self-control. They have found in their work that the skill at self-regulation creates huge competitive advantage. Over the years, they have learned that nearly everything people tend to believe about self-control is wrong. Tony‘s work on this subject emphasizes that, “Most of us assume the only way to resist our impulses, or persevere under pressure, is to grit our teeth, furrow our brows, steel our nerves, and tough it out. Precisely the opposite is true.”
Schwartz exclaims that human energy is the fuel for self-control. He goes on to state in a recent HBR blog, “We each have one reservoir of energy to get things done. Each act that requires self-control progressively depletes this energy reservoir, whether it’s when you use it to resist a piece of cake, or focus single-mindedly on a difficult problem, or stay calm when you feel provoked.”
Schwartz and his colleagues believe that there are three ways to influence self-control by better managing our energy:
- We can intentionally increase the energy available to us
- Use the energy we have more efficiently
- More regularly and intentionally renew our energy.
Character Move: In order to reinforce self-accountability it is important for each of us to learn more about personal energy management. This includes practicing individual physical intelligence management (nutrition, exercise, and sleep) and emotional intelligence management (building a habit system and applying energy resourcefully). A good place to start is The Energy Project; Schwartz and his group has tremendous breakthrough insight on this topic.
Energy in the Triangle,