stepping back

I once attended a 2-day workshop on leadership, sponsored by one of our major funders.  Leadership, the expert consultants told us, is (largely) about helping people manage loss.  It felt rather deflating at first.  What about being inspirational, powerful, visionary, bold…? But by the end of the second day, I understood what they meant, and the lesson proved far more useful than if we’d been asked to articulate the challenges of getting others to understand our visions, or compare our motivational styles.  Loss is the necessary and inevitable part of change that we want to bypass.

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disrupting normalcy

One of the best parts of traveling is how it shows or reminds us that our own sense of normalcy is just one of millions.  Being in a very different culture, in a different place on the planet can instantaneously reduce us to specks of near insignificance.  In a very good way.  When I was lost in a pushing throng of people clamoring to get on a train in southern China in 1990 after floods caused major delays right as millions were trying to return home after traveling for Chinese New Year; when I reached one of the highest plateaus I was able to climb to in the Himalayas, stopping to catch my breath and then lifting my eyes to the panorama of peaks that penetrated new levels of sky, unimaginable magnitude looming silently and stilly; when I was on a bus in Taichung, Taiwan alone, at the age of 19, pre-internet, just days after arriving in the country, trying to remember how to get back to an English school I’d been escorted to 2 days prior where I was hired to teach. (Il)literacy all of a sudden had a profoundly personal meaning, not being able to understand the language around me, nor read any aspect of it.  In these moments my heretofore normal life had no meaning whatsoever.  

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