Saturday, February 02, 2008

i don't have a clue, part 2: humility revisited.

Have you ever had a week when upon reflection had a learning theme to it? Sometimes life lessons are repeated over and over again..........the lesson is received, considered and seemingly accepted but then all of a sudden you find yourself in a situation or a predicament when you are confronted with the same damn lesson. It's that broken record kind of feeling, or to put it in a more present day context.......that repeating blip on your favourite CD. Don't you hate it when that happens?

The theme for this week in my bewildering numbbrain world was the connection between being impulsive and feeling humbled by my stupid actions. It didn't stop there either because I kept having to revisit humility every step of the way, even when I wasn't impulsive. I should've put the word on the back of my hand to remind me when I looked down in frustrating resignation and I should've written it backwards on my forehead so when I was standing in front of the mirror, I would be reminded. I should've tacked that six letter word, the same one that best described Wilbur the pig in Charlotte's Web...................on my computer screen........HUMBLE.

Humility. A stew of feelings, reactions...........of gut stabbing realizations that throw one into a pit of discomfort while the event and actions are stirred.....where the spices are absorbed. It's like biting into a hot chili pepper and then shrinking away from the hotness permeating your whole mouth. ZOWSA.

It always seems to defy me until I have stirred up a hornets nest or let my blistering opinions topple any balance, or until I have blurted out something in anger. Badabing!

Anger, Opinions, Distorted Rights, "I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW"...... and then a nudge happens (or sometimes something even more jolting....) and all of a sudden a red rash of shame floods me as my whole demeanour shifts into submission. I feel small because I've found myself knocked down a notch or two.

We have a tendancy to shore up our beliefs and interpretations of our world with illusions and rationales to a point where we are living a lie that we consider a truth. We have convinced ourselves of one angle, one perspective that we become blinded by the reality of a situation. There's even a fancy schmancy term for it...............cognitive dissonance. In other words, our heads are not screwed on to the rest of our bodies. We are living a disconnect..........thinking one thing, feeling another and sometimes doing something completely different (and possibly the opposite). And yet...........we BELIEVE we know! We BELIEVE we are right in our view of the world around us and ain't no one gonna be telling us any different.

In my workshop yesterday I told the group a story about a job interview I had a couple of years ago. I had actually been approached by someone who believed I was THE perfect person for the job and when she gave me the details, I was beyond excited because I could picture myself in it as well..........and loving it. So...........I prepared like a crazy person, all the while boosting myself, filling my head with facts and information that may be helpful to draw from during the interview. I contacted various people to see if they could help with the whole small town network thing. I filled my cup of knowledge and enthusiasm so full that I was bursting at the seams by the time I walked confidently into the boardroom.

I answered all the questions..............tried to stay linear......showed my enthusiasm for this BRAND NEW position with the city of Fredericton. I offered up a vision or two, reiterating some of the recommendations made in a report that had been the impetus for the job. I made sure I made eye contact with all four of the interviewers. I was thorough, expressive, vibrant........

After an hour or so, I shook hands with them all.......feeling like I had won over 3 out of the 4. That's how I read it. I then serendipitously bumped into one of my references.........and excitedly OOZED about how I feel like I had NAILED the interview! In fact, I think I even said that it was the best interview I had ever had.

The next a sober second thought...........I was pummelled with shame and embarrassment. It was then that I realized how over the top I had I had oooooozed too much. And I wondered if perhaps I had scared even the assistant chief of police who was a part of the interviewing team.... and yet it would be a couple of months before I would see it more broadly........that I saw, accepted and sought to change this extroverted part of me that can overwhelm and frighten. I had basically shut down the discourse by coming across as a know it all. Who the heck wants to talk to a know it all?

Compassion for a topic or an issue is one thing. Crazed enthusiasm coupled with compassion and a belief that you have ALL the answers scares the shit out of most people. This was a lesson in humilty which has stuck, I told the group I was delivering a workshop to yesterday. A shift happened..........for some reason I was finally able to see this part of me. Since then, I have altered my approach in those type of interview situations.

And yet....... I keep having to learn humility again and again..........because it doesn't seem to cross over into other life situations for me.

Before humility there is anger, frustration, pride and impulsivity. After the eye opener, there is awareness, remorse, and vulnerability. Humility is the doorway to a vulnerable openness of the heart and mind where new learning can happen. It feels this way for me.

Before humility there is a full cup of knowledge, opinions, facts and beliefs. Theres no room for discourse on anything because our cup has no more room for even a drop..... After humility when the contents have been spilled or have evaporated? There's room for discourse and for seeing our world and how we interact in it in a different light.

Henri Nouwen who seems to offer me up lessons with impeccable timing, wrote about the process of spiritually and emotionally moving from a "hostility to hospitality" as a journey of recognizing when our cups are filled with too many "I knows" ........... so many that we are stuck perseverating and closed to any new awakenings. He wrote about the importance of emptying the cup of order to offer up an empty vulnerable space where one can listen and learn and interact with others who may have different perspectives. Empty spaces, a poverty of the mind "as a spiritual attitude is a growing willingness to recognize the incomprehensibility of the mystery of life," according to Nouwen is where one can receive and discover the gifts of others.

Could this be where humility dwells? If it does, than I'm wondering if new learning happens only when one reaches a point where surrendering to the mystery of life is the only option? This is most definately a hard lesson to learn for someone like me who wrestles with the idea that I don't have complete control over my destiny.


Barbara said...

wow. can i just learn my lesson from yours so I don't have to go through it myself :)

Awareness said...

layla............sure! but am I'm still wondering if new learning happens only when one reaches a point where surrendering to the mystery of life is the only option?

Is there an easier less bruising way to learn these lessons without making a complete fool and ass of yourself??

Shaz said...

Ummmmmmmm I dont know is there an easier way?
Ohhhh Dana I dont know what to say seriously...........
yep thats it I got nothin except I feel for you.

Arlen said...

I just read your post and I can totally relate to your interviewing anecdote. I guess my question to you would be is it only possible to tell an “over the top” experience from feeling vibrant and confident only AFTER some time has passed and looking back in retrospect? This has been a question that has perplexed me at various times in my career.

I am almost 53 and have been a recruiting professional for almost 30 years. Quite frankly, I have probably forgotten more about recruiting than most people know. I feel very confident when it comes to any kind of forum or discussion regarding recruiting (and most people in my company know this). Attending a high level meeting earlier this week in New Jersey, the discussion turned to recruiting. There were a total of 18 people in the room. Being more of a “counter – puncher,” my style is to sit back and observe before making any brash pronouncements. I observed that people were taking a “band – aid” approach to various problems, a condition that I usually diagnose as an “aspirin for a heart attack” mentality. And it seemed that the room was filled with a “wolf pack” mindset, so I kept quiet. (I basically knew how to solve the problem, but I would have likely been seen as obnoxious and arrogant for suggesting such).

On Friday, my management heavily criticized me for staying quiet. I thought momentarily about defending myself, but that thought soon melted into an attitude of what’s the point. I think it was a no win situation and besides, the meeting had passed. Had a case of false humility did me in? Perhaps. But more importantly, I am amazed every single day at just how much I don’t know. (Oh for the days when I was 18 and “knew it all”).

Humility is a strange beast. It sneaks up on you in times you least expect it, so much so that it almost serves to be a deterrent to confidence. Do you see it that way and if you do, how do you find the balance?

Best to you,

Awareness said...

hey shaz.... omg! I left you speechless?

Arlen.... thank you for posting this. :) I think it comes down to be in tune with yourself through acquired awareness I guess. I also think that the interviewee has to know their audience. In that particular interview, had I been in a room with a couple more extroverts as opposed the four introverts it may have played out differently. Also, I find a difference to how i approach interviews here than in Ontario where I grew up. Outgoing enthusiasm etc is received different in the Maritmes.... so, it does depend on the culture too.

your experience this week sure highlights the difference in perceptions. Management were mad that you didn't jump into the foray....or they knew you had a different take on things and wanted you to share...? Why were they so angry.......because you didn't feel the need to tackle this particular "hill".....

i don't know......sometimes it's very difficult to figure out the best approach, but i do know when i have a compulsion to get involved in a conversation it's for a reason......and if I don't, like you I'm not jumping into it.
We need to "Pick the hills" we climb dont you think??

Humility is a beastie......the fact that it comes with a flood of feelings makes it sometimes feel like it temporarily knocks the wind out of you......i agree.

I had also been wondering too if that rush of humility one feels is also accompanied by grace.

Marja said...

I don't know Dana. Humility does have it's place. But I think it's good to be strong and know it all in certain situations.
There are some know it als in my family. The youngest one is my brothers child who gets a hard time from his teacher because of it. His grades therfore plummeted. Who's problem is it?
If people feel inferior because of it than they feel that in other times as well and you would have had problems later.
I wasn't there but I think it can't be that bad.

Awareness said...

Marja, you make an excellent point with the example of your nephew. I believe there are many times when someone who feels insecure for whatever reason will read a person's behaviour as "know it all" as opposed to confidence. Strong confident people unfortunately sometimes have to tone down their "light" so as not to affect others who just can't handle it.

Harry Chapin sung a song about a child who was creative and bright....full of energy and a "do it" behaviour. His school teacher kept telling him that he had to approach his work just like everyone else. So, the child's energy declined......and he became lost. THEN, he went to another school where the teacher believed that we need to shine, shine, shine and show our true took a long time for the child to blossom again.

The song is "Flowers are RED." I'll try to find it and send it to you. :)

It's difficult to deal with others who are for their own baggage and wounds are threatened by enthusiasm.

Humility is a double edged sword....I guess when it follows are false sense of pride, it needs to be recognized as a learning experience. I wasn't able to write about the situations I found myself in last week because this isn't an anonymous outlet anymore. I actually wrote a more detailed account of my opinions and feelings about a variety of work related events and posted it. But, a friend suggested I had gone too far, revealed too much about my workplace and to get rid of the post. He was right, so I did.

Anyways......the whole writing out my rant and then receiving the feedback gave me a chance to review the week and see once again I am not in complete control of how life unfolds on my end......and that is very humbling.