Searching for the Right Tree in a Giving Forest

In her early thirties, my friend Annette made her first trip out of the United States. She moved to Paris, and her dream was to sing jazz. She arrived in Paris with only a few hundred dollars in her wallet, a few words of French and a hotel reservation that had been cancelled after her flight was delayed. While she was switching trains at Metro Châtelet on her way into the city from Orly, she heard a guitarist playing in one of the tunnels. She put down her suitcases and started singing Summertime, filling the major commuter train hub with her voice. Continue reading

What Do you See: Leadership & Identities

“The question is not what you look at but what you see.”  ~ Henry David Thoreau, 1851

Amidst news of violence, chaos and suffering from around the world, a story emerged to give us a little light relief: “Dutch king reveals he has been a KLM pilot for 21 years,” as CNBC headlined matter-of-factly. Many news channels dramatized the story with headlines like “Dutch king reveals secret life — as a KLM airline co-pilot” in the Washington Post or “Dutch King Willem-Alexander moonlights as KLM airline copilot” in USA Today. Words like “secret life” or “moonlight” suggest that the king was doing something more sinister than flying an airplane as a licensed pilot. Continue reading

Meeting People Where They Are: Meeting is a Journey

Recently at my niece’s school, I was walking along a hallway lined up with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. In front of each classroom, there was a board showcasing the kids’ recent work, which at the time happened to be about what they wanted to be when they grew up. While their professional interests covered a spectrum of professions – from doctors to police officers and from ballet dancers to firefighters – the most common profession seemed to be teachers, not surprisingly since these kids spent most of their days with their teachers. These boards brought back the memory of my younger years. Like these kids, I had many interests for my future profession. Unlike many of these kids, however, I knew for sure at that very young age that I did not want to become a teacher. I learned early on that being a good teacher was hard, and I didn’t think that I had what it would take to be a good one. Continue reading

Meeting People Where They Are: What Is On the Other Side?

“What you do as an actor is you’re inhabiting souls. And you’re asking those souls to come into your space. And you could only do that in a non-judgmental way,”

British actress Naomie Harris spoke in a CBS interview of her process to become a crack addict, single mom in the movie Moonlight. Researching and becoming her character was not an easy process. Harris said, “I couldn’t understand this concept. … We know how destructive drugs are. So how does somebody get attracted to that, you know? And she has a son. And so I had so much judgment, actually, and I really had to work very hard to overcome that judgment.” Continue reading

A Question from a Blue Cat on a Time Machine

What would you do if you had a time machine? The future would no longer be a possibility, but a reality. And the past would not be just a path to the present, but the present that could still be acted upon. Imagine all the actions and outcomes that you could change and the mistakes that you could correct with your 20/20 hindsight. I usually don’t think much about time machines; I practice mindfulness (or at least try to), and jumping away from the present moment is the opposite of my practice. That all changed recently when a blue robot cat arrived on a time machine and jolted me out of my sleep. Continue reading

Strange Bird: An Endangered Species

Last year, I was following a search for a leadership position that happened publicly. It was the search for the new general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority or the Metro, one of the largest public transit systems in North America. Initially, I was following the development because I regularly traveled to Washington, DC, and as a frequent rider of the Metro, my safety, my comfort and my ability to get to places on time and conveniently were on top of my mind. Continue reading

Leadership of the Mundane

What do these people have in common: Ernest Shackleton, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, and Michael Flatley’s accountants? Regardless of your definition of leadership, most of you would agree that the first three individuals have demonstrated leadership qualities in their respective lives. But what do Michael Flatley’s accountants have to do with them? Yes, I’m referring to Michael Flatley of Lord of the Dance, and yes, I am talking about his accountants, not him. Continue reading

Instructions to Self

 

Have you ever gotten frustrated when a yoga teacher, a spiritual book or a song tells you to “find your way home”? I have been there many many times!  The message seems to be a crucial learning point, a big revelation, a destination toward which one grows after a long, soul-searching, self-improving process, and there might be some kind of nirvana waiting at home.  Yet, I didn’t have a clue what that meant or what to do to figure out the meaning, not until a reminder fell on my lap, literally.

Continue reading

Defined by Absence

 

“Go back to the definition,” my mom said to me.

That probably doesn’t sound like a typical instruction from a mother to her child, so here is the context. My mom was not only a high-school math teacher, but also a math education professor. She inspired generations of engineers, doctors, scientists, financial whizzes, and, of course, math teachers while I just tolerated math. So, you would think I was one of the luckiest kids in the world to have a math expert at my disposal. Nope. When I got stuck, my mom would send me back to the definition, and from there, we would solve the problem together. Continue reading

Overlook the Diamonds: Learning to Stay Focused from Two Guys Who Like Chocolate Milk, Animal Cookies and Something Spectacular

The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.

~ William James

I came across an article about a 10-year-old musical prodigy named Ethan Loch from Bonnybridge, Scotland. Ethan had been admitted to St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh, and to go to school, Ethan would need to board a train and cross two main roads. The commute to school would be more challenging for Ethan than for most children his age. Why? You see, Ethan is blind. Ethan would have to master echolocation in order to go to school. Continue reading