Taking Risks

Learning From Japan - What Matters to You Most Now?

In the wake of Japan’s recent devastating earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear reactor breakdowns, there have been many stories about how people there have responded to the emergency situations and the survival aftermath.  In my mind, it’s brought up the question of what is truly important to each of us, and how we live that out.

A New York Times article of March 17th about reactions of people in Tokyo, about 170 miles south of the earthquake’s epicenter, said that “most Japanese are trying to uphold the ethic that they are taught from childhood:  to do their best, persevere, and suppress their own feelings for the sake of the group.”  The group ethic is strong-- which can be stifling for individual self-expression, but also insures the willing support of the community for its own survival.  As an electronics technician in Tokyo said, “I can’t [leave this area] because I have to work my hardest [now] for my customers.”

Up in Sendai, close to the epicenter, an American resident wrote in Ode magazine that “it’s utterly amazing that where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines . . . The Japanese themselves are so wonderful.  I come back to my shack to check on it each day . . . and I find food and water left in my entrance way . . . People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help.  I see no signs of fear.  Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

From both these sources, it’s clear that in Japan, during times of need, at least, the value of “community” is a strong one, transcending individual fears, doubts, and confusion, and supporting the whole society.

Now I’d like to riff off the Japanese experience to explore what matters most to you at this time.  Do you want more social cohesion or more opportunities to expand your dreams for personal fulfillment?  Is there a way to balance the community values based on a more traditional society with the sense of expanded possibilities for individuals more prevalent in a more free-floating society such ours in the urban United States?  We might also ask, can a more individually oriented society come together as well in emergency conditions?

As a life coach, I support many people who have come up against a wall where they lose confidence about going forward towards new, more satisfying careers.  Their biggest fear is often what their family-- spouses and parents-- reflect back to them about the consequences to family stability of not continuing along the paths of their earlier training and work.  To which other questions arise-- What is it to be truly secure?  When do we need to trust our dreams in this regard?  Where do we really find our support?

The Joy of Team Playing-- Evolving Quality Relationships

The value of playing together as a team-- or in this case, an impromptu band-- leapt up at me during my recent Stanford University reunion.  One of my classmates, Paul, is a pianist who had also been a conductor.  Some of his friends who had also taken emeritus Professor John Chowning’s freshman seminar in modern music and contemporary society held a gathering in which those of us present were invited to participate in making our own music, all together, under Paul’s guidance. 

            Paul particularly asked us to try instruments that we’d never played before.  When I asked my friend Libby who was squeezing an accordion with verve when she’d learned how, she replied, “A few minutes ago.”  Leslie and I were working the gongs, Joel was on bongo drums, and my husband, William, a former sax player, was grinning as he experimented with his drumsticks. 

            Then Paul instructed us about the signals he would use to bring each of us into the performance.  We had to pay close attention to his arm and eye movements, and follow our cues to play short or long, soft or loud.  It had been ages since I’d played violin in my elementary school orchestra.  I realized I’d never had the sense then as I did with Paul’s conducting of how connected we all were to one another as we awaited our cues and heard the separate tones of our own instruments becoming the music we played together. 

            In addition, I experienced a profound sense of being seen and heard as Paul looked at me and signaled me to play.  They were just moments of connection, but felt totally focused on me and what I was creating under his guidance.  As I wrote in my Oct. 28th blog, Paul was “giving me an A,” which is the process of “transporting your relationships from the world of measurement into the universe of possibility” (from The Art of Possibility by Roz and Ben Zander).  

            He gave me the space and the encouragement to go forward into the unknown, take risks, make mistakes-- all the while contributing to the expanding sense of connecting and relating to the whole group.  Later, he told us how vital it was for a conductor to earn the trust of the players in the orchestra in order to be able to play well together.  One thing was clear to all of us present: by acknowledging and drawing forth the spirit and potential of each person in a team-- whether a professional orchestra, a group of colleagues, a teenage club, or former classmates wanting to go in a new direction together-- quality relationships and experiences have a chance to evolve and make a difference. 

            If you are interested in exploring further the possibilities for more work and life satisfaction by creating opportunities for quality connections, please join me for my upcoming tele-class, “Creating Life Satisfaction-- Giving an A to New Possibilities!” on Wednesday, December 8th.  To sign up, please click on the following link:   http://www.kailaslifecoaching.com/?id=presentations.

Risking Rejection -- Opening the Door to What You Really Want!

My blog post last week, “Your Dream Rejected-- How This Can Work for You?”, triggered a lot of conversation on the internet.  I was impressed by the acknowledgement that when and only when you agree to risk reaching out with your desire and passion for the work you want, the book you want to write, or the way you want to live will there be the possibility of a door opening toward your dream.  

            Autumn Wagner’s comment about being persistent with her job-seeking calls was that she realized that “I could not get to the yes’s without going through the no’s . . . Rejection is indeed evidence that you are putting in the effort and energy needed to achieve your goal or dream.  When I start getting rejections on my first novel, I will congratulate myself for having finished the manuscript!”  

            I feel that Diane Conway, author of What Would You Do If You Had No Fear?, gets to the core of the issue when she says:  “The only people who never get rejected are the ones who refuse to take risks.  Not risking is permanent rejection.”  

            Of course, being ready to risk rejection works best when you’re committed to going for something meaningful for you or living out your purpose in a way that expresses who you are.  When you really want something enough, it doesn’t feel like a risk to put yourself out for it.  Rather, it feels like an opportunity to live out something vital from within yourself.  

            As acupuncturist Julie Rose commented:  “Gabriel García Marquez took One Hundred Years of Solitude to 56 publishers before it was published in 1967. It was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. That’s vision and determination. 56 rejections!”  Did he feel scared, upset, nervous, and maybe some days, just plain reluctant to subject himself to possible rejection by publishers?  No doubt.  But what strength of conviction he had in his work and in himself to keep going forward towards the fruition of his writing dream!  

                    Join in the conversation! 

  • What is it that would come alive in you if you risked the possibility of rejections? 
  • When has the possibility of rejection stopped you from going forward? 
  • What do you need to know about yourself to commit to risking changing your  career and/or the way in which you live?