Since a young age I’ve held what I believe is an innate desire to always be better – whatever the topic may be. A better student or athlete when I was younger, a better artist and thinker once I got to college. Today a better wife, CEO, mother, designer, on and on the list goes. This, as my team and family can tell you, can be one of the tougher aspects of my personality and knowing when I suffer because of it rather than am served by it is an important distinction I’m working on. But on the positive side is a belief inside of me that my own potential and the potential of all humans has hardly been tapped into and that there is more to us and our capabilities than we know. A large part of exploring my own personal development and growth over the past few years has been the role of coaches, clergy and counselors in my life. In some ways they’re different from one another and in many ways they’re the same. Ultimately they have become outside voices that can see things as objective viewers that I cannot. They are simultaneously both my fiercest challengers and greatest encouragers. Last week in Scotland, as I visited a favorite coach turned dear friend, I began trying to summarize what it really is that these seers are and do and why this type of development will forever be a part of my personal and professional life. I think they can best be summed up in these three ways, among others.
- Learn a different way of seeing. Be it a coach helping me as founder and entrepreneur, a pastor speaking to me in a time of need, or a counselor helping me process this crazy thing called life, there is one common thread that runs deeply through them all and that is that there is always more going on than what meets the eye. We see in three dimensions and yet physicists today believe there are at least ten dimensions in the universe. If that is true it means there are more than double the dimensions that we can’t see to those that we can. And so I believe is the case with our own unique complexities as well as those interpersonally at work with our partners, families, co-workers and even the natural world around us. We are unbelievably complex, beautiful, flawed, intricate people. From the unique information stored in our DNA to the memories stored in our nervous system, from our family and cultural upbringings to the one thing we all share – mortality – there is always more going on in us and those around us than we are generally attuned to seeing. I believe we are simply too complex and there is too much mystery in the universe for us to ever fully see but I know from my own experience that we can learn new ways of seeing more than we currently are. This practically for me has translated into a higher threshold for ambiguity, conflict, and challenge be it personally or professionally. A seemingly impossible situation when observed from a different angle or dimension becomes possible. An unfavorable event can be later found to be a gift. A personality flaw in someone else can show its strength when viewed through the right lens. Ultimately the worst of life becomes more tolerable and the best of it becomes infinitely more beautiful and exciting as we learn to see more than what can be seen. With a different view the crazy-making people become a little more lovable and so do I.
Above: Last year’s European trip for a training called Cathexis
2. Above all else, keep yourself. There is song that Trent Reznor wrote that Johnny Cash is best known for called Hurt. After painful verses of regret the song ends with this line: “If I could start again a million miles away, I would keep myself. I would find a way.” It’s beautiful summary of another aspect of the role of coaches, clergy and counselors in my life. And even more than a “good” thing it is an empowering thing. It is the belief that no matter what circumstances may befall us, no matter what the person next to us chooses to do or be, we have our own choices, our own paths, our own right, even duty to remain true to who we are even in the face of unimaginable opposition. The best example of this came from a coach of mine in some of the most difficult circumstances of my life. Betrayed and rejected by very close family and friends in one of my greatest times of need, this stunning email was sent to me:
Forgiveness and the Concentration Camp
Taken from the inner walls of one of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany at the end of the Second World War, this prayer was scratched by an unknown hand:
“O Lord, when I shall come with glory into your kingdom, do not remember only the men of good will; remember also the men of evil. May they be remembered not only for their acts of cruelty in this camp, the evil they have done to us prisoners, but balance against their cruelty the fruits we have reaped under the stress and in the pain; the comradeship, the courage, the greatness of heart, the humility and patience which have been born in us and become part of our lives, because we have suffered at their hands.
May the memory of us not be a nightmare to them when they stand in judgment. May all that we have suffered be acceptable to you as a ransom for them.”
First let me say that comparing my or any “normal” suffering to a concentration camp is not at all the point or intended. The message was much more important than that. It was an invitation to keep myself no matter what was going on around me. And not only that, be better because of it and then be grateful because of that bettering. A different way of seeing things, being enlarged instead of diminished and then on top of that the concept of compassion and grace, even gratitude for the suffering. Life changing ideas I could have never surmised on my own. The invaluable gift of keeping myself no matter what.
3. Let passion be a roadmap. As westerners words like progress and puritan work ethic, goals and discipline and success aren’t just ideas for us they’re basically a code imbedded in every aspect of our daily lives. And they’re not bad. They can be amazing qualities for a person and a society. But somewhere along the way it seems they became somewhat mutually exclusive with words like desire, passion, want, love… This can result in a distrust of our desires. Through coaching and mentorship I’ve come to find this to not only be untrue but often the result of us missing the most important clues for finding and living the life we most deeply want. It is not to say that life is only about wants and desires. And as we all know, often the things we desire most require the most discipline, sacrifice, and change (marriage, motherhood, entrepreneurship to name a few for me). But over the past few years I’ve come to view passion and desire in both myself and others as an incredibly important thing that is to be explored and honored not dismissed or moved quickly past in pursuit of progress. I think in our heart of hearts our deepest desires can be roadmaps for our place in this world. And that in the end it is not just our own lives that are fulfilled but also the lives of others. Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” My deep gladness has always been in the vision for KK, Inc. To create beautiful products for every aspect of a woman’s life can at times truly take my breath away. And yet that journey, from beginning to now is not only one of the greatest joys of my life it is one of the most challenging. Entrepreneurship as much as anything has pushed me, challenged me, at times nearly broken me and then put me back together again ever stronger. Jobs have been created, life changes have been made possible for people, beautiful things have made for moments of delight in the midst of the mundane. I think if we have the courage to chase it, life can take our breath away while at the same time allowing others to breathe easier. What do you want? (Can’t help but have Ryan Gosling yelling that question to Rachel Mcadams in the Notebook pop in my mind every time I think or say that). And beyond the answers like a healthy family or financial security. Those are great but what’s deep inside that maybe you won’t even admit to yourself? What if it’s not vanity or selfishness or silly but a roadmap of who you were born to be? Not just for yourself but for the world. Richard Rohr, one of my all-time favorite authors, says that each of us is born with a “divine blueprint.” Roadmap, blueprint, path, calling, whatever word you prefer they all require one thing to find them: desire. Trust it. Embrace it. Chase it. It leads to amazing things.
Above, married by two of our coaches/mentors