On October 25, 2016, I wrote about life balance. I would like to leverage this topic in this post. I would like to try to get personal and real. Now, stop rolling your eyes. For those of you who do not like personal and real, maybe it is because you lack personal and real in your life? Perhaps, just maybe, you need doses of personal and real.
What do I mean by personal and real?
In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection,” Brene Brown, one of my all-time favorite thinkers, authors, and speakers, would call it living a wholehearted authentic life. She outlines what she calls her “10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living”:
1. Cultivating authenticity – letting go of what people think
2. Cultivating self-compassion – let go of perfectionism
3. Cultivating a resilient spirit – let go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Cultivating gratitude and joy – let go of scarcity
5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith – let go of the need for certainty
6. Cultivating creativity – let go of comparison
7. Cultivating play and rest – let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Cultivating calm and stillness – let go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Cultivating meaningful work – let go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance – let go of being cool and “always in control”
You can fill libraries with thoughts addressing the 10 guideposts above. But I will focus in this post on 1. and 2. I would like to get personal and real. I would like to get authentic and shed any misconceptions that I am perfect.
I refuse to let what other people think of me define and control me any longer. I am not perfect. I make mistakes and I fall. And guess what? I do not care anymore. If this bothers you, I am sorry. If this bothers you, perhaps there is a reason why.
If this bothers you, I feel your pain. I truly do. Because at times, I have evaded personal, real and authenticity as if it were the bubonic plague, malaria or H.I.V. Why? Sometimes I feel as though I live behind a carefully constructed mask, never letting anyone see the real me. Because if they can’t see the real me, they can’t dislike the real me.
Real is real. It is the kind of vulnerable honesty that you try to hide from others and yet it is always there, staring back at you when you look in the mirror at the end of a long day and the mask inevitably falls to the floor. It is the raw truth that is you. It is your trash you carry around all the while you are trying to hide it from others. It is hard enough to carry your trash day in and day out, but trying to put a mask on it makes it even more difficult. Masking your trash only attracts more trash.
Want to know a secret? Others can see right through you. We all know you have trash. Worse yet, you all know I have trash. Therefore, I want to drop the mask via self-disclosure in this post. I am tired of my trash and it is time to drop it. And guess what? I couldn’t give a rat’s ass whether you read it, judge it, talk about it or even care about it. I am truly OK with who and what I am and couldn’t care less about you judging and condemning me and my trash. No more worrying about what you think of me; I have more confidence in my opinion than yours. That is confidence, not arrogance — big difference. To build self-esteem, it is vital to focus on your successes and shed your trash.
Now, here is a novel idea: my self-esteem hasn’t been self-esteem at all. If it were SELF-esteem, it would be truly based on self (me and my opinions). I have been allowing the opinions of others to increase or decrease my self-esteem. Hence, the mask. So, let me wrap my head around this… I have been allowing OTHERS to determine my SELF-esteem? Does that make any sense? That is not self-esteem. That is parent-esteem, neighbor-esteem, clergyman-esteem, society-esteem, associate-esteem, stranger-esteem — you get the idea. It has been anything but SELF-esteem. How messed up is that? This is the trash I aim to shed once and for all. My self-esteem is going to be based on my views of me and not the opinions of other people. Genuine, real authentic self-esteem isn’t reliant on what others think… Guidepost #1.
While I am constantly striving for improvement, it is continual progress that I seek, not perfection… Guidepost #2.
Last week, I was asked to speak at a conference for customer care professionals. As they were pulling together the flyer to send out to their members, they had my picture, professional bio and a blurb about the topics I would be presenting. It was the normal stuff you would typically see and read about while promoting a program such as this. (I get it, they want to hype me as the keynote speaker, building enthusiasm and excitement for the event. So, my bio on the program read something like this):
“Art Coombs is the Founder, President & CEO of KomBea Corp, a software company that develops Call center software. Before founding KomBea, Mr. Coombs served as the EVP, Business Development/Strategic Initiatives for FirstSource, one of India’s largest BPO/Contact Center outsourcers. Prior to FirstSource, Art was CEO and founder of Echopass Corporation, which built the world’s premier contact center hosting environment which was recently acquired by Genesys approx. $100 million. He also held various management roles with Sento Corp (SNTO), where he eventually became the CEO. Prior to Sento, Art served as Managing Director and Vice President, European Business Development for Sykes Enterprises. Art is a published author of BPO/Contact Centers, outsourcing and technical support methodologies. He is a recognized speaker at Support Center conferences. In addition, Art worked for organizations such as Hewlett-Packard, VLSI Research, and RasterOps.”
Please, please, please! Stop! Please, I beg of you. My eyebrows slightly raise as my eyes roll, my face winces, my stomach tightens and I emotionally want to shut down. Honestly, when I hear an events coordinator reading something like this to introduce me, I get sweaty, anxious and my brain seizes up. It is as if I were a peanuts character sitting in Miss Othmar’s class hearing “wah wah, wah wah” … translation, “blah blah blah blah blah.”
Why do I have this reaction? Is the above not true? Yes, it is all true and it is the vocational me. But it is such a skewed perspective of me. Nevertheless, it is the truth that many want to see.
It is the truth that many rely on to measure, judge and form opinions. It is the truth I can willingly hide behind. In a way, it is my mask. To some, this is important stuff and signifies success. Then why don’t I feel like a success? What is the deal?
It is relatively simple. Vocational success is not the true level of success. Remember my father’s maxim from the previous blog? “Genius is not being ‘great’ at any one thing. Genius is being ‘good’ in all aspects of your life. Genius is being good vocationally, socially, financially, physically, scholastically, family, emotionally, spiritually, etc.” Wow! If this is the case, let’s look at each of these categories and get personal and real. I will start!
VOCATIONALLY – See bio above. All true. I am not the brightest in the office, but I am bright enough to surround myself with Mensa-smart cohorts. I am blessed to work with some of the brightest, most loyal individuals to ever walk this earth. It may sound melodramatic but, I love what I do and who I do it with.
SOCIALLY – I prefer small, intimate groups over large crowds. Yet, if I need to “work a large crowd,” I can. I have a tendency to not play games, so I am not all that comfortable in large organizations where political correctness is a necessity. I have no interest in having my ass kissed or kicked by anyone but me. As a kid, I was deathly shy and still can fill that shy little boy’s painful awkwardness swell within me now and then. Yet, I have learned to be more extroverted as the occasion requires. Socially, I am a six out of ten… and that is my opinion. (Wink!)
FINANCIALLY – I make a comfortable living, have a modest savings account and no debt. But most would think, I am far better off than I really am. Two divorces can knock you down a few rungs on the financial totem pole.
PHYSICALLY – I love to work out. This is one of my go-to methods to deal with stress. I strive to be and eat healthy, but am not fanatical about it. I fight age aggressively, yet naturally. Still, I see the signs of father time creeping up on me.
SCHOLASTICALLY – I was a dreadfully anemic high school student and in college, I was outstanding and graduated with honors. Why the massive turnaround? I have dyslexia and it took me well into my twenties to understand, accept and deal with it. I have many scholastic scars from ignorant teachers and peers who labeled me as “slow,” “lazy” or “unintelligent.” I had to come to grips with this reality. I had to let go of what others cerebrally thought of me and focus on what I thought of me. This led to the realization that I am not slow (far from it), yet my mind works differently than others. Therefore, I personalized how I approached my academe endeavors.
FAMILY – What can I say? I am an amazing father with four incredible children and yet simultaneously I have been a deplorable husband. I struggle when dealing with big marital issues. I have been married twice and divorced twice. Yes, I am that piss-ant guy. My first marriage lasted 16 years and my second 12. Both ended, in part, because of my dishonesty. You see, my drug of choice, when the cardio and weights are not enough, is finding emotional validation elsewhere. Instead of stepping up like an authentically true, ardently secure man and addressing the issue/s, I cowardly practiced avoidance. While there are two sides to every pancake, this betrayal is totally on me.
I know it sounds cliché and I am not trying to make excuses or dodge the heat, however, everyone makes mistakes. Just get up, dust yourself off and vow to do better because of lessons learned. Vow to move forward, learn, laugh, love and live.
EMOTIONALLY – This is a work in progress. But I have days where sometimes I just want to run and hide. Living in a thatched hut in the tops of the Himalayas would not be remote enough. When I am doing my old man, groove moves in the kitchen while lip-syncing my kids will tell you that I am an emotional wreck. There is a twisted side of me that enjoys being emotionally and physically silly to make them cringe with delight. Like everything and everyone, I have my emotionally good days and bad.
SPIRITUALLY – I was raised in a strict Christian home. My father and mother did not overtly push it on us, but there was an unspoken, and at times spoken, expectation as to what was expected. While most of how I was spiritually raised was good and made me a better person, there were some down sides. The relentless drive to be perfect (see Guidepost #2 above), the staggering shame that was placed upon me when I was not perfect, what felt like to me hypocritical judgment of others and then local leaders that at times seemed, misguided, arrogant and unethical, all have contributed to taint the positive spiritual feelings I once had. This internal dichotomy creates inner pious ambiguity.
So, there you go — the real Art. The blemished, flawed and human me. The Art few, if any, have ever seen. These are the terrifying, dark places that for so many years I have masked. For many years, I have held back this self-disclosure because I was fearful of rejection. I presumed if others knew the real me, they would not like me. But, that is not true. Not true at all.
For us humans, to live balanced, authentic, real, wholehearted lives, we must connect with others. For us to connect on a meaningful level, we must take off our masks and tell our stories. We must be OK with our self-esteem because it truly is our self-esteem.
Do not get me wrong; if you overload your family and friends with the mundane minutiae of all your personal trash, you will be tuned out as an emotionally weak, whiny loser. That, my, friend will create separation — not connection. The critical piece to all this is being open, transparent and humbly honest. This must be done without being excessively needy.
Not only must you tell your story, but you must allow others to tell theirs. You need to listen with empathy and love them unconditionally. Being tolerant and accepting of others and not necessarily their actions is vital.
Many of us hold back from self-disclosure because it is seen as a dark hole, where our fear of being rejected is the only thing we see. Again, we reason, if they knew the real me, they would not be interested in me! But, that is not true.
We are all exceptionally unique. The key to connecting with others is being open, honest, respectful of others, and letting people know the real you. When you live your life unafraid of what others will think of you, a fascinating thing happens. You’ll find that when you’re being the authentic, real, wholehearted you, you will attract authentic, real, wholehearted people into your life.
No more masks; shed the trash, let’s get authentic.
Tag — you’re it!Tags: "10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living", Art Coombs, authenticity, Brene Brown, Don't Just Manage -- LEAD!, emotionally, family, financially, guideposts, honesty, leadership, physically, scholastically, socially, spiritually, vocationally
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This post was written by Art