Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Moment for Clarity

It took a moment of vulnerability for me to clarify my personal philosophy -- which guides me in business and in life.

Among a group of peers, all seeking to demonstrate professional success, we were given a blank sheet of people and 30 minutes to map our values and start drafting our personal vision. Put our name in the middle of the sheet. Draw a spoke for an essential value. Create one-word branches clarifying the value, identifying links between spokes as they arose. Then, assess all the information and craft a vision. For example, one of my spokes: openness. The branches captured openness in relationships, in ideas and for new experiences. New experiences resulted in knowledge and growth. Growth linked to the branch of another spoke: well-being.

The exercise itself was both an affirmation and a discovery process for me, but the forthcoming moment of vulnerability was key. I was required to talk through my map with another person from the session. The listener was supposed to determine, based on my inflection, pace and nonverbal cues, which elements were most influential in defining my personal value structure.

We paired off. My partner went first, and I provided my perspective on her presentation. Then, I launched into explaining my map. But, when I was done, my listener apologized to the effect of: “I’m not sure I can help you because you talk passionately about each item. You seem to embrace everything as an opportunity to apply your skills and grow.”

Her apology was my insight. In that moment, I discovered two things – a vision and a philosophy. The four-word vision that resulted from that exchange still guides my actions still today. I seek to embody passion and growth. And, I do it knowing that collaboration is key. I don’t believe we can achieve improved results by staying within our own minds and experiences. We need the pushing and pulling that comes from talking with people of different backgrounds, opinions and values.
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