I recently had a from (Doing to Being) fulfilling conversation with a CEO. Let’s call him Stu. He contacted me for help with his team of managers. Our conversation went deep and personal. We clicked.
He wanted to help his managers grow but the effort felt forced and inauthentic. Stu shared what he was feeling deep down. “What’s does it all mean?” He said. “I enjoyed working my tail off getting to the top, the CEO job. Now I feel like, is this it? I’m here. Now what?”
In other words, Stu was saying the all-too-common; I’m not content where I am and at the same time, I don’t know where I want to be.
The symptom underlying this problem—that manifests in different ways in everyone, is a pursuit that is ultimately a trap. It’s commonly described as Americanism. “Using money you haven’t earned to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like”—Robert Quillen. The force of this trap is stealthy and insidious. It operates in the background elevating superficial values to the forefront.
Now you could easily shake your head, judge and label the phenomenon as a modern-day societal problem, but that quote is actually from 1928. If you’re paying close attention however, you’ll see modern-day associations. Such as the multitude of TV time used to sell “treatments” as all-encompassing “antidotes.” But nothing invested in proactive prevention like goodness, cultivating productive habits and creating personal well-being. This points to a deep-seated human condition and it shows us where to focus to get real results.
The Human Condition
We effortlessly respond to, embrace and assimilate what is in front of us. We easily follow and advertisers know it. They literally bank on it. If you want contentment, if you want to be in charge and leading where you’re going, you have to pay unimaginable attention to ensure your mind and time are not drawn away from what is essential but goes unnoticed.
I suggested Stu was like a beggar.
A beggar found sitting on a trunk helplessly pleading for money, food—anything to help him get through the day. When a passerby had nothing to give but asked him what was in the trunk he was sitting on, the beggar snapped, I never looked in the trunk. There’s no point. Nothing is in there! The passerby persisted, why don’t you just look in the trunk? Finally, he relented. Upon opening the trunk, the beggar’s eye’s bulged, and his jaw dropped. He gasped in shock and disbelief. Inside the trunk were jewels, diamonds, and gold.
Sometimes we are like the helpless beggar; conditioned, uninformed and disbelieving that we have the means. Doubting our capacity even though we are sitting on untold wealth. Like the beggar, our helplessness is learned. We blindly follow the story we’re told. Sitting on immeasurable wealth, we overlook the fact that our inherent potential is always there waiting, untapped.
When Stu figured out that perhaps his two most important days were the day he became CEO and today when he realized the riches he was sitting on. He lit up like a Christmas tree and said, “rather than spin my wheels trying to be content, I’ll make myself useful and contentment will likely follow. I’m doing too much and not being enough… “
The shift from doing to being. The call to shift from doing the job of a CEO to being the CEO resonated quickly with Stu. He instantly visualized himself:
- Lifting people out of their petty preoccupations
- Carrying managers above the judgements, labels and constructs that divide all
- Diminishing conflict
Stu is smart and was a quick study. In a flash he saw what he was caught up in, dropped it and shifted to working from his best. He recognized the easy access to a “better self.” The part that knows that life is more than we can see or touch. Stu’s Presence, his latent courage and strength had surfaced.
When the CEO works to make a difference from the top, you begin to see more “difference makers” throughout the organization. The trickle down can have enormous impact.
By serving as a model for his managers to develop beyond the status quo, Stu created an environment that would start a legacy of a life that mattered. He was content and knew instinctively that increasing humanity in the workplace was where he was headed.
I’m only able to share what words can describe—words are limiting. What went on beneath the surface, what we “touched” that day was deep and simple. Illuminating but difficult to illuminate.
The only things that matter in life cannot be easily explained.