Every day courage

Everyday courage

Paul Lloyd Robson, co-founder of Maniphesto, and I talk about courage.

We talk about the Avengers, courage atrophy, ego stories, social attributes, and how you can’t escape spirituality.

Maniphesto is the European umbrella organisation for men’s work and we’ve just launched mentoring to support men, check it out here.

TRANSCRIPT

FREDRIK We are typically so preoccupied with what I call social attributes, social attributes are things that signify or manifest our ego-story.  For example the title on the business card the card, the car we’re driving, the exotic vacation we take, or the namedropping we at the parties you know.

Social attributes to boost up our ego-story, we tend to be so preoccupied with that but as you try to start to peel off the layers of these different social attributes and get to the core, Who am I without that title or who am I without that nice car? Then you start to get into the core and you get in touch with spirituality.

PAUL And that takes courage, takes courage to face yourself and it’s the courage off letting go, because we’ve built up an idea of who we are with all of these things and we spend a lot of time working very hard and it’s years of our life to maintain far safer to just live within that cocoon and it feels very safe being there with our elevator story and our nice car and the way everybody sees us.

FREDRIK Yeah and there’s the dark side of spirituality as well and what I said before is that you cannot escape spirituality so either you take an open-minded proactive approach to spirituality and start exploring who am I beyond the social attributes or beyond my ego-story.

If you resist that I think spirituality will sort of knock on your door in its darkest ways in terms of addiction, abuse of different kinds, which is basically a way of numbing that feeling of meaninglessness or temporarily relieving the pain of not finding real meaning or happiness in what you do.

Some people have to go through that abyss of the dark side before they see the light and can take a proactive and positive approach to spirituality.

PAUL So you and I we had a talk on vulnerability a couple of weeks ago and now we just decided to have a talk about courage.

And it’s really applicable for me right now because I’m heading off to the European men’s gathering in a couple of days and I’ve actually written my speech.

Normally I go up and I kind of just say some stuff but this time actually writing the speech for me was really difficult so and a whole lot of really big and important things I feel like I need to say so I definitely need a bit of courage now.

FREDRIK Okay let’s see what we can do for you.

PAUL Let’s hope that’s that it can help, but yeah I think maybe we can start here so we actually mentioned courage a little bit on our talk on vulnerability so can you say something what’s the connection between vulnerability and courage?

FREDRIK I think to start with it’s in the word because courage comes from Latin core or French cour so courage so from your heart so heart is central to courage and I think I read somewhere that the original meaning of courage was to speak your mind from your heart and now these days I guess courage is more associated to heroic deeds or bravery or this type of courage.

PAUL Like the showing of your heart.

FREDRIK Yes!

PAUL Some situations where people can feel the authentic you instead of that professional mask that we have on sometimes.

Right?

FREDRIK Yeah exactly so, I mean if we talk about vulnerability as showing up and being real when you cannot control the outcome that takes courage, daring to be real when you don’t know how that’s going to impact the situation or other people.

PAUL Okay, so if we normally think about courage as kind of the Avengers or you know Captain America or something like that then maybe do you have a story from a business environment where you think that courage is a central element or that illustrates how courage is also needed in business.

FREDRIK I think so yes, but I think we are making a mistake when we associate courage to the Avengers and that type of heroic deeds because then become it becomes singular events and I think it’s much more useful and I think we can have much more impact if we see courage as a way of being that is influencing everyday actions, if you see the distinction between heroic singular event versus a way of being that influence how we interact with the world? And of course we have these heroic events sometimes as well.

PAUL Well, can I pick up that ball because what that makes me think of is just like how we sometimes live our life and there’s just this fixed rhythm of doing what we have to do and we have to fit in and we have to do this and that so there’s this drudgery and then we watch movies sometimes and we see like wow you know these like life-changing decisions and somehow there’s a thing, there’s a thought, well yeah if i was in that situation then I would also do the right thing but what we forget is that actually it’s in the small everyday actions of everyday life where we’re called upon to be heroes.

FREDRIK Yeah! Exactly.

PAUL And if we’re able to be heroes in those small little aspects then we’re actually building up capacity and increasing the likelihood. Like Luke Skywalker didn’t become like the savior of the universe just by sitting on his ass and or doing his little cubicle job every day or something like that. He built up capacity over a long period of time with a master who was teaching him right?

FREDRIK But I think you’re touching on something critical there which is building up capacity for being courageous and I think to some extent you can view courage as a skill. However it’s not the skill in the in the theoretical or dry sense as in the skill of learning accounting but it’s the skill of how to relate to yourself and the world so it requires a certain  personal development as well in order to figure out what does courage mean for me and how do I relate to courage in my interaction with the world.

I think that’s a good bridge to talk about what is courage actually and I think it was John McCain who said that courage is the unity of conscience, fear and action and i heard other people talk about courage being the combination of fear and action but I think it’s valuable to introduce conscience there as well.

If you have fear but don’t take action, you’re not courageous. If you take action but there’s no fear related to it you don’t need to be courageous.

So it’s fear plus action and potentially some conscience that leads to courage and if we look at today’s world where we live fairly safe lives, at least in the western world, we don’t have everyday worry about physical death but we do have a worry about the ego-death.

Will my story about myself be challenged and what happens then?
Will my ego were ripped apart?
Will I be ridiculed by the people around me?

This is one of our biggest fears and we design our lives and we choose actions based on protecting that story we have about ourselves, so if we keep that in mind, is a lot about letting go of that story and listening to your heart.

What is it that you truly want and do you have the courage to express that? I also think, and I’ve seen this as well, I think every time we suppress that that stimuli to be courageous and back down a part of our soul dies.

Because I think that all people are intrinsically good and wants to do good so we want to go out there and be good and do good but because of various situations in life we start protecting ourselves and we start to design behaviours to keep ourselves safe.

If you never practice that courage muscle and actually stand up for what you believe in it’s just like your biceps experiencing atrophy and slowly over time you lose the ability to use that muscle.

PAUL Yeah or you can even kind of lose contact with what do I believe in, because you become so used to fitting in. And you know that was you also mentioned that John McCain had this that element of conscience  in which is like the idea of a deep-seated thing inside of you that that knows what’s right and what’s wrong and that we can kind of lose contact with that if we’re motivated by how do I get my next promotion.

I and most of us need to do that to a certain extent as well, we even started maybe with our parents to fit in with their moods and tempers and stuff.

So what can a person do in a very concrete sense maybe in the short term to get in touch with that? Do you have any kind of tools or concrete things that one can do to stop if one is like yes i want to do this more what could work to do that.

FREDRIK Well, I think let’s just pick up what you said about the gut feeling and I think that goes back to what I said before: it is capacity not necessarily a skill in the cognitive sense because that gut feeling that goes beyond cognition

Right?

So it’s about connecting to what your heart is whispering or what your gut feeling tells you about who you are and how to live your life.

I mean and right and wrong is obviously relative, your right and wrong may not be my right and wrong but conscience is right and wrong from my perspective.

In order to understand what’s right and wrong for me I need to get in touch with that and I think that then becomes that inner journey.

We touched upon that in the previous talk as well around spirituality, that you cannot escape spirituality. Spirituality doesn’t have to be this big thing, right? Spirituality is just about sitting down and reflecting on who I am, and what is important to me when I disconnect from my ego story. I think that’s a good place to start and a practical tool for starting this is meditation.

If you’re not inclined towards meditation maybe journaling is a good way but it’s basically about creating space for being and seeing what’s bubbling up.

PAUL Yeah for me I think spirituality stands in contrast to our strong individualism which could often go over the top then over into a narcissistic individualism.

Spirituality is just the simple recognition that I’m a part of something that’s far bigger than me. Actually, we believe that happiness and the good life is about getting as much for myself as possible but when we follow that path of spirituality we find it just doesn’t work, it doesn’t get us very far, it’s empty and meaningless and leads to hell basically.

There can be a reorientation and that’s that simple orientation that one often finds a journaling meditation that like oh actually when I let go of like that what you said your ego self then and just see my position then actually and in some ways that’s also a step of faith?

To believe that like well you said like people are good life is good existence you know yeah it’s gonna kill me but while I’m here then i can experience love and that’s actually a good thing right and i can do that with people that I work with and do productive things as well with as well.

FREDRIK And I’m going off on a tangent here but I see people are dying for this type of connection. We are typically so preoccupied with what I call social attributes, social attributes are things that signify or manifest our ego-story.  For example the title on the business card the card, the car we’re driving, the exotic vacation we take, or the namedropping we at the parties you know.

Social attributes to boost up our ego-story, we tend to be so preoccupied with that but as you try to start to peel off the layers of these different social attributes and get to the core, Who am I without that title or who am I without that nice car? Then you start to get into the core and you get in touch with spirituality.

PAUL And that takes courage, takes courage to face yourself and it’s the courage off letting go, because we’ve built up an idea of who we are with all of these things and we spend a lot of time working very hard and it’s years of our life to maintain far safer to just live within that cocoon and it feels very safe being there with our elevator story and our nice car and the way everybody sees us.

FREDRIK Yeah and there’s the dark side of spirituality as well and what I said before is that you cannot escape spirituality so either you take an open-minded proactive approach to spirituality and start exploring who am I beyond the social attributes or beyond my ego-story.

If you resist that I think spirituality will sort of knock on your door in its darkest ways in terms of addiction, abuse of different kinds, which is basically a way of numbing that feeling of meaninglessness or temporarily relieving the pain of not finding real meaning or happiness in what you do.

Some people have to go through that abyss of the dark side before they see the light and can take a proactive and positive approach to spirituality.

PAUL So would you say that these addictions, you know seeking more and more intense hedonistic experiences is actually a real lack of courage and sometimes the boyhood picture of manhood is the guy drinking beer and have lots of women and stuff like that but actually that’s the man who wasn’t able to face himself.

FREDRIK Exactly yeah!

PAUL Ultimate challenge.

FREDRIK Yeah!

Numbing the pain of being alive instead of addressing the pain.

PAUL Yeah!

Good, Okay well maybe we can finish off Fredrik. How do you work concretely with business leaders who want to build courage?

And to get in contact with this kind of things, what do you what you know what are the typical problems that you faced and

What can you give us a short overview of a process that you would do?

FREDRIK When you had typical problems I would say you know every company work with values vision and values and some companies do a better job at implementing or making the values come alive inside the organization.

One of the biggest problems I see is that the values are only as valuable as the first leader to dishonor them.

As soon as the leader dishonors the values and gets away with it the whole value platform falls apart.

A lot of companies have courage or something related such as being bold in their values or something related to that and that’s all fine but unless these behaviours are role modelled by the leaders that courage or boldness isn’t going to lead anywhere.

That’s probably the biggest challenge I see, that leaders talk about all these beautiful words but they don’t embody it and they don’t allow mistakes of courage to happen.

They tell you “we value courage” but when somebody fails in a courageous initiative they reprimand them.

When it comes to working with leaders and courage is really about connecting to your authenticity vulnerability, showing up real and having those small acts of courage in your everyday conversations.

It could be as simple as asking your colleague what’s really going on, not accepting the answer “Well, everything’s fine” but you can sense there’s something more and you have the courage to actually open up that conversation. Or it can be bigger scale courage such as pointing out corruption in the organisation.

PAUL Yeah, and knowing how to tackle it with the right amount of firmness and directness but also compassion is a really tricky thing.

As we’re going into the European men’s gathering I am working with a team of 48 crew members, some of them very close to me some of them not so close to me and all of them have their own ideas of how to do stuff right and sometimes they do the exact opposite of what I think and they’ve even made commitments on the organisation’s behalf or promised things that I can’t deliver and stuff like that and then when I you know ask them about it then there’s 101 excuses of the reasons why as well right?

So it’s like how do I hold on to my values and speak the truth and I’m scared that they’re all gonna leave me or you know reject me or be angry or talk badly about me behind my back and it’s gonna be a bad event because it falls like just this tyrant who’s you know telling people what to do and all this kind of stuff as well right so…

FREDRIK I see a lot of that as well and I think the key here is intention. People will not run away if they feel that your intention is pure and I think the way to convey pure intention is often about taking a deconstructive approach. If you’re surprised by somebody’s action going against what you have agreed or your values or some unspoken contract that you thought you had etc, instead of telling them that you shouldn’t have done this, you should have done that, it’s about deconstructing the situation and being curious. “So I understand that you took this action, tell me more what was your thinking that guided you to this decision?” and then be really curious to really learn.

Really try to deconstruct approach to learn what is going on because then you have a chance as a leader to show that you appreciate their thinking process, that you have belief that they’re capable of doing it and at the same time you can then interject with your values and how you like things to be done going forward.

You then have a situation where both the person you talk to and you learn about each other’s thinking process and how things should be done which means that you build a bond and again that goes back to what we had talked about last talk about vulnerability, daring to show up real and saying that you’re a bit lost here and ask: “Tell me what was going on how did you think?”.

PAUL Yeah! Now that sounds really good and just going into that dialogue of trying to understand well what actually happened here if we get down to the nitty-gritty of it and that that’s where we actually meet each other as people where we kind of reveal like this is the way I’m thinking and trying to actually understand as well what are you thinking and.

FREDRIK Yeah! I think that’s a very common mistake when it comes to feedback because feedback is often understood as I have to give you feedback when you are wrong and I am right and the feedback is for me to tell you that you were wrong and tell you how to do it right.

But if you take the approach here with deconstructing the situation instead both of us have an opportunity to learn.

I’m not going into the conversation with an assumption that you’re incompetent or that you just ignore my guidelines. I go in there with the assumption that you are competent and you want to do good, I just haven’t understood what led you to make the decision you did so talk to me. Explain.

PAUL I think it’s also important, just the assumption that well obviously I haven’t explained well enough the task that I wanted you to do for me and so I’m taking on responsibility to understand the way you were thinking and that so that next time I can explain better or convey my message better or whatever it is right?

FREDRIK And I think there’s another possibility here, that you don’t know best how to do it. Maybe you will learn a new way of doing it so it’s not about you learning how to be more clear exactly how you want it to done

It’s is learning if my way actually is the best or can I learn different ways of doing it? And how can I convey or delegate the task in such a spirit that we co-create something that’s better than each one of us could have come up with individually.

PAUL Yeah!

Good, yeah and sometimes the wrong people are in the wrong jobs and there needs to be a clear recognition of that and not wasting that person’s time in having them in a position where they’re not actually able to handle the task as well.

FREDRIK And I think that that’s a good addition because with all this talk about the softness and dialogue and vulnerability all that we have to remember that there are times when you have to be very directive and forceful.

PAUL Yeah!

FREDRIK You know so it’s not either or, you just have to be conscious to develop both tools so you can take both approaches and then experience and wisdom will tell you when to use which tool.

PAUL Yeah!

Good, thank you very much Fredrik!

I think we had a really good talk there about courage and its use in making things happen and showing up as a leader.

I hope that we can add another one to the EMG this year and sad you’re not joining us but thanks a lot and we’ll continue this with our next topic in a couple of weeks I imagine again as well.

FREDRIK Good yeah, good to talk to you!

PAUL Thanks you.

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