Saturday, December 25, 2010

Do You Know What (Control) Dramas You Are Starring In?

Control Dramas is a great concept I picked up in my reading of Redfield's "Celestine Prophecy". While it has its detractors, the idea of control dramas has helped me engage in better constructive conflict, at work and elsewhere. Fundamentally, and I paraphrase, control dramas are ways we learn to gain energy (and good feeling, at least temporarily) in our interactions with each other. Redfield identifies four control dramas we engage in:

1. interrogation which manifests as judging
2. aloofness which manifests as being withdrawn and enticing people to draw us out
3. pitifulness (a.k.a. "poor me") which manifests as guilt-inflicting self-pity and even helplessness
4. intimidation which manifests as being threatening.

We know all these dramas in ourselves and others. We know how they are used to be influential, gain control, and to manipulate situations and others. We all have our favorites which work for us. We are skilled at our favorite control dramas' use, and often unconsciously. Those around us know our pet dramas also, for better or worse. Same as we have our favorite dramas, we are susceptible to certain styles which particularly push our buttons, and manipulate us into emotions and actions we regret and are often embittered about.

Control dramas have their usefulness when used consciously from a position of strength, competence and good will. They also do much damage to ourselves and our relationships when used unconsciously, without warning and for selfish ends. We unconsciously engage in these dramas and then wonder about the suboptimal quality of our relationships. Control dramas are not evil in and of themselves. One can use their dramas to be quite effective.

I am prone to interrogation (judging) and have damaged many of the relationships in my life being this way. This is a blind spot for me that I have fortunately gotten feedback on and work to moderate, hard as that is. More and more I work to consciously warn others about my interrogative tendency and ask for their cooperation and patience. I witness that with this communication more, not all of my relationships are better preserved because of the transparency of acknowledging my tendency. Such acknowledgement also puts me on notice to be present, to breathe, and to curb my own drama.

Another drama I can slip into is "poor me", when I am tired, feeling unappreciated and feeling treated unfairly. With mindfulness, I have gotten better at catching myself in this drama and pulling myself out of it. I also have a number of mental, physical and relational practices I use to recuperate from these type dramas. Its hard practice but it improves with practice.

When I practice being interrogative and pitiful, I improve that. When I bring a better intention to my interrogating, converting it to genuine & patient curiosity, and shun pitifulness for a possibilistic, proactive approach to life's uneven treatment of me, I improve that. Its all about what you practice.

May we all become more familiar with our control dramas, the effect they have and master them to serve and love versus self-serve and control. After all, I must master my drama and not let my drama master me, eh? :-)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be "Unclear but Learning", But Not "Confused", Even If You Are.

Words create worlds. The same way that God created the world by His words, we do the same. It is that image of God in us. Taking this to heart, I have lately vowed to eliminate the word "confused" from my vocabulary in favor of "unclear" and "learning". I find the former stressful, disempowering and disheartening, and the latter at worst resilient & hopeful, and at best calming & empowering.

The fact is that I work in, and with, many truly "confusing" scenarios that take a lot of energy, concentration, patience and collaboration to resolve. In these scenarios, I need to conserve every ounce of energy and resource I have to get the outcomes I am shooting for. When I take a stance of being "unclear" or "learning", I create a world that will be cleared up with persistent patience, and that will yield learnings that will have benefit going forward. These words settle me down and refocus me on the task at hand leaving more energy for resolution with less lost on tantrums, woe-is-me-ing, and fretting.

This "unclear but learning" space is very different from a world where I am confused. Some might say this is frivolous wordplay but I challenge you to trade these words in your internal and external talk. You will be more energized and so will those you collaborate with.

Write to tell me about it when it happens to you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Day At TEDxPhilly!!!

Fab day at TEDx Philly! Well worth investment. Excellent speakers and topics! Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, a perfect setting! So inspiring, so emotionally moving, so intellectually challenging, such a great chance to network with kindred souls, ideophiles and world-changers, actual and aspiring!

My favorite speakers ( were:

Chris Lehman talking about schools training for life and citizenship more than just for work. (

Simon Hauger talking about project based education and students who innovate better than corporations and major universities and his desire to

Jay Coen Gilbert talking about B Corps (Beneficial Corporations) as distinct from C or S Corps (

Nic Esposito talking about Urban Farming, Food Security and local Economic Viability (

Stanford Hamilton talking about links between music education and life achievement and moving me to near weeping tears with a live performance of his Philly Youth Orchestra (

Key next steps are:

1. Lobby my local legislator about B-Corporation legislation.

2. Make time to educate underskilled, underemployed people I know about Urban Farming as an educational and economic opportunity

3. Make time to restart my piano lessons to I can be a jazz pianist by 55.

4. Find a way to support project-based education as a sponsor, coach, mentor, etc.

Key takeaways were:

1. You have to remember that you are an artist - Aptowicz. Budget, time, money and energy for this.

2. The world is no place for rest but for effort - Mutter

3. Nothing is denied well directed labor - Mutter

4. Schools should teach how to learn, live and to be citizens, not just how to work. - Lehman

5. Lehman's points: 1) ask questions, 2) seek answers, 3) build real stuff, 4) share and 5) change the world

6. Presently, humans are the most environmentally just and humane we have been in the history of the world (paraphrase) - Nic Esposito

7. We need to move from owning means of production to owning means of existence - Nic Esposito

8. We are moving from 20th century shareholder capitalism to 21st century stakeholder capitalism - JC Gilbert

9. We must harness the power of business for the purpose of civil society - JC Gilbert

10. We must bridge the curiosity gap in children, (and ourselves) - Stanford Thompson

11. You cannot teach critical thinking without critical conditions - Azeem Hill, W. Philly student & X Prize Competitor

12. New term of the day - "data exhaust". We all have it.

13. Our innovation birthright can reverse itself and become someone else's. (paraphrased) - Evan Malone

14. Hackerspace is the recreation of the future. - Evan Malone

It was certainly a productive day indeed! And one more bucket list item is marked off. :-D

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Wrestling with Angels To Get Our Blessings, New Names (& Limps)

Most of my life one of my favorite stories have been that of Jacob's wrestling match with the Angel (from the Christian Bible). For those unfamiliar, the long story short is that Jacob was up one night preparing to save his family from his brother, Esau, who he believed was going to kill him. After his preparations were done, and while Jacob was alone, a man, some say an Angel, others God Himself, picked a fight with him. They fought all night and we know Jacob gave Him a run for His money because He could not get out of a hold Jacob had him in, even after knocking Jacob's hip out of joint. The ensuing negotiation, where Jacob stated famously, "I will not let you go until you bless me" resulted in Jacob getting a new name (Israel, because he successfuly overcame his struggles with man and God), a blessing, and a limp from that dislocated hip.

The connection between this story and my own life hit me like a bolt of lightning this morning during my devotions as I pondered how well am I wrestling with Angels in my life?. Isn't life, work and family, a continuous wrestle with man (and yes, God, though we often do not see it that way) to gain a blessing, spiritual and otherwise? The problem is that we too often do not see it that way.

How often, when attacked like Jacob, do we not wrestle well and hold on to the situation until we get the blessing the situation holds for us? How often do we let opportunity go in our impatience and impersistence, and by doing so lose our blessing and our new name?

We have all sorts of wounds and limps from these wrestling matches but do we have have the blessings which should go along with those limps? Do we have the blessing but simply have not acknowledged it? Hmmm.

Take stock (with pride, though not hubris) of the limps and the blessings you have received in your wrestles with man and God in the context of your work. Take this story and its lessons into those present and future situations where you will have to wrestle with Angels and make sure you hold on until you receive your blessing, your new name, and yes, your new limp.

Wrestle well with your Angels today!!!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Since Work is Long, also Make it Meaningful!

So it would seem that our work hours are not going to get any shorter either at work or elsewhere. Some would say, taking a longer historic perspective, that they are in fact shorter than they used to be. That's not making us feel better though. Let's face it, life is work.

So since we cannot shorten our work hours, I submit we should focus on transforming the quality of the work we do in those hours. This is in our control even if the other is not. We have so many opportunities to do this every moment. We can do it in the attention to detail and the crafts(person)ship we bring to our tasks, in the compassion and empathy we bring to our work relationships, in the the celebration of good result, and the gathering of learnings from unexpected results. The point is that with proper attention, compassion, empathy, celebration and learning, we can significantly raise the quality of our many work ours. Since this is our life (literally), why not live as high quality a work life as possible. This does not come natural but can be learned with patient, persistent practice, and to our benefit and all those around us.

Bring this greater quality to our long work hours requires:

1. slowing down our attention, if not our pace

2. being passionately detached and you can read more about this at my blog post on this topic

3. being deliberate in "starting with the end in mind" and being mindful to celebrate when that end is reached

4. valuing effectiveness in our work at least as much as efficiency.

As you take these steps, take time to reflect on the meaning your work is making in terms of your ability to:

1. provide and model for your family

2. improve the lives and wellbeing of your customers

3. develop your own character, reputation and skills.

Good "quality & meaning making" to you!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Yammer: Twitter Inside the Enterprise

For the last year I have found the Twitter-like tool, Yammer, a productive tool in my work at Novo Nordisk. Yammer is used for private communication within organizations or between organizational members and pre-designated groups. Anyone with a company email address can join the Yammer network for that respective company. I recommend this video to get familiar with Yammer.

In ways, I did not initially intuit, Yammer has benefited my work. It is not just a pasttime but a results driving tool. Here are a few examples which I hope you can also realize in your own work.

1. Meeting fellow employees with common interests. I have met more fellow employees with common interests via Yammer in a year than I could have met otherwise. We have thousands of users in my company though the 1/9/90 rule is at work as usual, where 1% originate posts, 9% comment on posts and 90% just watch. This is not a problem just a reality.

2. Researching relevant topics and projects throughout the organization. I have had several situations where I have found out about relevant projects going on in other parts of my organization via a Yammer post, or I have posted my interest in a certain type of project or resource only to have someone read it and answer. Yammer has saved me time and ignorance in these instances.

3. Locating & sharing organizational expertise. By posting requests for certain types of expertise, I have also gotten good answers and connections via Yammer. Additionally, I have been able to lend my own expertise to fellow employees both actively and passively via my posts which tend to focus on social media, Health2.0, storytelling and CRM.

As you can see, Yammer is not a waste of time but can be used to enhance your performance at work. I encourage you to join Yammer at your respective company and to benefit from as well as contribute in all the ways I have described above.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Passionate Detachment: A Paradox Worth Practicing

This paradoxical idea of “passionate detachment” was introduced to me years ago in my readings of Carlson’s “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”. I call it paradoxical because I had been raised to understand that being passionate required being overwrought and stressed out as a sign of caring. I am so glad to be rescued from this approach. With time and consistent practice at cultivating this approach, I have learned to be driven with less (dis)stress, and to be committed without being bound or feeling put upon.

In a nutshell, passionate detachment is an approach to life, indeed work, which focuses on “right execution” of the process more than the outcome. One learns to enjoy the journey confident that the journey, pursued with the right spirit, will get us to the right destination, even when that destination is different than what we had originally envisioned at the outset.

I find that in this “state of grace”, I have more energy for coming up with creative solutions as less of it is tied up in negative emotions and speculations. I find that even when I do not get the outcome I envisioned (which is never guaranteed), I am more aware of the learnings the experience yields and I can take solace in a process well executed. Either outcome, these learnings make for continuous improvement and self-development, less of a negative emotional, psychological and relational toll on myself and those I lead.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Price is Not Too High, The Value is Too Low: Part 2

Recently I have been reviewing this post I wrote in September 2009 as I am working on 2011 business plans where I work, and wanted to further elaborate on this topic, at the encouragement of my boss. :-)

In these austere times, "no price too high, but value too low" this mantra is all the more critical as everyone is crying "low and lower price" while not really asking enough about "what is the value?". This lack of asking makes it all the more critical that we who are seeking funding & resources be better than ever at articulating the value we will deliver. I had a great discussion with my boss about this matter and he challenged me about a few things that stick with me:

1. Lead with the deliverables, not the resource request. So often we are preoccupied with what we need to get a job done (the resources) and neglect to clearly define and articulate the outcome we will create (the deliverables). We fail to understand that the investor is most interested in the outcome. For success, we have to learn to think as much like the investor as like the performer who converts resources into outcomes. As we transform our thinking in this way we will improve our proposals with better linkages between deliverables and resources, and as a result, improve the "hit" rate on our requests, whether it be for budgets, jobs, relationships, etc..

2. Focus on value-added activities & drop the non-value-added "busywork". So often we get caught up in the "urgent and efficient" elements of our to-do lists to the neglect of the "important and effective" elements of the same lists. In reflecting on this admonishment, I have to remember the 80/20 rule; that 20 percent of our effort gets us 80 percent of our outcome. Where we invest effort has a lot to do with the outcome we get, for better and or worse. If we are neglecting the investment of that 20 percent in important and effective effort, our outcomes will suffer. Another element of this dilemma is that those things that are most important and effective, are also most challenging to us and thus invite procrastination (see my earlier post on this topic). This tendency toward the urgent & efficient, and avoidance of the challenging is something to watch and to be disciplined against in order to deliver the value that warrants the higher price we all like to charge.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Laying Bricks or Building Cathedrals: Which are you doing at work?

One of my favorite parables is that of the brick layer and the cathedral builder. Its a popular tale told in many places. In summary, it relates the tale of man who when walking past a construction site asked the builders what they were doing. One said, he was laying bricks, a second said he was feeding his family and a third said he was building a cathedral to the glory of God.

What is poignant about this story is the different attitudes that each builder brought to the same task. This difference in attitude is one we see everyday, and which we hopefully check on and struggle with regularly. In our work, we all are laying bricks (of sorts) but do we only see our work as laying bricks, or only as providing for our families, or do we see it as something larger which is achieving an important end for the glory of God and the good of the society? If not, we should search and embrace that deeper meaning and purpose that is available in any work if we search it out and embrace it.

On my toughest and most frustrating days at work, I find that reconnecting to the cathedrals I am building, restores and encourages me to recuperate and recommit. I further find that as I am now firmly in the second half of my life, and everyday reminds me of my inevitable end, it is all the more critical that I spend my life energy on cathedrals and not brick walls. To this end, I inventory my activities frequently and seek to shed those which are only brick walls (to me) so that I can put more of my energy into those cathedrals I want to leave the world with.

May we all take time today, and frequently in the future, to identify the cathedrals we are building in our work, and to avoid those endeavors that are only brick walls.

Blessed building. :-)