Show up whenever possible. (Part 1)
Ask to speak with senior leaders; chances are they will see you. (Part 2)
Advocate for yourself and others.(Part 3)
Speak to the heart and mind. (Part 4)
Have faith and courage. (You are here… Part 5)
“It is better to believe than to disbelieve, in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.”
How does having faith and courage have anything to do with working out loud?
Faith is belief and trust without evidence, but with confidence. I have to tell you this is one of the hardest things to write about as I am conflicted in some ways about sharing my thoughts on this subject. I recognize that the shared view or common world view is complicated by my own personal view. I think the single most difficult challenge in my life is dealing with my own multiplicity. I know that I am my own worst enemy at times. Faith itself is complicated, but the activity of “having faith” is in some ways simple. When I think of faith, I feel as if I don’t have to own the troubles and burden associated with all of the possibilities. I can give those burdens to something or someone else. When I work out loud, I have faith that others are listening. What is also interesting is working out loud forces me to see myself from more than one perspective and causes me to reflect about myself. It is practically impossible to know yourself; it takes hard work, discovery, and courage. These concepts are further complicated by the nature of our humanity.
The Brain and Faith
If you think about how our brain works, we are all great organic computers. Our central processing unit takes input from multiple sensors and pulls it all together in multiple subsystems of computation to create a representation of the world.
In other words, we truly do see the world only in the way our bodies represent it. David Eaglemen has said, “The brain constructs our multi-sensory reality from within the darkness of the skull.”
This can quickly become important to consider when thinking about how we interact with others. Our frame and our perspective are of our own creation. Often times we are certain that we know something, but we only know our understanding of this “something.” It seems to me that we are both enlightened by knowledge and victims of it. If we are meant to believe what we see and hear, we can become governed or bound by it. This understanding fundamentally leads me to think about “faith.” Everything in this world is evident only by the past and our expectation of the future. I expect to live to see another day, but I don’t know that I will. I just believe it.
The point of all of this is that I simply don’t really know the future. I only have faith that my future will be somewhat consistent with my past. This is complicated by the reality of unpredicted events. Just because I don’t know something or believe something doesn’t make my perception true, but it also doesn’t make it false. That is why I have faith in the possibilities.
The fact is that you or I don’t know what the future holds, but without faith there is no hope for the future. As a leader, I have always started with the understanding that tomorrow is a gift and not a promise. I know that tomorrow is a gift, but I have faith in tomorrow and I choose to be a part of the shaping of tomorrow. Working out loud and engaging others informs me of their perspectives. It also informs others of my perspective. It gives them the historical record for which to reflect but it also gives us all hope for the future. The past is an indicator not a predictor but with faith our future could be what we help make it to be.
Courage: And WOL
Arden known as “Spook” was sick for a long time. I remember when I first met him, he had retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant and he was working as a supervisor for a small internet company. He was an intel specialist and he was an expert in photography. He was an outspoken atheist and he believed in living for the moment. I was scraping by at the time and had a hard time making ends meet. The past few years were a difficult time in my life and for the most part I was alone. It wasn’t long before he reluctantly decided to take me under his wing. He was an orphan and believed himself that family is created not something you are necessarily born into. His first family as I understand was the Marines and everything was second to that. When he retired, he took to his second love which was nature and wildlife. Spook spent a lot of time talking about honor and courage. He said that it takes courage to love and that to find courage, you have to believe in something. He told me that living takes courage and that to live you have to be true to who you are as you start to figure that out. In the beginning of our relationship, I was working for him; he was my boss and he had clear expectations. He would challenge me to explain everything I was doing and speak or work in a way that he could understand. He was a technical supervisor, but not really a technical person. He also didn’t have a high tolerance for BS. There was no such thing in terms of “working out loud” there was just this guy larger than life, packing heat (he carried a 45) who demanded clarity of thought. He wanted honesty even in the face of fear and backlash. I didn’t stay with the internet company past a few years, but Spook was in my life for the remainder of his life. The rest of this post is in great part to what he taught me about courage. When you see that someone is doing something wrong, speak up. We have responsibility to this world today and tomorrow, but today first. If you see something, say something as silence is a crime. You don’t have to explain everything you do all the time but you should do your best to speak to others in a way they can understand and you should take that as a personal responsibility. Everyday, you should have courage to do the right thing. If it feels wrong, its wrong. Don’t just say it, live it, if not I will shoot you. He would actually say that. More than anything he said that to be tough and to be strong is to love and to stand for love and it’s not easy. He said, “Nothing is easy Howie. Face it , it is hard, but I believe in you and I know you can do whatever you set your mind to.” I don’t know if you want to call it “living out loud” but that is what he did. At work and at home, he just did things and then he would tell everyone and share it. He wasn’t a saint and he would haunt me if I said he was. He was a man of conviction and courage.
By the time I got to the hospital he was pretty weak. My wife and I were standing near him by the bed, he looked over at her and said, “I don’t have long to live, take care of him.” I asked him if he was afraid of dying, he felt he was so close to death and he was in so much pain. He said, “I am going to die, so are you, what are you going to do with the rest of your life Howie?” You know, I don’t want to disappoint him. We get so wrapped up in all the crazy nonsense in our lives and we forget the basic things. He was a man who lived a relatively simple life, he was tough and he was hardened by war and by death. I don’t know what you would call his faith in people, as he did have faith in some. It seems more that he decided that everyday was the only day and that he was going to live like that even with his pain. He didn’t look for the good in all things, but he pushed people to strive towards good. I struggled with this post more than any other because when I think of courage, I am automatically taken to Spook and to my father-in-law, OB, who also was a Marine and was very similar in a lot of ways. I don’t know if courage is taught or the Marine Corps just pulls it out of those who have the potential, but it seems to me that every day we have a choice to be better and that even when we are at work, we are still people. We should still love and have the courage to do good things. We shouldn’t think of our lives as split or separate from work or home, but rather recognize that we are always people and that we have a responsibility to each other. Further, that we have courage to speak out and be a voice but also may be the hardest, have the courage to listen and face what others tell us. If we are always successful, we are doing something wrong. I attribute a great part of my drive to honoring both Spook and OB because I know I will die as well and I want to have the courage to face life and death with the strength to be heard and be strong, but also with the strength to listen and serve.
Working Out Loud: Summary
I hope that in some way, this Working Out Loud series was helpful to you. It isn’t easy to sit down on a Sunday morning with my kids throwing Cheerios and swinging from the rafters to write, but I think it is important to do. I have had the benefit of learning from many people along the way, and I feel responsible to share these lessons. If you have any questions of comments, please post them or send me a note.