Let Go

The hardest part of business and life for me has been learning to let go. Specifically, letting both the small AND the big things that seem like must solve issues fade away.

Sometimes not doing anything does more to heal a situation than over-reacting or demanding a resolution. You just have to drop the rock.

Letting go may be more of a selfish act than one would think. It is an act of forgiveness — or a decision to not become the judge and juror — and to let people off the the hook. In forgiving we free ourselves to work on and experience what matters, the people and projects in front of us.

Of course, the alternative is walking around holding grudges and/or worrying. It’s the equivelant of renting space in your head to things you can’t control. This type of mental energy is really unproductive, and something that I think impedes one’s ability to become successful.

Letting Go In Action

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Last week I won Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s Instagram forgiveness challenge, which means I will have a private conversation with the storied Archbishop and daughter via Skype. I am sure one of the questions will be how does one practice this live and let live attitude on an everyday basis, from traffic jams to highway robbery.

Bigger offenses are harder for me than small things. During the Instagram challenge I found myself practicing the principles of forgiveness and letting go of three distinct situations of theft. Two were professional, and the third situation was my grandmother’s estate. To be clear, the Tutus recommend reconciliation whenever possible; however they do recognize that sometimes you just let grievances and relationships go, and wish people well (The formal Forgiveness Challenge begins next week, if you are interested).

Prior to the challenge, in one of the professional situations I enforced and successfully protected my rights through threat of legal action. In the other two cases, I simply ended up cutting ties. But I never achieved peace of mind, and continued to experience resentment.

As part of the challenge, I wrote out my grievances, and then tried to look at it from the other persons’ perspectives. While I may not agree with their actions, I could see they were simply acting in self interest, rationalized and justified. No one thinks they are actually doing wrong, usually.

This is important. If someone doesn’t think they have done wrong, they won’t apologize or rectify a situation. See most people hold grudges because they are waiting for the other party to acknowledge and correct a wrong. The expectation of an amends is likely to remain unfulfilled, creating an ongoing pattern of negative resentment. The offended party becomes a prisoner of their own angst.

Judge My Own Actions

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The low probability of receiving an amends makes it critical to let go of small and big issues alike. Letting go frees the offended party. In the case of the three acts, I was able to see why these people acted, and I decided to let them off the hook. That doesn’t mean I endorse these parties actions, nor would I be surprised if there was repercussions later on.

That being said, by letting matters go and mentally wishing individuals well with their ongoing lives and careers, I was able to free myself of resentment. I could focus on what mattered; the people and opportunities in my life today.

The Tutu Forgiveness Challenge taught me that justice and forgiveness are separate. Justice is not mine to seek in 99.9% of situations, except in the truly criminal context. Perhaps other people are better able to deal with the anger that comes from a true wrong. Me? I need to work through the anger, let go, and focus on the good things I can impact.

It may seem trite, but I think moving on is an essential part of success in business and in one’s personal matters. When I hold on to anger, it drains me and stops me from building things, and loving the people in my life.

A recent Lifehack article highlighted 15 things confident people don’t do. Number five was don’t obsess over the opinions of others, and six was they don’t judge others. Eight was they don’t make comparisons.

Look, the article had no methodology to it, but I think it’s points were spot on. I should judge my own actions and hold myself to standards, not others. Understanding this principle helped me let go of problems beyond my control, and forgive others. It is an amazing and freeing experience.

What do you think?

Wipe the Ledger Clean to Forgive

Forgiving others may be one of the hardest things to do, but it’s equally important. By forgiving, we are forgiven.

The act of forgiveness is often about clearing resentments from the past, perceived and real. That means wiping the ledger, and offering people a second chance. Specifically, give folks a clean slate to live without judgement.

Everyone is human and makes mistakes varying in degrees of sillyness, selfishness, and incompetence. Find me a perfect person, and I’ll find you a liar. When it comes to doing the right thing, we all live in glass houses to some extent.

Judging others and pointing fingers is a very dangerous game. Inevitably, people who spend their time judging others have their own flaws. That includes me.

My friend David likes to remind me that if I want to be forgiven for some of my errors, I need to do the same and let others off the hook. I have to accept people for the good and the bad.

Friday’s post about walking away from relationships generated some great comments. In one response, I stated a willingness to give anyone a chance, and then if I am disappointed or if someone does something crazy, I weigh the positives and the negatives. I am responsible for the outcome of the second chance or misnomer because I made a conscious decision to accept them for who they are, good and bad. No one is perfect, right?

If there is anything nine years of marriage has taught me, it’s to let people off the hook. If I keep score and hold grudges in my relationships, they will always be tenuous.

Forgive, But Don’t Forget

There are some mistakes that cannot and should not be forgotten. For example, it’s hard to overcome criminal acts such as violence and stealing works from people. These are obvious moments that should serve as a warning about second chances.

At the same time, some people do change. There are times when we extend a hand, and try to help someone overcome a terrible burden. But only a fool would do so blindly.

More often than not we’re really dealing with minor wrongs, too. For example, consider the person who undermines their fellows consistently. I might accept them for who they are, and let them off the hook. That doesn’t mean I’m going to volunteer to get shown up again. Far from it, I will wish them well, but avoid teaming with them.

Live and Let Live

There is a big difference between stewing on a resentment, wanting a fair deal, etc., and walking away and wishing someone well. To live and let live, I need to forgive. And then move on, and wish the other person well on their path.

I knew someone several years ago who just trashed me left and right. The trash talking was quite damaging, and I was really angry. At the first opportunity to do so, I cut all ties (which of course produced more trash talking). It has been several years, and I still wish to have no contact with this person. Nothing that I have seen from afar indicates that a new chapter in the relationship would produce a different result.

At the same time, I recently heard that x was expecting a child, their first one. I know the joy of parenthood, and was really quite happy for x. I felt a sense of joy and wished x well in mind and spirit.

Then I went back home, played with Soleil, and wrote another chapter for my next novel.

Live and let live means truly wishing others well, and dropping the rock. This is compassion. They have their path, I have mine, and neither needs to be defined as right or wrong. It just is, and that’s the joy of being human.

Forgiveness finds a basis in accepting others AND ourselves. I can only improve myself, and choose to love those in my life, both the good and the bad. It’s much better to be happy that others have a chance to live life to its fullest, and improve if they want to.

What do you think about forgiveness?

Image by Murrayh77

Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination!

My former colleague Andrea Weckerle is organizing a fundraiser to build a Civilination Academy for Online Conflict Management. She asked me to help, given my past history, and of course I am delighted, so welcome to the second Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination!

I have struggled with civility since I started blogging in 2006, and began openly discussing the matter over the past two years. For the most part I have overcome my mouth, though there is always progress to be made.

I don’t want to preach. So the above video tells you why I made the moves, mostly out of a desire to become a better man, but also a result of consequences.

Below I explain why I am supporting Andrea’s cause and think you should, too. And last but not least are the incentives, a $1000 match, and the yet to be mentioned punishment for reaching my goal of $5000.

Why an Academy?

A lot of people think civility means the nice police, and I have said as much in the past. However, I now realize this is not at all true,. It’s more of a rationalization that I used to justify hard shots.

Civility, just like civilization, is derived from the Latin word, civilis, which means of or pertaining to citizens or public life. While civil conversations are polite, it is because they are for public consumption in larger communities.

In my mind, discourse of opinion should be waged without assassinating character. Frankly, rough characters assassinate their own reputations well enough without the help of name calling and vigilante muckraking. A skilled communicator should be able to make a point without a Howard Stern shock jock style.

It took me a couple of years, but I learned how to levy points without calling out names or smearing wholesale belief systems. I wage public discourse using pause mechanisms when I am angry, by thinking through points on a greater level, exiting conversations that become too toxic, and frankly by insisting on additional editing to work through harsh points.

The Civilination Academy is intended to be a resource for everyone online, everyday Internet people, family, friends, business executives, experienced professional communicators, as well as social media and online community managers who are often at the forefront of managing online disputes. Civilination wants to build a library to help people learn how to handle the various misunderstandings, clashes, and reputational hits that occur online. God knows all of us who work online deal with these situations regularly.

I love this idea, and wish such a resource had been available to me when I made my decision to become more mindful in my speech.

OK, What’s the Punishment?

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When I first came up with Punish Geoff, it was a sideways acknowledgement of my civility issues. Today it’s to champion mindfulness, and I am quite happy about that.

During the original fundraiser, I ended up dressing in drag as a punishment. And after asking my Facebook community, it seems folks wanted a redux, not just for a 30 minute hangout, but for a full day.

Well, a full day in drag and endless photos published on the Internet that I will never be able to live down is going to cost you. If we raise $5,000 in your donations by the end of the week, I will go to work a full day in drag. Yeah.

In addition, I will personally match the first $1000 in donations. Finally, anyone who donates $100 and emails me the receipt to geoffliving [at] geofflivingston [dot] com will get an autographed copy of my first novel Exodus as soon as they ship. These incentives are in addition to Andrea’s rewards for various donations. That same $100 will get you a second autographed copy of her book, Civility in the Digital Age.

So what are you waiting for? Donate now and PUNISH ME!

Slights and Chalkboards

Image by rebekaburgess

A colleague has been struggling with some negative talk on the back channel and asked me how I deal with it. When someone slights me, I use that resentment to drive me further, finish hard projects, go the extra mile, and get up when I fail.

This is the famous chalkboard moment. Sports teams often use slights and trash talk to go out and hand it to the opposition.

Michael Jordan admitted a similar fueling approach when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Jordan was criticized (justly), probably because he said he did it to prove all of his critics wrong. He also revealed several resentments toward players that were in attendance.

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The Murky Nature of Internet Vigilantes

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Image by Frank Tellez

Freedom allows many things, good and bad. The rationalization of justified Internet vigilantes arguably falls in both camps, depending on your perspective.

We love the archetype of the vigilante, the person who goes out and meters justice when authorities fail to do so. In a romantic sense, it makes sense. Consider our pop culture heros; Batman, Iron Man, Jack Reacher (in spite of Tom Cruise), Clint Eastwood’s many tough guy characters, and on and on. We worship their ability to right wrong in the spite of flawed protection mechanisms.

Thanks to the Internet, practicing vigilantism has never been easier. Social media empowers anyone to speak out for justice, and successful acts are met with attention and notoriety.

That’s unfortunate. Vigilantism (or “digilantism” online) is dangerous because the actor may not be well grounded in their ideas of right or wrong.

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Cherry Blossoms for Tolerance

Last week we talked about antisemitism, hate and intolerance, and this week Boston suffered a brutal terrorist attack, an act of hate. Then we witnessed the fallout online with the autotweet debates, which took some pretty uncivil turns. Today, let’s focus on beauty and positive action.

Every year I make the journey down to the tidal basin to visually record the brief yet stunning presence of the cherry tree blossoms. These are some of my more popular photos when I share them, usually marking the arrival of Spring

This year not one, but two of my photos are featured in Yahoo’s 2013 Cherry Blossoms Galore photo set. You can see all of my 2013 shots here.

Today, you will find a collection of 10 of my cherry blossom photos from the past five years as curated by Jess Ostroff. Please enjoy their simple beauty.

If you want to go further and take action against hate, I’ve installed the Cafepress PressIt plugin, which allows you to scroll over any of these images, click on the “PressIt” button, and buy something with your preferred cherry blossom image. I receive 10% of the sale, and will donate all of my proceeds to the Anti-Defamation League, which per my antisemitism post, is a cause that fights racial intolerance, and was started by my great grand uncle Sigmund Livingston. To further incentivize you to make a purchase for tolerance today, I will match up to $1000 in proceeds.
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