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

13784922723_a1e243e6d0_b

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

13778484134_8836a4b55a_b

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?

Taking On the Forgiveness Challenge

Janet Fouts emailed me last week asking for a photo of Soleil for Archbishop Tutu’s #ForgivenessChallenge. Janet said it would be great if I could take on the Challenge, but the photo alone would be enough.

After digging into the details I decided to participate. The contest asks me to post a photo for four weeks with the hashtag #ForgivenessChallenge, each one depicting a forgiveness exercise.

Why do it? See, I struggle with forgiveness, and wrote about it last November. Perhaps this is my greatness struggle. I really have a hard time letting people off the hook when I perceive they have wronged me.

Yet I know by failing to forgive others, I end up punishing and limiting myself more than anything. And it’s painful to carry around garbage. I really do see these things as spiritual garbage weighing myself and others down.

Plus, how can I have my kid be a part of this, and not take the challenge myself? It seems hypocritical to me.

Knowing these things, I have decided to work on forgiveness through the Challenge. I bought Archbishop Tutu’s new book The Book of Forgiving, and intend to read it over the weekend.

We’ll see where the exercises take me. Here are the four tasks and my first entry in case you are interested.

Week 1: Are you ready to forgive?
Hold a printed or hand written sign, create a graphic, take a photo that represents something you feel expresses forgiveness.

13301253843_561b97e44a_k

The Silliness of Forgiveness #forgivenesschallenge: Soleil reminds me that forgiving brings joy back into our hearts.

Week 2: I/we forgive ______
Show us that you forgive. Examples might be a family, a single person, people hugging in the universal gesture of love and forgiveness.

Week 3: Please forgive me for_______
We have all done things we regret. What have you done that you feel you need to be forgiven for? Here’s your chance. Post a photo that expresses your need to be forgiven.

Week 4: Show us how you forgive
We forgive to begin to heal ourselves. How can you show forgiveness in action?

How do you forgive?

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

Saying Goodbye Sucks Sometimes

Sometimes you have to cut ties and say good-bye to people. Relationships change, decisions are made, matters becomes intolerable with no hope for improvement. This can happen in your personal or professional life.

And sometimes it really sucks. It hurts to tell someone that you can’t be around them anymore, especially when you care about the relationship.

I had one of these conversations this week with a relationship that spanned decades, and it was extremely painful.

When It’s Time to Leave

Lisa Gerber wrote an insightful post on this topic a while back. It was a great post. She discussed when people undermine you and don’t live up to their promises that you have to make the break.

I’d add that when someone you know attacks, steals, or just becomes so downright mean to you (or someone you love) over an extended period of time that you may want to sever ties. There may be little choice. At that point it becomes a question of self-respect and welfare.

Sometimes people do things that are so obviously egregious you don’t have to say a thing. Instead you just walk away. It pays to say as little as possible. Volatile situations are never made better by harsh words.

One time, some people I know stole some ideas from me, and then used them. A close friend helped. Shame on me for opening my mouth and trusting these folks. Shame on them for violating that trust. All of them are no longer a part of my life, but perhaps everyone is better for it. Two of them got the ideas, and I learned the loose lips lesson.

In this case, I severed relationships by simply ending communications and social network ties. I could not see investing in the relationships again anytime in the forseeable future.

But when I really care, I communicate. Today, I try to do so in a factual manner, as gently as I can and with love, always focusing on the positive memories. Perhaps I express a little regret.

There have been many times when I let my emotions get the best of me, and expressed anger, but today I do my best to avoid outrage. Expressing as little anger as possible with the offending party leaves the door open.

Reunions and Forgiveness

This week also held a reunion with a prior friend, a business contact that I had a falling out with before I became an entrepreneur. It was good, we talked about it with the pain of yesterday behind us as a distant memory. There was an apology. When you walk away with as little bloodshed as possible, you leave open the chance that such moments can happen.

The reunion reminded me of Ben Affleck’s Argo acceptance speech. In it Affleck said, “You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard but you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.”

As I walked away from this reunion, I left pondering forgiveness and what it means. And I felt a need to embellish in a little gratitude.

More next week about these topics. What do you think about cutting ties?

Image by Vito Santoro.