Any real vegetarian would laugh at the concept of no meat only five days a week. Still, it’s a practice I have lived by since last April. Consider it a healthier lifestyle to reduce my carbon footprint.
Why do such a funny thing? Well, I have three primary reasons.
It’s a strange world we live in online. Delusions of grandeur call, singing like that sweet Siren in the midst of the sea. To win, we must appear like we are Doing Important Things, but in the end we find our lives dashed on the rocks.
I’m speaking about the competitive rat race to see who can get the most social media rock star badges; keynotes, books, followings, awards, blog mentions, yeah!
I have to admit, I got caught up in this hooplah again during the past year. Then I looked at my real life (the one I physically walk around in), and my toddler clinging to my pants leg crying every time I moved to the door, afraid that she wouldn’t see me again for days.
Well, when that happens it’s time to reevaluate what matters.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”
One of the concepts in Zen Buddhist philosophy is the idea of the “beginner’s mind.” This is the idea that people should approach a subject with excitement, an open mind, and no preconceptions, regardless of how much knowledge they have gained about a subject.
When someone gains experience and a certain comfort level with that expertise, they might run into the “expert trap.” Starting to think of themselves as “experts,” or “guru-ninja-superjedi-badasses.” Experience is a wonderful thing to have, and is necessary in both personal and professional growth. When it becomes closed-minded, there is the risk of prejudging a situation. When this happens, people can miss potential solutions that don’t immediately present themselves, or don’t match what their expertise tells them.
In an Internet age where everyone is considered an expert in something, how do you resist falling into this trap?
Mindfully look for opportunities to move out of your comfort zone, by trying something new (whether it’s a new strategy at work or a new hobby at home). Try to recapture what it’s like when you experienced something new, and keep that feeling with you when you start to fall into the “expert trap.”
Don’t stop asking “why can’t we do …?”
Failure will happen from time to time. Respect and remember the lessons you learn from it.
Don’t get bogged down by the tools. They are only important for helping you achieve your (or your organization’s) goals.
For a communicator, with the added benefit of the plethora of “social media” tools (from video to audio, and blogging to Facebook, livecasting and beyond), the toys for this childlike creativity have never been greater. The chances to mix and mash a unique way of telling your organization’s stories has never been easier (Don’t let the ease of these various tools take away from the primary goals of your project. What’s your ROI? How do you measure success?).
By keeping your options open, you are allowing yourself to best respond to the circumstances around you, instead of assuming you know how those circumstances will progress, or that you can bend outside forces to your will. When these feelings start to emerge, please take a moment to reflect on “The Cup of Tea”:
One day a university professor visited a Japanese Buddhist Master to ask him about Zen. The master served tea to his guest. When the professor’s cup was full, the master kept pouring, spilling tea out of the cup and onto the table.
“Stop! The cup is full!” the professor said. “No more tea will go in.”
The master paused and looked at the professor.
“Like this cup,” the master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
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Benson Hendrix is an Albuquerque-based public relations professional and perpetual student. When not pondering technology, public relations, social media, higher education and other topics at www.bensonhendrix.com, Hendrix can be found writing about rugby at www.rugbysupersite.com.
While in France, I had the opportunity to meet and have a brief conversation with zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (nicknamed Thay by his sangha). After telling him about my hopes of affecting change and awareness with the environment and to a larger extent Zoetica, Thay said to me, “You must be part warrior, part artist, and part yogi.” Then he simply smiled at me.
Of course, like any novice, my unvoiced mental response to such a statement was, “Huh?”
But I think over the past weekend I finally understood the full impact of Thay’s words. The launch of Zoetica really drove it home.
Warrior: I got this part right off the bat. This is easy for me. Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a fighter. I get up no matter how hard life throws punches, and I know how to win.
Starting a company is an absolute war, even one with Zoetica’s mission of “providing superior communication consulting, training, and strategy to help mindful organizations affect social change.” You are pushing a big boulder up a massive mountain for years, literally. Last week we had a great start, and I am proud of our accomplishments, but it was just the beginning of what will be a very long journey, and I felt it by Friday (as I do this week, too!).
Going to “war” — even for good outcomes — drains your soul. Further, so many fighters for peace are unpeaceful inside. And what does that really mean? How can we give away what we don’t have? That’s where Thay’s other two suggestions come into play.
Artist: Art represents a human’s capture of that in life that fascinates their soul. In essence, art expresses a person’s interpretation of the beauty, in the moment. When we express beauty in life, we come to appreciate the joy of living, and that my friends is invaluable.
In that sense, to be balanced as an entrepreneur or someone trying to affect change, we cannot be all warrior. For then there will be no beauty and we become the fight itself: Anger, misery, outrage, and yes, hate. At that point, one must ask one’s self what they are fighting for? Is it to relieve the world of an ill, or to revisit a seed of the negative past and indirectly, replenish the seed transmitting its angst into others?
About 18 months ago, I engaged in painting and then photography in full. Also, at least one or two posts a week tends to be a creative experience. Beauty through art channels my soul back to the spiritual core of life, and reminds me why I am here, what I hope to achieve.
Yogi: OK, I think it’s important to define this word because there are many western misconceptions of it. A yogi practices yoga, which simply means, “any of the methods or disciplines prescribed, especially a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control of the body and mind, tranquillity, etc.”
I simply take this to mean one must engage in whatever spiritual activity it takes to become peaceful and loving in mind. Prayer, meditation, walking in nature, exercise, and even taking and editing photos. Whatever it takes to calm my mind.
The yogi part was the light bulb for me this weekend. Four years ago when I started Livingston Communications I fought and fought and fought until I dropped. Then when I recovered, I fought some more. This type of slog is the prescribed state of the American entrepreneur. Everything became about the company, and I had no balance in my life. It also made me pretty miserable after a while.
But to achieve my hopes with the environment, and on a larger scale our dreams with Zoetica, such behavior will not do. There must be balance. To help the world, to achieve the kind of result where we are truly benefitting others, I truly believe I must be a warrior for the beauty I appreciate in life everyday, and I must do so with peace in my heart and mind. For I cannot give away what I do not possess.
Warrior, Artist and Yogi really seems to be a prescription for spiritual balance. In that spirit, I spent much of last weekend practicing, and also editing photos. And hopefully as a result, my efforts this week yielded more peace with the effect of more positive change. Thanks, Thay.
Bodhisattva: Term for the historical Buddha Gautama prior to his enlightenment as well as for other individuals destined to become buddhas. In Mahayana Buddhism the bodhisattva postpones attainment of nirvana in order to alleviate the suffering of others. The number of bodhisattvas is theoretically limitless, and the title has been applied to great scholars, teachers, and Buddhist kings.
Why? Because Beth has made a tremendous impression on me over the past two years! I have been blessed to work on some coolprojectswithher. She has been a great teacher, friend and source of inspiration. I am grateful for each of our interactions, and often find myself contemplating her suggestions for a day or two afterwards.
Beth reminds me of a Bodhisattva, an enlightened one who dedicates their time teaching others the path. She teaches, trains, blogs, and constantly gives information to people who can use it for societal change everyday. Her endless excitement about both communications and nonprofits continues to astound me. And it’s contagious, too.
Unlike many of her other contemporaries similar in influence, Beth really embodies what The Cluetrain Manifesto Co-Author Doc Searls meant by the Generous Web. She gives for the sake of doing the right thing, and accepts whatever comes back as gravy. We could all stand to be a little more like Beth.
Happy birthday, Beth. You truly are one of the great ones.
Which brings to mind the old cliché, “Rules are made to be broken.”
Proper methodology be damned. Really, what matters? Be true to yourself. An authentic, genuine and valuable presence will ring through the clutter of proper tweets following so called rules. Noise is noise. Authentic conversation and real personality always seem to stand out in my feed.
To me, showing full-on presence and transparency to the point of the great soap debate (bar or shower gel?) seems ludicrous. I know no one cares about a routine dentist’s appointment, yet another visit to the gym, or the choice between petunias or roses (unless you’re a florist or known gardener). And frankly, beyond TMI, it’s boring for you, too.
After three years on Twitter, I know what works for me, and that’s what I do. For me, it’s better to show up early when I am fresh and rested. It’s public, so it’s often (but not always) a work thing. My goal: To provide valuable information and links, and converse with those who want to engage with me. And yes, I show some personal stuff, but to a reasonable point… For me. Your level of reason and comfort will surely be different than mine.
Don’t let your comfort level, goals and presence on Twitter (and other social networks) find their basis in someone else’s values. They should be defined by that most important person – You (or your organization). That’s who I want to talk with. Tweet to your own drummer.