RANDOM MUSINGS 006: DISCOURSE

I enjoy conversation. I enjoy hearing others point of view. I enjoy the discourse found when two or more people can explore, connect and discover how the nuances of varying ideals and real life experience help them form their thoughts and beliefs. Not everyone feels exactly the same about most things, and the ability to have collaborative and friendly discourse is important. I fear we have lost that ability in todays culture.

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I posted on facebook once that I was less interested in being right than I was about being able to understand. And I still feel that way. I have a very loose view of right and wrong. Outside of the Non Aggression Principle, essentially a ‘do no harm’ attitude, or the Buddhist Eightfold Path, I don’t feel like it is my place to judge what or how others choose to live, or what they choose to believe. And yet, I am fascinated by how they came to the conclusions they did and what informed those determinations for them. Couple that with my natural desire to learn (learner is one of my top 5 Clifton Strengths) and you can see why I love to engage in deeper conversation. I know many people don’t appreciate it hough and that many will run, not walk, from anything that challenges them or creates what so often turns into an argument. I’d like to explore why I think that you may want to shift your ideals around that.

HOW WE LEARN

When you reflect back on the things you know, and if we are honest we say we know a lot more than we actually do, think about how you learned it. Was it something you learned as a truth from an authority figure? A parent, a pastor a trusted family member? Was it directly taught to you or was it a concept held within the environment, or culture, you were brought up in. And therefore something assumed? Have you ever challenged the thoughts or beliefs you have, or, because it was an authority figure you took it at face value and then, when the inclination to challenge, or trust but verify arose, you were too insecure to do so for fear of what that may mean about what you learned early on and the person who taught it to you. Have you, as you grew older and experienced more life, shifted or changed views about a core principle? How did that go for you and the relationship with you and the person or persons who instilled that belief into you? Or do you have a situation you haven’t faced yet because you don’t know what the outcome will be?

If we remove the emotion from the beliefs we hold and the story about what happens as we evolve then we are more open to being open; that is to changing our beliefs or expanding our understanding of the how and why others may feel otherwise. We begin to have more compassion for others ideas and we become less concerned about being right and more concerned about being understanding.

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UNDERSTANDING

One of the things I find most interesting about people’s aversion to open and honest discourse is this myth that friends, or family for that matter, can’t hold opposing viewpoints and still be cordial. Understanding does not mean acceptance. It simply means you have a broader frame of reference for where and why an individual may think or act the way they do. My wife and I have eight children, from age 21 to 1. And the ten of us still live in the same home. I promise you that there are daily opportunities where I see a person doing something that I do not approve of. And often the justification for it is their age. “Don’t give her too hard a time, she’s only three” or “She didn’t realize that leaving the refrigerator open was a bad idea” We accept poor behavior from children because we recognize that they maybe haven’t learned yet what actions lead to what consequences. And yet, miraculously at the age of 18 we assume that everyone understands everything and that if they feel or act in a certain way that isn’t in alignment with our own belief system or moral compass, they are somehow wrong, or stupid, or out to get us. Almost immediately the conversation about the topic at hand becomes heated, angry and relationships become damaged. We take shit too personally.

I don’t accept that my child’s misbehavior is ok because they are misinformed or unaware though. I may not punish them because I understand where they are coming from, but I do share with them my own broader understanding and hold them accountable for their actions. It is how we learn. Actions have consequences and we get to decide if those consequences are reasonable or unreasonable to us. Then we make a decision, often knowing there will be some sort of trade off. We understand how it works. This same concept applies to the broader relationships we have in the outside world. The major difference is we are not living under the same roof and the actions of others, almost always, have little to no consequence, or impact, on our daily lives. And yet, we act as if everything everyone else is doing is somehow our business and ours to cure. When in reality, it very rarely is.

Rather than telling a person they are wrong, or that what they are doing is inappropriate, I want to invite you to ask them why. Why they made that choice, how they came to the conclusion about the topic or action at hand. Without judgement. Ask questions and find out what their motivation was. And then listen. Allow them to share their insight and experience. Regardless of whether or not you disagree or not. And if you do have a different perspective, share it with compassion. Use phrases like ‘have you considered’ or ‘is there another option you could try’ as opposed to ‘What you should have done was’ or ‘Well that’s just dumb’ which is what I so often see in the course of conversation. And be mindful that if the tide was turned, how quickly are you to become defensive about your own choices or positions? What I have learned from others with opposing opinions has been invaluable to me in expanding my ability to be vulnerable, and to allow them to do the same.

In the current climate we are in, where divisiveness and an ‘us vs them’ culture is seemingly being constantly perpetuated, now it is more important than ever to learn how to have intelligent, composed discourse.

RANDOM MUSINGS 005: RESET

CTRL + ALT + DELETE Back in the day this was the way we reset the computer. When whatever bugs or glitches that you experienced in your workflow became too much for you to handle you could simply hold down these three little buttons on the keyboard and reset, or restart, your pc. How many times in your life have you looked around and wished you could do the same with the person in the mirror. Or maybe a child, or your partner? If I am being honest, I have wished this on more than one occasion.

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Recently I have found myself in just this circumstance. Needing to do a hard reset in order to shift the energy and increase productivity. Humans don’t have a reset button, but we do have choices. We can choose to shake things up and give ourselves a virtual reset if we are compelled, and brave enough to look in the mirror. The following are some tools I have implemented to shift the energy and clear the cobwebs of the routine.

MOVE LOCATIONS

Because we work from home and because we have a large family I have preferred to keep the office in an area that has visibility to the goings on in the home. The upside is that I can see the little ones and hear what they’re doing most of the time. And they can see me, which gives a sense of responsibility for them to behave. The downside to this is that they can see me and they have a hard time discerning the appropriate times to engage and often times their games and playfulness may distract me from the task at hand. So I decided to move locations. I decided to move my workspace down into the basement. Mind you, ours is a walkout basement with natural light, finished walls and a kitchenette. Far from moving into a dungeon. And because we don’t use the basement very much the space is open and flexible. I was able to utilize my larger executive desk that has been in storage. I could spread out a bit more and have the resources I need close at hand instead of tucked away. In the short time I have been relocated it has enabled me to have a space that I can operate from freely and I definitely have a renewed sense of focus.

You may not have the luxury of relocating your office to a new physical location but you can move in other ways. Rearrange your furniture. Dismantling your office furniture for a new location within the same room will force you to evaluate the location of files, resources, etc. and you may choose to declutter, eliminate waste and minimize your distractions in the process. You can buy a new desk that forces you to rethink the setup as it is. Add plants to your new arrangement, get some new artwork or simply paint an accent wall. It will take a day or so to restructure your office space but the end result is very much worth it.

JOURNAL

Journaling has always been a practice of inconsistency for me. If you have read any of the other blogs you’ll have heard my conversation on routine. I’d like to say that I have mastered this practice but I would be lying. In fact, other than my workout routine most things for me are start/stop/start again. I like shiny objects and can get easily moved in another direction. So, that being said, understand that I am empathetic to the struggles of daily journaling. And … when it’s necessary I do embrace it. Journaling provides a number of benefits that help you connect with your feelings and thoughts. You will hear me say often that ‘feelings aren’t facts’ and I believe that to be true. Feelings do however play a huge role in how we act, react and choose to move about our day. Being able to recognize, honor and release those feelings, in light of what’s desired and necessary, is a skillset you can learn. Journaling is a very useful tool in developing that skillset. Journaling can also get you better connected to your source. When we let go of our ego and just let the words flow, regardless of judgement and context, you will be surprised how deep you can get into how you feel and, more importantly, why you feel that way. Too often I have heard people in coaching sessions say “I don’t know why but I feel…” In order for us to dismantle the negative thoughts and create a plan to move forward the most critical thing one needs is clarity. Clarity can be accessed by letting go and getting in touch not just with what you feel but why you feel that way. Putting pen to paper will help support that effort.

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STOP

This one might be the toughest of them all. Especially if you are like me and have Activator and Achiever in your Top 5 Strengths (If you don’t know what I am talking about there, check out Gallup Strengths Finder). Hard as it may be for some, the truth is that if you chose to put everything non essential on pause for 15-30 days the world won’t end. Considering our life spans have grown well beyond 70 years now, a respite to shut it all down and find your way back to center is a relative blip on the radar. And sometimes we need this time to just think and evaluate what we are doing and why. In my book, Choose Different, I write about micro decisions and how they can, over time, veer us farther off track than we may realize. A new project here, a helping hand there - and the next thing you know, you are no longer headed in the direction you intended or you’ve become overwhelmed in the process. I cannot stress enough how important clarity and intention are in relation to keeping you on track and focused. Sometimes a good lengthy timeout is in order to regain focus and clarity. Take the time to evaluate your day to day actions and ensure that they are in alignment with the goals you seek and the outcomes you desire. If they are not, then changing your actions is the next step.

We aren’t computers or mobile phones and we can’t really reset ourselves back to the factory defaults. We have too much experience and knowledge to do that in the literal sense. We can however take control of the direction of things and course correct when necessary. We may still have to show up for work, and feed the kids along the way. But I hope that we all can be courageous enough to recognize when what we are doing isn’t working and take the time and energy to approach the challenges of life from a solution based mindset and work towards the life of abundance we all deserve.

RANDOM MUSINGS 004: PIVOT

Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. And when life throws whatever it's gonna throw at you the only way to thrive, not just survive, is to pivot. Because we aren't here just to survive. At least I hope not.

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Keri and I had big plans for the summer of 2018. In April we welcomed our 8th child, Rhythm Sterling, our 6th daughter. And we had it all figured out. We would spend the rest of April, and part of May bonding with this precious gift and adapting to having a newborn in the house (again). And then we would get back to work.

We are fortunate enough to have been successful in Network Marketing and we were about to push for the next 90 days, June, July and August, to level up in our organization and reach the next rank. One that would graduate us from time freedom into financial freedom. It is a goal we have had for a few years now. Everything we were working on was coming to fruition and this was to be the crowning moment. To top it off, the icing on the proverbial cake if you will, the company celebration that was planned for achieving this goal coincided with our 20th wedding anniversary. We could not think of a better way to celebrate that milestone than with our team and our friends at this giant formal affair. Everything. Was. On. Track.

Was. Because life is what happens while you are making other plans. 4 weeks after Rhythm was born the truly unthinkable happened. My wife, the love of my life and the most important person in the world to me, had a stroke. On the morning of May 15th, as she was getting ready to leave for the day, my oldest daughter noticed Keri slurring her words in an abnormal way. Within minutes I was calling 911 and shorty after that she was on the way to the hospital. A CT scan showed a dissected carotid with a 100% blockage of her right carotid artery. Before I could even comprehend what was happening she was being whisked off to surgery and I found myself sitting in a hospital waiting room contemplating the events of the previous 2 hours, and what the hell the next 2 hours, and the next 20 years, would like like. And this is where I remembered the words of Byron Katie.

Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it... it’s just easier if you do.
— Byron Katie

So what is it that life was doing for me? In that moment I had no idea. And how was I going to like it?!?!?! Even now, three months and 2days later, I am still unclear. I do know this: the only way to thrive in that situation is to pivot. To know that there is very little in this life that we control, and that recognizing what that is, and mastering it, is the only way to move about this adventure with grace and joy. The only thing we control is how we respond.

Everything we had planned for was now gone. Everything I thought I knew about the next 6 months and beyond was now a giant question mark. And the answers were going to come slowly and often with more questions. How we would respond was the only thing we were in control of. How I chose to pivot would define whether or not this chapter of the adventure would make or break us. Luckily for the both of us the decisions we had made earlier in our lives had set us up for this journey. We did not know it then, but I know it now. The opportunity doTERRA affords us, the work we have put in to build residual income, the network of friends and providers we have access to....all of it were aspects of what life had done for us to prepare us for this moment. 

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Keri came out of surgery with what her surgeon called 'zero deficits'. And all things considered that is mostly true. Neurologically she is a miraculous story. Anyone we have spoken with who knows what a carotid artery dissection (CAD) is has responded in similar ways, "people don't survive that". Well, she did. But surviving is to just get by, and she is far from just getting by. She is thriving. We have put everything we thought we were going to do this summer on hold; cancelled trips, cleared our schedule and shifted our focus. We have built a team of providers and become diligent in scheduling our day to insure that she is set up for success. Nutritional changes as a foundation, working with both our primary care physician, a doctor of acupuncture and a naturopath, as well as digging into genetic markers and how to manage them. We have even included restorative yoga and energy work.

This doesn't mean that our day to day isn't very fluid. Brain injuries are funny that way. And many people don't think of strokes as brain injuries. The reality is though that the danger of a stroke, at least in this case, is that the lack of blood flow to the brain causes various levels of unseen damage and consequences. Our day is full of pivots. As scheduled as we keep the day, and the things we need to do, that schedule is driven by the needs of my wife. And those can change on a moments notice depending on light, and sound, and energy levels.  Keeping that understanding at the forefront of our minds, and respecting the unknowns is what keeps emotions in check and affords us grace within our experience. All of these things together has brought her to near normal health (whatever normal is) and we are now entertaining how we can get back to work.

Different work though. Not just the work of sharing health and wellness with others as we have done for years now, but doing so with a renewed focus and a fresh set of eyes. Even deeper does my passion run now to help people see the freedom that residual income can bring. We are not alone in having a tragedy hit our family, large or small. We are in the very large minority of people though that can take 3 months off and not have to worry about finances. That time freedom was one of the major factors in allowing us to pivot. The adjustments we made and the added appointments we endured would not have been nearly as casual or seamless had I, or Keri, had a full time job that required our attention. This doesn't mean that you can't pivot if you have these types of commitments in your life to attend to. But I would like to invite you to consider what you would do if you had a major life event that needed your attention. And how you can begin now to make choices and pivots in your life to be prepared for what is inevitable, because life will throw you an unexpected thing or two your way on your journey. How you choose to respond is what will matter. And how you choose to respond then, can be effected by your choices today.

RANDOM MUSINGS 003: ROUTINE

I am not a fan of routine. Or at least, I wasn't. For as long as I can remember I have held on to the story that I was not a person of routine, that I wanted and needed spontaneity in my life. Recently that story has changed. And it's been a hard thing to own, because all my rantings about the rigidity of routine and how unnecessary it is are now moot. In fact, I have become grateful, and now rely on, my morning routine.

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Since October I have been going to the gym. I had known for some time that our primary business (for those of you that may not know, it is ESSENTIALdharma, the doTERRA Essential Oil distributorship Keri and I own) could be doing better, and that part of that growth meant I had to look at all areas of my life and see where they could be improved. The resounding one that stood out to me was my physical fitness and self care. Other areas needed improvement as well, but my own physical fitness and movement was the top one. So I dove into that. I reached out to one of my mentors and he guided me through a three day a week workout......routine. Ugh.

But, we do what we say we are going to do, as you've read here before, and the abundance I can share when our business grows means it is important enough to me, to lean into that dislike of a routine if it means I get to grow. We have to learn to lean in if we want to move forward. And so I did. I started going three days a week - Monday | Wednesday | Friday.  And it sucked. It was hard. Some days I had to really convince myself it was worth it. And there were days I didn't go in those first 8 weeks. I let the negative thoughts and the justifications get the best of me. And if I am being honest, I was kind of 'ok' with it. I was ok with not doing what I said I would because I was justifying my behavior. 

If you win the morning, you win the day — or at least, so it has been said...
— Tim Ferris

And then something shifted. In my daily journaling I was reflecting on gratitude, and the things that I am grateful for. I realized in that moment that the days I am the most present and mindful of the good in my life, the most grateful, are also the days I work out. I don't know if it is the increased breathing, the elevated heart rate or just the time alone with my thoughts where I am intentionally working to become a better version of me that created that space, but it was clear that the days that I started my day with movement and physical activity were markedly better then those where I didn't. And that's when the routine became a thing.

I reevaluated my morning and set my alarm for 6:30am. I would be out of the house by 6:45. At the gym by 7:00. I discovered the rowing machine, battle ropes and box jumps among other various ways to challenge my strength and fitness.  Now instead of 3 days a week I am going 4 and often 5 days a week. And then, inspired by another mentor and dear friend of mine, I agreed to do a Spartan Super. 8 miles of hills and obstacles to test your mettle against no one else but yourself. And so now I have a routine; a real routine and something to train towards.  Not just to improve me and to inadvertently grow my business, but a thing that would really challenge my own physical fitness. Most days I get up, go to the gym, take my supplements and journal before I start my day. And those days are the best days. I have increased mental clarity, increased strength and endurance and a generally more positive attitude towards everything. It impacts how I eat, how I sleep, and I now find myself looking forward to going to the gym when less than 6 months ago it was among the least favorite things on my calendar. 

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The Spartan is in May, the same month that Keri and I intend to hit a major business goal that has been three years in the making. In no way do I think that these two goals aligning at the same time is coincidental. In fact, i am now reevaluating my business practices to see where and how I can implement a more intentional and defined routine to that. Because what I have discovered for myself is what Brendon Burchard has often said - I'd rather rely on good habits, than good luck.

If you are like me and find yourself without a routine, or just opposed to the idea in general, I would invite you to change that story. There is still plenty of room for spontaneity and randomness in my days. Currently my wife and I are in the very last few weeks, maybe days of her pregnancy and I may not get to the gym first thing, I may need to tend to other things that morning and so I will go in the afternoon. Or the kids need me late into the night before and so I go later in the day. But I go. On the days that I don't go so my body can rest, I still supplement, journal and do light stretching and breathing to maintain the rhythm. I keep as much of the routine in tact as I can because it is in fact the thing that sets the day in motion for the most productive and gratitude filled days I have. 

RANDOM MUSINGS 002: Gratitude

Gratitude. It is something we are all told to practice. But what exactly does practicing gratitude look like? Because just having gratitude isn't enough. And, according to Brené Brown, having an attitude of gratitude, certainly isn't enough. You have to practice gratitude. And you have to do it daily. In fact, I have found, you have to do it multiple times a day. 

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As Brené describes it, an attitude of gratitude is similar to her attitude of yoga: She wears yoga pants. And shirts with cool heartfelt sayings on them like Om or Namasté. But she doesn't practice yoga by attending classes or know her Ashtanga from her Bikram. So what benefit other than hip fashion sense and comfort does her attitude of yoga gain her? And if we are to pursue growth is comfort the ultimate goal? I hope not. 

So we have to take the attitude and put it into practice. For me that materializes in two ways: journaling and physical reminders. I journal every day in the Daily Stoic Journal (admittedly a new practice for me) and in a gratitude journal gifted to me by one of my mentors. Writing in the Daily Stoic Journal has been a great addition to my journaling practice. In it you reflect on a stated question based on Stoic philosophy. Things like 'Am I doing work that matters' or 'What are sources of unsteadiness in my life'. These are great questions that nudge the writer to reflect on there day to day habits and thought patterns to identify where they may be allowing suffering to manifest where it does not need to. The latter part of my journaling I have been doing for quite some time. In that gratitude journal I write at least three things I am grateful for and why. I have found that this practice has helped me to set the day with peace and happiness in my heart. 

It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.
— Brother David Steindl-Rast:

Another way that I practice gratitude is through a physical reminder. Daily I carry with me a coin that has on one side of it the phrase Memento Mori, and on the other the phrase "you could leave this life right now". I know it seems morbid at first, but let me explain. Marcus Aurelius in his book Meditations, wrote "You could leave this life right now, so let that determine what you do and say and think." It was a call to be virtuous and to practice gratitude in this moment, in every moment. Regardless of the insult or suffering you may be feeling. What I have discovered throughout the year or so I have carried this coin is that when I am feeling put upon throughout the day, I can go to it and feel it in my hand or in my pocket and remind myself that time is not infinite. And that with such a valuable resource such as time outside of my control, I must decide if I am going to allow this perceived injury to control my day or if I will choose to control it, most often by simply letting it go. Journaling in the morning certainly helps to set the intention for the day to be in gratitude and happiness. And we all know that intention is often left behind when the machinations of the day take hold. Having a physical reminder on hand to ignite the meditative practice whenever and wherever necessary has become a very necessary part of my gratitude practice. 

I was recently challenged by one of my mentors to take this practice even deeper. It was suggested that the things I am showing gratitude for and reflect on daily, while beneficial, could be more specific, and more abundant. It was brought to my awareness that I may not be recognizing the small miracles that are bestowed upon me daily. Upon reflection I think that may be accurate, and I would like to invite you to raise your awareness as well to the small miracles that may be coming into your life. For example, as I write this my 8 year old is in the kitchen making banana bread muffins. This morning at the gym I rowed 5000 meters in 28 minutes. Seemingly innocuous things perhaps, but the value in even being physically able to row, or to have a child providing sustenance to her family, these are small miracles that may have otherwise gone unrecognized.

I think most of us would agree that we attract what we focus on. If you find those miracles within your life, large and small, and recognize them they will grow in abundance. Bless them for gracing you with their presence and adding value to your life. To be fair, you do not need a coin with a phrase on it at all to put this into practice in your life. You could carry anything that causes you to step into gratitude; a pebble, a note, a photograph, or a charm. Anything really that you carry with the intention of using it in the manner to remind you to have gratitude. Not for the experience itself necessarily, but for the time you have now, and the realization that time is finite. The realization that were you to leave this life right now, this particular thing causing you pain may not be so important after all. Time, in my opinion, is the greatest asset we have. We can grow more food, create more energy, earn more money. We cannot create time. 

To that point, let me express my deep gratitude for you, and your time in reading this short blog post. I hope that it inspires you to look deeper at your own practices, and that whatever your attitude of gratitude is today, to choose to accelerate it into a physical and mental daily practice of gratitude. 

RANDOM MUSINGS 001: Integrity

Integrity. In our household we have a thing with words. We believe that words have meaning. And if you are going to throw around words like Integrity, you best know what they mean. So what exactly does Integrity mean...

Webster's online dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. And there inlies the rub.  While we can all probably agree that honesty is pretty clearly attained, how sure are you that your moral compass points in the same direction as everyone else you know? Well, I assure you that for me, I cannot make that assessment. And I am ok with that. What I am not ok with is what appears to be the decline of Integrity. 

I believe that there are two underlying factors that are causing the decline of integrity. And I think we can do something about it. First, we have lost truth. Or the ability to find and assess what is true. In the era of terms like fake news and unbridled bias it is nearly impossible anymore to know what is true. I am not sure which dynamic has created the most trouble in this area, the media and their need for viewers, aka advertising dollars, or the need for us to support our own biases. 

There's an old saying that goes something like this:

There are two sides to every story, and somewhere in the middle is the truth. 
photo credit:  Patrick THIAUDIERE    

photo credit: Patrick THIAUDIERE

 

Well, if we are only allowing ourselves to hear and read and interact with those that support our ideologies and bias then how are we to ever hear both sides of the story? Without two sides there won't be a middle anymore. And many of us are certainly not comfortable getting uncomfortable and hearing what the other guy has to say. In order to shift our culture back to one that honors the truth, and therefore integrity, we must begin having the hard conversations and allowing, almost demanding, that we get all sides of the story first. Then, as Brené Brown tells us, we must speak truth to bullshit. And be civil.

Secondly, I would suggest that in general we have lost our ability to hold ourselves accountable. We are great at holding others accountable. Telling them what to do, where they went wrong, suggesting how they could do it right, or better. In fact, I think that's why twitter exists. People love to call others out and take their inventory for them. But how often are we taking a hard look in the mirror and holding ourselves accountable? In my book, Choose Different, I challenge everyone to adopt Radical Accountability. Before challenging others to manage their affairs, make sure yours are in order as well. 

So what now? How do we navigate back to a culture of Integrity? Awareness. Raise your awareness of the dialogue you are engaging with. And if it is only supportive of your bias, then you need to expand your inputs. Buddhists refer to this as beginners mind; the ability to put aside the things we think we know to be true so that we may hear the information with open minds and open hearts. And find clarity. In fact, you may need to do this first. Our moral compass cannot guide us true if we do not have clarity in our values and the things we hold most true. I can not be of integrity if I am bouncing from cause to cause or argument after argument defending things or fighting for whatever the next injustice is without considering first how the cause may, or may not, align with my true beliefs. 

And Radical Accountability. Once you get clear and raise your awareness - hold yourself accountable. Alex Sheen, the Founder of because I said I would, said it mush better than I could. In his TED talk he reminds us that

You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up
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And if you want to show up, it starts with radical accountability. Do the things you say you are going to do. Do the things that align with your moral fabric and support those around you to do the same. This is how we get integrity back and it is what we need to do to shift humanity. I am dedicated to doing this work. I hope you will be too.