I've noticed an interesting phenomena. When I stay on the surface and write from what writer Natalie Goldberg says is that hip, glib place my nervousous about being real pervades the post. I stay on the surface. I definitely get more trackbacks and that's the point, right? But no email. When I'm real, I receive a flurry of personal and very heartfelt email - and barely any public comments, or trackbacks.
A friend asks if I am lonely. "Having an audience, a readership, isn't the same thing as one-on-one real conversation." So true. Emerson once said he would walk a hundred miles through a snowstorm for a good conversation. I'd do the same for a real conversation.
We are aching for the real.
''People aren't looking for the elevated holy man who's got all of the answers,'' he told me one afternoon. ''They want someone to be real with them.'' - Pastor McFarland of the Radiant Church, a megachurch growing faster than weeds, from New York Times, "The Soul of the New Exurb," March 27, 2005
Seth Godin gives his two cents on the marketing efforts of the Radiant megachurch. And Tom Guarriello asks: "My question is, if Seth's right, and all marketers are liars, then what lie is this church telling? Let's see if we can figure it out."
If you dig below the superficials - the mall complex, the billboard ads, the Krispy Kremes and Starbucks - what this church is ultimately "selling" is realness: "When you ask people how Radiant has changed their lives, they will almost invariably talk about how it helped open their hearts."
Most Christians who say they have been changed by their church attribute it not to their pastors' sermons but to their small groups, where people can share, in the words of Dave Travis, who runs the megachurch consultancy, ''their deepest hopes and hurts.'' This was, after all, the model of Jesus and his disciples: What I've done with you, you now do with other people. - New York Times, "The Soul of the New Exurb", March 27, 2005
I'm no biblical scholar, but I believe the last line refers to the tender act in the last supper where Jesus carefully and lovingly washes each disciples feet before the meal is brought in - a task that one would think would be "beneath" a guru, a master and is usually relegated to servants and hastily performed. Silently he kneels and washes their feet circling one by one around the table. When he is done, he says:
I give you a new commandment: that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. - John 13:34
I'd rather be real than great. I have never gained anything I truly wanted from a pure pursuit of greatness. I'm not saying these two are mutually exclusive, but the focus can lead one astray. Nothing kills relationships - personal and professional - quicker than when I stop being real. It's costly in the tangible cash realm too.
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
Being real in a customer service relationship may have saved me from totally losing every bit of the three grand I plopped down to reserve rooms and meeting space for the Dwelve "advance". Customers don't usually admit THEY are the idiots. Of course I wasn't real quite early enough... I didn't want to cancel earlier because "EVERYONE" knows you stick to your commitments. Scaling back to an intimate gathering because your heart isn't into doing a big to-do - now, what kind of lame excuse is that? But it was the truth. I knew it six weeks ago. But I couldn't fess up to it until last week. Oh, I've mastered grand failures - but mastery of real - and small - experiments is next. A small experiment is not a timid experiment, but it's not striving for greatness above all else either.
I'd say greatness exists in all of us. Kind of like the way treeness exists in an acorn. Perhaps every acorn doesn't become a tree but the potential to grow is ALWAYS there. - my comment on Hugh's "Greatness" post
Funny thing, being real usually lead to being great - on your own terms. It's questionable if it works the other way around. For a long time I defined "greatness" by other people's measures until one day I read something that stuck with me. It said something to the effect that I should accentuate my weaknesses - in other words, perhaps my "weakness" was actually a differentiator. And a hidden strength. "Different" from what other's categorize as a "strength" doesn't make it a "weakness." Who's the judge?
We use the word original as if it means new, or innovative, or different. But what about thinking of it as "from the origin"...i.e. true to us, being ourselves and NOT trying to be something else. - Johnnie Moore, comment on post "Natural Not Imitative"
I see no point in waiting until I'm 69 to be original. An interview with the former GE CEO Jack Welch shows that his quest for greatness has now been tempered with an ache for realness. Better late than never. Here's what one reviewer thought of his memoir a few years back:
"When confronted with a topic that might have actually made his memoir interesting, Welch runs in the other direction," wrote The New York Times. - "Jack on Jack: His Next Chapter", Newsweek, March 27, 2005
I worked at GE during Neutron Jack's reign and was (thank god in retrospect) laid off. Maybe Mr. Soft and Fuzzy is a still a stretch. But I'm not convinced this smacks of being purely a re-branding effort alone. Personal growth, integrating both yin and yang, and transformation are real too. You would not believe who I was five years ago, however I am certain "real" would be the last word that would pop into your mind.
I know Jerry. He's real. He was a venture capitalist and now teaches a leadership course at Queens College when he's not in zazen. He says:
Last week, in class, we read from Warren Bennis’ On Becoming A Leader. Bennis talks about his belief that all leaders pass through some sort of crucible before emerging more whole, more fully-actualized. And so I told the class about my suicide attempt, my crucible. I don’t think they’ve ever had a teacher admit to having tried to kill themselves.
They were all a little stunned.
But I knew they’d grown to admire me and I knew that by being open I could make myself more real. And ideally I’d decrease the distance between who I am and who they are now so they could feel more confident about becoming who they want to become. - Jerry Colonna, at his Madeleine's blog
Don't be fooled. Leaders and teachers surround us - rarely will they be in the guise of pastors, masters, CEOs and venture capitalists. Real conversations can happen anywhere - between anyone. Treeness exists in every acorn, and realness resides in each of us. Here's a most real and deeply philosophical conversation - and yet it's amongst two children's toys - a hobbyhorse and a stuffed rabbit - in the classic children's story, The Velveteen Rabbit.
"What is real?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are real you don't mind being hurt." - Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
P.S. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, my housemates and I are starting a "Dare to Live An Authentic Life" study group at our west San Jose home (borders on Cupertino) on Sunday evenings, 7 to 9 p.m. No cost. Just email or my cell 408-513-7324 for more info and directions.