Finding Mastery

Finding_Mastery_Podcast_logo_FINAL2I can’t do justice to how much I like the Finding Mastery podcast. I don’t even know how I found it. But after trying a long list of podcasts that were either thinly veiled self promotion, way too out there, and/or just silly, this one feels like striking gold.

Right now I’m listening to the interview with U.S. Swim coach Sean Hutchinson. So much thought-provoking wisdom there. I especially like how he describes his realization that he didn’t care about swimming – he cared about helping people achieve things they thought were impossible. This changed his approach to coaching and the whole culture of his team.

On the spiritual front, the host, Michael Gervais, comes from a rather Buddhist perspective. This would normally drive me bonkers (Buddhism is a faith that has never worked for me) But it’s a credit to him that he can share what he believes without it becoming distracting when interviewees have other beliefs. He “holds the space” for a variety of world views in a professional way that has taught me a lot.

I appreciate what he’s creating here, and I think you will, too.

Psychological Safety & High Performance

group-exercise-performance_hThis article stopped me cold. It explains so much about the different teams I’ve been on (sports, professional, faith-based) and why some worked, others didn’t, and some fell apart mid-course.

Ignore the whole lead it part about the athlete & coach falling in love. That’s neither here nor there. Instead, consider what it says about the high performance atmosphere this coach created:

“Psychologically-safe groups are characterized by deep trust and mutual respect. Risk-taking is encouraged and fear of failure, judgment, and alienation is minimal or absent altogether….

This does not mean that competition is lacking. But…in teams with psychological safety, tension between members is often positive, prompting individual members to push themselves in a productive manner. The competition is healthy and doesn’t spill over into defensiveness or become self or mutually destructive.   

Put differently, in psychologically-safe environments, competition raises everyone up. But when psychological safety is lacking, competition often breaks people down. In a sense, psychologically-safe teams function similarly to many families: Individual members may push each other and not always get along, but at the end of the day, they are united by trust and respect. They are in it together.”

I would highlight every part of this if I could, because I suspect that the predominant force in most faith-based groups is not psychological safety, but fear: Fear of offending, fear of making God look bad, fear of angering a friend or leader and being denied opportunity or some other sort of blessing. It’s a rare church where you can REALLY be yourself (and by this I mean your personality – thoughts, hopes, feelings, manner of expression, etc. – rather than you identity, which is a different conversation.) When you’re in this fear long enough it feels normal, almost holy. But it’s not.

Reading this article reminded me of experiences I’ve had with psychologically safe groups–one in grad school studying political science, another in a Unitarian Universalist Church in DC where I was trying to figure out why no one talked all that much about God. I THRIVED in these places. They were healing, motivating, and inspired me to new levels both professionally (as I left the PhD program to work for a mentor) and spiritually (and left the UU faith for a more Jesus-centered Christianity.)

Maybe a chief sign of psychologically safe groups is they help you grow enough to leave? Not in a bad way, but because you’re ready to take on new risks and challenges because of your time in this safe place. Interesting to think about in the church context, as the goal there is usually to keep people in one place over the long haul.

I went to the website for my local library to order the Duhigg book, Smarter, Faster, Better referenced in the article, only to see that I’d requested it two weeks ago. I suspect God might be telling me something here.

A Story Worth Living

Apologies for the lack of posts. I’m determined not to throw things up here just to fill space, so I wait until something really catches my attention and makes me think about life and faith in an interesting way. Thanks for your patience.

Today we have three pieces, so the drought is over 🙂


A scene from “A Story Worth Living.” Photo courtesy of A Story Film

First up is this cool article about a movie by John Eldridge & Sons. Inspired by the 2004 mini-series “Long Way Round,” where actors Ewen McGregor & Charley Boorman traversed the world on motorcycles, the Eldridge men decided to attempt something similar – with smaller geography but larger vision.

Here’s the part I really like: Eldridge says, “Part of the motive behind the film was adventure films are the No. 1 genre on YouTube … and they have nothing to say. There’s no meaning to the adventure. There’s no content. We wanted to go out and make a beautiful adventure film with rich content.”

I’m a longtime reader of Men’s Journal because the writing is so good. But I’ve often thought how pointless some of the articles are. Go on this or that epic adventure, sculpt a superhero body, broil the perfect steak...but why? There’s rarely any sense of purpose behind these quests. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for adventure, fitness & steak. They’re each wonderful in their own right. But when you add meaning to pursuits like this, that spills over and informs your everyday life, too. You know, the one that awaits us after every adventure.

I like that Eldridge has stuck to his guns about this hero stuff (I think he got hit with some heavy critique after his book Wild At Heart sold approximately 4 billion copies). We do all want meaning to our adventures. We do want life to be bigger. This article makes me think about how God is making that possible in my life, even without a motorcycle.

No more false urgency

UnknownI wanted to cheer when I read this article: Don’t Create A Sense of Urgency; Foster A Sense of Purpose. I’ve spent a good chunk of time in sales, and the urgency is endless. Sometimes it was genuine: When I sold collector’s limited edition handmade sweaters, there really might only be one medium “Equestrian’s Delight” left anywhere in the country, so if a customer wanted it, she’d better buy it right away. (Of course this begs the question of whether purchasing a $500 sweater is ever urgent, but whatever…we live in a world of personal priorities.)  But mostly, the urgency was imaginary: trying to push people to act when their instincts (all our instincts, usually) was to maintain the status quo.

I appreciate the distinction Lockhart draws between urgency as a motivation and purpose. Because wow, knowing WHY I’m doing something is an entirely different story in terms of moving me out of the quicksand of inertia.

How do you rebuild a life?

Rothman-The-Good-Wife-690I’ve been thinking about this New Yorker article about The Good Wife for almost a year now. It is just so incredibly spot on about the challenge of recreating a new life after yours falls apart.

Writer Joshua Rothman discusses how, up until Season 6, The Good Wife “was essentially a humanist show–a drama about acuity, vitality, and resilience…”  But then, the show took a turn toward darkness, as the writers did something unusual: they devoted an entire season to their heroine’s limitations. “[Alicia has] had what amounted to a wasted year,” he says, “a year in which she alienated her friends, neglected herself and her family, and put too much effort into the wrong things….we’ve watched her swimming furiously but getting nowhere.”

Season 6 FRUSTRATED me as a viewer. Rothman’s points made me realize that I (along with most of the rest of us) are BAD at watching this kind of uncertainty, either on television or in real life. I love the possibility of a tidy wrap up with a happy (or at least satisfying) ending. I hate the wait between one life collapsing and the next getting enough air to survive.

Rothman laments Alicia’s lack of a clear vision for her future, as if that’s something one can pick up at Nordstrom’s or Target when your old one has collapsed.  But then he goes on to reveal the fallacy in this thinking, and even offers some ideas for how this show (and we) might move forward. It’s a fabulous read.