January 17, 2023
Welcome back to the lab. As always, we'll start with three ideas from people far smarter than me. And then we'll run the concept through the E three framework and see what comes out the other side. So let's get started. So first quote by Rumi. Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow. The next one is from Eleanor Brown. Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. And finally, Richie Naughton said selfishness at the expense of others is bad. Self-care for the betterment of others is good. So, as you can probably guess by now, I use the word selfish as hyperbole because I say leaders must be selfish and I did it to get attention. But we're going to revisit the word choice in a minute. I do think that leadership requires a great deal of energy and focus, so leaders must take care of themselves first in order to ensure they can take care of others. So my hypothesis is leaders must be committed to self-care. Now, the only the best kind of analogy I can give you for that is when you get on an airplane. So you're listening to the flight attendant and they're walking you through all the steps and they say at one point. If we experience a drop in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop. And then they tell you if you're traveling with someone that needs assistance, you should always do what? And what you should always do is put your own mask on first.
Right. So that's the easiest way to remember this because leadership is about serving other people. And we'll talk about servant leadership later, too. So if we're serving other people, then we have to take care of ourselves. Because, as Eleanor Brown said, you cannot serve from an empty vessel. So, unfortunately, I think there's a there's, I don't know, just a theory that leaders have to give, give, give and give that they're somehow superhuman and they have more energy and more resources than other people, which is just blatantly false. Right. I have seen plenty of people burn out because that's what they do. There are doors constantly open. They do other people's work. They constantly support and do all of these things for other people. And it's actually working against them on two fronts. One is it's wearing them down. You know, they're just they're running on empty. They're running on fumes. And the second is they're actually training the people on their team. That they don't have to do their work. That no matter what you do, I'll pick it up for you. And I think that's just a mistake that we make as leaders. And I think it's a well-intentioned mistake. But I still think it's a mistake because here's the thing. Everybody that's a leader, first of all, nobody has that job description. That's not a title in anybody's.
You know, nobody walks around and, you know, look, somebody's business card and it says leader, right? It doesn't exist. Management is what we do. Leadership is how we do it. Right? So everybody's got a job. Everybody's got a full-time job. Leading is a choice. Leading is a choice that we make every day, multiple times a day. It isn't a job. It's choice. And that choice is based on energy. Do I have the energy to do this right now? And no is fine Answer. That's okay. You're not going to say yes all the time. You can't. In fact, I tell people, if we could just make the best choice possible to support everybody else, 50% of the time, we'd be doing a hell of a lot better than most. And the only thing I ask of leaders that I work with is that you are intentional about the choice and you own it. It is a choice. And just own the fact that you're making it because there's no wrong answer. There's no judgment involved in that. Sometimes you just don't have the energy. Now the question becomes if that happens far too often and you don't have the energy, that's what we're talking about here. Why don't you have the energy? Most likely because you're not selfish enough. So let's do a little exploration. So I'm going to talk about definitions for a little bit because I want to get clear on some word choice.
So we're going to talk a little bit about the difference between self-centeredness and selfishness. So the key difference between those two terms is that selfish people lack concern for others, whereas self-centered people are excessively interested in themselves. Now, you may think now those that may exhibit themselves the same way. And that's why behavior is so nuanced, because the reason the person's doing it may be much different. The outcome may look the same, right? Both qualities induce generally the individuals thinking only of themselves by prioritizing themselves and their needs, by ignoring that of other people. And they're only slightly different. But selfishness is harmful to others. Self-centeredness is usually not. You know, I may be overly focused on myself, but it doesn't mean I don't care about other people. If I'm selfish, I tend to lack concern for other people. So again, when I say leaders should be selfish, obviously it's hyperbole, actually. The theory is the hypothesis is leaders must be committed to self-care. And we'll get to that in a minute. There's always nuance here, so we've got to be very careful with our word choice. Now, the difference between selfishness and self-care. So we already talked about selfishness. We already talked about the concept of not caring about other people. Somehow leaders have gotten an idea and we in general have an idea that if we take time away from people to care for ourselves, that is selfish.
And that is categorically wrong. Right. We, as a human, we have finite amount of resources on which we operate. So taking care of ourselves is never selfish. In fact, it's making sure your own needs are met only makes us more well equipped to support other people. So I could argue it's the opposite of selfish because selfish lacks concern for other people. So if we truly want to have a full tank to help other people, then we have to. We have to invest in our own self-care. Right. And self-care has a bunch of different pieces. Self cares about taking care of your own feelings so you don't project them onto other people. Its selfishness is more like having a mentality in which the person consistently only thinks of their own needs and wants, with little, if any, consideration for other people in their needs. See the difference there. Self-care is about if I want to take care of other people, I have to have energy. I have to be in a position to do that. And when my system is running low, it's not just about physical energy. It's about emotional energy. It's about mental energy. It's about the energy to make good decisions. Self-care is a basic function of fulfilling your own potential, discovering your purpose and experiencing joy.
You know what? Self-care allows you to be open and share with other people. Selfishness leads to isolation and loneliness because we don't care about other people. So the next time you find yourself asking, Is self-care selfish? Remember these three things? Self-care benefits you and everyone in your life you care about. If you are coming from a place of abundance and you have energy and you feel taken care of. You will naturally be a better leader. Also, self-care can't be selfish because it's done with the intention of caring for yourself, not with the intention of harming or taken from anybody else. You have to get out of the mindset that if you take time to take care of yourself, that you're somehow taking it away from other people. That's false. That's your own head trash you have to do something with. And finally. Ask your talk. Remember this when you're talking about self-care, selfish, self-care, build strength. And you have to be strong to be a leader. You have to be physically strong. Mentally strong. Emotionally strong. And in those take effort to build those reserves. So now that we understand a little bit of the verbiage, let's get to the benefits. Right. So there's a multiple self, quote unquote, issues that we need to be aware of, and that's what self-care is about. So I'm going to run through those.
And I think there's one, two, three, four, five, there's seven. So self compassion. I actually have a really good quote on that when we end the episode. But that's, you know, given ourselves some grace. I tell leaders that I use that sentence all the time. I'm like, you know, we extend grace to everybody else, but we rarely extend it to ourselves. We look at people and we'll make up, we'll allow them to work at a less than 100% because of all the things we know they're going through. Which, by the way, is human. But we don't extend that same benefit to ourselves. That's a problem. That's a problem because for whatever reason, one of them might be, we don't think we deserve it. We don't think we need it. We're better, We're tougher, we're stronger. We're insert adjective here. It's all bullshit. You're human, just like everybody else. Self-esteem. So that means having confidence in your own ability. Now, this will lead to feeling like you're worthy of a happy life. No matter how many people tell you that you won't be successful or put you down in some way, you still have high self-esteem. It comes from inside and you can train yourself to ignore the negatives. This is where a lot of people get sideways. We allow other people to establish our worth. So if we hear from others that we're not successful, that we can't do something. We we hear that and then we begin to believe it.
Whereas self-esteem is really internal. It's a belief in our own ability. It's a belief in our and our value and our worth. And that's really important. And you can't do that when you're run down. Because we listen to the noise. We listen to the chatter. By the way, great book. Ethan Cross with akkr0s Ethan Cross. The name of the book is Chatter. If you have a struggle with the voice inside your head, it's a great read. I keep it on my. I keep it on my desk and refer to it often. Because one of I love this, this, this thought. If the voice in your head. Or your friend? How long would you stay friends with that person based on how it talks to you? Most of us would say not too long. Because most of us don't have a voice in our head, continually pumping us up and telling us how wonderful we are. It's quite the opposite. Self-love. Caring about ourselves. Actually thinking about who we are and caring that we're a good person, given ourselves that that thought. Self-care, which we're talking about self-worth. Tells you how you feel about you, not about what you've done or what you've accomplished. It has to do with the value you place on yourself and whether or not you feel you deserve good things. If you feel you're bad and deserve bad things, then you have a low self-worth.
And we typically find those things. We find what we expect. But we have to feel like we're worth something. Self-management. That's a big one. Self-management is tough. I always I'm a big fan of saying you can't lead other people before you can lead yourself. You know, we have to be able to lead ourselves first, then we can lead others. But that means we have to be able to do the things we're asking other people to do as far as behavior. And then finally, self-respect. You know, we have to respect ourselves. And this goes a long way to what we're talking about, because we could argue that. I would argue that if you spend a lot of time doing, doing, doing for other people and not for yourself, you don't have respect for yourself. You have more respect for other people, which back along a lot of these things love, care, worth, esteem, respect. If you think about this, think about how you feel about others versus how you apply it to yourself. Just think about that. Think about the what you're thinking about other people and what you extend to them as far as what esteem or worth or care or any of those things, what you're willing to extend to others versus what you're willing to extend to yourself. And is it equal? Are you willing to extend yourself all of the same things that you're willing to extend to others? If there's a deficit there, then that's a challenge.
Because, again, who's pouring into you? As a leader. This is a real issue because as you progress in an organization, as you go further and further up in leadership, there's fewer and fewer people pouring into you. And I'm sure some of you have experienced this where, you know, early in your career you get a lot of pats on the back or gold stars or, hey, you did a great job or whatever those things are. Employee of the Week, Employee of the Month, Employee of the year, recognition after recognition, you get into a leadership role and suddenly it's. Crickets. Nobody's patting you on the back for doing a good job. In fact, most of the time you only hear about it when you're not achieving the objectives. That's what you hear most of. Which, by the way, the voice in your head loves. Because it loves. It loves that it loves that leverage. See, I told you. I told you you couldn't do this. See, I told you you weren't worth it. See, I told you you're an impostor. See, I told you you shouldn't have got that promotion. On and on and on it goes. If. We don't get control of it. Now I want to tell you that in order to do any and all of this, you have to be able to spend time with yourself and truly understand who you are at multiple levels.
And this is not some hippie bullshit. Right. This is about understanding your own needs as a human being. And putting yourself as a priority. If you want to live up to being the leader you were meant to be. It's that simple. Can you do it otherwise? Certainly you can. You're going to be run down. You're going to be miserable. You're going to be tired, you're going to be angry. You're going to be you're going to feel in a way that you don't want to feel. You're going to blame other people. You're going to start looking at people thinking, why can't they do what they're supposed to do? You're going to become you're going to be filled with anxiety and you're going to be bitter. Nobody wants that. Nobody wants that leader. We want to be around leaders who make us believe in the positive side. And you can't believe in the positive side if that message isn't in your own head. Because again, the way you behave is the way you're telling people to behave in your organization. So if you're constantly giving and running yourself ragged and then yet you're telling everybody else to make sure they take all their vacation days and take all their PTO and don't work 15 hours a day and go home and enjoy your family and yet you're not doing it.
Do you think that message is actually getting through? Because. I think it was Emerson who said your actions thunder so loudly. I cannot hear what you say. So you can say all day long, I want you to take all your PTO and I want you to I want you to leave work here and I want all these things. But if you're emailing people at 11:00 at night or 6:00 in the morning, what message is that sending? You have to think these things through because A, if you're doing that, what the hell are you doing? Because that's not the message you've been telling people. And then B, if you think you're doing it because it's convenient for you and they're not going to feel pressure to respond at 11:00 or 6:00 in the morning or 3:00 pm on a Saturday, you're nuts. They're just really confused because you tell them one thing and do another. Self-care can bring on peace. And that's what great leaders do. They bring peace. And peace of mind. And security. And clarity. To people. That's what people want more than anything, especially in our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. They want clarity. They want to know what's important. Because clarity leads to safety. And that's what great leaders do. They make people feel safe. And you can't do that unless you feel safe. So I want to end the exploration side here with a little bit of want to dabble in a little bit of green leaf and servant leadership.
So. I love the theory and I and I think Greenleaf is brilliant. Right? And I. And I like it in theory, like servant leadership. I do think it's gotten way out of hand. And I think that instead of spending the time to really research what Greenleaf was saying and look at the message he was trying to send and the underlying meaning of what the what it meant that we've taken this kind of servant leadership mindset and we flipped it into something that's not helpful, right? We flipped it into I have to do for everybody. That's my job as a leader, has to do for everybody and become really selfless leaders, which I don't think is effective and I don't think it's healthy. Because, again, it leads to all the stuff we've talked about and it also leads to some pretty practical things that go sideways, which is selfless Leaders aren't very effective. They don't delegate well. They refuse to recharge. They they. I would argue that sometimes being. Selfless. Is selfish. Because it's easy and comfortable for you to feel emotionally better because you can go home at night saying, I did for everybody. That's the epitome of selfish because you're not thinking about how it's impacting other people. You've created this narrative in your head that while I'm taking care of everybody, I'm doing this, I'm doing that.
What more could I do? Well, you do your damn job, which isn't that. Because part of part of being a leader. Is raising others up. Holding them accountable to what they're capable of not doing for them. That's not leadership. Nowhere do you see that definition of leadership. Leadership is about making other people better. Seeing other people reach their potential. That's hard work, by the way. Because holding people accountable and challenging them in a productive and supportive way is not easy. But it changes the dynamic in an organization. Great companies figure it out. Great leaders figure it out. They do it for the right reasons. There's trust. Right. People trust people. Great leaders are trustworthy because they have others best interest in mind. I mean, if you hire a trainer, I mean, just think about this practically. You hire a trainer, you want to go get in shape. You go to the gym. Is the trainer lifting weights for you? Is that helping you at all? Is he like, oh, let me grab that for you? Is she coming over? Going, Oh, let me do the squats for you. You're tired. I can see that you're tired. Let me do that. And just think that's exactly what you're doing as a leader. Does that help them? It isn't helping them achieve their goal. And what's it teaching people? Because I don't. And if you want to be liked, don't be a leader.
That's not the goal of leadership. The goal of leadership is not to be liked. Because I don't know too many people who great coaches, great trainers, great physical trainers, whatever you want to call it. You don't go to the gym and walk out and go, I really like that person. They're so nice. I had a great time. No, you walk out if you only got beat with a bag of nickels. But you're closer to your goal because it's what you said you wanted. So the other side of this, the second part of this, the selfishly benefit yourself and the biggest benefits we can give ourselves are our positive states of mind. Right. So if you take care of yourself and you dedicate yourself to self-care, things like empathy, kindness. Compassion, goodwill. Egolessness, which is different than selflessness and gratitude. Big one. Gratitude. It's one of the three things that will quickly bring you into a flow state, by the way is authentic gratitude. Because these positive states of mind release things like serotonin and oxytocin and other chemicals that reduce stress, improve your immune system, and drastically reduce our tendencies for other psychosomatic diseases. Think about that. If you practice self-care things like. You get better at empathy, kindness, compassion, goodwill. Gratitude. Doing that. Puts you in a positive state of mind to release serotonin and oxytocin, and the release of those and other neurochemicals reduces stress, improves your immune system.
Improves your overall well-being and health. It also improves your ability to lead. Make better decisions. Be less. Be more. Emotionally stable. Be more physiologically, psychologically and emotionally flexible. Which is really important in the world we live in today. Because it creates a better atmosphere for everybody, which improves morale and boost productivity. Which I would argue is a really good side effect, not the goal, but the side effect of your behavior. Increase improves morale, boost productivity. Remember, people do their best work when they feel better. Nobody anywhere has ever been screamed at and then walked away going, Wow, I'm going to do my best work now. That's never happened. We go away saying a lot of things in that scenario. The one thing we're not saying is I'm going to give my discretionary effort to that. Fill in the blank. And great companies get that discretionary effort and discretionary effort is defined as above and beyond what they need to keep their job. They decide to give more than is required. That's because of how they feel. So by definition, a servant leader, this is straight out of green. Leaf focuses primarily on the growth and being of people in the communities to which they belong. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you do it the right way. Not the way it's comfortable for you, but if you actually focus on their growth, nobody grows. When they're comfortable.
I was talking to some folks yesterday and we always have to stay at the edge of uncomfortable. That's where leaders live at the edge of uncomfortable. Because the minute we get comfortable, the minute we can take a breath and go, Oh, I got this. This is getting easier is the minute is the indicator that that's the minute we should get uncomfortable again. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But it quickly gets sideways because we turn it into a mindset that everybody else comes first. You know, when we say we're going to focus on the growth and well-being of people in the communities to which they belong, somehow that turns into in some way. I have to do everything for everybody. And that isn't the intent. And it doesn't work. All right. So we'll move on to experimentation. Full disclosure. I am not very good at this. I'm still working on this after a solid 24 to 36 months of of when it first popped up on my radar and I realized it was a thing for me. And you believe me, if I had my wife on, she could talk for hours about this. And me. I actually find it very difficult and challenging to ask anyone for help doing anything, even to the point of asking my wife to grab me a drink from the kitchen. She gets so aggravated because she'll get up to go in the kitchen at night and she'll say anything.
I'll say, No, I'm good. And then 5 minutes later, after she sits down, I go up and get something. She's like, What was that? I'm like, What do you mean? She's like, Why? I ask? I'm like, Oh, I didn't want to bother you. See, that's the problem. That's how I view it. Right. I view that as bothering people. That's my. That's my state of mind. It isn't. It isn't reality, but it's my state of mind. So it's my reality. So I have to. I have to dig in and figure that out. Right. And I'll, I'll tell you about that in a minute. So I am developing some opportunities to proactively ask people for help that are in low risk situations. But it does take energy and focus and it just feels like it's so insincere when I do it. It doesn't sound right to me because it doesn't sound like me, because I'm always the people. I'm always the person excuse me, that people ask for help. I'm always the one who gets the phone call. Hey, can you help me with this? Can you help me with that? Sure. Right. But I rarely do the converse of that. But I recognize it's not helpful. And it also is not very it's not very focused on other people. My wife made this clear to me because she said, well, you help people all the time.
You help your parents, you help your friends, you help your clients, you help me. And she said and it was so funny. She said, How does that make you feel when you do that? And I said, Well, it feels good. Feels really good to help other people when they ask they need something. And she said, Don't you think I'd like to feel that way, too? I went, Oh, shit. All right. Now I see she goes, Because you never give me that opportunity. You never. You never asked me for help. And then you never let me help you. And so funny. You know, I'm thinking here all along, I don't want to bother people. And by the way, I'm doing the exact opposite. I'm robbing people that I care about of the opportunity to feel good. So sometimes. Your normal is other people's trauma. So evolution. My personal evolution for this would be my goal would be to have a self-care routine that enables me to bring my best self forward for those close to me and for the work I do. But I know this is going to be a long journey because it's simply not part of who I am because of how I grew up. And real quickly. The reason that is, is because I have a sister. She's six years older than me, Lisa. And she's got cerebral palsy. She still lives at home with my parents. She can't take care of herself.
She can't feed herself. She can't get around by herself. She is a the brightest, most positive. Energy-giving spirit you'd ever meet. All three of my kids love their Aunt Lisa to death. She. She lights up a room. Because she knows what's important to her, and that's just her family. That's who she wants to be around all the time. So when I grew up, I'm six years younger. I kind of learned at a very early age to take care of myself. Nobody told me this. This is just something that environmentally I picked up. I was always I always was self-sufficient from a very young age, from the time I was in elementary school, all the major decisions I had to make in my life I made on my own. Not that my parents weren't there or weren't wouldn't have helped. I just never ask. Never asked. I can't ever remember for asking for help on my homework. Never asked for help with anything. I just figured out a way and got it done. Now, again, nobody told me that I had to do that. That's just, you know, we all as children, we develop coping mechanisms. We all do for whatever environment we're raised in. That was one of mine. So what that worked then? It was helpful then, but I never stopped and figured out if it was helpful as an adult. I just ran with it like we all do, right with all the things in our past.
And I don't look at it like we're changing for the better or for worse. We just we're evolving. So I don't look at that and think, Oh, that was horrible. I look at it and objectively go, It worked like it was. It was something that I developed that worked then. But is it serving me now? That's the question. I can answer that question. It isn't it isn't serving me or those that I care about. So if it's not, then I'm going to do something about it. And it isn't like I was raised. I wasn't raised believing that asking for help was a weakness, really. It was really driven from a place of not wanting to bother people or bring attention to myself. You know, it was about it was really was about, you know, not bothering other people, asking for help. And what's the ironic part of that is, is I don't view people who ask me for help as bothering me. I don't understand it. It's just completely disconnected in my head. But when people ask me for help, I have no issue with it. And I love helping people. But then I look at it and go, Oh my God, I'm not going to ask anybody for help. What a bother that would be. So that's much deeper than we need to get into now.
But it is the issue and it's wired deep. So it's going to take I'm going to have to try to act my way into a new way of thinking because you cannot think your way into a new way of acting. But at least I understand where I'm at and where I got to go to. I realize how deep that rut is. And I realize the energy it's going to take to get out of it, but it's worth it. It's definitely worth it because for me to bring my best self forward, to do the work I want to do to influence as many people as I can to pursue the leader inside of themselves, because we need that in our society. I got to get this right. You know, I got to evolve myself. I got to show that it can be done. It's hard work, but I'm going to do it. So that wraps up evolution. Now I'm going to close with, as always, closed with three thoughts from some pretty some pretty brilliant folks. To sum up where we've been and then I'm going to ask you to do one thing. So, Parker Palmer, if you haven't read anything by him, you should. He's prolific from a writing standpoint. He's he's brilliant. He says self-care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have. The gift I was put on Earth to offer to others.
Self-care is never a selfish act. It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have. The gift I was put on Earth to offer to others. The second one is Paolo Coelho. When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself. That's pretty simple and straightforward. Make sure you're not saying no to yourself when you're saying yes to other people. And then finally, Jack Kornfield. This brings it full circle from self-compassion earlier that I mentioned. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. So I'd like to thank you for investing your time and listening. And I hope there's at least one thing you heard that will move you along your own evolution and becoming the leader you were meant to be and that we all need you to be. And remember, teaching is the opportunity to learn again. So share whatever you found interesting today with other people and add your own insights and opinions because that will increase the likelihood you'll retain it for future use. I hope you have a great rest of the week and I'll see you back here in the lab soon when we explore another interesting and insightful concept. I'll leave you with this final thought. If leading were easy, everyone would do it. And that is definitely not the case. Take care.
Your Best Resource to Move Forward