Reminder: Keep an Open Mind

Sky view of mountains and clouds
Birds on a wire against a blue sky

Homophily: Birds of a feather flock together.  A large number of network studies have shown we generally surround ourselves with people who are like us– those who enjoy the same things we enjoy, entertain similar ideas, have about the same level of education, hold the same values, etc.  It’s not a bad thing; we’re comfortable with familiarity.

Familiarity has its limits, though. If we generally surround ourselves with (and follow on social media) people who share our same views, we’re limiting our chances for thoughtful conversationWe restrict our perspectives and hinder opportunities to grow. The hard part to inviting in outside perspectives is keeping an open mind, listening–fully listening– with curiosity, and asking inquisitive questions. 

How often do we go into conversations with our personal bias in towA predetermined reaction/outcome/viewpoint in our minds. As hard as I try to remain curiously open, I’m often guilty of it!  I was reminded of my open-minded shortcomings when I sat in on the 2019 Mindful Leader Summit Debate last fall. 

In the spirit of healthy debate and to welcome outside voices and hear different perspectives, Mo Edjlali, President of Mindful Leader, orated a debate around two topics:

Topics of Open-mindedness

Mindfulness and Capitalism—  Is mindfulness changing capitalism or is capitalism changing mindfulness?

Mindfulness in Schools— Even with ample evidence of the benefits of mindfulness, is mindfulness religiously based and therefore cannot be introduced as a secular practice in schools?  

At the beginning of the debate I had a pretty good idea of how I felt about each of those topics, being a proponent of mindfulness and an entrepreneur. It would have been easy to skip the event and grab a cup of coffee. Instead, I sat back and listened with an open mind. What I heard were valid points from both sides of the issue.  What I came away with was a better understanding of the “other” side and empathy for their viewpoint.  My perspective was broadened. I grew as an individual.

Fast forward a month or so.  Fresh off the humbling realization that as much as I try, as much as I evangelize continuous improvement and growth mindset, keeping an open mind is something I have to continuously strive toward. I stumbled across this article from Fast Company:  4 Ways to Train Your Brian to be More Open-Minded. I’ll paraphrase for you (and me).

Warning: practicing may not be easy! Especially listening to someone else with an opposing viewpoint. Be prepared to sit with your emotions without shutting down. 

  1. Talk to a Neutral Party – Talk about your concerns or struggles with a new idea to someone who simply listens and repeats what they hear. The process helps you hear your own reasons for resistance, gaining some objectivity about the situation.
  2. Reframe Negative Thoughts – Sometimes hearing a new idea causes an automatic negative reaction, like “This will never work?”.  Instead, train your brain to reply to unhelpful thoughts with more realistic statements, reframing the situation. Look for evidence that your efforts may be a success.  “What are the good aspects of this plan?”
  3. Get Out of your Comfort Zone – Add more experiences and points of view to your schema.  Don’t read or watch one point of view. Make a point to expand your circle, sharing time with friends who are diverse racially, culturally, politically, and generationally.  Once a week, listen to a different genre of music or try a food you’ve never tried before.
  4. Practice Mindful Meditation – Mindfulness meditation is becoming well known for its ability to open our minds to new ideas, while letting go of old ones that no longer serve us. Practicing mindfulness meditation in which one sits in awareness of the breath literally trains the brain to become more open-minded.
Anyway you slice it, we’re much better leaders, team members, friends, parents, teachers, relatives, and people when we approach situations with a more open mind. So that’s my challenge for you this week.  Try something new. Pick up a new magazine. Change the radio station. Listen with an open mind to an opposing perspective.

Start by checking out the mindfulness debate below!

Mindfulness in Schools:

This debate features David Forbes, PhD, an emeritus in the Urban Education Doctoral Program at the CUNY Graduate Center where he teaches a course on critical mindfulness in education. He has written on and consults with K-12 educators about pivoting from neoliberal to transformative integral social mindfulness practices in schools and Rich Fernandez, PhD, CEO of the non-profit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI), an organization developed at Google that offers mindfulness and emotional intelligence solutions to communities and organizations around the world. He is also the co-founder of the workplace wellness company Wisdom Labs.


Mindfulness In Capitalism:

This debate featured Candy Gunther Brown, PhD, Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. Dr. Brown is the author of Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools: Reforming Secular Education or Reestablishing Religion? and has served as an expert witness in four legal challenges to school meditation and yoga—testifying for both parents and school districts and Barnaby Spring who is currently spearheading the work in the largest education system in the world, striving to respond, mindfully, to the emergence of mindfulness in education in the New York City Department of Education. As Director of Mindfulness in Education in the Office of the First Deputy Chancellor, Mr. Spring is inspired to serve as a “glocal” – global and local – thought partner, champion, and connector around the cultivation of social mindfulness in these times.

Certifiably Certified

I’m up to something like 5,000 contacts on LinkedIn (I’m a people person, damnit!).  It’s safe to say, I don’t have close professional relationships with all of them… yet.  Still, I was a little surprised when I shared some thoughts in a post a few months ago that someone responded by saying, “With all those letters after his name, he seems to think a lot about himself.”

Sure, there’s always going to be “haters” that sling insults instead of having honest conversations. I could have chalked it up to that and went on with the rest of my life.  But that comment got me thinking. What do all the certification initialisms after my name really mean? Do I, in fact, think I’m hot $%!?

I quickly concluded that, no, I’m not hot  $%@! (Big slices of humble pie are served up often in my life.) I’m certifiably certified.  There are a ton of super intelligent, talented, funny people out there. I think I’m a wrangler, a wrestler, a doer, and a challenger of the status quo.  I’m not always the smartest guy in the room, but often times I’m the first to show vulnerability and passion to make things better. If I have a superpower, it would probably be my ability to see the big picture and how things fit together, and then show a willingness to create (human) connection where it is missing. Now back to those certifications. If those certifications don’t up my ranking on a “hot $%! meter,” then what do they do? 

A certification gives you perspective.

Telescope See Photography Perspective Summer

A certification is a set of tools or a framework that someone (or a group of “someones”) has created based on the knowledge they’ve amassed and processes they’ve experimented with that have worked for them (maybe).  It’s their perspective on how things should be done. The certification gives me perspective.

All the initialisms after my name just means I’ve invested time and money in seeing, hearing, and learning many different perspectives.  In the agile world you can scale your practices based on Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large Enterprise Scaled Scrum, or Scrum of Scrums or (insert your certification here).  Approaches are like opinions, everyone has one.

When I first started on my coaching journey, when I learned something new I became an evangelist of that particular method; mostly because the new things I was learning were illuminating a new approach.  Knowledge is exciting. But now that I’ve been down the ol’ road awhile, I have a portfolio of models, approaches, and perspectives to consider. Through experience I know there are no “silver bullets,” and the coaching world is often times driven by the all-so-common response of, “It depends.” (Usually because it really does!)

My perspective has evolved.

Each framework or methodology or certification is not the holy grail for how something should be done.  Now I’m a believer in “do what works for you, what produces value.” The art is not in how perfectly you can follow a framework.*  What matters is that you’re progressing and learning and experimenting every single day.  What matters is that you learn the approaches and practices and use them to your advantage.  Then, learn more new methods and new tools and new perspectives, broadening your perspectives and honing your skills.  (*I’m adding a big asterisk here because there is something to be said about having a solid grasp of the methodologies and practices before abandoning the parts that don’t work for you or that are just hard.  Shu Ha Ri. But that’s another post.)

One last thing to all the critics and haters out there:  “If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I am not interested in your feedback.”  -Brene Brown. But I do welcome you to the arena floor, shoulder to shoulder. Let’s battle these challenges together.  Because of you, I took pause to take stock of my story, an ego check of sorts.  The certifications give me perspective and the initialisms do not define me. But maybe, just maybe, they give you a little insight into my learning linage (also another post for another time). Into gaining as many thoughts, insights, and perspectives as possible so I can continue to shape and improve my own story, perspectives, and approaches in order to be the best damn Coach I can possibly be. And the best damn human I can be for the rest of you