Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Continuous Improvement (kaisen)

Are great individuals in a perpetual state of discomfort? Are they always looking for the next level to attain? These questions haunt me as I fly to Tokyo to facilitate a workshop for senior managers. I was reading a briefing sheet on interacting with Japanese in business. In the reading I came across Kaisen which is the Japanese concept of continuous improvement. Though I study and promote personal greatness, I wonder at the psychological toll of always thinking things are never good enough. Can an individual rest and be satisfied with what they have accomplished while pursuing their best? I believe so.

There is a balance that great individuals have, a creative tension that allows them to realize what they’ve accomplished yet simultaneously strive to achieve or be more. They can be comfortable in their own history, knowing that they have done what they needed to do in the past and simultaneously they long for a better future for themselves.

Many of us are too hard on ourselves. I know I am. Longing to achieve something, change our lives, make a breakthrough, or just be a better person, we don’t acknowledge who we are now and what we’ve done. Either we tend to live for the future of who we can or may be, or we give up, not wanting to live in the discomfort of realistically examining our lives. We just don’t look.

There is an old Latin phrase “En media stat virtus” or “virtue is found in the middle.” The balance can be found by loving ourselves for who we are right now with all of our flaws, foibles, folly, and success while gradually moving toward living out our personal greatness. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Yet the balance, once achieved, allows us to acknowledge the goodness of who we are, while still pursuing something more. It is the real continuous improvement and one that leads to personal greatness.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are You A Fish?

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. A. Einstein

Ever examined your life and thought you were a fish trying to climb a tree because that's what everyone told you to do? We live in a complex world that directs and pressures us from early childhood to live how society wants us to live and be what society wants us to be. Uncovering our own essence is not as easy as some might have us believe. Taking a few days to listen to our inner desires will not cast off decades of external pressure and allow us to shine in the unique light of who we really are. However, each of us does have unique gifts and talents we bring to the world. When we unleash our gifts, our lives and the lives of those around us, can be transformed.

Where do we begin? Well, the easiest way to begin is by examining our life and looking for those areas where we really shine, where we naturally enjoy doing something and we do it well. We might realize that we are a gifted listener, writer, friend, artist, or anything else. But the key is to realistically examine what we love to do and what transforms moments for us. Most likely that is our gift.

What next? Gradually we can start doing more and more of what we love and do well. Do it slowly, otherwise our family, friends and co-workers will wonder at the change in behavior, but commit to the change. Eventually we will find ourselves taking time daily to embrace our gift.

When we meet someone who has uncovered and uses their gift we know it. They live with energy and zeal, and they always try to be true to their gift. They don't try climbing trees, when they know they are a fish.