Podcast Pick: The One You Feed: Emily Esfahani Smith

Lately I seem to be having similar conversations with all sorts of folks.  Some are 76 years old and others are 26.  Some have kids and others don’t.  Some are single others aren’t.  Some I know and others I’ve just met. Invariably they are spoke about the desire to do something that matters.  But during the many conversations, I felt like there was more we needed to explore but was unable to articulate it.

However, after listening to Emily Esfahani Smith speak about meaningfulness on The One You Feed, I discovered a way of speaking about the search for purpose.

Start with this question.  What makes you happy?

For me it’s a great meal.  Like the amazing kimchi soup my wife makes or the Filet Mignon Tournedos Rossini at the Wildflower Grill.  The great meal triggers a feeling like life can’t get any better. Happiness has an internal focus.

Now ask yourself, what gives your life meaning?

For me it is caring for the dog (Poppy) my wife and I triumphantly scooped up from the Edmonton Humane Society and few months ago. The act of caring for the dog reinforces my connection to something beyond myself.  It forces me to recognize purpose or value in my life that exists beyond my internal needs like family, God, nature, work, or a dog that need a home.  Meaningfulness is derived external to the self.

Additionally, Smith makes clear that meaning is not achievable through an intellectual exercise.  We can’t think our way to meaning.  Rescuing a dog from the Edmonton Humane Society holds meaning. Thinking about rescuing the dog is a plan to create meaning at some point in the future.

 

Finally, take a look at the career choices you see people in your network making and ask yourself, what is the driving force behind their decision?  

Near the end of the conversation Smith reveals that she believes people are making career choices based on more than money.  She articulates it as a societal shift from Material Want to Meaning Want.  The transition from the quest for money/things to the quest for knowledge/purpose.

 

What drives your choices?

Podcast Pick: Negotiating with a Liar (Harvard Business Review Ideacast)

Have you ever thought someone might be lying but just couldn’t quite prove it?  Leslie John, of the Harvard Business School, reveals some very practical tips on how to navigate through an interaction with a liar during her interview on the Harvard Ideacast entitled How to Negotiate with a Liar.    

 In my experience, people that are usually honest become ‘liars’ when the stakes are high.  This is especially true when two people are trying to resolve a conflict.  Each person is negotiating the facts with the other to arrive at a resolution that suits their interests.   Think back to the last real conflict you had with someone important to you.  Be honest, did you fib just a little to get your way?  We all lie.   Lies of omission, white lies, boldface lies.  You’re lying to yourself if you think you don’t lie.

To begin, John says to stop trying to catch the liars.  We are not as skilled at catching a liar as we think we are and when we guess right, catching someone in a lie, we have actually moved further from our desired resolution. 

So do I deny myself the rush I get when I triumphantly right the scales of injustice by pointing out the liar in the room?   John would say catching the other person in the lie will only exacerbate the conflict rather than move towards solving it.  

So if I can’t point out that their pants are on fire, what can I do?  

Start by creating a safe space.  If people feel they are safe, they are less likely to lie.   Within that safe space you may get things started by disclosing something about yourself, prompting the other person to reciprocate.   Reciprocal self-disclosure fosters trust and therefore you are less likely to lie to them and they are less likely to lie to you.  It eases both participants into a conversation that has the potential to move them towards a resolution.  

However, there are times in which the other person refuses to participate in disclosures.  If this occurs, John says to try giving the other person a choice between two options of which you are personally impartial. The option they choose will be a disclosure in itself.  Understanding what they need will signal what you can trade with them to arrive at a resolution.

John also tackles the obvious, persistent, recidivist liar.   When confronted with the person addicted to lying, she says to use contingencies.  Allow the lie to pass undetected and instead tie contingencies to a resolution based on their falsehood.  (If you turn out to be wrong, then you will have to work overtime to meet the deadline.)  Usually, the person lying will step back from their lie to avoid the repercussions of a contingency.  It neatly sidesteps the need to be right by placing the emphasis on what happens if the other person is wrong.   

John has a few other tips in the podcast so I encourage you to give it a listen.  

In the interim, for those readers following my Liminal Thinking series, are you able reconcile John’s ideas about lying with Gray’s ideas on beliefs?  

Podcast Pick: On Average by 99% Invisible

I’m a huge podcast fan and sometimes I come across an episode that I feel compelled to share.

On Average by 99% Invisible (20 min) is an informative bit of  research illustrating how the mathematical concept average can solve problems……or create them.

It starts by outlining the historical origins of how the average measure was discovered and subsequently used.  For example, it helped solve a clothing issue for President Lincoln by creating the Small, Medium and Large sizes we see in stores today.  Later  it illustrates how designing for the average had disastrous outcomes for the United States Air Force.

Can you think of any examples in your life/work where designing for the average has been a help? or a hindrance?