I just got back from a 5-day creative writing retreat with 10 brave, talented artists. It was an intense, exhausting and exhilarating experience where our extraordinary teacher Ann Randolph gently yet firmly pushed us way outside our comfort zones.
We wrote alone, sitting in the same room. And then we read our stories aloud to one another.
It felt sacred, being alone and together. Having time to go deep into our own writing and reflection, and then being able to speak our truths among such a safe, caring group of people.
What does this have to do with improving the soul of work? I "re-entered" the work world wondering:
- Why are so many work relationships and "team building" attempts so superficial? If there were more ways to share more of the real us, there could be so much more empathy, compassion and psychological safety at work. And with that, more people might speak up and more might listen. And more of the right things might get done faster.
- Why don't more people take time to journal about their work to more clearly understand what's happening and put it into perspective? Research shows that when we slow things down and reflect, we're able to be more creative about solving especially challenging problems. Check out this recent HBR post by former CEO Dan Ciampa, "The More Senior Your Job Title, the More You Need to Keep a Journal." (Then insert, "The More Committed You Are...")
- Similarly, why don't more people take time to think? Especially with close friends. One of the articles I re-read every summer is "Of Solitude and Leadership" by former Yale professor William Dersiewicz, based on his speech to plebes at West Point. It's long, but his perspectives on bureaucracy, complacency and conformity speak to us Rebels. His view on how to "find the strength to challenge an unwise order or wrongheaded policy" is especially wise. And something we can all do.
- Why don't more people do the right thing just because it's the right thing? Some of my best writing will never be published. Some of our bravest rebel recommendations will never get us a promotion. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't persevere. Let's stop aiming for the biggest platform to change the world or a bazillion Twitter followers and just do work that matters, however "small" it may seem. Charles' Einstein's recent piece, "The Age of We Need Each Other" captures this thought brilliantly.
I hope you find some time this summer to reflect, have leisurely conversations with friends about ideas that matter, and keep on. You have more talents and innate wisdom than you probably realize.