Wikipedia defines perfectionism as “a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high-performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.” Adaptive perfectionism, carried out in a positive way can drive and motivate people to reach ambitious and stretch goals. But in a maladaptive form, perfectionism – especially when projected in an unfiltered and very critical way to others – can drive people crazy and can destroy new, creative and innovative ideas.

Can we as human beings ever be perfect? Or can we never be perfect by definition?

I cannot offer right or wrong answers, but I’d love to share what I learned so far on my journey. It won’t be perfect, I guess. But I hope it’s something that inspires you to think differently about perfectionism.

We are born with a perfect system – our human body.
We are not born with all we need to know in life.

We all have to learn essentials such as sitting, walking, talking, eating and drinking, writing and reading. Later on, we learn how to drive a bike or a car, and we acquire explicit knowledge and experiences in various areas of interest. At the same time, we will always lack knowledge in other areas. We learn in many different ways, for instance by observation, by repetition, by trial and error, and by mistakes. And the list goes on and on. Remember how you learned to ride a bike. Remember your first photographs or your first pieces of writing. And then, years later: look at what you create now and how you create now. That will be different. Often very different. And that’s good news. It means that learning, development, and growth have happened. And all of that happens in iterations, triggered by inspirations, by conflicts or by a situation that forces us to change. Also, people we meet can shape our lives, and influence or revolutionize our work. But only, if we allow other people to come so close to our heart that these changes can be triggered by them. And that’s the part that has to do with the acceptance of our vulnerability.

Does that sound “perfect”? No, I don’t think so. What bothers me most about the term “perfect” is that it excludes change, growth, and development. By definition. If something is considered to be perfect, how should it ever be advanced to a new level? No way. If something is already perfect, changes can only make it imperfect.

That’s not something I prefer. Not for who I am, not for what I do, and not for my relationships. To be precise, not for the way I relate to the very few people that are really important to me.

I was a perfectionist for many years, when I worked like crazy in a job that meant nothing to me personally, more than ten years ago. Click here for more information. In this consulting era, I was well known for being a perfectionist, especially regarding presentations for client projects. Why was I a perfectionist at this time? From today’s perspective, it’s easy to answer for me.  Because I could hide myself behind my “perfectionism shield”. At this time I didn’t accept my vulnerable soul, I didn’t love myself in all aspects as I should. My consulting role at this time didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable. I was paid to function where others already failed. So, hiding my vulnerability was most important to me. And there is no better way than being a perfectionist.

What I learned is now proven by research:

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.”
– Brené Brown

Striving for our best in everything we do is of course something we should aim for every day. But how we do that, how we strive for our best; that makes all the difference in all aspects of our lives.

The perfectionist way takes you in your entirety pretty much out of the equation. Perfectionism often works like a shield, seeking for acceptance and approval for what we do. Somehow, perfectionism and who we really are – these two elements don’t seem to go along pretty well because I don’t think that we as human beings can ever be perfect, as discussed above. So, being perceived perfectly means almost all the time to hide you being a human being, especially your vulnerable part. Hiding that helps to minimize critic and painful feelings of judgment. The downside is that the perfectionist way doesn’t allow you to grow, to develop your work and yourself to another level in a holistic way. Therefore, you have to be “in”; completely, with all aspects of YOU.

Striving for your best in everything you do should be based on excellence, not on perfectionism.

  • Excellence is different from perfectionism.
  • Excellence is a virtue.
  • Excellence includes the necessity of growth.
  • Excellence includes the need to develop different levels of excellence.
  • Excellence happens in iterations.

Whenever I publish a blog post, this specific piece of writing, and I have gone through a few iterations. Gathering ideas, doing research, extracting the main idea and the supporting ideas, how to tell the story, and then – the first draft. Often, I walk away from the article at this point and come back a few days later. I have to digest the first draft. Sometimes, I’m still happy with the flow, and a few editing iterations follow. And sometimes, I’m not happy with the first draft, and I have to rewrite the article. Whatever the process is for whatever I publish here, I don’t click the publish button before I’m not sure that I have done my very best I’m able to do at this point.

Is that perfect? No, but it’s the best version I could create at this point;  knowing that there is always room for improvement and knowing that I would probably write with a slightly different perspective within a year or two from now. And that’s good news. Because I assume to learn, to grow and to deepen my understanding and my experience. And I expect to have deeper insights the more I have the pleasure to learn and to grow in this human experience that’s called my life.

I’m happy to be able to accept my vulnerability as one of my core strengths. I’m either completely “in” or completely “out” regarding all aspects of my life. I love to strive for excellence in all those “in” areas of my life. Always.

  • Perfectionism is not about change, growth and iterations, but excellence is.
  • Perfectionism takes “being human” out of the equation.
  • Perfectionism works as a shield to avoid judgment, shame and blame.

The pursuit of excellence – that’s what boosts your creativity in playfulness, in acceptance of who you are as a human being and in acceptance of what you do along your journey.


It’s International Women’s Day, #IWD2015!

And here is the second part of my series about inspiring women. In part 1, I covered women rights and the cultural aspect that influences women’s reality. I introduced you to a true leader of the Baroque era, artist Artemisia Gentileschi.

Fast forward to today, we are in the 21st century, and I want to introduce you to my heroine of the second part of the series, Fiona Oakes.

Fiona Oakes is a world-class marathon runner. She holds three Guinness world records as the fastest women to run a marathon on all seven continents aggregate time as well as the fastest woman to run a marathon on all continents plus the North Pole in both aggregate and elapsed time. Additionally, she holds several course records. She is vegan since her childhood. Apart from running marathons across the planet, her day-job is leading Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary, where she cares about 400 rescued and previously unwanted animals, with the support of her partner Martin Morgan.

Fiona is leading by example, focusing completely on what’s the right thing to do; every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Considering animals as what they are, sentient living beings who love to live and who want to avoid pain, Fiona made the connection between animal-based food and the painful situation of farmed animals very early in her childhood. The result: she became a vegan. Imagine this sense of a holistic big picture and the clear articulation of her focus and her dedication already as a child. For me, this connection and the logical consequence to go vegan has taken many more years. Click here to learn more.

On the one hand side, Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary deals with the symptoms of abuse and exploitation by caring about abused and exploited animals. On the other hand side, Fiona has created The Fiona Oakes Foundation to address the root causes. Root causes are, for instance, how people perceive animals differently (to love pets but to consume the meat or the breastmilk of farmed animals), and how people look at the environment (“I cannot change a lot”). Ultimately it’s what we eat. Diets that are rich in animal-based ingredients are a torture for the animals exploited by the animal agriculture industry. This industry is one of the biggest threats to our environment (see facts here) because it is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases. Furthermore, animal-based diets are not healthy, as the China Study and the related documentary Forks over Knives proved already years ago.

Fiona has dedicated her life to change the root causes and to help abused and exploited animals wherever she can. She addresses the root causes as a vegan, serves as a role model by showcasing what can be achieved on a vegan diet. High performance is a small word for all her athletic achievements. What makes her an outstanding athlete is her consistent world-class performance year over year: three world records and several course records. Not a single one was a “one-hit-wonder”. Her athletic achievements are always planned precisely. She is very focused on executing her goals. Running 100 miles a week, while caring for about 400 animals is nothing you do between nine and five. She alone knows where she takes the energy to get up at 3:30 am every day. And running is nothing she does to for herself. “It serves the purpose” is her simple statement. She is running for the animals, to raise money for the sanctuary and to prove that world-class performance can be achieved on a vegan diet.

In February 2015, she has taken on another challenge, the 777quest: seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Also here, she delivered seven marathons, in seven days on “only” six continents due to bad weather conditions at Antarctica. Is there anybody out there who wants to question her outstanding performance and dedication?

Fiona Oakes is a 21st century heroine and world-class marathon runner, leading by example to transform the world into a more sustainable and non-violent place

I had the pleasure to meet Fiona and her partner Martin in person last year at the sanctuary. It was so spot on when she said “let me introduce you to our family”. That’s what the animals are, fellow creatures and living beings who deserve to live in peace without pain. She introduced me to the horses, the chickens, the ducks, the pigs and the sheep, the dogs and the cats. Every single animal has either a violent ex-farm history or another background where their owners didn’t take their responsibility seriously. At Tower Hill Stables, peace is a reality. And that’s what Fiona and Martin have created, a paradise for animals. You feel the difference. It’s peaceful, animals are loved for who and what they are, not for what they may “produce” or “do” for humans. Tower Hill Stables is itself a role model for a non-violent world. This is how we all should live together. It’s so beautiful to see that different species can live together in peace.

Fiona works extremely hard without almost no break or pause. In her spare time, she provides posts, updates, and news from the sanctuary to raise money for the animals, and to grow the group of sanctuary members who support the animals on a monthly basis. Furthermore, she is always exploring new ideas to create an even bigger impact for her cause.

“It’s important to follow your heart.
And it’s important to open your heart to the suffering of others.”
Fiona Oakes

That’s what I call servant leadership!
Happy #IWD2015!

P.S.: In case you want to join me in helping Fiona and the animals, click here to learn more about different ways to help: http://www.towerhillstables.com/towerhill-helpingus.htm

 

More about Fiona Oakes:

Fiona’s story:
http://www.fionaoakesfoundation.co.uk/about/

CNN Human to Hero:
http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/04/sport/fiona-oakes-extreme-marathon-runner/index.html

Fiona’s world records:
http://www.fionaoakesfoundation.co.uk/worldrecords/

BBC London Radio Interview:
http://youtu.be/DoVPximPFw8

Fiona Oakes, Ultra Marathon Runner: Mazda Real Challengers, Series 2:
http://youtu.be/c-cjgJURce8

 


It’s International Women’s Day, #IWD2015!

It’s a day to recognize and to celebrate what has been achieved in terms of women rights. It’s also a day to look at the current state and to focus on the remaining challenges that have to be mastered to achieve gender equality in all aspects of our lives. There is a legal dimension, and there is the cultural dimension, a reality of women who inspire, who lead and who transform. In past times and the present.

Before I will introduce you to a few women who inspired my life; let’s just look at one legal issue, the right of women to vote. For many of us, women’s suffrage already existed when we were born. Only the older generations may remember the tremendous fights that were necessary to gain the right to vote. It’s absolutely worth your time to have a look at this timetable of women’s suffrage. Look at the huge timespan from the 18th century up to the 20th century which was necessary in so many countries to achieve a right that is considered to be self-evident for many of us. Did you know that women got the right to vote in Germany in 1918, but in France only in 1944, in Italy in 1946 and in Greece in 1952? The UK established selected women’s suffrage in 1918 until women got the same rights as men in 1928. Some US states were early adopters, and on a federal level women’s suffrage was achieved in 1920. Women’s suffrage is still an issue in the 21st century: Oman in 2003, United Arab Emirates in 2006 and Saudi Arab in 2015.

There are always two sides of the same coin. One is the legal part as mentioned in the example above; the other one is women’s cultural reality, women’s lives. The cultural dimension goes way beyond the example I used here. Both realities make me aware that there is no reason to take anything for granted.

Apart from legal rights and constitutions, there have always been courageous women who led by example and how transformed entire eras.

In part one of the little series; we go back to the Baroque era.

Think of baroque painters. Which name comes to your mind? Probably Caravaggio considered as one of the most important Baroque painters and influencers. But did you ever hear about Artemisia Gentileschi? Maybe yes, maybe not. I admit, I didn’t know her name since I had the pleasure to be part of a guided tour at the MET – Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last December. The tour’s purpose was to guide our team through different eras of art, from the first painters up to the impressionists. Our focus was to understand the triggers, for instance in society, church, or around methods and techniques, which changed the way of painting, which changed art in each era. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656), was an Italian Baroque painter. “Today she is considered one of the most accomplished painters of the generation following that of Caravaggio. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community or patrons, she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence” (Wikipedia).

But there is much more in Artemisia’s life that makes her a heroine for me.

Artemisia’s lost her mother at age 12. Since then, she was mostly surrounded by men. She learned how to paint from her father, painter Orazio Gentileschi. At age 17, she was raped by a friend of her father, painter Agostino Tassi. To make a long story short, she had to go through an ensuing seven-month trial. Artemisia’s father pressed charges against Tassi because he had taken Artemisia’s virginity. During the trial, Artemisia was subjected to a gynecological examination and torture using thumbscrews to verify her testimony. At the end of the trial, Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time. Imagine for a moment how this 17-year-old girl could have felt at this time…

Artemisia lived in many different places in Italy, in Vienna and England. Wikipedia sums it up: “[She] was an artist who fought with determination—using the weapon of personality and of the artistic qualities—against the prejudices expressed against women painters; being able to introduce herself productively in the circle of the most respected painters of her time, embracing a series of pictorial genres that probably were more ample and varied than her paintings suggest.”

What makes Artemisia’s work as a painter so important is that 94% of her art featured women as protagonists or equal to men. Imagine the Baroque era. Doing so was more than a revolution. Many of the characters she painted intentionally lacked the stereotypical “feminine” traits — sensitivity, timidness, and weakness. The opposite was the case, these characters were brave, courageous, rebellious, and powerful personalities. Apparently, she processed the rape and the related challenges in her life with creating outstanding art. And she seemed to be well aware of how differently women and female artists were viewed by men. That could explain why her works at the beginning of her career were so bold and defiant.

Artemisia was the linchpin of the Baroque era. She used bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the current state.

Here is what I love about Artemisia and what truly inspired me: She was a courageous and strong women, she was a highly creative artist, and she became one of the most important Baroque painters. She had to go through a lot of suffering and even more challenges in her life. But she always led by example, she processed her challenges while creating outstanding art. If a certain place didn’t work any longer for her art, she changed the situation, and she moved to another place. In parallel, she had to raise her daughter, most of the time as a single Mother.

Last but not least, she invented the “women artist” and she was a role model for her generation. And for me, she still is a role model for women in our world. She is a role model for a linchpin, which is a brave, passionate, creative person who follows a bold vision and leads by example.

Find your life purpose and walk your journey. Lead by example, make your vulnerability a creative strength and make sure that your journey is a benefit to all.

Happy #IWD2015!

Stay tuned, the second part is already in the making!


“Vulnerability is not weakness.
And that myth is profoundly dangerous.”
– Brene Brown

How to write about vulnerability? Should I write what others figured out, to make it research-based? Because it should be about the topic, not so much about me?

How often do we have these inner conversations? Not only on this specific topic. Making things neutral, fact-based, rational, and left-brained. Doing so, means to remove authenticity and creativity. It means to remove ourselves from the equation; it means to hide what could make our message unique.

Vulnerability defined as a weakness suppresses people’s true potential

Being vulnerable is being weak – that was my parents’ conviction. I was raised to behave like a young adult. Whenever something hurt me as a child, and I cried for a while, my parents’ main concern was that I stopped crying. The underlying reason was almost never of any interest. Back to “normal” was the motto. I learned to hide my emotions, my sadness, and my tears. I learned to hide my vulnerable and soft part. I learned to hide myself. It seemed to work for many years. Of course, nobody had a chance to come really close to me. And I didn’t build any meaningful relationships. How should I? In the long run, it didn’t work at all. Of course not. My behavior to hide a huge part of myself had to collapse. It happened in iterations over a decade. Until my heart opened up. Until I learned to accept my vulnerability as one of my core foundations, as the prerequisite for finding my journey, my purpose, and my creativity.

For many years, I worked like crazy, in different sales and consulting roles, traveling week by week. Over time, as I got more and more disconnected from almost everything, I questioned the value of the projects I was hired and paid for. The more I looked behind the scenes, the more useless the outcomes seemed to be. Selling and leading performance programs as a consultant was something I could do pretty well, but it was not something I enjoyed doing. I simply did my job; I functioned in this role. My vulnerable part had no place in this world. I was not happy. And I got sick. Deep inside me, the desire to discover the roots of my soul and my heart, the desired to become true to myself was increasing and increasing.

Discovering my vulnerability

Then I found myself in a spiritual leadership workshop in Hungary, back in 2004. I blindly followed the recommendation of a friend to attend this workshop. This workshop changed my life. Completely. I had to face my emotional past that had no space so far. And I was also challenged to overcome various fears. Hiding vulnerability and hiding fears are closely connected. Imagine you are blindfolded, and you work with a person you don’t know yet. This partner guides you through a labyrinth. It only works when you trust this person completely. Saying that it wasn’t easy would be an understatement. It was a huge emotional challenge. I wasn’t used to trusting another person this way. Even worse, I wasn’t aware of that. Even more challenging for me was this: people stand in two rows facing each other, and their arms and hands are connected to each other, building a strong cushion. You stand on a small wall (the height is not the problem!), with your back to the group, and you let yourself fall backward, to be held by the team. Hiding my vulnerability didn’t allow me to stand on the wall saying “Hey guys, I’m afraid to jump. Would you please hold me?” No way. I didn’t say a word. Somehow, trembling with fear, I jumped backward, and the feeling of being held by this amazing group released the last twenty years of hiding my vulnerability. Finally, I allowed my tears to flow. What a trigger!

For me, this was a key milestone. It was the beginning of a new life, the beginning of a journey I enjoy fast forward to today. I stopped hiding my vulnerability, my tears, my sadness, my inner self and my fears. It was the beginning to regain trust in me, to become true to myself. It was the beginning to find my journey and my life purpose years later. It was the beginning to discover my creative potential. All that happened and is happening in iterations fast forward to today. This is a journey that’s never finished. Also, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t any additional and heavy challenges in my life since then. There were a lot of challenges, even more than before. More, because I didn’t hide them from hitting me. However, I’m grateful for every single challenge and crisis that came my way. Each of those challenges told me something I had to learn; about life, about others, but first and foremost about myself. In addition, I learned, what I had to let go to grow.

Vulnerability means to open up and to speak your truth, even if your voice is shaking.

It means to articulate yourself, your truth, especially if you find yourself in situations with people that matter to you. Vulnerability means to be authentic; it means to be honest. Your vulnerability will touch people if their hearts are open and they have a connection to you. Ultimately, vulnerability never means to say “I’m sorry” for what you are and for who you are.

If somebody’s behavior hurts you, you always have a choice. You can hide your emotions, or you can articulate how you feel in a way that’s not attacking the other person. In many cases, other people are not aware what their behavior means to you. And that’s the same the other way around. If a person truly matters to you, help them to understand your perspective. If they truly care about you, they will be grateful for your openness. A great foundation to grow a relationship. If they don’t care about your situation and don’t value that you have spoken up, you will learn an important lesson how not to waste your gift, your vulnerability.
Just be who you are and what you are. And that needs no excuses.

Vulnerability is the prerequisite for creativity and innovation

I had no sense of my creative potential for many years, see also here. I learned as a child that creativity was not important, and I was also told that I wasn’t a creative person at all. So, I unconsciously hid something I wasn’t even aware of. Years later, I developed a sense of creativity when I started to tailor my dresses, when I started to develop new recipes based on learning and understanding cooking principles rather than repeating other people’s recipes. Later on, I learned to create new ideas in different areas of my life – and most important to trust my ideas and to use them. Writing became one of my favorite parts of being more creative in all aspects of my life. Luckily, I could integrate my creativity and my love for writing with my current profession.

Being true to yourself, discovering your vulnerability and living a vulnerable life means to live a creative life. Vulnerability if the foundation for creativity. Only if you have found the connection to your inner self, only if you are connected to the roots of your soul, only then you can create authentic ideas, you can create art. Your art. Only then, your creativity will be unique.

Vulnerability is the foundation for sharing, connecting and engaging.

Imagine you share your ideas with a group of people. You are very vulnerable at this point. Everybody else can have an opinion telling you why it won’t work and why it doesn’t make any sense. We all know those situations in all aspects of our lives. Think about the very few occasions when people welcomed your ideas and tried to develop them together to a new level.

And now rethink why one of the biggest problems in today’s organizations is a lack of creativity and innovation. Yes, one of the root causes is that we learned to hide our inner self, our vulnerability, our creativity. Brené Brown has conducted groundbreaking research on this topic. You will find a few must read and must watch links at the end of this blog post.

Sharing, connecting and engaging for me as a writer begins with the “Publish” button and to share the art I have made. For a painter, it means to present their art to the public, for a photographer or filmmaker it’s presenting their photographs, stories and films to the public.

I couldn’t write a better statement than this one from Seth Godin. It’s so spot on:

“Vulnerable is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we’ve made.
When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted all the power
and made ourselves naked
in front of the person we’ve given the gift of our art to.
We have no excuses, no manual to point to,
no standard operating procedure to protect us.
And that is part of our gift.
–Seth Godin

Real strength is to rediscover your vulnerability and to make it your gift to the world.

  • We are all born with love, not with hatred.
  • We are all born vulnerable.
  • We are all born with playfulness and creativity.
  • We are all born as connecting, sharing and collaborative living beings.

Let’s bring all these elements together and let’s live a vulnerable, strong and creative life.

 

Recommended reads and talks, related blog posts:

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability TED Talk

Brené Brown website

Brené Brown: How vulnerability can make our lives better

Seth Godin: V is for Vulnerable

Unleash your creative potential

Knowledge, love or truth – what’s your current focus?


Knowledge, love and truth – powerful and important areas in everybody’s life that ideally complement each other. But what does it mean to you? Now, at this point in your life? Which area is currently in the center of your life, and why?

Giving some thought to these three elements and their current relevance in your life is a worthwhile and powerful exercise. This process has its roots in a core shamanic principle – pushing the individual to find their own journey. I was blessed to spend some time on this question a few weeks ago, attending a shamanic course. It’s an ideal exercise when you review or when you create your vision. Gaining clarity on the “knowledge – love – truth” question allows you to sharpen your vision and to adjust its manifestation.

Knowledge

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There are two areas of knowledge, explicit and implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is something you can read and acquire, in theory. You can read about swimming, how to make the right movements in a certain sequence. That’s explicit knowledge. But it doesn’t make you a swimmer. If you want to learn how to swim, you have to be in the water. It’s the same with cooking, selling, painting or writing. You can read and learn a lot in theory, but you need training and practice in the real world. This “how to” knowledge is implicit knowledge.

For me, it was important to reflect how I acquired knowledge so far. Looking at the last couple of years, I made a few great leaps forward in acquiring knowledge in both areas – explicit and implicit knowledge. Often in iterations and from a different perspective to get to the next level. In my profession, I experienced a lot of new things while driving a new topic to a certain level of maturity and strategic impact – sales enablement. It was a combination and ongoing iteration between acquiring explicit and implicit knowledge. Often I tried new things and learned later how that really worked. In other situations, I acquired the explicit knowledge before applying it. The same happened along my spiritual journey. Working on both knowledge areas, often in iterations allows you to achieve your next level.

Knowledge – is it the leading element right now for me? It was for many years. Now, it’s a supporting element.

Love

Remember, love is born with you; it is your intrinsic quality.
All that is needed is to give it a way – to make a passage for it,
to let it flow, to allow it to happen.
– Osho

 Love, still a mystery to many people, often considered as an emotion that’s closely related to affection, attraction, attachment, relationship and ownership. I learned completely different things over the last couple of years. I found myself in situations that disrupted everything I thought I would know about love. I had to question everything; my thinking, my emotions, my actions and reactions, my values, principles, and beliefs. The whole nine yards. My journey challenged me in a way that I had to leave old belief systems behind to establish my newly discovered values and principles. To be correct; these old belief systems were never mine. I simply adopted them while growing up without questioning.

You may want to check out A Couple of Thoughts about Love. The summary is this one: Let’s understand that love is an intrinsic quality of your heart. It has much more to do with you than with any other person. Discover that love is a state of being. It’s within all of us. We are born with love in our hearts, not with hatred. And let’s never forget that love requires freedom. Love without freedom is not love. It’s a prison, for yourself and others.

Love – is it the leading element right now for me? Love was my key driving force for the last couple of years. It was a cycle I had to go through to learn what I had to learn. Now, my love is a beautiful foundation for my vision and my journey.

Truth

“Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time.
If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Speak your mind.
Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Truth, what is it? Speaking your truth – what would you say? Truth is the quality or state of being true, says Oxford-Dictionaries.
What’s the purpose of your life, what’s your calling? Often, your life purpose doesn’t show up in a gentle way. The opposite is the case, and the purpose comes to you in a crisis to guide you in a new direction, to push you to find your journey. In my case, I discovered my life purpose at the end of the most challenging year I ever had. It was the year after the death of my brother. In addition to that, life had thrown me into challenging situations that forced me to question almost everything in several areas of my life at the same time. My emotional state was feeling disconnected and disrupted. Then, my purpose showed up, in a ceremony I attended last-minute because my inner voice told me to do exactly that. Gatekeeper, connecting the dots between assumed different worlds, between the spiritual world and the business world, is the purpose of my life. Suddenly, it was crystal-clear, and it made total sense. Embracing my purpose was the next step. Since then, I changed a lot in my life, and I strongly focused my energy on my purpose. Consequently, I stopped wasting my energy and my time on issues, topics, and people that don’t support my journey and that don’t serve my life purpose. Changes touched almost all areas of my life, such as my profession, my spiritual journey and how to better connect the both; my values, principles, and beliefs. My purpose was one of the reasons why I published the SandHearts eBook Life Principles last year. It was, and it is a manifestation of my principles, the foundation of my journey and my truth.

Truth, that’s currently my driving force in my life, gently surrounded and supported by knowledge and love.

What’s your current focus, your driving force?


Many people create New Year resolutions. But most of these resolutions don’t even last until the end of January. Why is that so? Is it only a game, a not well-reflected habit? In my experience, the short half-life of New year resolutions happens when the ideas are only based on an ”I should do this and stop doing that…” manner. A short half-life also happens if these ideas are only goals that don’t reflect what and who you are and where you want to go.
Furthermore, resolutions that are not processed and manifested in a holistic way that includes body, mind and soul have a huge potential to fail.

Using precious time wisely

I know this problem. That’s why I changed my Year End and New Year’s Eve approach a few years ago. Attending a dinner party and talking about meaningless stuff, playing with New Year commitments, knowing that it’s primarily a game to kill time – that became a pure waste of time for me. I want to use my time in a more valuable way. When one year ends, and a new one is fast approaching; that’s a very precious time. This time should be used for yourself to connect deeply with who and what you are, where you are right now and where you want to go. It’s also a time to make peace with what has happened and to start a new adventure, a new year. That’s why I changed my Hogmanay habits, the first time in 2011.

Enjoying the beauty and magic of Shamanism

For me, there is no better place than being at Lendrick Lodge in Scotland, enjoying a few days full of shamanism to connect with the spirits (nature, universe – you name it) within a circle of like-minded people to recap the past, to work in a body, mind and soul based way to create a New Year vision and resolution, my road map for 2015. Digging into the unknown beauty and healing power of Shamanism – this year it was about fire and water – is a priceless gift, especially if the course is led by one of the best, most passionate and experienced Shaman teachers of our time, Stephen Mulhearn.

Manifesting a heart-based New Year resolution 

The process of creating a New Year resolution is just the beginning. It’s where most people stop. But to stick to it, your resolution has to be manifested, ideally at a place where you feel a special energy, where you feel deeply connected to yourself, to Mother Earth and Father Sky. It has to become a heart-based commitment to yourself, with body, mind and soul on the same page. Lendrick Lodge is such a place, “my” favorite place, with lots of spiritual energy, wild and rough nature, and with a circle of ancient standing stones. So far, this circle didn’t have a center stone. That’s something our Shamanic Hogmanay group changed this year, when we placed the “stone of utterance” exactly in the middle of the circle. The ritual of placing this stone of utterance in the center of the circle, led by Stephen Mulhearn, was deep and pure, beautiful and touching. Within moments, the energy in the circle changed, became even more intense and uplifting. The perfect place for every single one of our group, to manifest our resolution to the world, to the spirits.

Here is mine – declared December 31, 2014 at Lendrick Lodge, Scotland, standing on the stone of utterance. It’s based on my overall vision here.

I’m a gatekeeper. I’m bridging between the spiritual world and the so called “normal” world and business world that are out of balance.

My goal is to inspire people to drive change in their lives towards compassion, consciousness, collaboration, inner peace and happiness to change the current state of the world. 

Change begins always with ourselves. Therefore, I commit myself to lead by example in three different ways:

  • Evolving Sand Hearts – Play, Create, Lead and Transform:
    I will evolve this blog, my personal blog, to a platform for spiritual leadership. I will build on the foundation that has been established over the last years. I will continue to write about my journey on transformation and self-leadership, covering various aspects of my lessons learned and experiences.
  • Driving change in B2B sales from push to pull:
    In my professional role as analyst and researcher, I dedicate my energy, experience and expertise to provide research and practical frameworks how to evolve the way of professional selling. It’s about the transformation from pushing products to creating sustainable value for customers, to enable them to solve their problems and master their challenges. Understanding and practicing connectedness, compassion and collaboration will be a key to success. That’s my contribution to the overall economic transformation from push to pull concepts towards responsible and ethical business models.
  • Spreading the word on connectedness, compassion and non-violence:
    I will spread the word based on my experience to help people to make the transition to a cruelty-free vegan lifestyle. I will do that by sharing facts and figures on the tremendous suffering of farmed animals (watch Earthlings), the huge environmental impact animal-based agriculture has on planet Earth (watch Cowspiracy) and the negative impact on people’s health when consuming animal-based products (watch Forks over Knives).
    Additionally, as I’m a passionate and creative cook, I will share ideas, recipes, and inspirations on vegan cooking.   

 

How are you going to make an impact for your life, your work, and for the world?
What’s on top of your agenda? How are you going to make a difference this year?

I’m looking forward to learning more about your plans – let’s collaborate!

Related posts:

 


A very busy, challenging and amazing 2014 comes to an end. And 2015 is almost ready to take over.

Looking at all the 20 blog posts I have written and published this year makes me smile, and it makes me happy. Isn’t that a noticeable body of work? Many of these blog posts reflect topics I’m dealing with in different areas of my life. Sometimes, writing is a part of healing stressful or uncomfortable situations I had to go through to learn what I had to learn. Writing helps me to gain more clarity on the topics I’m dealing with and getting new ideas as I’m writing. And sometimes it’s just the pure joy of writing. What all blog posts have in common is to share what I have learned along my journey.

If my posts entertain you – perfect!
If my posts make you think – excellent!
If my posts inspire you to change something in your life – outstanding!

Sand Hearts is my personal blog with no commercial ambitions. I’m free to write about those topics I truly care about for those of you who care about these topics as well. That’s not mainstream. Of course not. I don’t provide five steps to happiness and another ten to success. No way. Life cannot be lived by checklists. Life has to be lived, enjoyed and loved. Wisdom comes with the challenges we have to master to learn what we have to learn. Wisdom comes with our experiences along our journeys, and how well we reflect those experiences for ourselves. Wisdom comes from a lot of work with ourselves, in solitude to better understand who we are, what our purpose is on this planet at this point in time and where we have to go.

My perspective is the perspective of a gatekeeper, to bridge between assumed different worlds, to connect the spiritual world, the world of ancient wisdom with the business world. That we cannot continue with “business as usual” is something everybody should have recognized by now. Using more resources from Earth than we need, producing unnecessary waste just because it’s comfortable, living a lifestyle that doesn’t allow millions of other people to participate won’t work anymore. Greed, power, violence as dominating forces are not a recipe for the future. Reasons for that? Many. One is the low level of consciousness we see all over the place. Greed and power are still dominating forces not only in politics, powered by violence against living beings. In business, luckily, we see a growing number of good examples!
Change always starts with ourselves. And this is my approach. We have to educate people regarding ethical principles, values, moral baselines and on developing a higher level of consciousness. Educating people’s hearts (not only their minds) is not a luxury; it is a necessity to survive.

That’s why I’m writing here, as a gatekeeper. That’s why Sand Hearts exists. Because it’s the right thing to do. To make a difference.

These are the topics I have covered with my posts in 2014:

  • Shamanism: Inspired by the Shamanic course I attended over New Year’s Eve in Scotland to welcome 2014, I processed what I learned during these fantastic, intense days in three blog posts. I hope; I could transfer a little bit of the magic, the completeness, the happiness and the deep connectedness to nature, I could experience there.
    Posts are: PLAYFULNESS IS IN EVERY ELEMENT,  THOUGHTS, SHAPES, SOUNDS, WORDS AND POWER and “TREES ARE SANCTUARIES.”
  • Life Principles: Whatever I experienced, whatever challenged me (there was a lot along the way…); that’s all included in these seven blog posts on responsibility, play, choice, energy, creativity, love and consciousness. Working on these posts, the idea of an e-book was born and didn’t stop penetrating my thoughts. The idea as born because all these principles tell a story, my story, and this story evolved along the journey. So, I started to create my very first eBook, with my limited technical design and layout capabilities… I carefully selected photographs for each principle and I added a few additional thoughts to connect the different chapters to each other.  In case you didn’t get your copy, click SEVEN LIFE PRINCIPLES OR A JOURNEY TO CONSCIOUSNESS – DOWNLOAD YOUR EBOOK see all the links to the related posts and download your eBook. It’s free, my way to pay it forward to the community.
  • Self—Leadership: A topic that builds on the life principles. There is one early post on self-leadership called SAY THANK YOU TO YOURSELF, and two additional posts I have written later this year: THE ART OF LETTING THINGS GO and UNDERSTANDING CONNECTEDNESS – LEAD YOURSELF AND LEAD BY EXAMPLE. The most personal post on self-leadership is my own journey on understanding connectedness, making non-violence a core principle and then the decision to go vegan. Yes, the diet is only a consequence based on a much deeper thought process: A JOURNEY OF SELF-LEADERSHIP
  • Gratitude: I wasn’t prepared to write about gratitude, until I was called out to post three things I’m grateful for every day on Facebook. As you know me, this is not the way how I play games. I have taken the challenge my way: THOUGHTS ON GRATITUDE – PART 1. Yes, correct: Part 2 has to be written.
  • Courage: This is an attitude that’s now present in all aspects of my life. But it wasn’t the case when I grew up. I was shy, and far away from being brave. Later on in my adult life, I learned that there is nothing I can lose, but a lot I can learn and win. I changed and started to do what I thought was the right thing to do. Often, it was following my heart (even if I was told not to do so – I’m glad that I did!) and following my passion, my purpose in this life. Courage is to follow your passion. Courage is to follow the unknown. Courage is to be open for the unknown and to learn along the way, wherever it takes you. Read more about courage and what I learned: COURAGE – THE WAY OF THE HEART, COURAGE – A REAL STORY, ROSES HAVE THORNS and MORE ON COURAGE – JUMPING INTO THE DEEP END.

Let me express my gratitude for following Sand Hearts, for reading and sharing my posts. A special thank you to those of you who challenged my thoughts, who asked questions and who commented to add their perspectives. I’m grateful that you did, I always learned new things. That’s how we can all learn from each other; that’s how we can all grow.

  • May you walk in beauty
  • May you walk in gratitude
  • May you walk in balance
  • May you walk with lots of creative energies and a clear focus to manifest your visions.

Welcome 2015!


Living in the 21st century means to have only one certainty – and that is uncertainty. Uncertainty and a high level of unpredictability are key characteristics of complex environments. Another attribute is connectedness; that everything is connected to everything.
That means whatever we change in such a complex environment; it will always have an impact somewhere else in the system, immediately or at another point in time.
More on complex environments, click here.

To lead yourself and to lead by example requires a deep understanding of our complex world. Within complex environments, the term “connectedness” and what it really means is an essential key prerequisite to taking action, to lead yourself and to lead others towards a better future state.

Connectedness – all living beings are connected to each other

I have written about connectedness in the past. You may want to check out this post: “A few playful thoughts on connectedness and trees.” Connectedness is defined in many ways by scientists and spiritual teachers. The results are pretty much the same. Look at this scientific foundation by astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Neill de Grasse Tyson:

“We are all connected to each other, biologically, to the Earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe, atomically….That makes me smile…It’s not that we are better than the universe…We are part of the universe; we are in the universe, and the universe is in us.”
Neill de Grasse Tyson 

The next level is to understand that connectedness does not only address human beings.
Connectedness covers all living beings.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
–Albert Einstein 

For me, it’s always fascinating to discover that the scientific and the spiritual world are more closely connected than one would expect. Both disciplines look at the same issue from different perspectives, and they come to similar conclusions.

“Everything that is in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.”
- Hildegard of Bingen

Connecting these dots between science and spirituality and deriving practical approaches for people to work with – that’s a gatekeeper’s purpose in this world. 

Understanding connectedness to drive change

Understanding connectedness in the context of our complex and dynamic world is fundamental to drive change and transformation for the better. Consequently, that requires understanding that we cannot transform anything to a better future state with isolated actions that are focused on our own advantages only. We have to think through what our decisions and actions mean to other living beings in all areas of our lives. Furthermore, we have to understand what our decisions and actions mean for mother Earth. Do we really only take what we need or do we take whatever we can get without even thinking about our decision’s impact? Review daily issues like using plastic bottles or plastic bags; think about the unnecessary waste in all areas of our lives, think about what you eat and what that means for other living beings involved – and what it means for mother Earth. As the universe is in all of us, so is mother Earth. If necessary, you may have to adjust your actions and decisions. I shared a personal example in one of my previous posts: A Journey of Self-Leadership.

Reflecting your decisions and actions and their impact on other living beings and the environment is an exercise nobody can do for you. It is an exercise you should do with yourself in order to grow and to leverage your own potential. This process is the beginning to lead yourself in a more conscious way – to lead by example.

Connectedness and sharing – two sides of the same coin

If connectedness is one part of the coin, sharing is the other one. Often, the best approach to achieve a goal is not a maximum for one part, but it’s an optimum for all involved parties. It’s often described as win-win situations, which is not always perceived the right way. Achieving “mutually beneficial” solutions expresses better what an optimum means compared to a maximum. Think about a sales situation – a customer will only buy if what he/she buys will create some value for him/her. And the deal has to make sense for the seller. It has to make sense for both; more sense than the financial impact only. Often, that means to share – visions, ideas, resources, teams, budgets, shipping expenses, profits etc. A name on a higher level has already been created – the “shareconomy”. In business terms, sharing means stakeholder value, no longer shareholder value only. It means to build responsible business models that are based on a thoughtful approach how to work with nature – not against nature.

I’m focusing so much on the initial meaning of connectedness here because nowadays the term “connectedness” seems to be reduced to a technical term only. To focus on the technical dimension only – without having developed connectedness in your mind and heart first – will never allow people to use “being connected” technology wisely to make a difference. Only understanding the technical dimension of connectedness creates a situation in which people are led by technology and not empowered by technology.

Given our complex environment and the huge challenges we are facing in this century, developing connectedness in people’s hearts and minds is not a luxury; it’s a necessity to survive. Mind- and heart-based connectedness will equip people to lead themselves and others to a better future state – powered by technology, but not led by technology. And that enables the most authentic way to lead – to lead by example.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.”
— Albert Einstein


Letting things go sounds easy. But it is not an easy thing to do. Letting things go does not mean to push things away. It does not mean to switch on the “forget” button. You can do that, of course. But then, you will miss the opportunity to learn and to grow!

The art of letting things go is a powerful and liberating process that drives your personal growth. Letting things go is essential to lead yourself through all adventures live has to offer. To leverage this embedded growth potential, you may need different strategies in different situations to be able to let things go. However you approach your specific challenges; this is the main lesson, I learned:

You have to look at yourself. Deeply. Again and again. From different perspectives. That includes not to use your pointer finger to blame others. Even if the entire process is disrupting your current values and belief systems and is not offering another safe harbor, you should stay open-minded to learn what has to be learned.

The power of rituals – and why they are not enough

Common rituals include writing things you want to let go on a sheet of paper and to burn it in the fire. Those rituals can be powerful because they are tangible and manifest the decision to let something go. But often, those rituals are just an initiation of a deeper and longer process. Sometimes, those mind–driven actions and manifestations are too fast. Our hearts and souls may need more time and additional steps to “let things go”.

Observe yourself from different perspectives to learn

In my experience, observing yourself is a prerequisite to let things go. It means to step out of the situation that was perceived as painful for you and to observe yourself in that situation – but from the outside. If you remain in the epicenter of an earthquake, you won’t be able to see the overall impact and damage, and you won’t be able to look at the situation from different perspectives. To do so, you have to leave the epicenter. And that’s the same with “letting things go”. Step back. Go in silence. Being alone with yourself can be beautiful. Learn to enjoy yourself. We all need time with ourselves to look inwards, to listen, to reflect and to balance our hearts, minds, bodies and souls.

Put yourself next to the situation that was perceived as painful for you. Observe yourself and find the triggers that made you feel this way. Understand why and how you reacted as you did. Maybe somebody “pushed” your buttons? That might have happened. But it’s not a reason to blame others. Be aware that these buttons must have been implemented beforehand – by you. Furthermore, you probably made those buttons accessible for others. Only this way, somebody else could push your buttons; sometimes in an unconscious way. And this principle is true for all involved persons in a certain situation.
I’m a very sensitive person. For many years, I thought that my vulnerability would be my biggest weakness. Where others seem to have more filters and walls (from my perspective!), I rarely have those buffers available for me. There was a time when I tried to build walls around me, to become less vulnerable. But this is not my way. That’s not me. I cannot live like that. I learned to be grateful for who I am and to embrace my vulnerability as my specific gift, my unique growth potential, my early warning sensor.

What’s good and what’s bad in that very moment? It depends…

Perceiving something as “good” or “bad” is based on our situational judgment. Be always aware that this is the case. Then, try to make space for not knowing. Assuming that we don’t know, we have to keep moving and to keep a bit of space for things to happen. Being on this journey requires also to stop judging situations and people. It also means to realize that whatever occurs is neither the beginning nor the end. What is perceived as an end, can later be the beginning of a new chapter in your life. If so, both events were necessary to achieve your current plateau. If I never had experienced lots of frustration on corporate craziness in my previous role, I had not changed this situation. Now I find myself in another role that allows me much more space for creativity, more freedom, and more value creation. My frustration was perceived as very painful at this time. But from today’s perspective, it had to happen this way to get me out of this situation, to bring me in another role that allows me much better to use my talents and passions. What’s good, what’s bad – it depends… It’s a question of different perspectives at different points in time.

Take your time to look at different of those situations and try to discover the overarching patterns and the core challenges in your life. It’s more than a worthwhile journey. It’s a beautiful journey of personal growth – like a beautiful tree. Work on yourself to get to this level of clarity. Instead of falling into the same habits over and over again, wouldn’t it be more valuable to understand and to notice why and how we react in different situations, how we color our reality?
Be curious about yourself and go on a discovery journey.

Letting things go doesn’t lead you to another harbor. It is not a journey to get another level of security. Not at all. You have to learn to swim even in cold and deep water if you want to learn, to grow and to lead yourself. It is always about stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward.

Enjoy yourself!
Enjoy your journey!


“Courage is risking the known for the unknown,
the familiar for the unfamiliar,

the comfortable for the
uncomfortable arduous pilgrimage
to some unknown destination.

One never knows whether
one will be able to make it or not.

It is a gambling,
but only gamblers know what life is.”

– Osho

 

Oct 15, 6am, San Francisco: I’m already up, no need for my alarm clock to ring. It’s the third day at Dreamforce 2014, the world’s largest technology and sales conference. I already experienced two days with highly interesting sessions, meetings and conversations. Learning, rethinking and challenging new ideas and concepts and making my conclusions – typical conference days.

I checked my emails, just to find a surprise email from my boss. The headline “I’m ok, but in the hospital – call me when you read this” said it all. He was supposed to lead a crowd sourcing session on sales operations today, building on his previous presentation yesterday. At 9am. Three hours from now. As analysts, we have our areas of expertise. Although we discuss and challenge all the topics we cover, we are both focused on our specific fields of expertise. I knew the topic and the data points he was supposed to talk about this morning on a high level, but I haven’t seen his slide deck and his storyline before. Furthermore, I wasn’t involved in the discussion he had with a partner who brought us into this session. Do we cancel the session or do I stand in for him? We quickly discussed the structure of the session, the introduction and the three sections with questions to be discussed at the tables. Structure on the one hand and lots of improvisation on the other hand.

Within a few moments, I heard me saying “I do it. I will run your session.” Was that a conscious decision, considering potential risks? No. Not at all. I didn’t even think about potential risks. An inner voice just told me “go for it.” Jumping into the deep end, with great opportunities to succeed but also with high risks to fail.

Inhale. Exhale. Keep moving.

Quick shower, a few minutes of meditation for myself. Then, another call to discuss the main messages in each section to provide as much consistency as possible to the previous session. I enjoyed one of my favorite active greens food bar and lots of water to get my energy up and to flow. Then, I walked to the Hilton, the hotel for today’s session. I had to get familiar with the structure of the room, the technology, the way how the tables were set up, how I could connect with the attendees. All these little things were important to me to feel comfortable. Integrating my energy into this situation was another success factor for me. A short but very positive conversation with our partners made me even more confident in mastering this very special situation.

The Challenge

9 am; almost two hundred people came to this session, with lots of expectations. I was announced, and the show began. I started with a brief recap of this morning “This is what happens if you check your emails at 6am in the morning. You find yourself on stage three hours later with a presentation you have never seen before.” The ice was broken; people laughed, I could make a connection. Good energy level. I just continued to be myself and to lead this session. And it went pretty well. People listened attentively; they loved the content, and they loved the sections with data points and to discuss the questions on current and future state. They loved sharing their experiences and thoughts with the group. The only thing which was hard for me was to bring people back from a discussion mode to a sharing mode. It wasn’t hard because they didn’t want to share. No, it was hard because they had apparently so much more to discuss and not enough time to do so. Vibrant discussions, great sharing. What a session!

Eighty minutes later. Happy attendees, lots of great feedback, and a happy me, myself and I. One person said to me “for me, this one has been the best session at Dreamforce”. Wow, I didn’t know what to say, but “thank you so much”. She made my day!

Inhale. Exhale Keep moving.

On the way back to my hotel, I stopped at my favorite Italian coffee shop, ordered my cappuccino with almond milk and a green smoothie. Enjoying my late breakfast, I had some time to reflect what has happened today. Suddenly, the stress that didn’t have a chance to dominate me earlier today was now very present. But in a positive way, I just said, “hello” to my stress and “thank you that you didn’t confuse me earlier today” to get this emotion out of my body.

Then, I said thank you to myself. Click here to learn more on “Say thank you to yourself.” For the next moment, I was overwhelmed by emotions of gratitude to trust my inner voice and to take on a risky challenge, and to follow my inner self rather than to be perfectly prepared. A perfect lesson in self-confidence and trusting my capabilities.

It was not the first time that I had to stand in for somebody else, and that I jumped into the deep end – in my professional and my private life. But in this situation, there was not even time to evaluate options. You just go. And that’s different from decisions regarding your role, your business or your relationships. Those decisions take time, and different options are evaluated.

My lessons learned:

  • Fear doesn’t exist in the present moment. The present moment is about decisions, actions and leadership.
  • Listen to your inner voice
  • Trust in your creative confidence – yes, that’s what you need to master those challenges
  • Just be your beautiful self

And … don’t forget:
Inhale. Exhale. Keep moving.