You will not believe me
A love letter to skeptics
The thing about challenging established paradigms is that you are always met with resistance. Always.
In the corporate world, where I do most of my work, I am challenging deeply ingrained beliefs about leadership, performance and success. So I accept that a not insignificant percentage* of my population will write me off at the first mention of “culture” or “emotional intelligence” or “mindfulness.”
Not because I’m wrong, but because it feels wrong to them. Sometimes I’m seen as merely irrelevant, sometimes straight-up dangerous, depending on their threat level.
And I get it. I used to be a skeptic. If you’d told me 20 years ago that I would build my career around coaching and meditation, I would have laughed at you. So, yeah.
I see my own journey play out over and over again in the lives of the leaders I work with. They’ve bought into the story of success the world offers them: Be ambitious, hustle hard and you’ll earn happiness. And while they may make plenty of money, there are all these other losses they didn’t count on: time, space, purpose, relationships, and—crucially—an abiding sense of their own humanity.
I propose that these are the necessary ingredients for happiness, the core elements of a kind of success that is actually sustainable. So I help leaders cultivate them, when they’re ready. And not a moment sooner.
I have learned we will be skeptical of any new story until we are confronted with the flaws in our old one.
I suspect we only open to a new story when we have no other choice.
*It’s worth noting that while skeptics are out there, they rarely comprise the majority in any group. There are many more who are ready now—especially in this particular moment when the old story’s flaws are more visible than ever before. However, the skeptics may be the most senior (or the most vocal) team members, which puts pressure on others to resist or reject the new. In a future post I’ll talk about how to lead change in this context.
Let’s explore our own relationship to skepticism:
Inviting others to take good look at our new idea, turn it over in their minds, see if it echoes in their experience.
Not expecting anyone to believe anything we say, just because we say it.
Encouraging others to take what works for them and leave the rest.
Meeting resistance with kindness and curiosity rather than judgment or blame.
Retaining our own skepticism, returning again and again to investigate our own experience as the path to wisdom.
Knowing what we know, sharing it freely and letting that be enough.