Lessons Learned – 2018

By: Rory Gilbert with much input from Carla Rotering!

December is a wonderful time to reflect on how we have grown and what we have learned in the past year.  As a leader, time for reflection is critical to our overall effectiveness – it keeps us engaged, mindful and humble. I hope you take some time to consider what has changed and what you have learned this year.
What have I learned for myself?  The biggest learning for me has been very personal.  I’ve learned to accept the kindness and support from my friends and colleagues and to reach out in support as well.  My focus in the past has been on success and achievement. This year I’ve really seen how important my relationships are for my life.  In fact, after this year’s Summit I was inspired to write to a few of my colleagues in appreciation.
I’ve asked Carla Rotering’s permission to share what I captured from her Summit presentation on Belonging.
Carla’s premise requires a change of mindset from understanding belonging as something that comes from other people, to belonging as a way of being.  Belonging is about how we approach the world.  She shared her own story of feeling like an outsider, of “longing to belong.” Her childhood story resonated with my own story of feeling different, like an outsider, waiting and hoping to be included.  Somehow, we believe we are separated based on our “worth,” and our own beliefs: believing ourselves less than and too small banishes us to a solitary experience. She shared a poem by Creig Crippen (also known as Prodigy) to capture this mindset shift.

Do not chase love,
Choose love.
Do not need love,
Share love.
Do not fear love,
Embrace love.
Do not seek love,
Become love.

While we thirst for connection, to be part of something greater than ourselves, we assume that it comes from out there. Here’s one way I’ve come to think about it. Imagine you are at a party and you do not know anyone.  It is not your party and you see everyone else having fun, talking to each other.  You wait, hoping to catch someone’s eye, someone’s interest. And you wait.  Now, imagine the same party where you see yourself as a host – still don’t know anyone, and yet, now you feel a sense of responsibility to make connections, to introduce yourself to others, to introduce others to each other.  You see yourself as a necessary participant in the success of the party.
For some people, this experience of engaging is natural.  For others of us, it is a new and different way of being.  Think about how different this feels!
Carla states, “We are not exiled by divine design.  Our busy thinking and our formed beliefs create doubts and fears, insecurities and cautions meant to keep us safe. When we believe those thoughts, we live in the feeling of isolation and separation – a misunderstanding.  You are not required to believe those thoughts.  The door to belonging opens from the inside. Be liberated. Be free. WE ARE BORN INTO BELONGING.”

it was when I stopped searching for home within others
and lifted the foundations of home within myself
I found there were no roots more intimate
than those between a mind and body
that have decided to be whole
~ rupi kaur

This way of thinking, separating ourselves from the whole, may in fact be a product of our western culture that celebrates the individual.  Carla reminds us that other cultures and societies believe differently.  She shared the concept of Ubuntu, a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It is often translated as “I am because we are.” It “is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.’”
She shared Desmond Tutu’s view of Ubuntu, “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs to a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Ubuntu, a sense of belonging, a way of being, is a choice for us. It requires us to challenge our often unexplored beliefs about how we are and who we are in the world.  And then it challenges us to act from those beliefs, not in grand gestures, but in small invitations to bring others in.
As we approach the new year, it is a wonderful time for us to step back and think about what we value and how we live those values.  Carla asks,

What are the invitations you are extending to the world?

What invitations are being offered to you that you may not be seeing?

Greet the new year by embracing the gift of connectedness that each of us can orchestrate from where we sit in this world.
And finally, to my dear colleagues (Carla included), I think this captures how I feel and what I’ve learned.  I am printing it here to publicly profess how important my colleagues are to my professional life and my personal well-being.
Of all the wonderful parts of this year’s Summit, I was most touched by Carla’s work on Belonging.  I think I share that sense of being an outsider — lingering on the edge of a group. Carla’s description about Belonging coming from within really resonated with me — that I realize what is most important right now to me is my connection to others.  And you all are such important pieces of my world.  While we mostly connect through shared work experiences, we have also shared life experiences, support and care.  I am so grateful for the space you make for me in your lives. You are such extraordinary colleagues and I am honored to be with you in this world.