Sunday, July 8, 2012

Staying grounded

" 'How can you call yourself a free man when your weakness has brought you to this? If a man has in himself the soul of a slave will he not become one no matter what his birth, even as water seeks its level? If a man has within him the soul of a free man, will he not become respected and honoured in has own city in spite of his misfortune?'
…For over a year I was a slave and lived with the slaves, but I could not become as one of them. One day Sira asked me, 'In the even time when the other slaves can mingle and enjoy the society of each other, why dost thou sit in thy tent alone?' "To which I responded, 'I am pondering what you have said to me. I wonder if I have the soul of a slave. I cannot join them, so I must sit apart.' ” -Richest Man in Babylon
Social mimicry and the influence of our peers has been studied in a variety of settings. Dutch scientists revealed earlier this year that when pairs of women ate together, they mimicked each other’s eating behavior. Study participants were more likely to take a bite when their eating companion did rather than eating at their own pace. Other anecdotal evidence of behavioral influence includes interviews with prison inmates who attributed their crimes to the negative influence of certain friends. Ex-marines quickly became out of shape and were more likely to adopt the fitness and eating patterns of their associated peers. High level employees at Enron confessed that the business culture tacitly encouraged immoral business practice. When I read through The Richest Man in Babylon, the excerpt above gently persisted in my subconscious. Am I really who I claim (or want to be)? Or am I what people expect me to be, or am I a combination of the two? 

Mark Zuckerburg's (Facebook) desk
Rhodes Scholar and HBR leading business management mind Clayton Christensen confessed that many of his fellow scholars did not intend to end up in jail or get divorced. How do you keep yourself grounded? I don’t think there is one answer that will work for everyone. Meditation, personal mission statements, corporate vision, prayer, support groups, and quotes all can help us keep sight of the big picture and not get buffeted by the storms of life. Stephen Covey’s quintessential book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People begins with self discovery and crafting of a personal mission statement. I have found this exercise (and his book) to be helpful and I recommend it to others who are looking for a place to start.

1. Develop a tool, practice, or ritual that helps you remember your most important priorities and your most important parts of self.
 2. Commit to regular review of these things.

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