I enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17 and didn’t graduate from college until the ripe old age of 26. I remember attending a networking event at the exclusive Tokyo American Club in Japan with a bunch of really smart, successful, and affluent business leaders. For some reason I thought if I wore glasses I would look smarter and more successful. So, I went and bought a cheap pair of reading glasses at a local convenient store and showed up looking as professorial as I could. I have perfect vision, mind you. Still do — 20/20. When I put those silly reading glasses on I couldn’t see a damn thing — I walked hesitantly not seeing much more than a blur of where I was going. I mistimed handshakes and almost smacked foreheads bowing entirely too close to my Japanese colleagues. I missed the table I was aiming for when setting down my empty drink. Ugh, what a hilarious mess.
Why was I pretending to be someone I wasn’t? Why did I act differently in that situation? Well, we all have predictable, automatic and totally inauthentic ways we act in almost every situation we are in. For example, how would you act if you were talking with your boss’s boss? Would that be any different than how you would talk and act with your subordinates or peers or family members, even? Do you avoid professional networking events like the plague afraid to say a word or are you that overbearing loudmouth who won’t let others get a word in edgewise during a board meeting? You see, we act predictably and in authenticity in different situations as a self-defense mechanism to allay our fears and protect our tender egos.
Think of it this way: In my home office I have a big window overlooking my beautiful back yard that is covered by heavy wooden horizontal blinds. You can twist the wooden “wand” to tilt the blinds open or closed. You can also pull a cord to raise the blinds completely. Well, your fear and ego are the horizontal wooden pieces that tilt closed to prevent you from seeing the clear, unobstructed view of life. (These fear and ego blinds also obscure others from seeing your best, authentic self.) The self-defense mechanism is the entire set of blinds hanging over your window of life. Sometimes those “self-defense” blinds are closed tight, preventing you from seeing your situation from what it truly is. Other times those blinds may be partially open to reveal a sliver of the truth. And maybe every now and then, every once in a blue moon, the predictable self-defense blinds are pulled wide open to give you a clear, authentic pure view of yourself and your situation.
In my last blog post, I explained how fear and ego get in the way of making clear, empowered decisions. These automatic self-defense mechanisms that allay our fear and protect our ego also prevent access to Mushin. Mushin is a Japanese concept that means “no mind”. It is a state of clarity that is void of fear and anger and ego. Therefore, the Mushin Leader knows how to filter out noise and distractions in everyday life to create clarity in making important, authentic decisions. The Mushin Leader knows how to find certainty and confidence to make empowered decisions when the pace is fast, the stakes are high, and the outcome unclear. The Mushin Leader does not pretend to be someone she is not. The Mushin Leader is at her authentic and natural best 24/7. She does not let her fear, ego, or predictable behavior dictate her actions and decisions. Her “blinds” are drawn wide open allowing her to see and be seen clearly, hear and be heard deeply, and to make empowered, authentic decisions.
So how will you act in your next meeting? Will you be authentic and make clear, empowered decisions around your personal finances, health and wellness, and with your loved ones? Do you even realize that you have a predictable and inauthentic way of acting around different people that is limiting your full potential? Are you ready to stop living in the “Matrix” and join me as a Mushin Leader?