Growing up in my family, I felt like a nobody, not a somebody. You may have too!
In our family, we were three children – whose names all began with a "J." My parents thought it was cute, 'the three J's'. As we learned over time, our collective name became a way for our parents not to have to deal with the challenge of individuality, conflict, and differences. They didn't have to deal with who got the most, or the least, who was the best or the worst. When you label your three kids as one, all the surface conflicts disappear, and life is perfect!
Striving for Perfection
So in our family, striving for perfect became our mantra. We were the perfect kids, the perfect home, and the perfect family. On the outside we were the loving family that everyone admired. We dressed well, expressed ourselves well, and did well in school. We were nice and agreeable, and were role models for others. On the outside we were perfect – on the inside we were children trying to become some-bodies and finding it very difficult to figure out how. The rewards for being the same were much bigger than those for being different.
So I rebelled. When my parents said white, I said black. When they said don't smoke until you are 18, I started smoking at 14 and quit at 18. Wherever there was a rule, I felt I had to break it. When your parents have the idea that consensus is always good, and means agreement and questioning authority is all bad – the underlying meta-messages they are sending to their children are that being different is not good, having a different perspective is not allowed and if you disagree with someone you lose their love.
Being perfect and same on the outside and different on the inside gets lonely. At the age of 14 I started writing my first book. It was called "No Man is an I-Land" – and I was going to write my way into being the somebody I wanted to be. But at 14 I only had 1½ pages of ideas inside of me to put down on paper – I was just starting my lifelong journey of personal awareness, leadership and discovery – and had a dream and desire but little know-how for expressing it.
Wisdom for the Road
So I've spent my whole life trying to understand what it means to be a somebody, and how to enable each somebody to thrive in a world of amazing and incredible other some-bodies – and to feel good about being different and special. The wisdom behind this relates to every part of who we are as human beings – from our cells all the way up to the systems and communities we live in.
What I have found, and am still finding, this precious learning is the vital wisdom behind life itself – when we allow our somebody to emerge and not be afraid of our own voice, and our own special talents, we emerge as teachers and as wisdom-givers to everyone we know. When we all learn to hold this wisdom in our hearts, and minds and conversations – we become the best some-bodies we can ever be – and we do it together.
Practices for the Workplace
- Look for the uniqueness in every employee, friend, colleague or family member.
- Pay attention to how each person has a unique fingerprint, footprint and mark – their own special DNA.
- Look for opportunities to create conversations with employees about their aspirations – aspire means to breathe – and when we aspire with others, we breathe life into our dreams.
- Ask employees "what do you think?"
- Perceive and acknowledge their unique perspectives as different ways of seeing the world, not as "wrong ways."
- View conflicts as opportunities for expand the conversation to a bigger frame of reference.
- Listen non-judgmentally.
Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:
Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization – winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose