Contribution – Day 26

#1, to Steve.  I finished non-disclosure agreements I was drafting for him. I had a moment of:  “Wow, I really am an experienced lawyer.”  I know that sounds weird, but 7+ years into my career, sometimes I still feel like I know nothing (in part because my colleagues all have over 10 years more experience than I do).  I’d never drafted a non-disclosure agreement before, but of course I know contract law, and I know a lot about when and how contracts go wrong (because I’m a litigator, and we often have contract disputes), and so with limited information from publicly available resources in addition to my training and experience, I felt pretty good about what I put together.

I’m a lawyer.  Who knew.

#2, to Jimmy.  I gave him some feedback last night that unfortunately was coming from a place of stress.  He nonetheless took it in, and we had a good discussion about it.  I just really want to see him GO for it with regard to his coaching.  I know, in the core of my being, that there are so many people out there that only he, Jimmy Grant, can help.  Because he’s an alcoholic.  Because he’s 51.  Because he lost his father at 26.  Because he’s been doing self-development work since that age.  Because he’s so direct with feedback, and delivers it in a way that you just can’t wiggle out from under it.  He is unique, as we all are, and no one else can do what he can do.

And then I get to thinking about how part of that is projection, right?  I get frustrated with his hesitation, his fear, his inaction, but, couldn’t I direct that right back at myself?  Isn’t the thing that really gets under my skin less about him, and more about me?

My contribution to Jimmy yesterday wasn’t the feedback.  We had a holiday party that night at Olga’s house in Harlem (she’s in Flight Club, if you came to our housewarming party you probably met her — a petite, pretty blonde woman — she never did the workshops, but she did Landmark, and stayed involved with it for a while).  After our quasi-tense discussion, of course neither of us felt like going out to a party (all the way in Harlem, to boot).  But, we had already told Olga we were coming, and we both felt like we just needed to go (even though Jimmy had to be up by 5 a.m. the next morning).

We got to Olga’s place, and it was quite large, with high ceilings — huge kitchen, huge bathroom, a long hallway with more than one bedroom, and an oversized living room with a giant, beautifully decorated Christmas tree.  The crowd there was an interesting one; everyone was quite different, but similar in that no one was really drinking or “partying.”  It was more a scene of different deep discussions going on around the room between 2-3 people.

Jimmy and I ended up talking to Phumie, a fashion designer.  She was from South Africa, and she started the conversation the standard way, asking each of us what we do for a living.  After we answered, the conversation sort of petered out — but then I remembered my contribution goal, and how often it comes up in these basic interactions (i.e., with respect to connection).  Inwardly, I start thinking that I feel uncomfortable with the awkward silence, I’d rather not deal with that and talk with Jimmy instead,  what’s the point of investing anyway, because where could this connection ever really go, she’s not going to suddenly be my new BFF, right, so why bother, etc. etc. etc.

So, in that moment, I asked myself, what if I were coming from contribution instead, and not focused inward?  And I found myself experiencing genuine curiosity about Phumie.  She said she was a fashion designer — that’s cool, right?  That’s different.  I see lawyers all day.  So I asked her about it.  She said she had just shown at New York Fashion week.  Both Jimmy and I were like, whoa — really?  How on earth had she gotten to that point?

So she talked to us about how she had done Landmark, and the Monday after she finished the last weekend, J.P. Morgan, her employer of several years, laid her off.  She said in that moment, she chose to see the layoff as a sign to go for that impossible dream she never thought she could achieve.  She launched her fashion designing business.  J.P. Morgan had given her a promotion just before she got laid off — as a result, she was paid severance at a higher rate, even thought he hadn’t even started the new position.  With the help of Landmark, and the severance she was getting, she hit the ground running.  She was so in action that she actually appeared on the “Today” show, for a segment that was all about how to start a business and make it in New York City.

But then the money started to run out, and she started to feel afraid.  What if she couldn’t keep up her momentum?  What if she couldn’t make enough money to take care of herself?  She balked.  She ended up taking a job coaching at Landmark.  She told us that it didn’t take long for her to not be able to stand the job.  As much as everyone around her talked about how meaningful it was to be part of others’ transformations, she had trouble sitting through the coaching calls.

“I would be on the phone coaching someone, and all they could talk about was how afraid they were to take even a small action toward one of their goals.  They were too scared to just make a phone call, send an email — it was maddening,” she told us.  “I started to realize that when they were pestering me to get on the phone with them, it wasn’t so I could coach them to take the action they needed to take — it was just so they could tell me how scared they were, so they could vent.  I started to get that they never intended to actually take action on anything.”

That got her thinking about herself, and what was she doing, working at Landmark when she had just taken the leap to launch her own business and start being a fashion designer (her dream)?  She realized she was hiding out, because just like the coaching clients she was so frustrated with, she was afraid.  She was trying to coach them how to risk in their lives, even as she herself was hiding.

So, she resigned.  She started a crowd-funding campaign with a site that supported people in doing crowd-funding, but not as a gift, as a loan.  She would have to pay the “crowd” back, and the limit she could raise was $10,000.  She said she liked the site, because it held her accountable — there was something at stake.  It also gave her a community of people who were rooting for her.

All of this led to her showing her work at New York Fashion week, which she described as a surreal experience.  She casted the models, only later realizing that she had instinctively tried to give models who were struggling and had little chance of working one of the shows an opportunity to walk the runway at Fashion Week.  She showed us the photos, and I asked her how it felt to see her dresses, her clothes, walking down the runway — she said it was incredible, that she kept telling herself and others:  “Those are my pieces!  I made those!”

She then told Jimmy that she realized that the difference between her and others who would never make it to Fashion Week was that she had decided she wasn’t going to sit there stuck in fear anymore.  She started being in action, every day — she made sales calls, she put herself out there, she did not spiral into a paralysis of self-doubt or fear anymore.  She was done being afraid of failure — she had learned to fail without energy.  She would simply tweak a few things, try again, and hope to do better next time.  She was okay with the fact that she had a lot to learn, especially about pricing and dealing with different types of customers.

Jimmy was very engaged in this conversation.  He saw it as a sign, for him, that was confirming all of the messages he had been receiving lately from both me and his coaches in Flight Club.  And the truth is, I saw it as a sign for me, too.

Phumie quit Landmark not so much because she got tired of the participants whining to her on the phone about how afraid they were, but because she got tired of HERSELF being in that space.  I can tell Jimmy is getting tired of himself, too — and I am definitely tired of myself.

All of these priceless realizations came because I changed who I was in relationship with someone I had just met.  I stopped thinking about myself, my discomfort, etc., and focused on who the person was that was sitting in front of me.  I developed a genuine interest in what her story was.  We got a lot back, as you can tell.  Phumie also sent me her price list for custom-made dresses, which are very reasonable.  And how cool would that be, to have her make me a custom dress that doesn’t exist anywhere else?

This was a WIN yesterday.

#3, to me.  I dealt with some financial stuff that I didn’t want to deal with. I can’t say I reacted to it well, because I didn’t.  But, I’m glad I faced it.  I have a long, long history of ignoring my problems, procrastinating, etc., especially when I know that there actually IS a problem (if only I were to take a look at it).  And after I finished reacting, my problem-solving-I-can-figure-anything-out core belief went to work.  Of course I can tackle this (these are thoughts I had this morning though, not yesterday).  In fact, not only can I tackle this, I can turn this into an advantage.  How about that?  I need to remember to trust myself–if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s shifting into relentless problem-solving mode.  So why should I ever fear any kind of challenge?



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