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September 6, 2016

How You and I Are Just Like Donald and Hillary

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Last night I listened to portions of Donald Trump’s policy talk on immigration, which he delivered to a room full of raving fans in Phoenix. Then I read Hillary Clinton’s response. The one thing they have in common is that they’re both certain they are RIGHT. They both have a story about the way the world is, and they both have high certainty that they’re right about their story. The corollary to this is that they’re both certain that the other candidate is wrong.  

My hunch is that you and I are just like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We have a story about the way the world is. We believe we’re right about our story, and anyone who disagrees with us is wrong.

A few nights ago I had dinner with a former top executive of a large soft drink company. I told him about my lifelong struggle with addiction to Diet Coke and my hunch that it had something to do with the artificial sweetener in it. He responded that he was certain my compulsion had nothing to do with the sweetener and everything to do with caffeine. I said he was wrong because I can drink a cup of coffee and not want 10 more after that. He went on to tell me all about the junk science implicating artificial sweeteners. I told him that he might have a biased perspective based on his own self interest. There we were: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both of us believing that our story about the world was right and that the other was wrong. (I could have really activated the discussion by switching to sugar in regular soft drinks and its effect on childhood obesity. A subject that I KNOW I’m RIGHT about).  

Unconscious politicians, unconscious executives of soft drink companies and unconscious teachers of conscious leadership all believe their stories about reality. Almost all of us go unconscious some of the time, and when we do our egos get attached to being right. In fact, the  ego doesn’t believe that it can survive unless we’re right. Being right about our position feels like life and death.  

Conscious leaders choose a different path. They practice Commitment #2 of the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. They choose to get curious. They choose to loosen the grip of the ego, which is dying to prove that it is right. They get more interested in learning and being curious than in defending a position.  

A first step in this process is authentic listening from deep curiosity.

I was at dinner with someone who had spent much of his life developing a perspective that was different than mine. He was not a casual student of the subject. He was deeply informed. If I had really wanted to learn more about soft drinks and my compulsive attraction to Diet Coke, I could have shifted from unconscious justification of my position to something more useful by using this simple process:

  1. Take a deep breath and getting truly present.
  2. Relax my egoic attachment to proving that I was right.
  3. Get genuinely curious about what I could learn from this conversation.

What would it be like if politicians could sit with one another in genuine curiosity and seek to learn and grow from the interaction? Or, if you could sit with a colleague that you’re sure is wrong about their perspective of the business? Or, with your significant other when you’re sure they don’t get “it”?  

Curiosity is a cornerstone of conscious leadership, and we can all choose it at any moment. [Click to Tweet]


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