Blogging on The Brightside

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." -The Little Engine That Could

On Empathy and Elephants…

It’s not really our style to write without a quote or clip for inspiration. But I’ve been struggling with writer’s block all year, and today my VP of Operations shared a metaphor that I knew I had to pass on to you.

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Consider a man standing face to face with an elephant. When you ask him to describe his experience, he says that when the elephant flaps his giant ears, the man is cooled by the breeze. He describes looking past the long lashes and into the eyes, into the gentle and wise soul of his huge companion. He describes being wrapped in the pachyderm’s powerful trunk and passing handfuls of peanuts through the ivory tusks and into the mammoth mouth.

Now consider a second man who is standing on the wrong side of the same elephant. When he tells his tale (pun intended) he says “It’s a giant butt. No really…it’s just a giant butt. Baby got back. Yesterday, this thing peed, and I about drowned. It pooped, and I’m still looking for my car. It stinks. A lot.”

Empathy is seeing the whole elephant. When you’re standing up front, don’t forget that it’s not all motherhood and apple pie. Somebody’s standing on the other side and dealing with the consequences of the actions taken at the front. The view’s not so magnificent, and they’re going to want to join you up front soon. When you’re standing on the back-side, consider what’s going on up front. When is it your turn to take over at the helm? When you’re up front, wouldn’t you want to be sure that someone was going to clean up the peanuts from the other side? Empathy is about seeing the whole elephant.

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“Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

Mary Schmich

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“Be a fountain not a drain.”

Rex Hudler

 

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Shower those you encounter with enthusiasm, kindness, compassion, empathy, and love.  Submerge your projects in focus and passion.  Drown the obstacles in hard work and persistence.  Be the spring around which people congregate, and provide them with beauty and serenity.

 

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Genius is eternal patience.

-Michelangelo

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Michelangelo, the world’s best known sculptor, was commissioned to paint well over 5,000 square feet of frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  The project required him to learn the technique of buon fresco, the most difficult type of painting undertaken by only the masters, and challenged him to learn to paint perspective correctly on a curved surface 60 feet above the viewer.  Besides these challenges, it was truly an exercise in patience.

He did it mostly by  himself.  Sure, there were assistants to carry his paints up and down the scaffolds, but most of the brushstrokes were his own.  He painted for four years, bent over backwards and painting over his head.  The master complained that the project forever ruined his vision.  500 years later, all who visit the chapel stand awestruck for a few minutes to soak up the splendor of the work.

You’re going to lose your patience this week.  You’ll sit in traffic or get put on hold for hours.  Your computer is going to freeze, probably before you remember to hit ‘save’, and your boss is going to give a ridiculous and tedious assignment.  Your baked potatoes will take longer to bake than you expect.  The check out line will be too long.  Your kids will need to use the bathroom when it’s time to get on the bus.  But if you can take a deep breath and keep it together, your patience might lead to a stroke of genius.

Have a great week everyone.

-rge

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“The sun is up. The sky is blue. It’s beautiful and so are you.”

Dear Prudence, The Beatles

What a beautiful day to be optimistic. Soak in some Vitamin D and don your sunshiny disposition.

Today’s the day and it is gorgeous.

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Kulia i ka nu’u

“Strive for the summit.”

–Hawaiian proverb

To visit Haleakala, a dormant volcano designated national park in 1961, for the magnificent sunrise is a Maui tradition.  The journey to the summit is a perfect parable for this blog.  Yesterday we arose at 2am to travel in the dark to the lookout before sunrise.  Driving up the twisting switchbacks (and down again, later) proved a challenge for some of our travelers’ inner-ears and stomaches.  10,000 feet above sea-level in the dark and wind was surprisingly and uncharacteristically cold for our group that packed for Maui beaches and left its Northface gear at home.  Needless to say, by 5:30 stomaches and tempers were growling fiercely.

But when dawn broke and the sun peaked over the fluffy clouds and filled the crater with glowing light, radiant heat warmed our goosebumps and our attitudes.  Standing in the middle of the south-pacific and observing a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise in full panoramic, the memory of the dark morning seemed distant and making the trip was worth it.

Legend of Haleakala (link also includes time-lapse video of the sunrise)

There is a legend that tells the origin of Haleakala’s spectacular sunrise.

The demi-god Maui and his mother, Hina, lived near Rainbow Falls in Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Hina would make kapa from the bark of the wauke and mamaki tree, and the strips would be dyed with magnificent designs to form cloth. The kapa, however, would still be damp when night fell, and Hina would lament how the sun moved too quickly across the sky to dry the cloth.

Upon hearing this, the demi-god traveled to the island of Maui and climbed to the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala, where the sun was asleep in the giant crater. Maui hid until morning and watched the sun begin his daily journey. As the first ray of sunshine appeared, Maui snared it with his lasso of twisted coconut fiber.

The sun demanded to be released, but Maui would not let go. “Promise me that you will move more slowly across the sky,” he told the sun. Left with no choice, the sun struck a bargain with the daring demi-god. He would move slowly for six months out of the year, and then move at his preferred pace for the other six months. Agreeing to the terms, Maui hurried home and told his mother the good news. As a reward, Hina made her son a new cape, and sure enough, it dried in one afternoon.

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“Like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight, there’s no need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds, and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we already are – as soon as we stop pretending we’re small or unholy.”

— Bo Lozoff

Open your eyes. Take in the beauty around you.

And remind yourself that YOU contribute your own unique beauty to the world.

May this week be one of the most beautiful you’ve ever witnessed.

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“One small crack does not mean that you are broken. It means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.”

— Linda Poindexter

No matter how big or small the crack might be, realize that you are not broken. Still here. Still standing. Still the masterpiece you were born to be.

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“There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.”

Henry Ward Beecher

Be gracious.  Be flattered.  But when you put your head on your pillow and shut your eyes at the end of the day, never forget that there’s always room for improvement.  Only in a continuous pursuit of improvement do we achieve excellence.

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