The Arena Blog
May 29, 2017 We are Different; We are One
I feel both amused and perplexed by the curiosity surrounding the friendship between Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia. Throughout their shared time on the bench, often they argued opposing positions on key issues. In a recent interview with The Aspen Institute (https://www.aspeninstitute.org/videos/watch-supreme-court-justice-ruth-bader-ginsburg-discuss-new-book/), the moderator explored with Justice Ginsburg their relationship as if it was an endangered species. Her response shed light on what is not really a secret; perhaps we’ve just forgotten the wisdom. Their differences never divided them. Rather their shared personal and professional interests nurtured their connection, creating a secure context in which they could argue their individual opinions. Their relationship was the focus of a comic opera Scalia/Ginsburg (http://www.derrickwang.com/scalia-ginsburg). Ginsburg referred to a scene in the opera to explain how their relationship succeeded. When questioned why she should want to help Justice Scalia, given he was her enemy, the Ginsburg character replied, “He is not my enemy. He is my friend.” The Ginsburg and Scalia characters sang a duet entitled “We are different. We are one”…one in their shared love for the Constitution and the institution they served.
Do you or your colleagues experience times of disconnection, particularly over such things as different positions, power imbalances, beliefs, or agendas? Have those chasms grown and appear too broad to bridge? What have been the impacts of these divisions on you personally and professionally, on your organization, and how your organization is perceived by others? Have you felt the harsh disconnected energy within your communities, our government, nation, or world? Do you notice yourself increasingly anxious, fearful, angry, or overwhelmed? Do you see enemy on a face that could be a friend? Does connection – professional and personal – seem to be like an endangered species?
Pause for a moment, and shift focus from the chasm within the divide to the common qualities held by all sides. Risk even briefly seeing how an enemy could be a friend. Look beyond dissimilarities to recognize shared values, common interests, the wisdom all sides bring to the table to expand each side’s understanding of the big picture. Notice the sublime and the simple commonalities. Justices Ginsburg shared a love for the Constitution, the law, as well as mutual respect, collegiality, humor, family, and the opera. What could it look like if you bridged the divides most significant to you right now? Whether members of the same team or diverse organizations, what are you willing to do to eliminate the chasms that hold you back from achieving your highest potential and most significant contributions to our world? How are you willing to support bringing collegiality and true connection back from the brink of extinction? After all, we are different; yet we are one.
April 20, 2017 Entering the Arena
I’m grateful to scholar and researcher Brene Brown for introducing me to President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 Citizenship in a Republic Speech. In the most recognized passage, President Roosevelt remarked:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. (Roosevelt, T. (1910). Citizenship in a Republic. Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April, 23.)
The places of our collective life – our work, the marketplace, businesses, organizations, militaries, communities, governments, schools, churches etc. – these are our arenas. In these places we struggle, fail, and triumph; we support and critique one another; we strive to contribute our unique abilities for pay, but more richly for meaning. When we at last fall, each hopes our life served a purpose. In some small way, at least, we hope the footprint we left behind has improved the lives of those who walked alongside us.
I felt inspired to name this blog The Arena because it is for those in the arena I wish to serve, particularly in organizations. Not satisfied to be the critic who merely points out flaws, I dedicate my skills, experience, and talent - integrated from diverse contexts - in service of those who seek to strengthen collective endeavors. In this blog I’ll offer brief reflections inspired from current events. May they shed light on your journey.