Re-creating the conditions of our lives

I believe that, more often than we care to admit, we create the conditions of our lives; the good as well as the bad. I’m not talking about some sort of New Age visualization tactic. That practice may  or  may not work (“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”). I’m talking about the ways in which our unconscious needs drive us.

For me, my need to rescue, to take care, can feed a manic quality to my work. Despite the Zen-like bearing I can project, the truth is different: the more efficient and effective I am, the more I take on. Couple that with my unconscious somewhat neurotic impulses and I can find myself working at a pace that is harmful to myself and less effective for others. I have to remind myself that speed kills.

So I put myself in the time-out chair. Beginning in July, I officially entered a sabbatical (this despite still working on occasion–I’m incorrigible), which will last until after Labor Day.

There are multiple goals for this period. One is to simply cut back, to feed myself–as I like to say–so I can later feed others. Another is travel-I leave later this week for another visit to rural China, to Tibet, to renew friendships and visit sources of inspiration. I’ll be bringing my 16-year old son Michael and he’ll see why his dad is so in love with a land and its people.

I also want to read and write more.

But, really, I’ll be using this period to rethink, again, the way I manifest my work in the world. I feel deeply connected to this calling: helping people with the existential challenges that arise when we encounter work.

Indeed, few things have given me the satisfaction I experience, the simple joy, of bearing witness to someone having a profound breakthrough on their journey to existential equanimity. I love the nearly audible click when my client’s brain kicks in and they understand viscerally as well as intellectually what it means to lead. It’s breathtaking.

As I’ve written before, I want to have greater impact. Over the last few years I spoken more, led more workshops, facilitated more group dialogues and worked more closely with whole teams. This spring I had the joyful satisfaction of speaking about the crucible of leadership to a varied group of entrepreneurs and loving each one of those who allowed their hearts to break open to what is: the sound and the fury of that crazy-assed job, being a CEO.

I also realized the gift of working with my friend Parker Palmer to lean into the difficult vortex of depression. (Thanks, Parker, for that gift.)

But something wicked this way comes (boy, I’m in a Shakespearean mood today).

A few weeks back, a long talk I did with my friend Jason Calacanis was posted and became mildly viral (Side question: Is it possible for something to be sort of viral? Or is viral-ity like pregnancy? It is or isn’t? I should ask Seth.).

In that conversation I casually mentioned an idea I’d been marinating on with a few folks: a retreat, an extended workshop, to help folks in the struggle of becoming a CEO. The idea was to host a small group of selected people coming together to focus on the pragmatic aspects of the job while exploring the body and soul techniques available to enhance their resiliency. To get even more prosaic: I want to facilitate a group of first-time CEOs becoming startup warriors.

(In various spiritual traditions, the notion of warrior refers to the ability to face life as it is–head on with dignity and equanimity.)

That casual reference resulted in hundreds of emails. We hit a nerve.

The theme of the CEO Boot Camp we’ve designed is “Reboot your leadership; reboot your life.” The plan is to spend three and half days together exploring, learning, challenging each other. “It’ll be a success,” I told a friend, “if, at the end, what emerges is a tight-knit group of peers supporting each other with humor, skill, and courage.”

This week, we open the doors to the application process.

When I began thinking about this post, I thought I’d simply tell the story of how this immersive workshop came to be and how it seems to fit so well into the ways I’d like to take my work–deeper and with more impact.

But when writing, I realized that, as with so much of this inner-directed work, the challenge is there for me as well.  In a sense, and without intending to, even the process of collaborating on this project has caused me to reboot my own thinking. I suppose, in the end, this is what I was searching for all along: to interrupt the conditions and patterns that unconsciously drive my life and, once more, raise my awareness and choice. In doing so, I raise the chances of creating the conditions I want in my life.

So, if you join us, we’ll be rebooting together.

  • Scott Barnett

    Jerry – have a great time in Tibet, my younger daughter still talks about your posts from last summer, she’ll look forward to updates! I’m glad you’re finding more meaning in the great work you do and a way to reach more people.

    • jerrycolonna

      Thanks Scott. Give my love to your family.

  • Parker J. Palmer

    Wonderful post, Jerry! And while we’re channeling Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” You’re one of those people who model for me what it means to “live true,” and I love you for that! I’m so glad you’re taking a sabbatical to “return to the source,” and that Michael is going with you. I’m sure the trip will be all you hope for, and more—and I’m equally sure you’ll be sharing the fruits widely with others. Traveling mercies and much gratitude, Parker

    • jerrycolonna

      Thanks so much Parker. I try and fail and try again to live up to the model that YOU set. “The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir.

  • Kevin Friedman

    So happy to hear about your sabbatical. I hope it’s an amazingly refreshing time and that you have tons of time to read, write, and relax. As a great reminder from Parker (who I was thrilled to see comment on your blog!):

    “Yes, we are created in and for community to be there, in love, for another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.”

    Trust that “someone else” will help those that you so faithfully and lovingly help during your sabbatical. :-)

  • William Mougayar

    Wishing you a fulfilling and rewarding trip, and am very happy to see the retreat project come to fruition.

    And I learned a new word from you – Equanimity. Thanks.

    • jerrycolonna

      Thanks William. It’s a lovely word.

      • William Mougayar

        Indeed & I seek it everyday. I sort of had this vague sub-conscientiousness about it, but didn’t know there was a word that described it.

  • Guest

    Enjoy your time Jerry!

  • Carl Rahn Griffith

    Love it x.

    KInd of ties-in with my blog post today…