My friend wrote on one of those giant post-it notes that presenters use and stuck it to the door in my office.   It says “You are not usual”.  It’s somehow remained sticking up there for nearly 10 years.  I look at it everyday, sometimes with appreciation and sometimes with fury.

Being and seeing everything different is cool, hard, warm, cold, high, low, effective and not so much.  Often it really sucks.

The same friend likes to remind me that people don’t get me and always underestimate me because it can seem like I’m not paying nearly as close attention as I really am.

She suggests it’s not fair.. or at least an unfair advantage strategically.

What’s closer to the truth is that I don’t draw data from the same things that other people do— I wouldn’t mind trying, it’s just not how my brain works and as a result what people think should matter to me probably often doesn’t and what shouldn’t often does.

For example, I’ve been working on some mission / vision kind of thinking this last week, or that’s what I thought I was doing but now it’s on the back burner.  During that process I grabbed ideas and approaches from a bunch of different sources, business guides etc and I came across a unconventional approach to “reveal” what your company or even your own personal mission / vision is.  Who cares about the rest of the steps, I found step 3 to make a ton of sense:


Think about the work you’re embarking on, and throw down a list of past positive achievements that seem at least somewhat relevant. You might include specific contributions that you or your colleagues have made to past successes, or skills, techniques, and resources that could be assets in achieving your vision.

I thought this was brilliant.

I think we’re addicted to seeing the glass half empty, situations as negative and I think we tend to see what’s wrong versus what’s right way to often.  This alternative approach of identifying what we’d done well, what we were proud of was right up my alley.

Still believing I was working our vision, I texted my core staff and asked them to list 5 things they were proud of in our company.. and I asked them to not take any more than one minute per.   They started responding instantly and I had to read my texts several times trying to believe what I was seeing.  It was a reminder that what I think often IS NOT SO and that relying on evidence is a solid way to get somewhere.

The responses were so helpful to me I decided to expand the list of people I asked, I reached out to our wider staff, clients, competitors, friends and other business leaders.   The responses kept coming.  Before  7 AM I had a list of “Prouds” that was over 100 entries in length from a wide ranging diverse audience.

I decided to drill a little further and I asked them to respond again with one thing they were most proud of themselves about.

Interestingly, many really struggled.  For the first question, I had zero questions asked, nobody even seemed to wonder what I was up to, they literally all responded and did so almost immedialty.. before the sun was even up.   But when I asked them to say what about themselves they were proud of, I was asked why? what for?  please provide example?… etc etc etc.

Even with the healthy ego’s of a sales team, claiming personal achievement was not so easy.

I realized that I too struggled far more on the personal proud than the corporate one.  I eventually concluded that mine was my willingness to know my true self.

The more the responses flowed in, the more I realized what I had inadvertently done… I began laying out the responses with the people and their roles and responsibilities and I began to see how they view their job, their job satisfaction, how they see themselves contributing, how happy or not they were, what mattered to them and what didn’t.   I also began to see trends… areas where it was clear we were really succeeding like culture and joy and feeling massively loved.

By the time I was done, I had a vivid picture of our strengths and weaknesses… I could see holes that we need to fill, obstacles we need to overcome as well as areas we need to advertise and get the word out because we’re awesome.  I saw people’s vulnerability and I had very specific actions we could implement almost immedialty to assist in their / our growth.  Based on what didn’t show up but needed to, we also now have a clear action plan of what our focus needs to be.

With my core team, I realized that their personel reviews were actually completed– After I shared many of the responses, they began to identify things I didn’t even see….  good and bad… and each did their own self assessment of the whole ( the company ) and the parts ( themselves ) consciously looking at how they could do better, engage more.

In the 12-step world and in many religious practices and wisdom traditions people take “personal inventory”. A personal inventory is an opportunity to take a sober look at who you really are, area’s of focus for growth and all the people that you need to make amends to.  Step 4 of the 12-steps is:  “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves…” and page 64 of the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” reads:

A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.
I'm proud of

So as my life often goes, I set out to do one thing but left enough room for something else to show up and make an impact.  I’m grateful for that openness and what it so regularly reveals.

I sent a note to some staff with a list of some of the “Prouds” and the next thing I know they’ve covered our walls with the wisdom that was revealed.  I didn’t need to write down some big plan or make a document to pass around, I didn’t need a company meeting to announce our “findings”… they just organically took control and revealed for the world to see exactly who we are.

I couldn’t be more PROUD.

Time to make your own?  A personal inventory of this kind may just show you why you are a worthy best friend to yourself.

I can’t stop thinking about The Buddha saying “awareness is the beginning and the end”…..once again this proves how right he was.

And again I proceed…  Three Steps, One Bow.