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Your authentic self (Trueness) is your energy within the space of creative tension – your stand in the middle – the respectful space where being (internal) and doing (external) find flow, and conscious resonance through your original voice (the focus of your integrity).

One of the questions I’m asked is about the most common concern among the leaders with whom I work. For the first few years of my practice (the very first few years of this still young 21st Century) my answer was focus. Now, 15 years in, the answer has changed. Whirling change, economic instability, political immaturity, and so on, have seemingly redirected our attention. While the topic of focus often remains part of the coaching dialogue, it seems the perceived need to focus has settled into the varying value systems of those with whom I work.

It seems many leaders have tuned-in to both the power of being focused and the influence of consistently doing all they do in light of a deeper motivation. Why this is happening is the reason my answer to the most common concern of leaders has shifted from focus to integrity, and the corresponding mystery.

The mystery is created, I believe, by the imbalance of measures. While we may know the source of integrity must come from within, it becomes too easy to judge our integrity by external measures. Integrity, in my experience with the individual’s Trueness, seems to be a value that stands alone while infiltrating and influencing all the other values that an individual holds.

I have often said that the 21st-century belongs to the aware, focused, and loving leader. I believe it is the intrinsic value of integrity that actually pulls these three value-driven behaviors together, and into a powerful rhythm.

Let’s consider Cathy and Priya. They are each mature souls with different levels of experience in what we label as management on corporate organizational charts.

Cathy and I had only just begun to work together at the time of this writing. In our very first session our individual integrity met soul-to-soul. Cathy immediately told me about a relationship where collaboration needed to improve, and she was taking full responsibility for such improvement. Whether she consciously realized it or not, her inner integrity was in full force.

Cathy’s value of integrity is labeled, ‘Doing What’s Right.’ She is naturally focused on getting things done, getting them done in the right manner, and for the right reasons, a deeper motivation. Being delivery focused, she recognizes the importance of leading everyone to pull together, in the right direction. She knows such collaboration is foundational to success.

Richard Rohr says, “How we look at anything is how we look at everything.” As I write this, I am also aware that how I see integrity (in others and myself) is probably based considerably on what I’m looking for. I do want to believe there is a trend in the making when it comes to integrity in our behavior.

Priya is not questioning her integrity. However, I want to be sure that integrity isn’t under question, based on possible misunderstanding on her part. Albeit unconscious, Priya’s integrity is questioning whether she should be in the role of management. While both management and leadership are important, I reminded her that management and leadership are not synonymous. You manage processes, and you lead people; an individual does not want to be managed, he wants to be led.

The situations causing Priya to question her desires, abilities, assets, are related to managing difficult processes with people. From a leadership perspective, her desire, ability, assets, are fully intact from what I can see, all rooted in her integrity. For Priya, integrity and purpose are partners in meaning as she operates with an honest way of being in the presence of another, and being present with them. Priya’s stand in the middle is a tangible experience for others as she provides empowering clarity for the sake of opening individuals to the resources supportive of performance and execution.

Authenticity is who one truly is, since the beginning.

We must come to know this mystery of authentic integrity, not as something to be solved, but as something to be held, observed, and released into the flow of our Trueness. Now flowing, in authentic rhythm, integrity becomes the way your Trueness shows in the world. It takes great love to nurture and honor this internal to external flow.

The ability to hold mystery, observe its workings, and release its power into our leadership, is our unique brand of love.

The Word

Saying it, the word
often we may not
but unfolding, the essence
often we must.

Something to be feigned, it is not
fingers placed quickly to lips
demanding never again to lie.

For another can patiently be
observing, as time together goes
trusting, the essence to manifest
accepting the word when spoken.

The word itself
used precisely, or not
just the same, felt
by giver
by receiver
when from truth it flows.

To make one’s mark
to leave an impression
to know you’ve made
an impact
this is the stuff
of treasure, true gold
found in the self
the self you are
founded on the reality
of who you are.

The word
yes, the essence
originates in, with
and from, this reality.

–J. Brunson

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As I write this, it was 15 years ago and we were preparing to leave the corporate life. We traveled to the region where we now live and purchased a house. I was leaving an organization where I had a good run, with 23 assignments in three states. Many good relationships were built that still nourish my work today.

We moved in December of that year. In January the company brought me back for my final day, and for a surprise going-away party. Being the reason for the party I decided to hang with it until the last person left. I had no idea that would be 1:00 a.m.  After he had too much truth serum, one of the few late attendees seemed upset and decided he needed to tell me something.

His telling was about what an executive had said to him, and how it had obviously disturbed him greatly. I write this as the 2016 presidential campaign season is days from being over. What he had heard was in no way as disgusting as what we have heard in this campaign, but to him it was nonetheless very upsetting. I’ll leave it at that as I’m simply trying to set up my story.

I will call the executive Carl. The division’s Christmas party was being planned, and the name of a recently departed executive came up as someone to put on the invite list. That’s when Carl made his reactive statement. Even though he only said it to the one person, it seems that one person couldn’t help but talk about it to others.

The next morning I traveled back to my new home. I was leaving the company with a signed contract to complete culture work that had been started by my team while employed there, and another contract waiting for approval to begin the leadership coaching part of my practice with nine individuals.

In the following days I could not get that story about Carl off my mind. I respected him enough to confront his reactivity. I called his administrative assistant and set up an appointment. On the day of the call, I found myself pacing in the yard outside my office asking myself how I was going to handle this.

When I got Carl on the phone, I said, I’m going to tell you a story, at any point if I get anything wrong, stop me. I told the story, and he never stopped me. He said that how I told it was how it had unfolded. He then said, “I was just being myself.”

I reminded him of the wonderful things he had led and done in the culture of that organization over the last few years. His presence and work had been part of setting up a needed transformation. I told him I was making this call because I didn’t want to see a simple comment take it all down. I then said to him, “You have a thousand people under your care now, you’ve lost the right to just be yourself.”

Therein lies the mystery of Authenticity. We confuse blatant honesty driven by emotion with real authentic presence. Whatever Carl’s feelings were about the departed executive had nothing to do with the person who had stood before him.

I’ve told this story many times to leader clients whom I felt needed to hear it, but writing it down is causing me to reflect on my own behavior as authentic, or not. It’s rather humbling when that spot is flicked on.

Leadership is about behavior.

It is only about behavior. We influence through behavior. Our behavior can stand in the way of powerful results or our behavior can encourage and empower others toward powerful outcomes.

An organization’s culture does not determine our behavior as a leader, but our behavior as leaders determines our culture. Frankly, I no longer care very much for conversations about culture. I much prefer to keep my energy focus on a body of work that builds confidence.

Realize that it is not how you feel that determines how you act; rather it is how you act that determines how you feel.

−William James (1842-1910)

At the end of the conversation Carl directly asked my advice about what he should do. I told him that he knew the one person that was present that he needed to talk to, and that he must go to him and ask for his forgiveness. Then, ask him who else he should talk to, and then go to each of them and do the same.

In the brightness of the authentic self (what I call Trueness) we clearly see our actions and can observe them factually, before any judgment. There is a narrow space in which such seeing occurs, and we must respond quickly leveling in on what drives us from the deepest place in our being.

Yes, as a leader in the 21st Century, Carl has grown beyond the emotional right to say whatever. However, he is completely free by his Trueness to speak from and with his authentic voice.

Bright Unknowing

Superfluous opinion, you’re not.
Yet trigger pulled, sending brightly
such divisive thinking into the air.

An opinion, only narcissism serves.
Egocentricity, and shallowness lightly,
simply wasting the burst of a flare.

Devastating challenge it was,
when such I realized,
of opinions, I must let go.

Wonderfully freeing it was,
truthful wound cauterized,
of presence, I can now know.

Inauthentic only, an opinion can be,
outwardly lashing,
misrepresentation externally told.

Authenticity, non-dualistic and free,
inwardly flashing,
oneness internally we can hold.

–J. Brunson

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The Mystery of Being

I wanted to tell you how much your words meant to me that day.” He said this to me 15 years after that tragic day.

It was early morning and I was slowly putting on my Sunday-best pants and shoes when the phone rang. I answered and heard Don’s solemn, low voice inform me his dad had been killed in an accident. He ended the call by saying, “I just thought you would want to know.”

I found my teenage-self standing in the den looking at my mom. Upon telling her of the call she burst into tears and said, “Go to him, now! He needs you!” I grabbed my keys and took off.

I arrived at his house and rang the doorbell. Don answered the door, saw me, and fell into my arms. I helped him up to his room, and there we sat together for what I remember being about 3 hours.

The point of this story is in Don’s words of gratitude 15 years later. He was grateful for my words that day, expressions he must have surely felt in his grieving spirit. But here’s the thing, in those 3 hours, when Don talked of his dad and recounted stories, I never said a word; not one word.

I did what I did–nothing–precisely guided by the wisdom of my mother when she said, He needs you!” I did the only thing I know to do from deep within, to be with my friend.

Grounding

In a society of doers, being (and being with) is a mystery. The mystery is only in part explained by our need to separate being from doing.

The mystery of being itself is darkened when we refuse to hold the creative tension that is being and doing. If you can come to understand that we are made from love, and of love, you begin to stand more firmly on the ground of being. It is about standing firm, holding and releasing being into the present without condition. It takes the full flow of feel, hear, and see, to grasp love as source and energy.

This mysterious flow is even more elusive when our story is vulgarized by the forced belief of doing as all-important, a higher point of priority over being. With that said, it takes our early experience with doing to prepare us for the mystery that is the paradoxical tension of being/doing.

Being Begets Being

There was a point in my daughter’s early years where I must have shared this story about Don, his father’s death, and our time that day. One afternoon she came home and shared about the sudden death in the night of her good friend’s brother. Her friend’s house was just down the street. Immediately her mother and I simply said, Go.

When she returned, after about 3 hours, she said to me, “Dad, I did exactly what you told me.” Having no idea what she was talking about, I asked for clarity. She replied, “You know, Don’s story and what you did the day his dad died.” As you might imagine, my heart warmed in profound satisfaction knowing she had trusted being with her friend.

In my upcoming book, The Rhythm of Trueness, I write about the poetic journey of the leader within each of us. The leader inside is about who we are in truth, a reality since the beginning. Trueness is our energy in the respectful space of creative tension, where being and doing find flow, and together, conscious resonance.

The poetic verse of your being flows in the reality of presence as you consciously open to the moments unfolding. No doubt such presence requires trust. How slow the process, it seems, as I look back. What I’m actually seeing is my regretful reality of not learning to trust sooner. The trusting includes loosening one’s grip on certain ways of thinking and stepping into a flow of no need to control.

Where presence and voice blend, there is Trueness.

This beautiful merger of presence and voice opens you to a way of being and doing; with the reality of what is unfolding before you and around you.

Grounded in Respect

As a child, respectful
with you I can be,
only as first, I
can be with me.

Love honors being.
From the chambers
of love,
voice moves you.

Love honors doing.
From the chambers
of love,
voice moves others.

Being, alone
may withhold resonance.
Released, respectful energy
in a world needy.

Doing, alone
cannot say enough.
However, an amplifier
for voice it can be.

To be unconsciously present
too much the norm,
walking through moments
too conscious of self.

The full flow
of voice it takes
to feel, hear, and see
grasping love
as source and energy.

In the beginning
nothing it cost
to just be.
Trust was easy
from a center
clear and free.

In the moments, loving tension
at our disposal, always.

Being, resting in respectful trust.
Doing, lovingly grounded in trustful respect.

–J. Brunson

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The Mystery of Tension

The origin of the word tension is about stretching. Like other words in our language, we’ve forgotten original source and attributed only a positive or only a negative connotation. We are so often the sole point of supply to the negative scripts that haunt our doing and suspend our being, the ability to be present.

As part of ongoing introspection, I have questioned a few things. One of those was the energy behind, and within, my writing. When you’ve been doing something within a proven, stable process for a long time, it is a tense space to open to such questioning.

In this introspection, this standing in the flow of Trueness, I continue to connect more deeply with who I am, what I do, why I do it. It seems my writing to leaders has become much more about writing to the leader within each of us. Such a shift has had its impact on what I’m saying, doing, and who I’m being with the individuals I work with as a coach.

Being the person we are means enjoying the gift of our own creation before and beyond all desire, all expectations, all demands.

–John Main, The Way of Unknowing

Your voice embodies wholeness from an original source. As my friend Joy says about things like voice, “It’s the energy that picked me.” Voice is proof of your being. It is an energy that stretches you. Your voice is worthy of trust. In fact, not trusting voice is certain suppression of your resonance and power in this world. This variety of tension is something you definitely do not want.

We do have power in this world; not a power over another, but power to be there for the other, for her/his true being. While possible to encourage another without the new confidence of loving one’s self, such encouragement can only scrape the surface for another’s confidence, their way of being in this world. This only leads to misguided expectations that corrode relationship.

Tension is a mystery because we think it is something from which we need to be free, something we must dissolve, or avoid at all costs. Instead, we must first grasp tension as the healthful stretch intended, and then consciously step into the middle full of creative tautness and secure joy.

What is it that has taken me to this place to consider and remember this thing? It is a commitment to be present with what is, and to more consistently honor my voice in each interaction. Love is my voice, and the strength of my voice is encouragement. So, for one thing, I am being much more vocal and courageous about sharing this, and doing so with and for each person.

Your voice has been there in you since the beginning. Hold its tension gracefully and release unique resonance into a world desperate for the confluence of our stories, and our ability to be present with one another.

Everyday Dignity

Each wonderful, we are,
an engaging story,
for need in the world,
to be told.

In the ordinary, is power,
constant opportunity,
To Feel before and beyond
any limiting expectation.
To Hear our own resonant
capacity to be present.
To See the mysterious ease
of everyday things.

The abundance of mystery,
expectation interrupts.
No longer by narrowness be,
misguided by and into judgment.

Permission, allow me to give,
relieving you of the stress,
attempting to create
what you already hold.

A voice from the beginning, free,
resonant strength limitless,
authentically equipped to speak,
gracefully, in the transient flow.

In the space of everyday,
a story to be told,
you are, I am.

–J. Brunson

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In our first coaching session, he stated, “I’m not sure I’m passionate anymore.”

Unhelpful guidance, profusely proffered without permission, contains anything but meaning. So difficult it can be to let go of expectations, not letting go of any optimism for good, but the false assumptions we find clinging to us like soot from a toxic fire.

I suppose finding and knowing meaning depends on where one looks for it. Even more debilitating is if one no longer believes meaning is possible. It is a major shift when you finally grasp that meaning is created within the flow of it all, abundance available in the movement of internal to external and your Trueness active in the world.

The mystery is, in part, found in our own journey.

Less important is seeking any specific explanation of mystery and more important is opening to what is; experiencing the present so as to receive the meaning already there for you (the true you.)

In the first part of life experience, meaning comes to us through others. Fortunate I was to learn about deep friendship and unconditional love early on by knowing my grandmother as my closest friend. The simplicity of being in her presence, and her presence with me, schooled me in what I would need to know in the subsequent acts of life & living, opening me to mystery and my own journey with meaning.

With mystery and meaning it’s less about understanding and more about accepting what is already true within you. Trueness asks you to live and work in alignment with the source of who you are. At such source is a new confidence, a way of being in your unique brand of love, creating unconditional presence held firmly by flowing voice.

I am privileged to work with individuals who want to lead from such love, being, and presence. Letting go into desire’s drive and intent’s draw, I get to see these individuals open to the middle of meaning; a resonance unique to who they are.

The release, and resonance, of voice may flow through passion, presence, or purpose, but remember that your voice is gifted within and from your Trueness.

Meaning is the inhale/exhale of Trueness. Meaning is right in the middle of a living, breathing paradox. We find in the making of who we are that it takes experiences of all sorts; an unfolding of all things, working together, basically schooling us in the reality of everything belongs.

Mystic Memory

It was August, mile four,
one of my long walks.
Quiet, peaceful, simple,
thoughts fired into memories.

Feeling, from all those years ago,
the shade of grandparent trees,
porch time with Sallie and Henry.

The memories thick as fireflies
on such a Mississippi evening.

The red and white kitchen table,
the window behind the bench at that table.

The cupcakes,
oh my, the cupcakes!

I was safe, then,
so safe.

Still, there’s safety in the present,
but no one else must hold the pearl.

Yes, that was a tender time,
open and wide.

I was safe, because?
Because of love,
because of love, unconditional.

In such safety,
unconditionally,
every little thing
had meaning.

The source of meaning was from without,
graciously held by those showing me
the pearl of great price,
the Trueness within.

And from within,
now meaning flows.
Then, every little thing had meaning.
Now, up to me it is
to know meaning in
everything belongs.

–J. Brunson

Version 2

 

I tell stories about the year 1996. It was a year focused on becoming the best listener I could be. Spending the year learning to listen led me to a deeper experience in what it meant for me to be a leader. Further, in the process of study and learning application, I was molded into a coach whose only desire is to encourage individual Trueness.

Now, I will remember the year 2016 as one for critical transformation, opening me ever deeper to my own Trueness. Meaning comes from Trueness, the true self since the beginning. As Ric Gonzalez and I have discussed in our podcast work, it doesn’t matter which comes first, passion, presence, or purpose. We’ve found individuals getting to meaning as each stands with her/his own point of origin−a voice of passion, a voice of presence, or a voice of purpose.

In our first formal session together, Sean asked me how he would know when he had made the transition from what he values into beliefs that translate into conscious behavior, to that space where he would be doing what it is he does while being his true self. The vessels in my brain almost popped with excitement. I wanted to lay out all at once everything he and I would do over the next few months, but that would’ve definitely been too much for him to process in that moment and in the mysterious space he opened with his wonderful question.

My answer, for the time being, was that he would know he was in the mysterious movement of such transition (really transformation) when he found himself being present with each interaction and each experience. Sean and I talked about flow, in the sense of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work, as presented in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In the last paragraph of this book, Mihaly states, “Just as we have learned to separate ourselves from each other and from the environment, we now need to learn how to reunite ourselves with other entities around us without losing our hard-won individuality.”

Unfortunately in modernity we have come to see mystery as something to be solved. In our effort to not know mystery, to be uncomfortable with what we don’t understand, we move quickly into fixing mode. In the process we have become very judgmental. Judgment is a barrier to any positive, collective outcome. The need to fix, judge, or control comes from fear. Fear becomes a shared emotion only because we allow it inside ourselves as individuals.

Letting go of judgment is part of opening to mystery. We contradict mystery when we allow expectations to control us, and attempt to control with expectations. It is an absurd cycle.

“We cannot be present to anyone or anything in judgment.”
–David G. Benner, Presence and Encounter

I cannot wait to show Sean his voice. Voice is a gift of being. Your voice knows its stand right in between your desire and your intent. When standing there, voice in full flow, letting go is simply part of your art!

Whatever opens you to Trueness − passion, presence, purpose − stand there, confidently. If anything in life & living can be trusted, must be trusted, it is your Trueness. Stand in the middle of your own Desire & Intent with voice in service, gathering, giving, and growing in the mystery of letting go.

Silent Freedom

Mystery
not the agent of fear,
of what we are afraid.

The absurdity of it all,
our angst, our anxiety,
fixed in a demand to control.

Whatever is missing
has been dismissed
in the waste of fear.

And mysterious still
how one might believe,
ever was there
any chance of control.

What then was dismissed
from fear, without thought?

Was it loss?
Was it love?

Providence not trusted,
in the flow of it all, it all
moves with us, or without us,
but so wants the divineness
of our presence.

In a loud world,
a distracting swirl,
silence is a mystery.

But silence we need,
for more than a bit, to hold,
and without judgment, release.

Letting go,
how can this be,
possibly be,
the way to steer,
a source to guide?

Simple it is,
to be led out there
one has to be guided
in here.

And the source,
the guide,
from your beginning,
is away from the fray.

In the silence,
in the depths
of The Presence,
is the middle
of your being.

Here, in the middle
of who you are,
since the start,
is inclusive freedom.

–J. Brunson

The Moment - by Anna Sabino

Presence – by Anna Sabino

When an individual is acting from Trueness, the path to impact is negotiated with the loving and mysterious movement of providence.

In too many organizations, of any kind, it doesn’t take long to observe behaviors of unhealthy competition, selfishness, and downright nastiness. We cannot focus properly on any larger, collective mission when such energy is being wasted internally. It is the same for us as individuals. We cannot develop externally what we are not developing internally.

Trueness honors the uniqueness of each individual as the power to make the collective whole.

I endured all 35 hours of the teams training that the organization purchased. I emerged from the mandatory course stating that it would never work. I did not like being a negative critic. I was still young enough however to be a bit proud when a few months later the whole process was abandoned.

A few years later, interest arose for my process for building a team. When speaking of the method, I made one thing immediately clear, the individuals on my team never heard me use the words team or teamwork. My method approached teamwork as an outcome and team as a title identifying a collective of committed individuals.

When knowing your Trueness, and doing work from the energy of your true self, you will have an impact on others. Your work will have meaning, for you and the other.

I am still learning to feel, hear, and see my own impact in this world. I only know such impact as I first feel in my own Trueness the voice that pushes me out into the world. In the continual flow of giving what the world needs from me, I have to let go of all in the way of listening. From another’s Trueness I then hear appreciation for our shared presence. From what is given back to me I can then begin to see what impact looks like in the reality of the other.

The mystery comes into play as I let go of control and expectation – a seemingly impossible task, but a necessity to knowing impact.

Trust the Mystery

The mystery of impact,
a paradox hard to hold,
being who I am
doing what I do,
to what end?

The answer held truly
by the one, herself
by the one, himself
read aloud in their own lives.

In the theater of my life,
I stand somewhere between
the second and final acts,
scenes replaying and lovingly teaching.

Youth now walks behind me,
but deserted me it has not.
Its diligence dutiful and due,
its design served adequately.

From the words of life & living,
a manuscript evolving,
my impact unfolding in the chapters,
written by others
finally by me being read.

And read I do
often and openly.
no longer hiding,
impact embracing,
the mystery holding,
the mystery holding me.

­– J. Brunson

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