Tag Archives: illuminate the negative

TRAPPED: Its Better To Be A 3 Legged Coyote than a 4 Legged Fur Coat

My dear friend Joe Tye sent these thoughts recently……

A coyote caught in a trap will gnaw off its leg in order to escape. It instinctively knows that it’s better to be a three-legged coyote than a four-legged fur coat. It’s willing to go through (relatively) short-term pain in order to gain its long-term freedom.

Contrast the coyote with the monkey. According to a traditional Indian fable, a monkey can be caught by leaving a banana inside a large clay pot that has a very narrow opening at the top. The monkey grabs the banana and struggles to extricate it from the pot as his captors approach. The banana will not fit through the narrow top while wrapped in the monkey’s clenched fist. Now the monkey has a choice, doesn’t he? He can let go of the banana and escape (hungry but free), or he can hang on to the banana and hope against hope to keep both the banana and his freedom. The monkey takes the second approach, clutching the banana as he attempts to run off, dragging the pot behind. He is, of course, quickly captured.

So many people react to the traps that hold them back just as the monkey did. They envision a goal – financial independence, entrepreneurial success, spiritual equanimity – as being “out there” in front of them somewhere. But they are trapped and either unwilling or unable to, like the coyote, go through the painful process of chewing off a paw (changing spending habits, ending an abusive relationship, qutting drinking) so they can escape to a better future. They cling to their “banana” and wonder why they’re stuck, why they can’t seem to move toward the future they say they wish to create.

Though I’ve never tried this personally, I’ve read that if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will instantly jump out. If, on the other hand, you put the frog into tepid water and gradually turn up the heat to the boiling point, the frog will relax into a fatal stupor. Perhaps that’s how we get stuck in our own little traps: we grow so accustomed to the pain that it becomes tolerable, even comfortable, when compared to the risk of making a leap into the unknown.

The keys to escape the traps of life might be simple common sense, but the locks are rarely easy to open. We become so used to our traps, so comfortable in them, that we hardly recognize them for what they are. And we end up sleeping with the frogs.

Some lizards are equipped with a break-away tail; if they are caught in the beak of a predator, they yank so hard that the tail comes off and they can run away, diminished in stature but still alive and free. And before long, they grow a new tail. Perhaps that’s an even more apt metaphor than the coyote, because once we escape from our traps, we can usually grow back whatever we’ve lost – in fact, more often than not, it will be stronger than the original.

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Illuminate the Negative vs. Complaining and Whining

During yesterday’s interview with the Washington Post, I was asked whether an organization who adopts the Illuminate Philosophy will be inundated with complainers. That’s a great question and one which we confronted in the early 90’s when we formed the model.
NO. ILLUMINATING ORGANIZATIONS HAVE LESS COMPLAINING THAN ANY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. Why? Simply because the process for communicating are discussed beforehand with Illuminators and not in others.
What is complaining and whining? It’s a waste of energy- unless the complainer or whiner’s goal is to transfer stress from themselves to others. Not very productive.
Illuminating the Negative is very different. Firstly, it is illuminated in a positive light- in the context of ‘lets make things even better’.
Does the Illuminator need to have the solution?
No. Many believe that one should keep their observations to themselves if they don’t have the solution. That’s crazy. I might not have an extinguisher but that doesnt mean that I shouldn’t alert everyone of a fire!
We don’t always have the solution to the challenges we face yet we still must capture them for consideration, contemplation, brainstorming, etc.
Examples of ineffective comments are; ‘this stinks and I hate it’, or ‘our competitor has the turbo widget and we dont stand a chance of competing’, or even ‘management doesnt have a clue’.
Illuminating individuals might say, ‘Im not at all comfortable with this situation and I’m not sure why. I’ll give it thought and get back with you.’, or ‘in consideration of our client’s new turbo widget, Im wondering what we can come up with to compete with them?’, or ‘it seems to me that our managment might be out of touch with the following and was wondering how we could bring it to their attention.’
Sound unrealistic? It’s not only realistic… it’s real.
Look around at the most productive organizations, those with stable workforces and those which are rated top companies to work for and you’ll see this as a common thread.
Talking WITH people rather than talking ABOUT people is a common characteristic of…. character! Discussing issues openly and allowing for NOT YET KNOWING THE ANSWERS is a common characteristic of…. character. Taking responsibility for Illuminating the Negative in a positive light is……character.
People and organizations with character win. Complainers and whiners lose. Who would your rather be around? Who would you rather be?

Enlightenment vs. Endarkenment

Ok, I confess. As a kid, sometimes I would ask my Mom to keep the light on as I was falling asleep- classic ‘fear of the dark’.
The odds were against a fire coming through and killing me much like it did to Bambi’s mother but still, the dark was a fearful space.
Now segue 40yrs forward to today. We’ve made a collective shift and are less fearful of the dark….I contend that businesses and organizations are less fearful of the dark and are much more fearful of the light- shining the light on issues and challenges that are best left alone.
Keeping challenges and issues (the Weaknesses and Threats that we discussed in the SWOT analysis) in the dark seem to be much preferred than dealing with them in the light of day, under the light of scrutiny and the focus of illuminated attention. (oh, no….. dont go toward the light……)
Are you working in an environment where people would rather stay in the dim light of mediocrity than risk out and illuminate challenges? Would you prefer to live in a culture in which you are able to discuss issues openly, confront challenges and collaborate on solutions? Then you will be happy to read, and Im happy to refer you to my blogs that discuss the Illuminate philosophy and process of Face It, Follow It and Fix It.
The book becomes available next month thru the big booksellers.
I ask that you envision a world where we are courageous enough to speak our mind (kindly and positively) about concerns, weaknesses, threats, challenges,etc. and where our successes in dealing with this reinforce that culture. Then I challenge you (us) to create this world.
This focus on, what I dramatically refer to as ‘the Negative’ in the subtitle of Illuminate:Harnessing The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, will facilitate a ‘wake up call’ of monumental proportion and may just be a leverage point to your and your organization’s leap to success as it has with thousands already.
Live in enlightened life and help those who are stuck in the endarkended one! The rewards are huge; joy, peace of mind, self esteem, achievement, success, accomplishment and ?????

We’re screwed unless…….

Im old enough to remember when the USA used to make stuff. We made cars and planes, widgets and gadgets and everything in between. Now we dont make much. Instead, we converted to a service economy and developed innovations in medicine, technology and more- all based on the capital of thinking, creating and utilization of our well educated brains. So, cool, we keep up our education and develop minds that can keep us in the game of innovation and product/process development.
EL PROBLEMO- Our education system is in trouble. The best indicators of this is measuring such things as how long students are staying in school (drop out rates are at an all time high in high school and college) and grade rankings. I understand that we cannot ‘measure’ our educational effectiveness to the nth degree but these really are some good markers to read that the USA system of education is falling farther and farther behind other countries like China, India, Australia and others.
It’s time for us to realize that this experiment called the USofA is only 200 years old and is just as vulnerable as any other society to becoming a debtor nation (oh, that’s right, we already are), low wage workforce serving other more productive nations.
At the risk of sounding like a one track record, I profess that we have a way out and that’s by ILLUMINATING the NEGATIVE and apply the FACE IT, FOLLOW IT and FIX IT methodology and get on with it. Once we follow the causes of these issues and see not only HOW we got here and WHAT forces are keeping it in place then, and only then, can we work to alter the course and FIX those processes in place.
I would love some commentary on this.


Had an interesting experience today that was both meaningful and profound for me. I needed to confront someone on a matter- someone who is very dear to me- who I dearly love and who unintentionally had made a poor decision leading to tension between us, hard feelings on my part and a bit of ‘guilt’ on hers. These are pretty high on the list of negative emotions which are so common and so dang damaging to the human condition so it wouldn’t server either of us to carry them around. Hence today’s experience.
I decided to Illuminate the situation and FACE it head on. In doing so, I needed to sort of FOLLOW IT, which is to say that I considered where my feelings were coming from, what they were effecting (feeling lousy, hurt, angry) and what her feelings might be (I didnt really know for certain). Then with all of this, I began a conversation with her to FIX IT- which we did.
In order for this to happen, we needed to allow ourselves some space, some vulnerability and be open to outcome.
So, at lunch, I took the opportunity to ‘address the elephant in the middle of the room’ and, with love and respect, spoke my truth.
Guess what happened?
I’ll tell you on the next blog- NOT. Here’s what happened. We each had an opportunity to express our feelings- and it was awesome. As always, the reward far exceeded the risk. I can assure you that this simple event is a huge addition to our solid relationship. With her sincere apology I had no need whatsoever to elephant stomp her to transfer pain or any of that crap that is all too common.
My grandmother once said, and I quoted this in my Psyched On Service book, that “a delicate tea cup that is broken and then mended is now stronger than had it not been broken.”
Our relationship was not broken, but I can assure you that its stronger than ever.

great example

im at a wonderful and lovely boutique hotel on the river in downtown chicago after doing work at the merchandise mart nearby. it really is lovely with european flare and style – outside tables with umbrellas, really cute. however, check in was abominable. rude, cold, inappropriate, inattentive – like they poured ‘white out’ and totally obscured all of the other wonderful efforts to impress and embrace the guest. what a shame. there are investors, designers, housekeepers and more who work and work to create a positive impression only to have these two employees, in a matter of minutes, undermine that work.
so….i was here in the club – on the internet (for a change!) and saw a pod of suited manager types walking about with notes and collaboration – clearly hotel management. feeling a compulsion to represent those aforementioned contributors to this hotel, i introduced myself and gave them a ‘free and loving consultation’. how did they react?……. open, allowing vulnerability, engaged and appreciative. THIS IS WHY THEY WILL THRIVE WHEN OTHERS ARE STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE. they were really digging on my observations and suggestions. they were willing to illuminate. in fact, i shared with them the three step process of face it, follow it, fix it and they took notes. later, (just now) they came back and showed me how they applied the 3 steps to an issue that they were having with their reservations department. how cool was that?
so…. im beaming… for many reasons.
now im off to wrigley field to see chicago cubs vs chicago white sox on a last minute opportunity to go. karma baby!

face it

we cant solve all that we face… .but we can never solve anything unless and until we face it. what are you ‘avoiding’ dealing with?
we often avoid things that we dont have the answer at hand. it’s frustrating not having the answer and we sure dont want to hold onto these issues and take up our ‘mental’ space. i’ve observed that people, when confronted with this, tend to ignore, deny, suppress or just ‘let it slide’.
an idea to try on- and it’s worked for me and when i consult- is to capture that issue on paper and keep it posted. come to it from time to time. dont let it get away. it’s not going away anyway. in the dark, like mushrooms, it will grow and multiply in power.
keep it posted and trust that, if you re-visit it, you will create, attract or invent solutions. face it and have faith in yourself and your support system to come up with the necessary resources to make it right.