Today someone thanked me for being “profoundly positive.” On hearing this, emotions flew in.
First, I was touched and teary. Then, like a (mostly) unexpected left hook, the upper limit. Can I be “profoundly positive?” Is this okay? Am I, as a person and a professional, merely a bland, predictable, monochromatic power pose for positivity? Ick.
Either way, I realized that in many places in my life, I AM profoundly positive.
Then, I had the thought that love is profoundly positive. It is not pollyanna positivity. It is profound. It is discerning. It is trustworthy. The idea that it is not I who loves as an action, but it is love that loves is so essential to my outlook that I commissioned this piece from Matthew Hoffman, custodian of Chicago studio You Are Beautiful. As you can see, it is the first or second thing I see in the morning.
My aspiration, my learning edge, my essence is to surrender, let go of resistance, and BE love.
When I let this comment land, I reflected on the way I coach. I often say that I am a “challenger.” My website’s hero image reads “fearlessly authentic.” Yet I know that these qualities in me are only tolerated, sought after, and valued because they come in the context of the pervasive atmosphere of love. If you know me. If you read these posts. If you have broken bread with me, I imagine you have witnessed both the push and the embrace.
When I think about my work, I believe that my executive coaching clients come to me for both of these features of mine (and some other things), but I apportion them differently with different clients. Some leaders are so accustomed to being obeyed based on their trajectory of historical success that they want (need?) someone who is able to keep up and willing to call them on the carpet. Some leaders are so talented and still so plagued (and propelled) by a confidence deficit that they want (need?) the gift of an ally who can see the core of what’s extraordinary about them and point it out in different actions, again and again. This makes it more possible, over time, for them to see their zones of genius and find contrary evidence to fend off their internal imposter voice when it matters most. Challenge. Love.
Now, it’s important to note here that I get to pick my clients. That’s a privilege, and, in this case, it has real import. There is no value in a coach who is a single-item vending machine of love. The love requires the challenge, and the love must be grounded (for me) in something I deeply admire in someone. If I’m working with you, friending with you, text bantering with you, golf trash talking with you, or partnering with you, chances are there’s something over there that is a magnet for me. Something I want to be with, amplify, nurture, and fuel.
It’s also worth noting that the thing that doesn’t always FEEL like love -- the discernment, the choice to let someone or something go, the decision to opt out of an engagement -- is ALSO love. Boundaries are love. They are decisions, statements, points of view that exclude some (people, ideas, behaviors, preferences, things) and include others. When I exclude, it can be difficult, sure, but it also gives the thing I’m letting go of permission to lean into the qualities and standards that are essential to and in them. And when exclusion happens, the other person gets to find the coach, job, leader, or life partner who INCLUDES the things in them that are integral.
Challenge is love.
Discernment is love.
Boundaries are love.
Love is Love.
All of it is profoundly positive.