Inaugural Interview: Lewis Harry Spence

Video Project

I am honored to introduce to you, Lewis Harry Spence.

Harry, who I’ve known for a little over a year now, is a large part of the reason why this site exists. He was the first person I officially considered to be “living proof”.   After every cup of coffee I had with Harry, and the more I learned about him, the more I wanted to share his story with people I knew would benefit from knowing him.  And I am beside myself to be able to do that with this project.

For me, Harry is living proof that it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you approach what you do – the principles and values that you live by.

Some highlights that still speak to me:

  • “there’s sort of a notion that by 25 you’re grown up, and I deeply believe that is a terribly stilted notion about development. I hope I have grown dramatically over the course of my 30s and 40s and 50s. And I do believe I am a very different person that I was 25 or 30 years ago. That there is a continuous process of social learning that is profound and powerful.”
  • “it’s so easy to fool yourself.  It’s so easy for your ego to fool you into believing you’re doing the righteous thing. When in fact it’s more about you than it’s about the task and about the needs of others.”
  • “I can now say, in many ways, my work is itself a spiritual discipline.”
  • “Even between 56 and 66, the sense of sustained equanimity keeps increasing. But it constantly requires lots of discipline and lots of learning.”
  • “It’s all about where my focus is.  Is it on my well being or is it external – on trying to bring myself in support of the needs of the world? And if I can stay in that space…and it’s a struggle…if I can stay in that space, then that’s  a space in within which great and immense satisfaction and sense of meaning arises.”

I hope you’ll take the time to watch the video. I assure you it will be worth your while.

No words suffice in expressing my gratitude to Harry for making his story so accessible to me, and now to you… and any one who has the pleasure of stumbling upon this video.

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The “Invisible Curriculum” – Lesson One: “STALK MENTORS!”

Blog, My Journey

Today’s post is inspired by: The Invisible B-School Curriculum by Warren Bennis (Published in Bloomberg Businessweek on June 25, 2012)

In this article, leadership and management guru Warren Bennis shares his experience on being a mentee and a mentor. He shares about how he tells his students to “stalk mentors!”.  He speaks about mentoring within the context of his belief that there are 2 curricula in an MBA program, the formal one offered by the program, and an informal one which he refers to as the “invisible” curriculum.  He argues that this “invisible curriculum”, which includes finding mentors, is equally important to the formal curriculum.

When I went back to get my masters, my “invisible curriculum” took place over 50 cups of coffee with classmates whose comments intrigued me.  They would share their stories, warts and all.  People from all walks of life – from teachers, peace corps graduates to generals,  political figures, and CEOs.  This invisible curriculum is one that I continued after I graduated, and one that sparked the idea behind this project.  Of those I have had the honor of meeting, I have found a handful of mentors.

But the main reason why I wish to share this is to pass on wisdom that Bennis shares – to “stalk mentors!”  Although I am not typically someone who is naturally inclined to bother my mentors for my own gain, I feel compelled to take Bennis’ advice.  And I hope to be able to do the same for others in the future.

I encourage you to do the same.

Surround Yourself With Heroes

Blog, My Journey

Vivian Giang and Lynne Guey captured some words of advice Warren Buffet offered to Levo League members earlier this year in the following Business Insider article: Warren Buffett Shared Some Great Career Advice for Millennials 

My favorites:

2. Be careful who you look up to.

“If you tell me who your heroes are, I’ll tell you how you’re gonna turn out. It’s really important in life to have the right heroes. I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve probably had a dozen or so major heroes. And none of them have ever let me down. You want to hang around with people that are better than you are. You will move in the direction of the crowd that you associate with.”

4. Develop healthy habits by studying people.

“Pick the person that has the right habits, that is cheerful, generous, gives other people credit for what they do. Look at all of the qualities that you admire in other people … and say to yourself, ‘Which of those qualities can’t I have myself?’ Because you determine whether you have them. And the truth is you can have all of them.”

——-

These two align with the values behind this project.  1.  Surround yourself with people who you know you can learn a great deal from and, 2. study their habits and slowly integrate those habits into your daily life.

I am grateful to be surrounded by some incredible people, Harry Spence being one of them.   It’s nice to see that Buffett too has had help along the way and that studying others has gotten him to where he is.

Listen or Fail

My Journey

The 10 Reasons Why We Fail

By David DiSalvo, Forbes Contributor

Every single one of the 10 reasons David DiSalvo offers in this piece speak to all the things that have played a role in some way or another in holding me back.  I’ve taken the liberty and transformed each into action steps:

1. Believe in yourself, and others will believe in you.
2. You are not what others say you are.
3. Rock the boat.
4. Life is short. Take risks.
5. Choose based on what you want to be remembered for.
6. You alone determine what role you let yourself play.
7. Accept that certainty is an illusion.
8. Don’t wait.  Go after what your heart desires.  Playing it safe doesn’t guarantee anything.
9. There’s always more to learn and ways to grow.
10. Learning to adapt and sit with uncertainty is imperative to living the life you seek to live.

The main takeaway:  Nothing is certain.  It’s more risky not to risk.  That is, if you want to live a life worth remembering.

Last week, I took a leap.  I quit my job.  The courage to do so came from knowing I could no longer not live the life I was seeking to live.  And it is taking every ounce of energy to not do all the things that DiSalvo lists.  To even sit with the question, “what do I want?” has been an excruciating task.  Why?  Because as soon I name it, what’s next is owning it and taking responsibility for all that follows.  Growing up is what some might call it.  And as Harry Spence has shown me, growing up is what I hope I always do for as long as I have in this life.

So, I don’t know what it means for you, but for me the challenge I sit with at the moment: To listen.  To listen to what my heart is telling me.  To really listen.  And to start to own what it is I hear in small ways to start.  Then hopefully in larger ways.  Quitting my job was hard as hell, but that was just step 1.  Hopefully, starting with a bit of believing in myself, I’ll make it to step 2 and 3, and so on and so forth, without giving up.

Book: Trusting What You’re Told

Research

Listen and Learn: A New Model For Teaching

This article is an interview with Harvard Developmental Psychologist, David Harris, about his book called Trusting What You’re Told (2012).  The main message of his book is that children learn best from testimony of those around them whom they deem are reliable sources of information.

This book and Harris’ work intrigued me because it speaks I agree that whether we are conscious of it or not, what we know and how we engage with the world is largely shaped by the ideas (people) we are exposed to.

Part of what fuels this idea for the Living Proof Project is to gain access to stories and people who are sharing what they do just to give you a glimpse into how they think (and how their thinking has gotten them to where they are). The hope is that by having access to a library of different ways of thinking and engaging with the world, your world view will reflect such exposure.

However, this book only speaks to a piece of the value behind the LP Project.  Tied into this project is my personal interest in systems and groups.

So much of our life is defined by the people we meet, the ideas we are exposed to, the community we grew up in, etc.  Yet what connects us all below those differences are common underpinnings of human nature and the emotions we experience.  While not everyone can relate to the details of a story, often, you’ll find that others will identify with parallel experiences in their own life and how it made them feel.   The hope is to find stories that speak to you.  And although you may never meet the people on this site in person, the hope is you will see a part of yourself in them.   Let them be the teacher you never got to meet in school, the social system you may not have had exposure to growing up, and the fellow citizen who cares enough to let you into their stories to show you that you too can do the same.

Bunker Roy and the Barefoot Movement:

Links To Stories

751px-Sanjit_Bunker_Roy_at_Time_2010

(Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27865228@N06/4607852492/)

Bunker Roy: Learning from the Barefoot Movement
Speaker: Sanjit “Bunker” Roy
TED.com

Barefoot engineers and architects, primary school educated solar experts, a grandmother dentist who is illiterate, puppets as teachers – these are just some of the perspective shifting characteristics of “Barefoot College”.  The women of the village have gone on to train other women in Africa and Afghanistan on solar engineering, using only body language to communicate.  The result:  the first solar powered village in Sierra Leone and Ghana.

For me, Barefoot College is living proof of the following concept that Roy speaks to at the end of the talk:  What is possible when you look inside for solutions and listen to the people you are trying to “serve”.  The college is a perfect example of proof of what is possible when you listen instead of thinking that you possess the answer to a problem you are trying to solve to “serve” others.

http://www.barefootcollege.org/