If you google "the origin of the game Two Truths and a Lie", you don't get a definitive answer. You do get, to my surprise, a list of articles that claim this is a good corporate team-building exercise which made me LOL. But team building is not what I'm here to share with you today. Instead, the phrase two truths and a lie feels fitting to describe my own approach to self-betrayal. It was the sense that I could live in my truth up to a certain point and then lie to myself about my own needs. Self-betrayal is something I've been thinking about a lot. The weight and pain of it has almost lead me to shut down my consulting practice many times over, but more recently I've been working on the liberation from it while reading Martha Beck's book: The Way of Integrity.

Integrity is a word that's often misunderstood and misused. We take it to mean some form of moral superiority "we have more integrity than others". But what integrity means is that we are fully integrated humans with all of our contradictory points of view within ourselves.  We are out of integrity when we deny a part of ourselves even if we have judgments about that part of ourselves. Martha Beck speaks to the breakdown of our integrity as the tiny lies we tell ourselves on a daily basis out of fear.

Lying can take on many innocent forms but to me, it leaned most to not speaking up when I felt out of alignment with my peers and colleagues particularly in the space of entrepreneurship and culture. I was reminded of that feeling again yesterday when I read that basecamp had announced a host of corporate policy changes that included things like no political conversations at work, no 360 reviews, and no decisions by committee. If I learned anything from the Paris Hilton documentary it is to not form an opinion about something I don't have the full context on (it is definitely worth a watch).

So this newsletter is not to discuss whether basecamp changes are right or wrong, but rather to explore what happens when we are presented with differing points of view from our own peers and colleagues. 


And in order to explore that, I want to recognize the work of Natalie Wynn who is known for her youtube channel ContraPoints which I was introduced to through the Ezra Klien podcast. What I find so interesting and pleasurable about Natalie's work is that she was previously a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy. As a student of philosophy myself this semester I've been educated about how to read many differing points of view and not approach feedback as a form of degradation (if I don't agree with it) but as a form of debate and questioning to get to an understanding. Degradation is something we are quick to align ourselves with. I was reminded of that when reading Wendell Barry's essay Why I Am Not Going to Buy A Computer. 

I very much appreciated that Natalie opened her video essay on Canceling with a quote from 17th Century Philsopher Baruch Spinoza. Baruch was himself canceled in his day, exiled out of his village in Amsterdam for his "wrong opinions". Isn't it interesting to think that 500 years later, we are still using the strategy of exile as a form of disagreement? 


Which made me think that probably the most important skill/quality/character trait I can learn as a leader is to be able to hold differing points of view at once, even my own, especially when it might disappoint my colleagues and peers. When I teach culture, I teach that defining our values isn't about othering, but about knowing who we are so that we can hold our point of view while hearing, contemplating, and having dialogues about differing points of view. And the only way I have found to truly understand my own point of view is by being still, quiet, and going withing. When I start teaching culture, we go all the way back through the history of how you developed your own point of view. That is important because there are often pieces from our childhood or our younger selves that we begin to repress when we grow and begin to find safety in our society. I was reminded of that during this interview with Noam Chomsky

When I think of restoring personal integrity I think of the need to first be able to hear my own voice. There is a beautiful essay in Emergence by Alexis Wright that I return to often when thinking about why it is so necessary in these times to go within. Though here Alexis is speaking about the Australian Aboriginal culture and its ongoing destruction, I can't help but see a parallel to how we might approach staying grounded in ourselves when we are constantly bombarded with so much external stimuli: 


This inward migration can be described as being locked in a prison of the mind. It can also be described as retreating to the dwelling place of stories: a return to country, going home to where the stories of our culture are kept in the mind—for the mind that knows how to read country. The inward migration is most often a solitary journey, a turning away from the bombarding speed of reality hitting your very sense of being and destroying your soul. Returning to the place of country held in the mind is a way of figuring out how to deal with the powerlessness we sometimes feel from having to continually hold back the end-of-the-world times and confront ongoing realities. It’s where we go to slowly pick things apart, to reimagine our world in new ways, and sometimes we come out the other side with a map of how to make some sense of our world

An inward migration can also be thought of as closing one’s country, closing the door, sealing off the home place in the mind from others. It is through an inward gaze that we go back to country in thoughts and in dreams. We return to talk with the spirits about how the deep feelings of culture can be thought through, cared about, and compared with our knowledge of the world. It is where we examine truth, and it is through our soul-searching that art and beauty can grow, regenerate, deepen the connections—just as country renews and fulfills its own stories.

This inward place is where we work with our own thoughts—our own sovereignty of mind, our own sovereignty of imagination—and where we keep our own knowledge safe. This is where we fashion, and refashion, and imagine the stories we want told, where we catch the essence of a story before it drifts away, or before it is overrun by the power of those other stories, created by the score in this country, to distract our thinking. In the inward place, we can speak the truth more easily, and often with humor, because of the ease we feel being in the family home of traditional country. This is also where we flourish by making new stories: bringing new sagas of the “all times” into our world and also dealing with the stories of consolation, redemption, and reckoning.


What the basecamp announcement did for me, was to reflect on where I feel we aren't having enough nuanced conversations around how we decide what is and isn't a healthy workplace culture. And when I read the basecamp announcement I started realizing I too have been silent on a lot of practices basecamp has not decided it will not engage in: Is a collaborative work environment truly the only "healthy" work environment? Do all corporations need to be political? Are 360 reviews actually necessary for a healthy culture?

And the lie that I found I told myself is that these practices shouldn't be questioned because they are deemed "inherently good" or "enlightened". It reminded me of the revelation in the Persona documentary that we now realize that personality tests - so often used to hire - are actually discriminatory and damaging. What was once thought an enlightened practice has been proven destructive to certain groups of individuals. 

This brings us back to integrity and the fact that nothing is all good or all bad. And that progress is only made when we have the capacity to really know ourselves first so that we can know how we want to engage around understanding differing points of view. And to me, integrity is all about healthy questioning. It's not a static state, but a dynamic process we can engage in when we can swim between the inward migration and the worldly stage. It is about the fact that if we are to actually stand in our own integrity, we have to stop playing two truths and a lie with ourselves and bring that wisdom from the inward migration outward. 


In the spirit of this newsletter, here is an opposing point of view about Emotional Intelligence published by the New Yorker last week. If you have worked with me you know I'm a huge advocate of EI and seeing this article gave me a good pause as any opposing point of view should do. I won't share what my conclusions are here because that's of you to decide for yourself :) 


Our next book club will meet next on Tuesday, May 25th from 7pm-8:30pm via Zoom. We will be reading Braiding Sweetgrass. This is a free event, please email me if you'd like to join. 


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