Lean in to Daily Trauma

Accountability Empathy Well-being


Key Point: When we think of trauma most of us think about the really BIG stuff that happens in our lives. However there is also something to learn from the fact that daily life is also filled with many little traumas: Hurt feelings, things broken or lost, sickness, etc. Our daily work activity is no exception: A tough meeting, disappointing results, missed commitments, poorly chosen words or text are all good examples.

Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist and author of a forthcoming book The Trauma of Everyday Life. His article in the August 3 New York Times Op-Ed was very insightful. This is his wisely stated conclusion:

“The willingness to face traumas – be they large, small, primitive or fresh – is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.”

This past Tuesday was a tough day at work for me I thought my output as a facilitator wasn’t up to par, I was struggling to find a good solution to a screwed up process, wasn’t able to follow the line of thinking of someone who I normally align with 100 percent and a bunch of other “crap.” It was a day stacked with a bundle of little work traumas. I wanted to make them disappear, ignore my feelings, rush back to “normal.” Then Epstein’s words came to mind.

Character Moves (With Dr. Epstein’s help):

  1. Lean into those traumas however big or small. They happen to all of us and are part of daily life. They are also part of defining our unique authenticity and humanity.
  2. Leaning in involves accepting and not expecting that trauma, however big or small, fully goes away. Our feelings may soften or change but the traumas are part of us. Leaning in helps heal and define us.
  3. This idea of leaning in to trauma and accepting that what has happened does not limit how we choose to respond. And for me at least, it is also a thought process I find somewhat liberating. I do not have to wish something that happened would somehow go away (it obviously won’t), or feel guilty that the way I feel about it hasn’t. Leaning in is being aware, confronting and accepting trauma as another part of the richness that makes up my life.

Leaning in The Triangle,



Paying Attention to Productivity

Abundance Productivity Purpose


Key Point: What does the word “productivity” really mean to you? I have been in the business world for 40 plus years and I think the word can be dysfunctional by definition. By most commercial terms, productivity refers to efficiency of output. But sometimes I think that narrow view can take us down the wrong path. Most human beings want to do something meaningful AND efficient. A recent 99U blog really got me thinking about this. It’s Not About “Productivity,” It’s About Living Purposefully by Sam Spurlin, a PhD student at the renowned Claremont Graduate University. Read this:

“If we assume your brain can process 100 bits of information a second, we can extrapolate how much information your brain can process in your entire lifetime (assuming you live to be about 80 and you sleep for eight hours a night). That number comes out to be roughly 150 billion bits of information.

That sounds like a huge number, right? However, we’re talking about the entirety of your experiences as a human being, being encapsulated in one simple number. Every emotion, thought, sensation, and conversation you’ll ever have is included in that number and the way you’ve allocated those 150 billion bits of attention over the course of your life will make up the entirety of who you were and what you accomplished.

Suddenly, 150 billion doesn’t seem so big.

For some, productivity is about fiddling with new tools or shaving seconds off an ultimately meaningless task. It can be fun to read about others’ productivity hacks and try them in our own workflows. But really, thinking about productivity means coming back to those 150 billion bits that make up who you are and who you will be.

Being productive” isn’t about getting more work done. It’s about making sure those 150 billion bits are spent as wisely as possible.”

Character Moves:

  1. Are you spending your brain bits meaningfully? Not all the time of course, but most of the time? What in your work has little or no meaning or value to anyone? Why would you want to be more efficient at meaningless work? Stop doing it now. You’re worth it. Or outside of work, why would you want to be more productive at meaningless mush?
  2. What you and I pay attention to ultimately defines us. And paying attention to what’s meaningful is productive and worthy of productivity.

Attention to productivity in the Triangle,



A Wasp Sting on the Head… Ouch!

Accountability Growth mindset


Key Point: Resilience is a mindset and a learned skill. I was riding my road bike on a beautiful day overlooking vineyards, and a stunning lake in Canada’s spectacular Okanagan Valley. It was a perfect vacation day. As I was cruising down a steep hill, I felt a bug hit my bike helmet. Moments later, I felt movement inside my helmet and in my hair. “Geez,” I thought… “What if that bug was a bee or wasp and it got inside my helmet?” Yup… Wasp. Before I could safely pull over, stop and frantically get my helmet off… Bingo – A big wasp sting on the top of my forehead. Ouch! If you have ever been wasp stung or bitten, you will agree that it hurts like heck. But with my motto of “suck it up,” I decided to ignore the throbbing pain and ride on. Being a little distracted by the wasp sting, I took a swig from my water bottle and didn’t properly put in back in my bottle holder. A mile/kilometer or so later, it falls out and I accidentally ride over it , sending the bottle lid down a fairly steep ditch. Hey… I paid $10 dollars for that Eco-friendly water bottle and wanted to find the lid. So rubbing my forehead and cursing under my breath, I stumbled around in my spandex and bike shoes until I found it. What a string of crappy luck. I seriously thought about quitting the ride. But I began to challenge myself on resilience, “Come on Lorne… This is a little molehill of a challenge… You want to quit just because you get a wasp sting and your water bottle was run over?” So I jumped on my bike, and an hour later, as I was finishing up my route, the wasp sting was now a subdued ache, Eco water bottle secure in my holder, and all was better with the world.

Later that night, I sat on our porch on a delicious summer evening and watched a full moon torch the lake surface… It was so beautiful. Interesting day… A wasp sting to the head concluded with one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. In some way it seemed like a minor metaphor for life and the challenges we face. When we have the practice of resilience, we normally come out the other side to experience life’s better moments.

The above set of minor bumpy events made me wonder how people learn to deal with the REAL difficult events that challenge and change their lives. The death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness, terrorist attacks and other traumatic events: These are all examples of life experiences that really test resilience. Many people react to such circumstances with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Yet, research notes that people generally adapt reasonably well over time to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. Resilience is a mindset and learned process. It is an ongoing progression that requires time and effort and engages people in taking a number of steps. According to the American Psychological Association brochure on this topic, the following reinforces our capacity for resilience:

Character Moves: (A paradox in each move).

  1. Let yourself experience strong emotions related to the challenge, AND also realize when you may need to avoid experiencing them at times in order to continue functioning.
  2. Step forward and take action to meet the demands of daily living, AND also step back to rest and reenergize yourself.
  3. Spend time with loved ones to gain support and encouragement, AND also nurture yourself.
  4. Rely on others, AND also rely on yourself.

This brochure is more comprehensive. Resilience capability leads us through that “wasp sting” and most often, some time later, the full moon does come out with a burst of beauty. Our capacity, mindset and learned ability to be resilient allows us to get there and appreciate it. Quitting (other than to reenergize) will end the ride but do little to contribute to the journey.

Resilience in The Triangle,