Leadership means cleaning up.

Do you take out your own garbage? My neighbor doesn't.

Every week, he brings the bags down from his apartment and plops them on the street which means the landlord gets fined or, even better, puts them in MY garbage barrel. I get to haul his trash out each week and then roll the barrel back around the house.

Image  source .

Image source.

A part of me wants to say something to him. Another part of me feels bad for him. I feel sad that his integrity and personal responsibility is so lacking that he can't manage to take out his own trash, regardless of how it impacts other people. He also had his power turned off three times in less than a year and had a boot put on his car wheel for unpaid parking tickets.

Man, do I remember when my life was like this. I had a hard time seeing my part and cleaning up the messes I made. It's still a muscle I'm building but life feels much better now. Dodging things only makes them pile up, you know? And that pile can stink after a while.

Cleaning up after ourselves is part of what it means to be an adult. But people can age chronologically and never actually mature. You might know a few people in your life like this. It might be you. It's definitely me from time to time. We can go through the motions of "playing house" but may still struggle with being responsible for cleaning up the messes we make in our lives, both the literal and metaphorical ones. 

This doesn't mean we have to be perfect. It means we have to show up for when we make mistakes or errors or maybe look more closely at the areas of our lives we've been avoiding. 

Last week, a client of mine messed up. She was late to our session and she was already over the limit for late appearances with her supervisor (I'm coaching a team of people). She was in a bit of a tailspin when we met and she was honest enough to tell me that her being late again might mean some dire consequences. I could have let it go, but would I have been really serving her in her position as a leader? Nope. Facing the music of our humanness only builds our character, even if there's a difficult or unsavory consequence.

Instead, I coached her to show up for herself and clean up her mess. She battled it a little but I reassured her of my support and helped her release any attachment to the outcome. She was checking in about being late because her supervisor requested that. I reminded her of this and she felt better.

And what happened? Her supervisor thanked her and let it go. There was no negative consequence. What mattered to the supervisor was this person's integrity and courage to be responsible for her actions. The supervisor needs honest people in leadership positions--not perfect people. Since that exchange, my client pulled out of the tailspin she'd been in for a few weeks and she's feeling GREAT. 

When we avoid being responsible and cleaning up, we perpetuate whatever caused the "mess", be it lateness or some other issue. When we stop and look at what isn't working, for ourselves or other people, we communicate what matters to us, namely our personal integrity. Being responsible requires courage and self-confidence. It means forgiving ourselves for being human and helps us mess up less in the future. 

You're human. I am too. We will mess us. What matters is how we clean it up.


See Yourself as the Source


You know those people who tell you that you can have/do/be anything you want in your life?


Like unlimited power and freedom? Incredible results personally and professionally? Like anything is possible?

For the longest time, I hated those people. HATED. With a fiery rage.

I've come to see why, and it's a little sad but I'll tell you about it.

Basically, I was doing this health coach thing for years and still felt like my life wasn't working. Why wasn't I happy? Why wasn't I feeling fulfilled? I was doing all the right things! Eating good things often, bad things less often, sleeping, exercising, all that. But my relationship was falling apart. Everyone and their mother was up in my business about my transition, asking really intrusive questions. I wasn't losing weight. My business wasn't growing. I wasn't getting opportunities I wanted. 

So, eventually I got angry. I hated those uber-positive people on all the social media telling me to love more. NO. No. I needed money and recognition, not love. Screw that.


Then I hit the wall. 

I'll spare the details and leave that for my book, but basically I came to see that I was holding myself back and getting in my own way. Me. Moi. Those things I craved weren't coming because I was giving the Universe mixed-messages. I was in complete and utter internal conflict with what I said I wanted to feel or have and what I was doing to actually make it happen. 

And the worst part? I didn't even SEE that I was doing this. 

It didn't feel like that at the time. I felt like I was in a hamster wheel doing all the things I could think of to make progress, personally or professionally. But it was the WAY I was doing it all that was the problem. Perspective showed me this, nothing else. Not even the many people who kept trying to tell me. Because I am one stubborn person, indeed. 

Can I share the perspective with you that finally helped me?

Here's the thing: you're smart. You've lived a pretty decent life so far, hopefully. You've done many things. Seen a lot. You have certain skills and strengths and abilities, all that. You've collected things from experiences you've had--either some lessons learned from living your life to literal skill-building in school(s) over the years. And all that has gotten you really far.

But you're stuck right now. Maxed out. At your limit. Something isn't working. Except you might not being seeing yourself as the source of making it work well or better. You might think everyone else is the problem. You might see yourself as doing everything right, but everyone else isn't on board and that's where the breakdown is.

Personally or professionally, you are the source to make or break something.

It's intense that you're that powerful--I know. But you are. It's your life, after all. And it's unfolding according to choices, habits and behaviors you're practicing day in and day out. 

If it's working well, I'm glad! It might mean you're being really effective and perhaps even loving your life. I hope you are, anyway.

If it isn't working well, are you seeing yourself as the source as to why? I'm not saying you are to blame (this isn't a guilt thing) but are you blaming other people? Do you see yourself as doing things "right" and people just can't get on board? Or they don't understand you? Or they aren't listening to you?

Are you coming from the perspective that "if everyone would just _________________" then things would be perfect.


Have you considered this is actually why things aren't working? I mean, it could be those people--sure. But what if, WHAT IF, you chose to see yourself as the source for something working or not working? What if you totally shifted or transformed your point-of-view (POV) and saw things differently? What would be possible for you, in your personal or professional life? (not that they are separate, because wherever you go, there you are)

OK. Enough hypothesizing. You need some actual advice. Here ya go.

Consider these three ways you can see yourself as the source moving forward:

Be Responsible: I don't care whether you're the boss or not. Consider everything, EVERYTHING, is your job. You are responsible. I don't mean you have to actually DO IT ALL but you can consider that you could do anything that's asked or needs to be done. Anything versus everything. There's a distinction. Do you see it? Nothing is above or below you and your capacity. If something you did goes right, you can take credit. If something you did goes wrong, you can step up to make it work better. This goes for conversation, too. That's another blog post coming soon. For now, just sit with this one.

Listen Better: If you're multitasking, you aren't listening. The human brain can only process so much at once. Yes, even yours, as magnificent as it is. As soon as you take your focus away from someone, you cease to listen to them. You might hear them, but I'm not talking about hearing. You can HEAR noise all day. When you want to be the source of something working, you need to listen to people. Otherwise, you're adding to the miscommunication. Here's something else: when someone is talking, are you listening to their voice or the one in your own head? Are you constantly judging and assessing their words? Are you waiting for a chance to speak? To be right? To justify yourself? Get off the hook? Correct, redirect, etc.? Have you even just listened to someone without waiting for your turn to talk? Try it. It will change your life!

Stop with the Shoulds: This is like listening, but it's specifically about your expectations. It's not wrong to have goals. It's not wrong to have aspirations. It's not wrong to have boundaries or ideals. It's not wrong to have hopes, even! But as soon as it goes from COULD to SHOULD, that's you being the source of forcing something to happen. An agenda. Limited possibilities. You're attached. Fixed. Inflexible. You're "right". Someone is "wrong". Yikes! What if your version of right isn't actually right at all? This could show up as "people shouldn't be doing that" or "it should have been done this way". Bringing that kind of energy to personal or professional interactions pretty much guarantees another person will resist, deflect or react in some way. Physics is a thing, after all. 

Give these three ways of being a try for two weeks. Focus on using them in personal relationships and professional ones and see what you're the source of shifting in the next 14 days.

You'll win some. You'll lose some.

That's part of being your authentic self in work and in life.

I was reminded of this, yet again, the other day. I walked out of my workshop for perinatal health providers at a conference where I'd been invited back three years in a row. Three years in a row! That's pretty impressive considering the first year I ended up there practically by accident.

One of the committee members, who hadn't met me or seen my presentation before yesterday said to me, "Dillan, that was wonderful. You are changing the world 25 people at a time."

She was referring to my workshop titled, Safe Spaces: Five Ways to Provide Welcoming Care for LGBTQ Individuals. It's a workshop I created largely from my own experiences navigating the health sector as a transgender/queer person. I also include stories I hear from my friends in the LGBTQIA communities and the little research that exists about health disparities.

My workshop was the only one of its kind on the roster at this event celebrating its 26th year. It gave me great pleasure to have been invited back for the third year in a row and to be told by the committee organizers that my workshop is a crowd favorite.

It was particularly meaningful because, as I sat down to rest after my presentation, I received an email rejecting my application to be a teacher this summer. Despite my fear of rejection based on my identity as a trans* person, I had applied anyway. My experience as a certified teacher and youth programs director made me well-qualified for the position; it matched all my skills and areas of expertise. I was excited to get back into teaching and working with youth again, having done it for 15 years of my life. And, to be true to myself and walk my own talk, I openly shared my identity as a transgender person as a possible asset to the community. As I sat down and read the email saying I wasn't offered the position, I was struck the irony of the moment. I had just walked out of an incredibly successful professional moment being fully out and proud about who I am, and here I was experiencing the other end of the spectrum.

Do I know for a fact it was due to my trans* identity? No, I don't. But my gut told me it might happen long before I received the email. I had considered who or what I would lose when I decided to transition, including professional opportunities, so it really came as no surprise. I know some people aren't ready to accept and embrace a transgender person and all it entails. I know some people don't like me or value me, both personally or professionally.  


But life is like that, right? You win some, you lose some.


The sting of the email lasted mere hours due, in part, to the Buddhist retreat I attended this past weekend in the wilds of Vermont. Coming off that experience, I just wasn't able to hold onto the suffering of that rejection for very long because I know it is there to teach me a lesson about attachment. When we attach to how things "should" be or how we "want" them to be, we suffer. When we surrender to the reality of what "is", we experience freedom in our hearts, minds and spirits.

I have two choices in life. We all do. We can hold tight to our version of things, in this case the injustice inherent in being rejected based on my identity, or we can accept the NOW. The "now" of this experience revealed that some people are ready, willing and able to embrace learning about LGBTQ people from a member of those communities. Some people are not. Some things will be available to us when we share who we really are, and some will not. 

 In that moment, I became so clear about how much time I've spent suffering over people or opportunities or experiences never meant for me. I've spent precious moments agonizing over why I wasn't good enough or smart enough or (fill in the blank) enough. I've spent minutes and hours and days and weeks being a victim and complaining about things over which I have no control. We do this when we fix our focus on outcomes or results based on our short-sighted view of right and wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair. We do this when we get really attached to something or, as Pema Chodron said this past weekend, "when we get attached to a different "NOW".


The truth is, we will win some and lose some. We can't make everyone like us or want us or need us or value us. We can't control every outcome. When we focus on the wrong ones, the ones who don't choose us, we waste precious time. When we focus on the right ones, the ones who easily see our value and worth, we free up energy for where it is most needed and appreciated.


The email I received came at exactly the precise moment I was celebrating another success for myself as an out transgender professional. I thought of it later, as I sat doing the coaching work I LOVE for a company and with other people I greatly admire and respect. I've worked very long and very hard to seek out opportunities where I can be my most authentic self to do work I am exceptionally good at, because I truly love it. My life is so fulfilling, that I don't have time to spend worked up over people or opportunities that pass me up. I believe I will experience more success like this, in my career and in my personal life, as long as I remember that I will win some and I will lose some. It's all part of life.

We will lose or miss out on things. People will fear what we represent or who we are. People will reject us for too many reasons to count. We will not be able to reach everyone.

But you don't need them all. You just need the right ones.