The Stress Doc Letter
Box 1: Purposeful
Box 2: Provocative
Box 3: Passionate
Box 4: Playful
The terms inside the boxes are familiar, yet some of their meanings or associations may prove “out of the box,” that is, surprising and, hopefully, both enlightening and invigorating. It is my belief that grappling with these mind-mood action states and gleaning their psycho-social intention and significance along with their potential for motivating positive conflict and change means expanding your “personal energy, professional creativity and organizational synergy.”
1. Being Purposeful. For me, a quote from the popular ‘60s fictional work, The Phantom Tollbooth, captures the essence of being “Purposeful”: “Fantasy and imagination suggest how the world might be. Knowledge and experience limit the possibilities. Melding the two yields understanding.” Let’s call this the right-brained (psychological) and left-brained (logical) perspective on purposefulness. And consider this related “purposeful” paradoxical pairing: the capacity for “flexible intentionality,” that is, being both goal-focused and adaptable regarding long-term objectives and short-term opportunities, along with an ability to accommodate when necessary mid-course correction. Two seemingly contradictory quotations capture the importance of fantasy, focus and flexibility. The first is from a law firm executive; the second is a Stress Doc maxim:
a) “Strive high and embrace failure.” For the head of a law firm, no matter the project, his goal was a 100% success rate, yet he understood this was frequently elusive. His mantra exalted concerted effort and bold persistence along with learning from mistakes over the illusion of perfection; hard-earned wisdom was prized over “one right way” shortcuts and seductive yet short-lived control.
b) “I don’t know where I’m going…I just think I know how to get there.” This aphorism suggests that for achieving an important goal or reaching a key destination, there is value in meandering purposefully. That is, new insight, opportunity or discovery may require “letting go” of the familiar or getting off the beaten path and taking time for exploration. Of course, this mindset requires a tolerance for some uncertainty and a good deal of patience, as well as (men…pay attention here) knowing when to ask for directions.
And finally, the revered medical pioneer, Jonas Salk, believed that higher purpose involved integrating the logical along with the psychological and the interpersonal: “Evolution involves getting up one more time than you fall down, being courageous one more time than you are fearful, and being trusting just one more time than you are anxious.”
Surely, these quotes do not simply illustrate “evolutionary purpose”; they also illuminate wise pathways that distinguish the mere possession of knowledge from having genuine, hard-earned “understanding.” And the individual who carries and shares genuine “understanding,” to play on an eloquent Bayer Aspirin advertising slogan, “helps experience make sense” in the realm of both head and heart. The purposeful articulation of a leader’s or a speaker’s personal vulnerabilities, errors and trial-by fire learnings often are the richest source for mutual understanding, intimate connection and the ongoing development of trust.
1. Being Provocative. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you read the word “provocative?” Is it someone who is sensually enticing or, perhaps, someone who is intentionally irritating? Reasonable responses, but let’s look at the half full side of this semantic equation. Did you know that “provocative” is derived from the French word provocare – “to call forth”? Certainly a competent leader or educator wants to stimulate and draw out, confront and excite a variety of thoughts and emotions, motives and actions. He or she wants to “arouse curiosity” if not generate “discussion or controversy” amongst the audience members. Such a leader believes in harnessing the “Five Provocative or Arousing ‘A’s”:
a) Attention – quickly getting people to “stop, look and listen”
b) Anticipation – having your audience both engaged in the present and starting to wonder, “What’s next?” or “Where is this (edgy) leader headed?”; having your audience on the edge of their seats
c) Animation – stirring people’s juices and hopes, challenging conventional beliefs, while communicating with their genuine or deeper self (the anima as opposed to the persona); firing the imagination and motivating a sense of adventure as well as a desire to pursue a common (team-or community-oriented) and uncommon (demanding, novel or original) mission
d) Activation – both individually and in groups, providing participants with the training along with maps and tools for generating long range plans and for insuring that tactical action steps are taken to identify common goals, solve problems, reach objectives and to pursue dreams, and
e) Actualization – enable individuals to consistently bring their essence, peak energy and genuine spirit – their “elan vitale” – to both high task and high touch endeavors
The provocative presenter challenges people to expand their perceptions, to make surprising connections, and to “think outside the box.” A positive provocateur is not afraid to generate tension and use controversy as a motivational tool, especially to excite thought and movement “beyond one’s comfort zone.” For example, the provocative tool of choice for the esteemed 20th century pragmatic philosopher, John Dewey, was “conflict.” The founder of American public education declared:
Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It
shocks us out of sheep-like passivity. It instigates to invention and sets us at
noting and contriving. Conflict is the sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.
Box 3. Affective – Gravitas = Passionate
(a) Being Passionate. Passion! What does it evoke? Intensity, heat, steaminess…the “s”-word: “soap opera?” No, of course it’s sex? Actually, we in Washington, DC know the “s”-word for passion…It is “Senator.” (Or it was until Bill Clinton ruined my joke.) Interestingly, if you have a good dictionary the “s”-word for “passion” is neither sex nor senator…it’s “suffering,” as in the Passion Play. This relates to the sufferings of Jesus or, more generically, to the sufferings of a martyr. (Imagine all this time I never knew my Jewish mother was such a passionate woman!
Actually, the best audience free association to the word “passion” has been “Rosa Parks.” Which inspires speculation around the connection among “suffering,” “passion” and being a powerful leader or motivator? For me it’s an individual who recognizes injustice (or, at least, has a low threshold for “constructive discontent”), feels her own and others’ pain and is capable of learning from the past. (Regarding the last point, renowned 20th century English author, John Fowles, called emotional memories his electric current; to maximize his creative juices he needed to be plugged in to this “power source.”)
And finally, such a leader, often with the support of others, is determined to right the wrong. And people are touched and moved by such pain, fire and courage. As Francois La Rouchefoucald, the 17th century French classical writer, observed (quoted in Kay Redfield Jamison’s Exuberance: The Passion For Life, Random House, 2004), “Passions are the only orators which always persuade. They are like an act of nature, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man who has some passion persuades better than the most eloquent who has none.” Jamison, meanwhile, underscores a dynamic commander’s ability to unite a divided or dispirited group, organization or nation: “In times of adversity, inspired leadership offers energy and hope where little or none exist, gives a belief in the future to those who have lost it, and provides a unifying spirit to a splintered populace.”
Box 4. Affective – Comedia = Playful
a. Being Playful. I never realized how many common expressions begin with or involve the word “play.” Nor could I imagine how the variety of expressions with their different connotations speaks to the skills and strategies of the versatile leader and performer. Consider these examples: “play upon” (words or another’s emotions), “play a role” or “role-play,” and “play it by ear” (that is, having a capacity for improvisation or, for example, by truly listening to your team’s and audience’s needs and interests as your project or program unfolds). While a dynamic leader or educator wants to give “full play” to his or her mind and emotions, a savvy leader, often knowingly and for strategic advantage, will “play the fool.” I especially like this usage – “play a trick on.” Based on my experience, being “mischievous” or a tad “devilish” – two of Roget’s synonyms for “playful” – can be very engaging qualities. Many people embrace or long to act out their impish, slightly naughty or roguish inner child (e.g., think adult Halloween costumes). Or admire or envy, if only secretly, those who do.
More than just being a light-hearted pursuit, play has been one of the greatest enterprises for exploring, socializing, bonding and unifying throughout the evolutionary history of the animal kingdom. Play has many functions: a) gives individuals an opportunity to learn group norms and boundaries, b) allows for innovatively expanding and challenging roles, rules and procedures, c) encourages skill development and the exercise of the imagination, d) may be a learning laboratory for maturation and creativity in the realms of work, friendship and love, and e) frequently builds a sense of individual and group identity and short- and long-term camaraderie as well as fostering trust and teamwork. And play infused with laughter is an especially effective stress reliever and social harmonizer. Of course, play can also turn into an aggressive “winner takes all” or “win at any cost” pursuit or obsession (think steroid use in a variety of athletic arenas). Now the “playground” starts morphing into a “battleground.”
A “Passion Power” leader has a sense of play that doesn’t lose sight of her and other’s humanity. She has a compassionate understanding of perplexing and incongruous human nature and of our being all too imperfect and inconsistent creatures. And a sense of absurdity that comes out to play and laugh even in the face of stress or danger can help people accept flaws and foibles while affirming both their vulnerable and vital natures. Playful surprise may even gently cajole others to bridge differences, to move beyond a comfort zone and to explore common emotional-cultural connections.
The “Four ‘P’s of Passion
Power” have been outlined as a 2x2 matrix. When a presenter or leader blends
and expresses the “cognitive and affective” as well as the “gravitas and comedia”
then, to invert “the bard,” an interactive stage or arena comes into play.
Leader and troops, manager and employees or educator and students are set to
engage in creative communication and mutually generate a transitional space.
This space-time interface is alive with possibility. Both parties can
authentically engage and energetically define and design specific relationships
as well as an overall “high task and high touch” world of learning, imagination,
give and take sharing and creative activity. The result often captures the
essence of synergy: the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts!
Shrink Rap II:
New Speaking/Workshop Program
A Leader’s Greatest Gift – TLCs: Inspiring Trust, Laughter and Creative Collaboration (especially in times of Crisis)
With budgets being cut, the incessant "do more with less" drum roll, and the overall uncertain if not scary economic climate, maintaining productive motivation and morale is a vital challenge. And today’s leader must know how to step up – to genuinely connect and inspire. Let the Stress Doc ™, an acclaimed “Motivational Humorist” and Change Management/Team Building Consultant, be your guide to “Leadership TLCs – Inspiring Trust, Laughter and Creative Collaboration” even during tough transitions. Through dynamic presentation and FUN-filled interactive exercises, discover and apply “Motivational CPR” – Creativity, Passion and Risk-Taking – tools and techniques. Energize your troops and help them achieve high performance in the face of uncertainty while relying on one another for positive emotional support. Learn to transform teasing, power struggles and sources of transitional stress into trust building and team building by sharing empathy, laughter and “Passion Power” synergy.
A. Creatively Engaging Transition and Crisis
1. Overview of Four “P” Passion Power Leadership Model and the Multi-faceted Crisis Concept
2. Practice Creative Systems Intervention through Organizational Change/Conflict Exercise
3. Discover the Six “F”s for Managing Loss and Change
B. Building Confidence and Intimacy through Candid and Comic Communication
1. Encouraging Social-Psychological Connection through Positive and Playful Teasing Exercise
2. Disarming Constructively Self-Defeating Power Struggles while Building Trust
3. Transforming Fear of Exposure into the Fun of Embarrassment – Becoming a “Motivational Humorist”
C. Inspiring Group Visioning and a Community of TLC Partners
1. Identifying and Designing Barriers to TLCs – Trust, Laughter and Creative Collaboration – Leadership
2. Implementing TLC and CPR – Creativity, Passion and Risk-Taking – Leadership/Team Building
3. Stress Doc’s “Top Ten” Commandments for TLC and CPR Leadership and Team Partnering
Seek the higher power of Stress Doc Humor: May the Force and Farce Be with You!
Don't miss your appointment with the Stress Doc.
Howard Community College
Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development
Mark Gorkin, the “Stress Doc”, did a presentation on “Practicing Safe Stress” for 50 staff members of the Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Howard Community College in December of 2008. Given the fact that budgets have been cut, everyone is being asked to do more with less, and the overall economic climate is bleak, this could have been a very depressing and stressful session. Instead, Mark found a way to energize the group and helped them focus on positive strategies. This is a group of professional trainers who can be critical but their evaluations were extremely favorable. Not only did we learn ways to lessen our stress, we had fun doing it. It was an excellent, interactive, productive staff development.
JoAnn D. Hawkins
Associate Vice President
Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development
Howard Community College
Subj: Jay Leno Commentary on the Markets/Stock Market Terms
1. The US has made a new weapon that destroys people but keeps the building standing. Its called the stock market.
2. Do you have any idea how cheap stocks are ?? Wall Street is now being called Wal Mart Street.
3. The difference between a pigeon and a London investment banker. The pigeon can still make a deposit on a BMW.
4. What's the difference between a guy who lost everything in Las Vegas and an investment banker? A tie.
5. The problem with investment bank balance sheet is that on the left side nothing's right and on the right side nothing's left.
6. I want to warn people from Nigeria who might be watching our show, if you get any e- mails from Washington asking for money, it's a scam. Don't fall for it.
7. Bush was asked about the credit crunch. He said it was his favourite candy bar.
8. The rescue bill was about 450 pages. President Bush's copy is even thicker. They had to include pictures.
9. President Bush's response was to meet some small business owners in San Antonio last week. The small business owners are General Motors, General Electric and Century 21.
10. What worries me most about the credit crunch, is that if one of my cheques is returned stamped "insufficient funds." I won't know whether that refers to mine or the bank's.
NEW STOCK MARKET TERMS
CEO --Chief Embezzlement Officer.
CFO-- Corporate Fraud Officer.
BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.
BEAR MARKET -- A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry.
VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower.
P/E RATIO -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.
BROKER -- What my broker has made me.
STANDARD & POOR -- Your life in a nutshell.
STOCK ANALYST -- Idiot who just downgraded your stock.
STOCK SPLIT -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.
FINANCIAL PLANNER -- A guy whose phone has been disconnected.
MARKET CORRECTION -- The day after you buy stocks.
CASH FLOW-- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.
YAHOO -- What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.
WINDOWS -- What you jump out of when you're the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR -- Past year investor who's now locked up in a nuthouse.
PROFIT -- An archaic word no longer in use.
Subj: Bran Muffins
The couple were 85 years old and had been married for sixty years. Though they were far from rich, they managed to get by because they watched their pennies. Though not young, they were both in very good health, largely due to the wife's insistence on healthy foods and exercise for the last decade.
One day, their good health didn't help when they went on a rare vacation and their plane crashed, sending them off to Heaven. They reached the pearly gates, and St. Peter escorted them inside. He took them to a beautiful mansion, furnished in gold and fine silks, with a fully stocked kitchen and a waterfall in the master bath. A maid could be seen hanging their favorite clothes in the closet. They gasped in astonishment when he said, 'Welcome to Heaven. This will be your home now.'
The old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. 'Why, nothing,' Peter replied, 'remember, this is your reward in Heaven.' The old man looked out the window and right there he saw a championship golf course, finer and more beautiful than any ever built on Earth. 'What are the greens fees?,' grumbled the old man.
'This is heaven,' St. Peter replied. 'You can play for free, every day.'
Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch, with every imaginable cuisine laid out before them, from seafood to steaks to exotic deserts, free flowing beverages. 'Don't even ask,' said St. Peter to the man. This is Heaven, it is all free for you to enjoy.'
The old man looked around and glanced nervously at his wife. 'Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods and the decaffeinated tea?,' he asked. That's the best part,' St. Peter replied. 'You can eat and drink as much as you like of whatever you like and you will never get fat or sick. This is Heaven!'
The old man pushed, 'No gym to work out at?'
'Not unless you want to,' was the answer.
'No testing my sugar or blood pressure or...'
'Never again. All you do here is enjoy yourself.'
The old man glared at his wife and said, 'You and your damm bran muffins. We could have been here ten years ago!'
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs. In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non-profits and is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™. Mark is an Adjunct Professor, No. VA (NOVA) Community College and currently he is leading "Stress, Team Building and Humor" programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. A former Stress and Conflict Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-946-0865. And to view web video highlights of a Stress Doc Keynote, go to http://www.stressdoc.com/media_downloads.htm .
(c) Mark Gorkin 2009
Shrink Rap™ Productions