Scared of feelings

Quite apart from the indoctrination we’ve had that organisations are like machines (and so the people inside them are like machines too), mostly we’re determined not to talk about feelings at work because they force us to face the truth.

If people are scared, they’re scared. If angry, they’re angry. Bored, they’re bored, and so on. Aside from those times when we confuse ourselves about our feelings, or delude ourselves, there’s no denying that feelings are true for those who are experiencing them.

And so when people say “We can’t talk about feelings here, it’ll open a can of worms” what they really mean is “It’s too dangerous to talk about what’s true, about what’s really going on”. Similarly, claiming that feelings talk is ‘fluffy’ or ‘soft’ is a convenient excuse for turning away from a perhaps difficult, significant, and real conversation.

The simple truth of what you’re feeling, and what those around you are feeling, will tell you much about what’s happening in your team and in your organisation. It will tell you much about what you and others actually care about (because feelings arise from what matters for us). And it can open up the possibility of facing the situation you’re in, and acting upon it, together.

We’ve already had enough trouble in the world of organisations because people wouldn’t look at the truth of what was happening around them. Can you be sure your insistence that feelings are irrelevant doesn’t have you join them?

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Business and personal

Many business difficulties are, at root, personal difficulties…

… conversations we’re not bold enough to have, motives we hide and dress up as reason, emotions we don’t know how to deal with, resentments we fuel, imagination constrained by blame and the fear of shame, judgements of people who are different from us, fear and anxiety we won’t name, scapegoating, saving face, projections of what’s in our shadow, self-pity, self-aggrandisement.

But we’ve convinced ourselves (since the start of the industrial age) that businesses are machines rather than collections of people. It conveniently leads us to try to engineer our way out of difficulty – a detached move that saves us from having to own up to our own part in what’s going on.

And so when faced with what seems unsolvable, we turn to

restructures (a recurring favourite)
competency frameworks
mergers and acquisitions
leadership frameworks
the latest update to company policy
changing what’s measured
charts of acceptable behaviours
training programmes

rather than do the apparently more difficult, more unpredictable, more messy work of turning to one another with sincerity and curiosity, and being truthful about what’s going on.

So many difficulties can be solved by talking about what’s happening, both within us and between us. But mostly we allow ourselves to take up the convenient story that this is irrelevant to business, out of place at work.

We even call it ‘soft’.

Addressing the personal, emotional, relational part of our business difficulties is anything but soft. It’s the hardest, most important, most rewarding and most practical problem solving arena of all.

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Alternative rules – a manifesto

A manifesto for those of us who think the rules of the industrial age economy stifle the ingenuity, courage and creativity we need. A set of alternative rules to live and work by:

Be courageous. Be genuine.
Step out from behind the mask. Stand out.
Speak truth. Listen deeply. Cultivate wisdom and compassion.
Get committed to something bigger than you, your family, your tribe.
Bring your humanity. Build trust. Connect people.
Turn towards life. Wonder.
Ask questions. Learn to see. Teach.
Commit yourself to courageous integrity rather than approval.
Lead. Create art.
Encourage others to do the same.

Not for everyone, perhaps, and certainly not easy to take up on your own, but orienting this way can make a huge difference to what’s possible for you and for those around you.

In the shaking-up, always-connected economy we’re in, the beginnings of a whole new orientation to work and business and commerce, we need people to be their most creative, most human, most generous and most artful.

Do the rules you’re living by make this possible?

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What they told us

Here’s what they told us:

Be clever. Be good. Get ahead.
Fit in. Follow the rules we make for you.
Be safe rather than sorry.
Look busy.
Care about what we tell you to care about. Value what we value.
Leave your real passions out of it.
Stand out, but only in a way that increases productivity.
Don’t cause trouble.
Hide what most makes you you.
Say yes, when asked by someone further up the ladder.
Find ways to get others to do what you want.
Judge yourself and others relentlessly by their performance.
Expect others to do the same.

These are the rules brought to the world by the industrialists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They invented large organisations, mass production and  management. And these in turn have brought enormous progress in living standards, healthcare, and the widespread availability of products.

We believed that if we followed these rules, everything would work out ok for us. And, for a while perhaps, there was some truth in the claim. A job for life, and all that. A ladder that could be climbed through diligence and obedience.

But are these rules working out for you, today?

Mostly, the rules served the creators of the industrial machine. They had us take up the places they’d made for us, and in the process leave so much of ourselves out, so we could fit into what they’d designed.

The rules have had us stifle our courage and be cautious about our connections with people. They’ve encouraged us to be predictable and safe. They’ve turned us into managers, making sure everything happens reliably, rather than leaders, making it possible to enter new territory together. And, crucially, it’s made it hard to bring our most generous, wholehearted contribution.

Can you honestly say the rules you’re following bring out the creativity and ingenuity we need from you? The fullest, most courageous contribution in the people who work with you? And do they actually give you the safety and security you long for?

And if not, why are you still following them and expecting others to do the same?

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You might like to deny it, but there’s no way of escaping that you’re a biological being.

This means you’re subject to all of the realities of biological life. You were born, and one day you’ll die. You’ll get ill. You will age. You must eat, sleep, exercise and rest sufficiently. All this to maintain your capacity to move in the world, to allow your body to repair itself. And if you don’t, your strength and vitality will diminish more quickly than otherwise, atrophying over time. You’ll become prone to the diseases and ailments that your body was once able to defend itself against.

And because you’re also a mammal you will need nurturing relationships and connection with others – the foundation stone of what distinguishes mammals from all other creatures.

Because you’re human you need art, inspiration, music, beauty, meaning, community, and society.

You are not a machine, nor a brain simply carried around from meeting to meeting by your body. If you treat yourself as such, as seems to be called on by so many organisations, you’ll eventually and inescapably suffer the consequences.

And if you treat others as such, you’ll surely rob them of the greatest contribution they have to bring your organisation – the vibrancy and creativity of their life itself.

Uniform off

We wear uniforms to signal that we expect to be treated – or to treat others – in a particular way. See how:

someone in street-cleaners’ uniform melts into the background, getting on with their work perhaps without interacting with other people at all;

a police officer in uniform can stop your car, arrest you, or provide certain kinds of assistance;

a business suit marks out someone who’s there to talk about the concerns arising from their work, rather than the everyday;

in a hospital the whites of the doctors distinguish them from the gowns of the patients in a way that shapes a hierarchy of care – who gets to help and prescribe and who gets to receive;

In each case the uniform provides a short-cut to a particular style of interaction while actively shaping you – your attitudes, moods, possibilities, identity – at least for as long as the uniform is on, and often for long afterwards.

Of course, you don’t have to be wearing a physical uniform at all for any of this to happen. Your office, your desk, your job title, your qualifications, the organisation you work in – all these can function as uniform.

And while the role of all these uniforms can be to point us towards certain ways of relating and talking, to open up possibilities for conversation and service to one another, very frequently the uniform becomes an invitation to treat others as something other than a full human being, to stop us from seeing one another.


executives who treat their company’s clients or customers as statistics, as commodities, as ‘consumers’ rather than as people to be served;

physicians who come to treat their patients as particular organs, or bodies to be fixed, rather than human beings who might be scared, lonely, confused, suffering;

leaders who treat the people who work with them as ‘resources’ or ‘capital’ as if they were substances or objects;

and then:

politicians who treat the people who elected them as a means to generate money, prestige or personal power;

and further:

military designers who spend their days inventing land-mines or, more recently, autonomous killing robots as if these were just interesting design projects or a way to earn a living and not targeted, in the end, at real living human beings.

Each of these requires an I-It relationship with the world: a wilful forgetting of what people are, a turning away rather than addressing whole human beings with histories, cares, hopes, dignity and relationships shaped by meaning and possibility. And each requires a forgetting of ourselves in order to orient to others in this detached way, a forgetting that can lead us to cause all kinds of suffering.

And then, at the end of the day, perhaps you get to take the uniform off and greet your loved ones – your partner, your children – as people. As full, complex, dignified, precious, cherished human beings.

And here, perhaps, is the source of some hope that we can foster a different way of relating to customers, clients, patients, colleagues, electorate, world. It takes us remembering in our uniformed state that the people we’re diminishing are people, just as our loved ones are people.

By consciously cultivating a ‘uniform off’ way of relating to others in the midst of our work, one that calls us back into our humanity, fiercely, courageously, and compassionately – and by demanding that others do the same – we’ll have a better chance of creating institutions that serve the world’s needs instead of the narrow desires and self-interest of their creators.

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Always changing

One of the surest ways you can treat other people as objects is to believe too strongly the stories you have about them.

“He doesn’t care”
“She’s only interested in herself”
“He’s so frustrating”
“She’s so fixed in her ideas, it’s impossible”
“He’s a loser”

and equally

“He’s so caring”
“She knows about everything”
“He’s so strong – nothing gets to him”

It’s not that your stories have no truth to them.

But people are so much more vast and mysterious than you can possibly know, and changing all the time. Any story you have is, in a significant way, partial and instantly out of date.

If you’re committed to treating people as people, you’ll have to start taking all this into account. You’ll have to loosen your hold on your stories. That way you’ll have a chance of encountering the person that’s actually there, rather than the idea of them you’re so determined to hold on to.

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Inputs to Outputs

An extraordinary number of people have effectively become processors, for much of their working lives, of the endless emails served up to them by the internet.

How much the intelligence of the world is turned into this: we become reduced to nodes in the network, transforming email inputs into email outputs, which then go on to be processed in the same way by someone else.

If you weren’t demanding people do this with their time, can you even imagine what might become possible?

Isn’t there a bigger, more courageous contribution they could be making, one that you and we so desparately need?

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World A and World B

World A: A world of mass market, mass industry, mass conformity, in which everyone only brings what the system tells us is required, and we can only contribute what the mass gives us space to contribute.

World B: A world in which people take seriously their responsibility to discover what is  theirs to bring into the world, and dedicate themselves to bringing it; in which we can at last benefit from the immense human capacity for imagination, relationship, truth, ingenuity, creativity, compassion and fierce love of life.

Which world are you in the midst of creating?

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Nodes in a network

In the past two to three centuries we have been swept up in some powerful cultural narratives that have served, among other things, to obscure the nature of our changing world and our inevitable part in it. The revolution in thought that ushered in both modern science and the enlightenment drew our attention to the apparently ordered nature of the universe and then opened up huge possibilities for shaping it through reason and technology. We began to conceive of ourselves as almost endlessly powerful, freed up from the constraints of nature through our ability to stand apart from it and intervene in it.

As this unfolded into the industrial revolution we also shifted our understanding of ourselves. Human progress would come increasingly from industrial processes that could be applied reliably at vast scale and over global distance. What would make this possible was the suppression of human difference (including our passions, that which we most strongly feel and which we most deeply care about) in favour of the idea of the mass – mass production, mass standardisation, mass culture.

And as science and technology have progressed we’ve understood ourselves more and more as part of them rather than as the creators of them (science, as a discipline, is a human creation as much as any other). Today we are increasingly likely to understand ourselves as the product of neural pathways in our brains (drawing on physics) or to treat ourselves as disembodied nodes in a vast computer network.

The technology we have created gives us unparalleled opportunities to make everyone the same, to obscure our uniqueness. But it also gives us huge possibility to free up our creativity for the good of everyone, to support people in reaching out to one another thoughtfully and intentionally.

So this is where we might work out together how to respond to the swirling uncertainty of today. It will take us understanding ourselves in new ways, paying much closer and more rigorous attention to what we truly care about, to what the totality of our experience including our emotions and bodies have to tell us, and to what it is to be a human being.

And it will take us understanding that we, and others, are neither nodes in a network nor neural machines nor simply animated lumps of matter, but deeply connected actors in a huge world of meaning and possibility. As well as our science – greatly needed at this time – it’s going to take each of us bringing forward our passion, our art, our love, and our lives.

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Befriending yourself

It’s quite unusual, it seems, to meet anyone who’s genuinely made friends with themselves.

For good reason, the people who love us as we grow up teach us all kinds of ways in which we can keep the socially unacceptable parts of ourselves out of view. And while that’s a necessary part of becoming an adult, it leaves us with at the very least an aversion to fully being with ourselves. What we might discover, we think, will be too much to deal with – frightening, unpredictable, incomprehensible.

For perhaps the majority of us, it’s not so much an aversion to fully being with ourselves as a downright loathing or terror. In some fundamental way, we feel ashamed at all that roils and turns within us. And so we turn away from ourselves, into busyness, or distraction. Into activities that occupy us without really stirring us. Into the numbness of our devices and our habits.

And if we can’t befriend ourselves, we can hardly befriend others. When we’re so busy avoiding ourselves, we don’t have the openness and receptivity to be fully with anyone else. Even though it’s contact with others – the experience of seeing and being seen – that we long for.

So, for all these reasons, the task of befriending ourselves is not luxury but responsibility, so that from there we can reach out and touch the lives of the people around us.

And we have to start by understanding that this – all of it – is an inevitable part of being human. The joy, exhilaration, rage, anger, resentment, gratitude, longing, love, doubt, fear, anguish, fury, desire. The loathing and shame. We have to begin to experience it not so much as our deficiency, but as part of our fullness and part of our heritage.

When we befriend ourselves, we befriend being human, and we open the possibility for the first time of befriending life itself.

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Becoming It

I-It: when we treat human beings as an object, or as a means to an end.

I-You relationships: being in relationship with others that allows them to show up as human beings – undefinable, vast, essentially unknowable.

It’s not so much that you choose consciously whether you’re going to be a fully human ‘I’ in the world or live as ‘it’. It’s rather that you’ll find you’re becoming one or the other through the way you’re already living. In other words, the way you get to be in the world is shaped over time by your actions: your habits and practices.

Our culture provides many more ways to be ‘it’ than ‘I’:

driving yourself relentlessly, always on, never stopping

not taking care of sleep sufficiently to stay well and energised

omitting nurture from your life: receiving love, touch, being in beauty, encountering art

equating your value with what you possess: how much money, what kind of house, what job title, what status

worrying, feeling deflated if you’re not always producing results

distancing yourself from supportive human relationships: leaving out the cultivation of family, neighbours, community

distracting yourself endlessly from encountering your own feelings of uncertainty and anxiety: numbing yourself with TV, internet, social media

You open up the possibility of being ‘I’ or ‘it’ not so much by how you think but by how you actually live, and by how you work, speak, and relate.

Once you see this, you’ll see that you have an enormous opportunity to influence who you turn out to be. And with this opportunity comes an enormous responsibility too, because if you’re actively working on being an ‘it’ in the world we all lose out on your courage, ingenuity, and contribution.


Conversations frequently left out of the discourse of professional life:

What you’re feeling – a potential source of enormous insight and connection to others

What you care about – especially if different from those around you

Your history – the story of everything and everyone that brought you to this moment, the discoveries and losses and experiences that have shaped you

Your weirdness – the unique artfulness and way of seeing that comes from you being you

Your imagination – your capacity to invent beyond the bounds of convention, the energy for life which stirs you to break out of the ways you’re held in

Your longing – the life and world you’re in the midst of bringing forth

We shut them out with excuses. They’re ‘soft’ subjects, while business is ‘hard’. They’ll open a pandora’s box or a can of worms. This is a work-place, not a therapy session.

We lose so much when we continue to exclude the passions and possibility of the human heart from so many of our endeavours. And it damages us too, because before long we reduce ourselves and others to shadows of ourselves, inoculated by our cynicism against demonstrating care for much that is of genuinely enduring value to human life. Is this really the way you and your colleagues began your journey into the life of work? Can you even remember?

That work should be this way was sold to us by the early industrialists who needed scores of people in their factories to button down, fit themselves in, and stay in line. They appropriated the language of rationalism and science to fashion people into tools, cogs, and components so they could build their great money making machines. And we bought it.

And when you tell us how much of our humanity you will not allow a place in your work, you become their mouthpiece, continuing a pernicious myth that shallows our relationships and possibility.

The world faces many difficulties right now, and addressing them is going to take all the generosity, wisdom and heartfelt commitment we can muster. Do you really intend to be one of the people who work to shut that out from the world?

Shining Eyes

When people are talking about a shared commitment that they genuinely care about, you can see it. Their eyes shine.

So it’s amazing what a high tolerance we’ve developed for dull, glazed-over stares in our meetings and activities at work. It’s as if we’re treating ourselves and others as machines… and that caring doesn’t come into it. Perhaps that’s exactly what we are doing.

Human beings are so full of life. It’s a tragedy that we settle so easily for working in a way that’s such a dull facsimile of it.


Are other people really people to you?

Or are they just characters in a drama that has you in the central role?

If you’ll have them be people you’ll need to give up using them or trying to force them to suit the story you think you’re living out. You’re going to have to allow them the space to surprise you – again and again – and you’ll need to learn to listen for all the ways they’re not how you expected them to be, even if you’ve known them intimately for years. You’ll need to accord them the dignity of at least some of the time being a ‘you’ to your ‘I’, rather than an ‘it’.

If you do all of this, you can give up all the effort and vigilance it takes to have the story turn out always how you’re expecting it. And maybe you’ll also let people relax their attempts to have you fit in to their story too.

Why listening is so hard

It’s extraordinarily hard to listen to other people so that they’re actually heard.

For most of us, the difficulty begins early on. We’re so caught up in our own concerns, twisted and knotted with our fear or inner-criticism or self-interest, that we rarely extend ourselves with the kind of patience and openness that will make listening possible.

Then, if we’re able to find the part of us which does want to listen, we find that our interior world is filled with chatter: endless, whirling, disjointed. To listen to another calls upon a rare inner stillness that will give what is said a place to land, soft ground in which to take root.

And then, perhaps most difficult of all, is that other people’s worlds are so startlingly different from our own. Even those who are closest to us, those into whose eyes we gaze with longing and love – even they inhabit vast worlds whose degree of overlap with ours is tiny in comparison with their dissimilarity. The web of meanings, associations, stories and interpretations of another are, in the end, never fully knowable. And it is out of this web that people speak.

It’s miraculous that we can ever understand one another at all.

If you will listen to another, you’ll need to work with each of these. And in the end you’ll need to release yourself into the speaker’s vastness and know that you can never fully know what it is to be the person who said what you heard. Only from this suspension of knowing can real listening emerge. Only from here can you listen to the other as a real ‘you’ rather than as an ‘it’ that you figured out already.

No end of trouble

I-It relationships: when we treat another human being as an object, or as a means to an end.

I-You relationships: being in relationship with others that allows them to show up as human beings – undefinable, vast, essentially unknowable.

We need I-It relationships in order to get up to anything in the practical world. If I want something done, there’s a sense in which I have to think of you for at least part of the time as a vehicle for my intentions. That’s a particularly ‘I-it’ way to relate to you. I have to ask you or maybe convince you to act, and then express my delight in the result or show you my irritation at your delay or your standards. Often I’ll want to measure what you’re up to: how you’re using your time, whether this is value for money, the results your efforts are producing. If you’re here to fix the network and I’m busy making plans, I might most usefully choose to engage with you as the IT person rather than allow myself to encounter you as a living, breathing human being with a past and future, with hopes and dreams and plans and feelings. Often, I’ll have to relate to myself as an ‘it’ in just this way too.

But so much is left out, in our workplaces and in our wider lives, if we only ever relate to the world in an I-It way. We miss the possibility of encountering the extraordinariness of being human. We lose the chance to connect, and to bring forward our courage and compassion and wisdom. And we cannot discover the deep veins of meaning that underpin all of our efforts in the world of plans, actions and things.

A solely I-It world is pragmatic, utilitarian, productive and flat. A world with only I-You relating is vast, mysterious, surprising, meaning-laden and extraordinarily impractical. Each is the shadow of the other, and both are necessary for lives well lived and good work well done.

Yet we’ve built most of our work places and much of our lives as if I-It is the only possibility.

It’s got us into no end of trouble.

Got your number

If I can treat you as an ‘it’, then I’ve got your number.

You’re a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher,
a nuisance, a blessing, a distraction,
always late, always good for a laugh, always boring,
infuriating, beautiful, unreliable.

It takes courage to treat you as a ‘you’,

because I might find out that you’re none of these, that you defy language or explanation. I might find out that you’re not who you were when I left this morning, that you’re not who I’m trying so desperately to have you be. I might have to allow myself to be bowled over by your vastness and your mystery. I might have to allow myself to feel your suffering. It takes courage, because when I find out how little of you I really know, I might find out that I also know only a little of myself.

And when I’m open enough to treat you as ‘you’, there’s a chance I might get to be ‘I’ in return.

The person who serves your coffee

I-it relating – when we treat someone as a means to an end, valuable to us only for what they do that addresses our interests.

I-you relating – when the person is an end in themselves.

Who gets to be an ‘it’ for you, and who an ‘I’?

The person who serves your coffee?
The person sweeping the street?
The person you spoke to in the call centre?
Your colleagues?
Your clients?
Your friends?
Your family?

The last one is important. Often, until we look closely, we don’t even know what kind of life we’re living.

Possibilities open up when we discover we’ve been in an I-It relationship with ourselves (and hence with all others and all of life) and make moves to address it.

Becoming an ‘I’ again requires giving up all the ways we ascribe worth to ourselves only because of what we produce, what we own, how clever we can be, how others approve of us, or the status we’ve been granted. It takes discovering the basic goodness that’s at the heart of everyone, and building a life around that. It takes courage, steadfastness, and great kindness.

“But I could never do that.”

What will be the outcome, over time, if you don’t?

Human Resources

Intelligence. Creativity. Love. Strength. Openness. Connection. Inspiration. Tenderness. Discipline. Rage. Courage. Artfulness. Curiosity. Compassion. Wisdom.

All of these are human resources.

What we’ve done by calling people ‘human resources’ obscures this. It forces us into a category that includes money, electricity, technology and fuel. This way we become objects rather than subjects, commodities rather than people, tools for production rather than living beings, ‘it’ rather than ‘I’. It’s an example of what in philosophy would be called a category error – a misunderstanding of the nature of things.

So is it any wonder that the systems and language we invent seriously limit the expression of our true resourcefulness?

Behaviours we expect people to follow – as if human beings had no interior world of discernment, meaning, and feeling from which their actions flow.

Values we expect others to take up uncritically as if they couldn’t determine for themselves what they’re deeply committed to.

Competency frameworks we design as if skillfulness, artistry and human ingenuity could be reduced to a set of bullet points.

Management that aims to reduce individuality, creativity and surprise, as if people were an irritant that gets in the way of the smooth running of the machine.

None of these do anything to amplify the real resources human beings have to bring to their lives and work.

And while we might think we’re only treating others in this way, we can’t help but diminish our own humanity each time we treat people as if they had little humanity of their own.

I and It – two directions for living and working

178px-Martin_Buber_portraitMartin Buber, a towering philosopher of the last century, points out that there are essentially two choices in our relationships with people.

In an I-You relationship, the other is a person to us. Mysterious, never completely knowable, and of infinite value simply because they are.

In an I-It relationship, the other person is a means to an end, of no more interest than an object or any other entity that could give me what I want. An ‘it’ is simply there:

to sell to
to do what I want them to do
to make me feel better
to show me how talented I am
to provide for me
to bolster my self-esteem
to be the target of my scorn
as an escape from something else
to idolise
to be dismissed
to get out of my way
to make me my coffee
to deliver the figures
to make me look good
to blame
to be manipulated
to take my mind off things
to make me happy
to ignore

An ‘it’ is anything but mysterious, simply of value to me as long as they perform according to my expectations.

We’ve built the world of work around turning people into ‘it’, because it looks like it makes things manageable. That people are mysterious and unpredictable is inconvenient. It makes us anxious. So as long as people are objects and can be understood, it seems we can have them do what we want, and we can organise and corral them on a grand scale. And because of this we’ve built our society and many of our relationships with others in the same way.

The tragedy in all of this for each of us is that we’re never separate from our relationship with others. Relate in an ‘I-It’ way to others and pretty quickly you start to become an ‘it’ yourself.

I-You relating starts by seeing the extraordinary, unfathomable human being that’s present with you in any conversation, in any interaction. You could start next time you buy a coffee, next time you reach the supermarket checkout, next time you speak with a colleague, or with your loved ones.

Being in the world with this way is not only the foundation of compassion, it’s the necessary step for freeing ourselves from all the ways we too have become objects, means-to-an-end rather than fully, courageously alive.

Nobody’s irreplaceable

“Nobody’s irreplaceable”, they say.

And one sense, of course, it’s true because we’ve made it that way. Most organisations are set up to minimise the differences between people. Job descriptions, competency frameworks, ‘behaviours’ all attempt to smooth out quirks, individuality, weirdness so that someone else can slot right in.

It’s (apparently) much easier to manage things that way. But how much it diminishes people, calls on them to hold back what only they can offer.

You, replaceable? People might say so. But it’s only really true if you’re showing up as part of the machine, a cog like any other, no rough edges, no surprises.

We’ve set up a world which obscures the unique contribution that each person has to make. A world that encourages you to avoid truly showing up because it’s unpredictable. But we need you. If you don’t bring what only you have to bring, it doesn’t get brought.

Here’s a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver that has another way of saying all this.