Welcome to The Eagle, a monthly newsletter on strategy, risks, and the creation of safe and thriving business environments by Laurence Duarte, founder of Strat & Shield Co.
When we step into responsibility, magic happens. This month, I go deep on opening new channels of possibilities and sets of responsibilities. My wish for you, in the New Year, is for you to shine bright. And stand in all the beauty that is you. And connect and make miracles happen, expand your horizons, inspire by telling your stories, and advocate for truth, freedom and equality.
Let’s do it!
If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet subscribed, then join our community of 5000+ resilient leaders on a journey to build strategies with a business purpose beyond the bottom line. The ones that create positive change in the world.
HAPPY New Year! May this be a year of recovery, ease, peace, and safety.
As we all do this time of year, I reflect on what has been and look to the future for what comes next. Personally, I do not make New Year's resolutions, but I do set the intention to continually work on myself: body, mind, and spirit. I have a desire to go as deep as I can in my healing process to help not only myself but my family, my clients, and the world as a whole. I know many of you feel the same.
Endings and beginnings, all one continuous circle.
Our New Year’s intentions are but magnified versions of this ancient taking on and giving up. The understanding has always been that we have to give away something precious, something we previously thought was fundamental. This isn’t to frighten, but rather to make aware that the landscape has changed, indefinitely.
A look at what needs to go in order to make room for what needs to come in. It’s the going, and by that I mean the starting, that matters. Our journey is meant to be real and transformative and has an agenda of its own. It could be big — a job, a relationship — but, more likely, subtler — a way of relating, a long-held pattern.
What is it we yearn to come in? They’re likely connected. Do we really want to attach ourselves to the former, when we’ve been praying and preparing for the latter?
I know this hesitation in front of change. Even when desired, change can be fraught. We crave the new but fear releasing the stagnant. We want the cake, and the eating of it, too. We want it all. Mostly, we don’t want to make the wrong decision. Or what we perceive as one. We don’t want to find ourselves somewhere unexpected, without a map and proper guidance, and adequate supplies. But of course, we do have the guidance. We do have the supplies. And the map; the map was always a rough sketch. Because life is full of simultaneous beginnings and endings, of new routes and reroutes. Pretty much, our journey ends up looking like a toddler’s drawing, circular and round. It’s never a ruler-sharp line. But oh, how we wish it were.
“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else,” wrote Tom Stoppard. Something good is coming out of this if we start looking for the open door.
This January newsletter is an invitation to take decisive action in our life, move forward, and live fully and gather support, taking time to feel and release our fear and sadness, healing, and growing.
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” — Buddha
It’s no secret that 2021 has been a challenging year for everyone. It has been more than two years since the pandemic hit us, disrupting our lives, our work, our internal grounding. As we stop counting the new variant waves and hope for possible release from our confinements, we find ourselves still in the midst of the deep difficulties these trying two years have brought.
How can we keep our sanity in front of the varying and never-ending waves of uncertainties brought by the pandemic?
Self-Validation is Healthy
Let’s start by validating ourselves. We made it! Regardless of disruptions, endless stress, physical and emotional pain, grief, trauma. These times don’t mess around. We have faced what’s been lurking under the bed or in the closet. It was not pretty at all. But we also know now that we’re stronger and wiser than the monsters in and out of our heads. Is it incredible that we have done as well as we have? Yes, it is time for a well-deserved self-hug and then to do even better.
Think of doing better by becoming truly the person we have always been. It is about going back along the road, picking up all the pieces of ourselves that were taken from us along the way.
I like the word “redeemed.” One of its meanings is, “to make something that is bad, unpleasant, etc. better or more acceptable.” If we go through the purposeful efforts to redeem what was lost, we can transition, close a chapter and open another by our own will. It is how we can be brought back to a new life, new dreams, new wants, an awakening of goodness.
Here is a self-reflection playlist I would like to share with you as soothing support.
The Willingness toward Flexibility
How have we gotten through these darkest times? Some of us may have developed or re-awakened survival patterns — and that is OK in light of the circumstances. It may have been escaping the toxicity by going into our world, not caring about anyone else, or self-numbing. Some, in extreme cases, may have harmed themselves physically in order to block intolerable emotional pain. For others, it may have been creating drama and tension in their lives. And, for most of us, we have become inflexible in our thinking and behavior, even if the rigidities we have developed aren’t good for us and can harm what’s around us. The issue with these patterns is they don’t go away spontaneously. They now are limiting us and causing harm.
And we are responsible for unlearning them, in service not only to ourselves but to our fellow humans. Our beliefs shape our experiences, the way we exchange energy with the world and interact with others. It's time we examine them.
At first, it may look like surrendering or abandoning all that we believed. But at the same time, it is an act of power and courage because it is a conscious choice we make about how to apply our personal will. It is how we re-become flexible by being and doing from a place of curiosity and openness.
It is an open hand rather than one that is clenched into a fist. When we make a step toward willingness, we open ourselves to truth and possibility in and through our lives.
It is time to invite us to explore our curiosity without agenda. How are we communicating with others? How open are we to dialogue and another viewpoint? Can we open the conversation, rather than arrest it?
It is a balance exercise, as we need to push in directions that may feel contradictory at first. Let’s reach simultaneously to:
become more forgiving of ourselves and hold ourselves to higher and higher standards,
become more understanding of other people’s difficulties and become more and more firm about how they are allowed to treat us,
deepen our understanding of how our past has harmed and limited us and
strive to use that less and less as an excuse, focusing less and less of our attention there.
These are tricky challenges, but they will lead us to maturity.
The Way We Commit
“You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.” — Cheryl Strayed
Courage is shown when you take a positive action, despite how scary it is.
As leaders, we all have in our line of business the power to influence for the better. Our perspectives are important to our colleagues, employees, partners. We each contribute to the growth of common understandings. We grow and change from the things we learn from those around us, and we are simultaneously all teachers. We have the power to cooperate. Instead of getting infected by the modern disease of seeking power over other people, we can choose to develop our power with each other, working together to pursue common goals and make beautiful things happen.
We can choose to create processes in which everyone’s contribution is valued and what we build benefits everyone. We have the power to defend ourselves and those we work with, those we love. We have the power to set right what is wrong in the world around us.
The question is, to what and to whom do you want to commit? For what type of achievement and success are you climbing? And why?
Commitments forged now are real. They bear consequences. What underlies this is discipline, focus, duty, obligation, the willingness to invest something each and every day. The long haul. It’s the climb itself. There are no hacks to be found here. This isn’t about fast or easy or cheap. It’s about what matters most and what we’re willing to invest to maintain it. We’re learning what power really means, who has it, who doesn’t and why. If we strip bare the pretense and artifice, we find that power is willingness, ultimately, to stand in who we are, to own who we are, no matter how uncomfortable or painful.
Once we release who we think we should be, we’re free to be who we are. There isn’t a power in the world more potent than that.
Let’s source our strength from within. Let’s reclaim our integrity, backbone and fortitude.
I leave you with an inviting poem from David Whyte’s new book of poetry, “Still Possible.”
Finally I would like to thank you for supporting this newsletter. Thank you for your beautiful emails, notes, and comments. I appreciate them so very much. Each time, I have been very moved by what you say and how you've said it. Thank you for being a voice of inspiration, kindness, acceptance, and honesty through this strangely beautiful and transformative time.
Together, let’s make 2022 a beautiful year to remember.
Be safe and be watched over until we meet again in February.
Please remember I am always here for you. I built Strat & Shield Co. to remove obstacles for my clients and work through their pain points, clearing the way for them to move forward confidently, nurtured by a healthy and safe company culture of their own making. If you have any questions, please reach out to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be honored to answer any inquiries that arise.
Laurence Duarte is the founder of the boutique management consulting firm Strat and Shield Co. specialized in strategy and risks management. She is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review France, writing about uniting profit and purpose to help businesses scale successfully and sustainably, with heart.