Below is an e-mail I received this a.m. from a friend and client of mine. The author is a gifted athlete with brains to match. And like almost all of the people I'm attracting into my business over the past several years, he's a beautiful person with good energy that always leaves me looking forward to the next time I can see him. So when I saw whom the e-mail was from, I was psyched. Here it is, unedited except for his name:
Hope you're doing well. I've been tempted to write this email one or two times before, but didn't know if you would be open to the feedback. So, with the hope that you are, I'll take the chance of putting my thoughts into words.
Your post on FB this morning and a few others over the past year or so, cause me to bristle. For the most part, I perceive comments like this as righteously superior and/or insulting. This is perplexing to me as I know you not to be this way in person. While the technical merits of your post are completely on point, the manner with which you make your point is off-putting to me because it seems to chastise us (your audience) for our ignorance, as if you are better than us so therefore we can be treated with less regard. As you know, everyone is ignorant of something, most folks like me don't like it when we perceive we are being spoken down to because of said ignorance, and -- here's the good news -- ignorance is very fixable. Your knowledge, experience, and credentials position you well to fix a lot of ignorance and help folks achieve new levels of wellness and performance.
I point this out because if other friends/clients/readers of your posts have a similar reaction, then you're missing the opportunity to make a connection that could lead to more business and/or provide valuable information that could be of great benefit to us. If your goal is to make an important point but the point doesn't "land" because of how it was communicated, then the desired effectiveness of your message is diminished.
So, from one brother in humankind to another, I hope you hear this in the spirit with which I feel it, which is one of respect and high regard for you.
Thanks for listening,
As you might imagine, I was a bit bummed. In part, because I had half expected him to tell me about a recent P.R. (the guy's breaking his own records all the time). But the other part is I could recognize the validity of his e-mail. There are likely lots of people with whom I am just not resonating. And it's quite possibly for different reasons for each one of them. Maybe it's my tone of delivery. Or maybe it's the message. Or maybe it's the perfect storm of circumstances which made whatever point I was trying to make get hopelessly lost in delivery. It could be an infinite number of possibilities as we all have different experiences which color how we perceive any aspect of the world.
I believe that most people are simply doing the best they can with what they have. And that includes both the saints and the sinners--if those entities even exist. I don't really believe they do as that implies some type of judgment. And who am I to judge them? I haven't lived what they've lived. I haven't seen what they've seen. Even if we "saw" the same thing: I had a visual experience through my eyes; I processed what I saw via my own corneas, my own rods and cones, my own optic nerve even; and then that electrical impulse traveled through my brain which has been shaped by every other site, sound, smell, taste, touch, or thought I've ever had.
No, I cannot judge another. And when I catch myself attempting to, as one of my mentors says, I "put it in my pocket". It usually means whatever character trait I'm about to criticize is actually in me. I've been fortunate enough to have some incredible mentors who have taught me some life-changing lessons. One of the most important is that the idea of judgment doesn't really serve me. So I've (mostly) outgrown it. I've replaced it with empathy. But to do that, I had to take the skills my teachers were offering and apply them—to me.
I look back at some of the dumb shit I've done; some of the embarrassing crap I've said. And as humbling as some of those experiences are in retrospect, I understand that I was just doing the best I could at the time--with my knowledge, with my money, with the support from my friends and family; with my instincts that had been honed by every event in my life. And the cool thing is, each one of these "mistakes" has made me who I am today. And though I'm not perfect, I am the perfect representation of me. Just as you are the perfect representation of you. So what is there to judge about perfection? Of course, some may say that the label of perfect is a judgment. But it's not if it it's the truth. It just is.
The specific Facebook post my friend was referring to is
I suck running/cycling up hills" translates into Kinesiology terms as "the government is my dietician, I don't strength train properly, I have no idea how to integrate my upper body with my lower body, and I believe I can't.
Does that post cause you to bristle, too? If so, please know that this was not my intention. Unless, of course, that bristling makes you so uncomfortable that you look a bit deeper to see if there's anything in that statement which may apply to you. And if it creates enough introspection that you realize there's negative talk running through your head; that the conversation was started long ago before you had the maturity and strength to keep it from taking root in your psyche. If your bristling from that statement gets you to believe you are your own so own yourself, then--yeah, I meant to do that! I believe it was Osho who said that sometimes the role of the teacher is to punch you in the nose. And love is my left hook.
While I have been very successful helping people with physical-mental-emotional-spiritual issues, I've had my share of failures, too. But like all my other thousands of missteps or "bad" decisions, it's part of the experience which is me. And I try to teach from that experience. It's really the only way I know how. I may read a book or attend a class about a specific subject. But I won't claim to know it—indeed, I won't even teach it—until I've had the experience of applying it to myself first. And though I truly want to help everyone realize their full potential as human beings, I understand that won't always happen. It once was said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I may not be that teacher. But it doesn't mean the lesson isn't worth learning.
So I know I'm rambling here. I do that—it's part of me, and I accept it in all its perfection (even if it annoys the crap out of some of my readers who wish I would just get to the point). And I'm also aware that I may once again sound condescending or "righteously superior". But I want to tell my friend personally and put it out there globally that I am ignorant, too. Everything I teach has been learned by doing the exact opposite (or at least differently) in the past. I once followed the USDA's food pyramid. I even worked out on machines back in the day. Every post I write was inspired first by me. I am my own best muse....And if anything I want to use all of my "errors" to save you sorrow and hardship, disease and pain. I want to offer my life's journey to expedite your evolution. Our evolution. For I am no better or worse than you.
I am you.
I relearn that truth everyday. So I thank the author of the above e-mail. My nose is still smarting from the lesson you so eloquently taught. And I hope by blogging about it, I can pass this knowledge on to others who may need the occasional jab of honesty.
Even before I started writing this post, I had intended to ask the permission of the e-mail’s author if I could use it on my website. Here is his response:
I am almost without words to describe my surprise and awe at your proposed response to my email. When I wondered if you would be open to the feedback, this exceeds any and every expectation that I had.
First, I am totally cool if this is how you would like to make use of my email. I am so pleased you received it as I had hoped.
Second, even if you heard me and responded with something like, "I hear you, Casey, but this is how I roll. I like being provocative and provoking reactions in people. It's what I do." I would have accepted that. So, thanks for your concern about static but I respect who you are and what you do to the point of it's cool to disagree on content and/or style. We get to make our own choices. I enjoy the connection we have, too, and wouldn't let something like this stand in our way.
Third, I love to read your writing. It is clear to me you have a great talent. You express yourself with a clear, distinct voice, make compelling arguments, and your prose is enjoyable and easy to consume. I aspire to write as well as you one day.
Fourth, I indeed owe you one or more emails of thanks and praise for my continued progress as an endurance athlete. I didn't really plan to go into running full time, but I'm just riding the wave of positive energy and enjoying it for as long as it might last. Your strength coaching is a major contributor to my continued growth and staying well.
Fifth, one day I look forward to sharing and comparing perspectives and philosophies about life. Your response to my email echoes many of my own personal beliefs and core values. And while we apparently arrived at them through very different paths, having them in common speaks to our kindred spirit, I believe.
Lastly, I need to set up an appointment with you in the next few weeks, this time in particular to see how I can up my game in the stretching/flexibility domain. I don't believe I'm tapping into most of my potential just yet.
Thank you for the opportunity to learn and grow with you and because of you.
Likewise, my friend.