April 25, 2023
By Amba Gale
It was before the course began, on Day Five, of our last, public, Heart of Leadership .
Day Five, the last day of the course, is a deep dive within which the participants explore the art of resolving breakdowns well, and even creating breakthroughs from breakdowns; an art and science ever present as a needed arrow in your quiver if you are a leader, or if you are interested in leading a life well lived.
Breakdowns, or sudden obstacles that seem to bar the way, are ever present in our lives, in recurring shapes and forms. Better get down to work at being effective in dealing with breakdowns!
During the first day of the course, each person who enrolled in the course made an agreement to complete the whole of the course, to be present for each and every conversation. That was our deal. That was the foundation of integrity, within which the work would get done.
Forty-five minutes before the class is to start, in walks Jim. Jim is a VP of Sales of Pacific Coast Fruit, an incredibly great produce company. Jim is also an extraordinary gentleman, possibility based, an opening for and request for being in development, and has already gotten so much out of the first four days of the course.
In he walks. And he says, “I have to tell you something you are not going to like.”
I take a silent, deep breath, knowing today is the day in which we work breakdowns, and I figure we have a breakdown right here, right now. My course is all about living (the art and mastery of living) – not knowing—so, in a way it doesn’t surprise me, whatever is about to happen.
Today is Jim’s birthday, he tells me. It is also the Opening Day of this year’s baseball season, and his daughter, for a surprise gift, got him a ticket (almost impossible to get) for that night’s game, last minute, and has invited him to come to the game with her, and the pre-game show, where some special arrangements have been made, as a celebration. Which would mean leaving the course early. He wants to know what I think.
He wants to go. He deeply wants to go. And he is painfully aware he has made a previous agreement to complete the class with his classmates. “What should I do?,” he asks. Of course, I want to say, “no way,” but as the morning and the conversation evolved, I began to see new things.
I led the course that day with Jim’s issue in my space. By the time we took the first break, I knew the choice was his, not mine. I held the space for him, profoundly, that he works out well what he needed to work out, and he did. It was quite a conundrum for him. By the time the lunch break arrived, I wanted him to say “yes” to his daughter, sensing when he looked back on this day many years from now, he would not regret his choice. And The Heart of Leadership would live, full of its teachings, in his life.
His story is in the poem, following.
He chose to be with his daughter, and created a beautiful apology, with context, with the participants, cleaning up his own breach, restoring integrity within the community, and opening space for everyone to get a deeper cut into integrity.
Later, thinking about it, I now lean into the question “What is integrity, anyway?” Is it ALWAYS a matter of “keeping your word?” What gives me a path for leading a life of integrity – now and now and now? For acting on what matters most, for creating an inner harmony, an inner sense of wholeness, on an emotional level, a psychological level, a spiritual level.
In his book, The Grace of Great Things, Robert Grudin says, “Integrity is not a painfully upheld standard…so much as a prolonged and focused delight,” a delight which Abraham Maslow calls a form of “self-actualization.”
Jim, who is the silver haired gentleman in the back row, left, of the photograph, loved the poem. In an email to me he said, “Your poem is beautiful – it eloquently captures the incredible power of that experience. I think you should sub-title it ‘Opening Day’, as it was symbolic of an opening to a deeper understanding of myself!”
In these times of shifting sands, ever present changes, where we are re-inventing our world, on an ongoing basis, unmaking promises, making new ones, creating new stands, and listening to what is being called for now, harmoniousness is being asked for, and can lead the way, when we stay attuned.
Integrity: The Truth of the Way
By Amba Gale
This young in heart, gentle man
is gifted by his daughter
with a birthday gift:
one miraculous ticket to the miraculous opening game
of the opening day
of the baseball season.
What a gift, and what a conundrum!
What a time for one moment in time,
to come to grips with what has integrity.
He has an important prior engagement
and people to whom he has given his promise.
Either way, he is causing a breach–
A breach of heart or
A breach of word.
What does he do?
He apologizes for the breach of word,
making whole the community heart.
He follows his love for his daughter,
their father/daughter heart.
The big freedom opened
When I told him
he doesn’t need forgiveness.
He has already been forgiven.
And years from now
when he looks back
on that day,
he will smile with the inner, certain, knowing that he followed
the truth of the way.
And all the goodness of that day
is still with him,
as his life bursts free