Friday, November 19, 2010

Self-management, Being Present and Assurance

Impatience sometimes leads us to make hasty decisions and to take actions that we later regret. The Seven Dimensions of Wisdom are sets of skills or competencies necessary for achieving life goals. These are represented by the acronym SOPPHIA, which means wisdom in Greek. S is for Self; O for Others; P is for Purpose; the second P is for Present; H is for Health; I is for Innovation; and A is for Assurance or faith. Three of these (self-management, being present, and assurance) are particularly connected to patience and interact with each other.

Self skills have two main components; self awareness and self-management. Self-Management is the ability to process one’s emotions effectively and to experience them without being driven to act impulsively. Often it is the feelings generated within us by our situations and other people that make it difficult to interact effectively with those situations and people. Feelings can create an internal pressure and become intolerable and we feel forced to act. Action taken under this duress is often not likely to produce the most desirable outcomes.

Being present is the opposite of that feeling of being unable to tolerate the feelings we experience in relation to particular situations or people. There is a sense of comfort and enjoyment in the very act of being; regardless of what is occurring. This is sometimes described as flow, or being in the zone by athletes and performers. The senses and the ability to take coordinated action are heightened, and concern about time seems to disappear. There is plenty of time to do what is necessary and desirable; but there is no extra time for boredom.

The third dimension of wisdom that is particularly relevant to these experiences is Assurance or faith. It is the ability to tap resources seemingly beyond oneself and others, to maintain resilience, endurance and courage; when all the senses and reason tell us that the situation is hopeless. This faith may be connected to religion, to a more diffuse spirituality, or to something even less clearly defined. It is the place we turn to when all other avenues are blocked.

Thus we can see how the skills of self-management, being present, and being assured in the face of challenges can work together to create patience; and lead to better decisions and actions, and more peace and enjoyment of being alive; despite the inevitable challenges and obstacles that we each inevitably face.

Dr. Bernard Brookes

Friday, September 10, 2010

Life 2.0: Rebooting After Age 45

Having experienced loss, we can no longer be innocent. We can now either be glum and cynical, or joyful and wise. Daniel Levinson published studies of long term career and life changes in his books Seasons of a Man’s Life and Seasons of a Woman’s Life. One of the consistent things he found was the disillusionment experienced after midlife, even by those who had achieved success by societal standards. Regardless of the degree of social success we all experience loss by that age: loss of the vision or dream amid the striving for attainment, loss of loved ones, marriages, hair, and youth among other things. A new perspective on what constitutes success and happiness is therefore required. This is even more strikingly apparent for those who did not achieve some important goals. In either case, rebooting is required in order to access Life 2.0.

To access Life 2.0, say goodbye to youthful innocence and hello to wisdom. But wisdom is not as much about ruminating as it is about finding joy in being present. I consider the ability to be fully present to be one of the seven dimensions of wisdom. This means letting go of the regret and pain about the things we have lost and embracing new possibilities. We still have the ability to dream and to realize our vision. On Labor Day this year, I had an adventure in Life 2.0.

Having a desire to hear music in an outdoor setting, I heading for the Herndon Virginia Jazz Festival. It was actually more folk-rock, blues and rock than jazz, but it served the purpose. Not a Woodstock exactly; just a Labor Day concert on the Herndon town mall: A man in a khaki kilt walks by and nobody notices. Everyone’s engaged in their own conversation and happening. During the break between sets, the CD player belts out nostalgia: Van Morrison’s My Little Brown-eyed Girl, and You Make Me So Very Happy by Blood, Sweat and Tears.

In this venue, the baby boomers still rule with their elephantine demographic. Let’s throw in some Gary Puckett for the relatively more traditional: Woman, Have You Got Cheating On Your Mind? The new set starts and the young long-haired singer songwriter plays the guitar and kazoo. His trio with keyboards and drums has a bluesy feel, with a Paul Simon-ish vocal style.

Two small boys about three or four years old are alternately dancing in front of the stage and standing looking at the performers in rapt attention. The technicians have finally turned up the guitar and drums and got the mix right. A dragonfly hovers over the head of a blond woman in a bright pink blouse; perhaps mistaking her for a flower. A beautiful young black couple is talking excitedly nearby. Now even adults are dancing on the lawn or at least bouncing around; as am I.

But more interesting than all of this was my unexpectedly finding like-minded companions for the day. I went to Herndon alone, but did not remain so. To get some shade from the sun, I sat on the side of the grass mall, near the trees, on a cement embankment that held up the fence, and began writing my observations as I listened to the music.

Nearby, other cement embankments around each large tree created more improvised benches. I noticed two attractive middle-aged women on one of these tree benches talking animatedly and sharing a bottle of wine with a man; this was actually a wine tasting, as well as a music festival. These three bench neighbors left after a while and I moved to take their place, since the shade was better under their tree. I noticed that they left a plastic shopping bag and an empty bottle, so I wasn’t clear on whether or not they would return. When they did return, the more extroverted of the two women noticed me writing and asked me if I were writing them a note.

I then became part of their conversation, and when the Bruce Springsteen tribute band came on, we all danced for most of the next two hours. What I later learned was that none of the three knew each other before today. I understood how this all worked when Joy, the extrovert, pulled another man into our orbit as we were dancing. By the time the concert ended, the five of us had bonded through that experience and agreed to all have dinner at Jack’s house. After some adventures with our GPS we finally got to Jack’s and had dinner and some wonderful conversations, while listening to his fabulous mix of songs, and watching the beautiful slides of nature and people on his large wall flat screen TV.

Our conversations focused on Life 2.0. Four of us are divorced after long marriages and have adult, or near adult children that we love. There was a strong sense that we are starting over; rebooting. Our challenge is to feel the dream, the possibilities, and the gain, rather than the loss. As one of us said “This is not the life I planned or expected.” And it seems that we all struggle with that at times. But for a while we let go, became present, embraced that day; and were therefore able to embrace each other as brothers and sisters of Life 2.0

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Too Much Necessity Kills Invention

It is said that necessity is the mother of inventions; but too much necessity can also kill innovation. It is not just that the struggle for survival can limit the time and energy available for creativity; beyond that which can produce immediate material benefit. It is also who we become emotionally and spiritually when our survival is threatened over an extended period of time; for example, what happens to people who become long term unemployed during economic recession. That experience can induce a chronic state of fear and inhibition that kills hope and higher aspirations.

The psychic damage can probably be seen best after a person regains a foothold out of a desperate and chronic economic need, and finds a job. It is then tempting to create a religion out of economic security and to kill any surviving remnants of a dream. But it is important that we recognize the danger and fight for spiritual integrity and wholeness as a human being; to not be dominated by fear, anger and cynicism, but to remain open-hearted and hopeful, despite the pain that we have experienced.

The Biblical statement that we do not live by bread alone is not just religious dogma. We require hope and dreams, as well as material sustenance, in order to live as full human beings, rather than merely as creatures driven by necessity. If we allow ourselves to become the latter, a part of us will fester and die.

In my framework, innovation is one of the seven dimensions of wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies necessary for a fulfilling life. It is the process through which our dreams and creativity are converted into activities and things that produces value for other people. In other words, our internal creative life is connected to social and material life of communities of which we are part. It is the need and right of every human being, not just the preserve of a privileged few. It includes both freedom and connection with others. The opposite is wage slavery, where we subordinate our humanity in order to eat and survive. We may have to do that, but we should never accept it as our destiny. We have the right to be free and to be part of community.

The struggle for freedom begins in the Self, the first dimension of freedom. Being self-aware, and therefore recognizing our need for freedom, creative expression, as well as for connection, encourages us to resist the temptation to give up the dream, regardless of our material circumstances. It is better to live with the heartache of awareness of a dream deferred, than to live in anesthetized or cynical surrender.

The dream is Purpose, another dimension of wisdom. Purpose does not deny material necessity, but ever seeks to subsume it under a greater vision; a vision that is both personal and communal, and even transcendent. This is not self-inflation, but the experienced truth of who we are as human beings. We are stardust as well as earth.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Managing Trust, Risk and Chance

How do we know when to trust someone? Trust is based on character and competence. We trust someone to act in our best interest because of our assessment of their character, their motivation to do the right thing; and their competence, their ability to effectively take the correct action. Steven MR Covey’s book Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything takes this approach to conceptualizing trust; and it is consistent with previous research on the subject.

What is risk? Risk is the probability that events will occur that cause us harm or are otherwise not in our perceived best interest. To the extent that our assessment of trust in someone is accurate, we reduce the risk associated with that person. But even if we could trust ourselves and others around us to act with character and competence one hundred percent of the time, we would still have the risk from events occurring by chance.

Are any of us perfect either in character or competence? No. That is why an important part of creating a culture of trust is to have systems of accountability. In society at large, we have laws and justice systems to enforce them. In organizations, we have policies and procedures and ways to monitor and enforce compliance. Systems of accountability help us to more consistently exhibit organizational and personal values and principles, by providing procedures and consequences (rewards and punishments) to guide behavior. More effective, however, than just procedures and consequences, is when an organization develops a culture of accountability at all levels of the hierarchy. Frequently, leaders at various levels of an organization are not consistent in holding themselves or their team members accountability. This arbitrariness erodes the sense of trust.

Is there risk from events that are outside of our control? Surely, there is. The most readily recognizable risk from chance events are natural disasters. Every year, we hear news of hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding and other natural disasters. Most of these do not seem to be the result of human action or inaction. However, there are also random or chance events that may have a remote relationship to some human action, even our own past actions. For example, building dams or making other structural changes in the land can affect flooding, for better or worse. But because we are often incapable of predicting the remote effects of particular human actions, many of these events for all intents and purposes must be considered random.

Is there anything we can do to reduce risk? Yes, there is a lot we can do in organizational life as well as in our personal lives, to reduce risk by developing trust. We can improve our own character and competence through reflection and practice, and we can build our social networks and organizational culture that promotes these values and behaviors. This includes putting in place systems of accountability to monitor and encourage compliance with positive values.

What do we do when trust fails or disaster strikes? For the risk that comes from failure of trust, when people do the wrong things through deficiencies of character or competence; or the risk from chance occurrences, we can use insurance to help us to recover from the damage, as much as that is possible. We can restore financial and physical assets, and sometimes health, but we cannot restore life. In all cases there are costs to failure of trust as well; and there are costs to managing risk from chance, including the cost of insurance itself.

It makes sense to do everything we can to manage trust as well as possible, since this is the risk over which we have the most direct control. We can also do as good a job as possible of developing effective methods of scanning our environment to get early warning of harmful chance occurrences. It may seem contradictory, but we should think positively and pursue happiness, while at the same time keeping an eye open for the potential impeding disaster.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can reach me at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Faith is both spiritual and physical

Faith is the final challenge on the path of wisdom. When logic and physical and social supports fail us in a critical time, we are forced to call upon an internal reserve that we were previously unsure existed. Walking in that valley of shadow we must find a direction and motivation beyond reason. In that valley of dry bones, logic says that we are dead, but yet we find something that nourishes us. This essay is a meditation on faith as both a spiritual and physiological experience.

Yes, even here, in what may seem like exceptionally bad circumstances, we must stand. No excuses! Wisdom is the ability to be present in our lives, regardless of the circumstances. As we do so, we gain some distance from the pain, and begin to experience it as separate from us; or at least just a small part of us. We begin to access energies that are primal and pure. From here, we can get to a place of positive emotions, where we can benefit from the unlimited natural resource of the creative imagination. This is a critical moment. That is why Assurance (faith) is important. Through faith, we are able to access knowledge and power that are not accessible in our ordinary cognitive and emotional state. It is both spiritual and physiological.

SOPPHIA, which means wisdom in Greek, is not just an intellectual model or concept. It must bear fruit and show results in life. The last letter in the acronym stands for Assurance or faith. In the Biblical book of Hebrews 11:1 “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In Protestant doctrine, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit gives the disciple the assurance of salvation. That process of finding inner assurance and comfort in the middle of a chaotic and frightening world is a process of transformation that is both spiritual and physiological. It is the same power that came upon the original disciples at Pentecost, when their fear disappeared and they became bold and able to act on their faith. It is the same power that artists and performers can access at peak moments. It is a process that is not confined or defined by any one religion. Rather it is a fundamental part of being human.

The challenge is to not accept the fear but to overcome it. We overcome it by seeing what is hidden behind it. The fear hides the awesome power that we first perceive as separate from ourselves. That is the holy awe that overcomes us in a transcendental or God-appearing moment. But if we face the fear, we experience the comforting presence; the assurance.

So, what is wrong with fear and its cousin anger? Aren’t they the natural physiological responses to threat to our safety and security? What is healthy fear and anger, as opposed to the unhealthy kinds? As Jimi Hendrix sang in Axis Bold As Love, the boldness comes though love, not from anger or fear. And it is in the boldness of love that we meet the source of being, our axis. Fear and anger signal a potentially urgent problem, to which we need to respond. But frequently in our complex social world, as opposed to our original African Savanna environment, fear and anger are based on distorted perceptions and interpretations.

Going past the anger and fear, we find in addition to love, humility. Humility allows us to accept help without humiliation. Compassion enables us to give help without pity. In those personally difficult times, we need to stay positive and keep working at it. Keep an open and creative mind, and try other things until something works. Even though it feels hopeless at times, eventually opportunities for fulfillment will be there, if we have the vision to see them and the ability to bring them to fruition.

To get past our dead-ends, each of us can ask ourselves, “What am I not seeing?” The barrier is within each of us. Something is getting in the way of reaching deeply enough into our inner resources to create a breakthrough. What is it? Perhaps it’s an unresolved relationship from the past; a parent or child, spouse or friend. Perhaps the lack of forgiveness and acceptance of the reality of who they were, and what that means for each of us as a person, and as a man or woman, is blocking our vision and energy. It could be anything in our lives.

To the extent that our light is shining, it means that we are connected to our internal energy source. This makes others attracted to us; because they are seeking that light that is also within them; though hidden. It must be possible to connect to that power source, regardless of the dismal external circumstances. That is also the meaning of faith or assurance. It is both a spiritual and a physiological state. It may also be that at least for some people, the only way to tap into that internal source is to be in such dire external circumstances that there is no alternative but to look within.

In Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross writes something to the effect that being close to the divine light can deepen one’s sense of being in darkness. An intruding image, a metallic dragon puppet sitting at the table, evokes fear. “What if I get sick?” This is real. This is it. Staying positive is not just a nice thing to do. It changes what we are able to perceive and therefore changes events. Another image appears, a ring of light; and then a building made of light. Be bold as love. We are on a quest. All of this is not accidental, though chance and probability have their roles.

Time may seem short, but we underestimate what can happen in a moment. Now there’s an image of pastel pink and blue swirls. There is someplace we are trying to get to that we could not get to without desperate measures. Learn from but do not regret the past.

Truth is as important as survival. Now we get to a place of peace and rest. There’s no need to do anything more.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can reach me at

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Freedom In Work

In the world of work, many people are searching for freedom; not so much freedom from work as freedom in work: the ability to work in a manner that has meaning and purpose as well as that meets our financial needs. The answer is not in sentimentality, but in truth. Knowing our true purpose, we must make hard choices about how to spend our time and energy; what compromises to accept, and which to avoid. Inevitably, there will be a need for personal adjustments; changes in activities and changes in our emotional reactions to those activities. In other words, some pain and discomfort is both unavoidable, and necessary for our growth and development into the persons we envision ourselves to be.

Learning to be comfortable and content doing the things that are actually good for us; that work to build the kind of life that we aspire to have; sometimes requires a kind of rewiring of neural circuits. It requires an approach similar to the one used for reducing anxiety. One technique is physical relaxation; slowing the breath; and tensing and relaxing muscles. The other is cognitive, catching the negative thinking that accompanies the anxiety, and countering it with positive emotions.

It is not just a matter of gritting our teeth and just getting the work done. It requires examining the anxious and negative emotions that we experience during the work activity and to transform those into positive emotions, or to reach a decision that we really should be doing something else. This is a gradual process, using the relaxation and cognitive restructuring techniques previously discussed.

A good example of emotional challenges in a job is in sales. Is it fear of the unknown; fear of being rejected, of being spoken to harshly; that makes for emotional difficulty? That fear can become the only guidance a salesperson has as to what needs to change in order to improve performance in talking with prospective clients. Fear impedes the subliminal communication that in ten seconds establishes a connection with another person. Solving this practical interpersonal riddle is the gateway to success.

It can help to have as a driver, the need to make a living and pay bills. This forces us to choose among the available means of making money. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages in terms of compensation/time efficiency, schedule flexibility, natural emotional appeal of the work activity, availability etc. All force us to make emotional adjustments of one kind or another. It is best to make a decision about which type of work fits best with the life purpose and life style to which we are committed.

We expect more from work that just financial compensation. Even if we do not articulate it, we tend to seek greater fulfillment in work, as in our other life activities, than just the basics of survival. That is why we have art, sports, religion and the other seemingly impractical activities that nourish the human spirit. In work, we are in some way attempting to bring something of our spirit and imagination into the pedestrian activity of making a living. When we become more present, we can discern the internal pains and discomfort that are our only guides in this unknown world, where what has only existed in imagination must be brought into reality. That is where the matter of truth comes in. Although a vision is emotional, it is not sentimental. Its power comes from truth. It is born from and embedded in the elemental soil of who we are, individually and collectively. The passion of the vision, whether expressed in love, faith, ideology, esthetics or mathematics, is both necessary for powerful commitment and frightening; because in giving up self-control there is the potential to release both creative and destructive energies; to lose ourselves in the outpouring.

But we must trust enough to let go. We must trust that something in ourselves that we do not fully know, that we cannot control, and that has lead is into error at least some of the time in the past. We are therefore talking about a kind of faith or trust. This trust is in part based on competence or skills; in the sense of a performance artist or athlete, who has practiced certain movements so often that they become ingrained in the memory of the body; the arms legs, hands and fingers. However, since they must be performed in a situation that is live and ever changing, there is a sense of risk and the unknown. This creates excitement, but also can involve some anxiety.

If we stay true to our visions and dreams, then opportunities will arise to join with others to create a new world of work; where the gifts of partners and team mates complement each other, and the load is easy to carry, because it is shared, and because it is a labor of love.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can reach me at

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Selling: The Last Stage of Innovation

In business, you sell an idea, a product or service, but in a friendship or romantic relationship you are offering yourself. Either way, you are selling, and there is nothing wrong with that. The important thing is to be a truth seeker in selling; that is, to aim to uncover the truth about the transaction and the relationship; whether or not the person can benefit from what you have to offer and vice versa; in other words whether there can be a fair exchange.

Every successful creative idea begin in imagination and ends in a sale, where someone else buys into or pays for the product or service generated from the idea, because it has value for them. This is the process of Innovation, one of the Seven Dimensions of Wisdom in my SOPPHIA system. SOPPHIA is the Greek word for wisdom, and each letter in the acronym represents a set of skills necessary for success. The I is for Innovation, the process of generating ideas, and developing them to the point where they create social and economic value. Therefore, selling is the end point of innovation.

Sales skills are made necessary in part by the human tendency to avoid doing certain things that we need to do or that are in our own best interest. We tend to avoid taking certain necessary or desirable actions such as getting life insurance, making a will, and making investments for the long term as opposed to focusing on short term costs. The goal in ethical selling should not be to convince people to buy things that they don’t want or need; but rather to find the people who can truly benefit from what you are offering. Because we are all bombarded with offers to purchase products and services, it requires sales skills to even get people to listen closely enough to determine whether or not they can benefit from your offering. You must overcome defensiveness and mistrust in order for the offer to be evaluated accurately.

In selling, fear of rejection is just the symptom; the real challenge is to overcome the focus on your own needs and to experience genuine empathy for the other person’s. Effective sales persons recognize that many of the people they approach won’t need or want the service or product; so it’s important to learn to not take their unwillingness as a personal insult.

You establish this self-confidence by examining your fears and motivations, and the value of what you are offering to others. This doesn’t mean puffing yourself up and denying your real concerns and feelings. Rather it means making an honest appraisal of your purpose, and how the activities you are engaged in relate to that purpose; to something that you are truly passionate about and that is of benefit to others as well as to yourself.

The truthful seller must be convinced that what he or she has to offer is valuable, in relation to the specific needs of the buyer. Prior reflection is helpful in revealing your true beliefs about the value of your offering, and the circumstances under which it can and cannot be helpful to someone. You then enter the interaction with the potential buyer with this clear understanding; and you don’t hesitate to ask questions that reveal the buyer’s need for your offering. Similarly, you know when your offering is not likely to be helpful to the buyer, and you can avoid crossing that ethical boundary.

As in any interaction, the best first step is usually to meet people where they are. Initially, self-protectiveness is one of the natural responses to being approached by someone we don’t know well, and therefore don’t trust. Having and showing sincere interest in the other person, their welfare, and their point of view, is the best way to begin establishing trust. If you don’t experience that interest in the other person naturally, then you need to work on yourself, and release the internal locks that are blocking your connection with others.

People’s defensiveness in reacting to salespeople is similar to what happens in psychotherapy. All of us want in some way to be healthy and to do the things needed to sustain our health. But we will throw up all manner of defenses to avoid facing certain truths about ourselves and changing behaviors that are necessary to achieve that goal. While not confronting our defenses directly, the therapist also does not accept our initial presentation as accurately representing our true needs and desires. Similarly, the skilled salesperson asks questions that overcome our initial objections and should help us to make a decision to buy something that we really need or want.

Of course, this process can be abused and become a means of manipulating people into buying things just to put money in the salesperson’s pocket. This unethical practice may be more characteristic of salespeople than say doctors or lawyers, but it is certainly not limited to the former. Whenever one is providing a service or product for sale, there is always the possibility and temptation to cheat the customer.

A buyer who feels pressured or manipulated into a purchase, as opposed to convincing themselves with the seller’s help, will experience resentment, and is likely to retaliate by later canceling the order or returning the product. An addition fallout is that the seller in such situations may feel guilt; or at least is not likely to experience the satisfaction that comes from helping another person to meet their needs. The fulfillment that comes from helping other people is what contributes to happiness, a sense of achievement and satisfaction with one’s work. Ultimately this is necessary for long term success.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can me via by web site at

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Wisdom of Gratitude and Humility

Even the most successful life, as measured by societal achievements, has a past littered with errors and random events, in addition to effective decisions and actions. Wisdom requires that we accept this mixed past and live authentically in the present. The emotions that enable us to accomplish this task are gratitude and humility. One alternative response, excessive pride in our accomplishments, requires us to be untruthful about the mistakes, close calls, and sheer luck that led us to the present. At the other extreme, an alternative emotional response is a sense of helplessness, insecurity or frustration at the number of things that are beyond our control. Gratitude and humility recognize the truth about our past while allowing us a sense of ease and achievement.

A clear example of how effective decisions and actions mix with luck and random events to produce success is seen is the story of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. If Gates had not been able to find and buy the MSDOS software from its creator for a small sum, and then license it to IBM, his life would have been very different, and we might all be using Macs instead of PCs for our computer needs. So do we just credit Gates with justifiable vision and shrewdness, but ignore the luck and randomness involved in this seminal event?

The ancients had an understanding of the role of randomness or chance in human events. Greek mythology humanized it as the fates, and in Chinese tradition, it plays a central role as memorialized in the I-Ching, Book of Changes. The West African Ifa tradition is another form of divination from different culture. Perhaps surprisingly, even in the Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of an all-powerful God, chance has a key role. In the Bible, the will of God was often divined by the tossing a kind of dice, named the Urim and Thummim, which gave the answer yes or no, guilty or innocent.

It seems that wisdom develops from encounters with what is beyond our control, and the need to be empowered despite those forces. When we examine human development over the life cycle, we expect people to develop wisdom with experience; particularly as they approach old age. We understand wisdom to be more than just knowledge or technique, though those are essential components. Intuitively, we understand wisdom as having a sense of integration of knowledge and experience resulting in an acceptance of oneself and one’s place in the universe. Psychologist Erik Eriksson best captured this in his last stage of adult development; which he characterized as a challenge of integrity versus despair, with the fruit of the conflict being wisdom. Once past middle age, a person begins to see the inevitability of death. The challenge is either to despair at mistakes and missed opportunities in one’s life or to integrate and accept all of one’s experiences and thus to achieve wisdom.

I think of wisdom as having seven dimensions, which I represent with the acronym SOPPHIA, the Greek word for wisdom. These are seven sets of skills or competencies that helps us achieve fulfillment. The first letter S represents emotional Self-awareness and Self-management. The O is for skills for understanding Others and managing relationships. The first P is for skills needed to clarify and pursue our life Purpose. The second P is for the ability to be Present and have Presence; to be reconciled with the past and open to the future. The H is for skills and habits necessary to maintain Health of body, mind and spirit. The I is for Innovation, the ability to generate creative ideas and to work with others to bring them into reality, where they can produce social and economic value. And finally, the A is for Assurance or faith, the ability to endure and persevere beyond reason.

Presence and Assurance are probably the two dimensions of wisdom that are most subtle and least reducible to a “how to” or technical method. They require an acceptance of the large role of chance, randomness, or fate in our lives. They require that we accept this without helplessness or fear. The emotions that help us to achieve this are gratitude and humility. We can deliberately practice the attitudes of gratitude and humility, which are not surprisingly very similar to the attitudes we adopt in meditation or prayer. With these attitudes, we induce a state of peace and acknowledgement of our limitations, but also feel empowered to make decisions and to take action to benefit others as well as ourselves.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can reach me at

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recession Blues: Finding the Joy and Love Amid the Misery

Poetry and song speak truths that are as necessary for our sustenance and survival as the facts of science and technology. The latter without the former make us zombies; living bodies without spirit. This is a prose poem on joy and love in the midst of the misery of recession.

Rich chords sound, colors dark and cloud-like as I search for a firm footing beyond the grip of negative emotions. Circumstances hover above like vultures, waiting patiently for me to die; but I keep on finding the next breath. My strength is gone; my resources expended. I am at the mercy of the generosity of strangers.

All but invisible, arrogance and ignorance keep me banging my head against the glass in a futile attempt to get free; not realizing that regardless of my circumstances, a change is still needed in me. The salt tears of self-pity and sentimentality only serve to further obscure my vision.

The change begins in me. Where does this sense of joy and humor come from in the middle of seemingly endless toil and setbacks. It rises up apparently out of nowhere. Perhaps it was a conversation with someone who told me about something good that happened to her. My situation hasn’t changed, but now I remember that good things do happen after all. Or perhaps it was just opening the window and letting some fresh air into the room. My emotional state and mental frame have changed.

As my perspective changes, I now see the tension that was causing my internal pain rather than experiencing that pain as the natural unalterable state of being. Now that I can separate myself from my pain, I can begin to make the internal adjustments that are necessary to get rid of it. Instead of anger and frustration, I now feel hope and optimism. Instead of suspicion, I feel generosity and love towards others.

Joy and love can’t wait for everything to be right in our circumstances. In fact, joy and love may be necessary preconditions to putting right the things that are within our ability to change. Joy and love are irrational and almost idiotic. They just spring up organically within us if we allow them; without explanation or justification. How do we explain the emotional richness of a piece of music or the smiling voice of a child? These help us to triumph over sickness and death and all the challenges in life.

Yes, we love manuals with tools and instructions that tell us how to…But sometimes, the only instruction is a dancer’s gesture. What does it mean? It either touches your heart or leaves you cold. Study your ancient texts and current operations manuals in order to learn how to love and to have joy. Still, it will take courage to take that step to make yourself vulnerable enough to experience them.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can reach me at

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Wisdom of the Body: Health and Sustainability

The wisdom of the body keeps us connected to health, to the earth, to all life and its sustainability. The seven letters in the acronym SOPPHIA represent the seven dimensions of wisdom; seven sets of skills for success and fulfillment. SOPPHIA means wisdom in Greek, and wisdom is the extract that results when we boil our collective human experience down into simple practical lessons for achieving a purposeful and fulfilling life. In our emphasis on technological advancement and intellectual abstraction, we often neglect the wisdom of the body.

The H in SOPPHIA stands for Health, the skills and habits that we need to develop in order to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. The second P in SOPPHIA represents Presence; the importance of learning to be fully present in our life. Being present means being in the body; breathing, sitting, standing, moving, listening to the body. Health and Presence go together, and are connected to the wisdom of the body, which teaches us patience and the joy of just being. It teaches that limits can be overcome, with patience, persistence and discipline, particularly when driven by a purpose that is connected to who we truly are as human beings.

The O in SOPPHIA represents Others; the skills needed to relate to others well and to manage relationships. Usually we think of others as other human beings. However, this should also be extended to relating to nature and to animals. This is an important part of the wisdom of the body, recognizing that we are physical beings in an ecology including other forms of life and a natural environment that must be sustained, in order to sustain human life.

The wisdom of the body informs us that we can change our emotional and mental state from frustration and even panic to something positive by something as simple slowing our breathing and tensing and relaxing our muscles. It tells us that the sense of hopelessness that we feel in a particular moment may just be physical exhaustion and lack of proper nutrition, rest, and exercise. It informs us that we can find our second wind and continue to run with vigor. Ultimately, the wisdom of the body tells us that life and death form a natural cycle; and that we can face the prospect of physical death without dying spiritually from fear and hopelessness.

As humans we have a tendency to become so absorbed in our minds and technology that we believe, and begin to act as though, our bodies and natural environment are peripheral to our existence. This is evidenced in the epidemic of obesity among children and adults, and our numerous ecological challenges resulting from neglect of our interdependence with our natural environment. Listening to the wisdom of the body is a discipline that we can practice individually and collectively. As we do so, it will change our emotional states, our thinking, and our actions to move us towards better health and increased sustainability.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can contact me about life and business coaching and consulting at

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Using Trust And Compassion To Get Past Glass Barriers To Innovation

Have you ever watched a bee or other insect wander into a room and become trapped by the concept of glass? I say that the bee is trapped by the concept of glass, rather than by the glass itself; because if it understood the difference between glass and air it could find its way back outside to freedom. Sometimes we are prevented from achieving our own purpose by the concept of glass. We have a misconception about the nature of the physical or social reality in which we are located. We are so certain that we understand our situation that we keep bouncing off the glass rather than accepting the fact of our ignorance. This glass barrier is an obstacle to innovation; to the generation of new ideas and the development and implementation of them to produce social and economic value; that is to impact our world. Innovation is one of the seven dimensions of wisdom in the SOPPHIA model of leadership development and coaching.

Trust and compassion create bonds of social opportunity, like the charge between neurons creates pathways for ideas, feeling and imagination. We can overcome the glass barrier through trust and compassion, which enable us to value and benefit from the ideas and perspectives of others; and which motivate us to share our own. You might respond that it is really self-interest that motivates us to cooperate with others to produce goods and services that create economic and social value. When we open the window to let the trapped bee out, we might just be interested in getting an annoying insect out of our space. But we know from both personal experience and from research that helping others produces positive emotions in helper.

One of the greatest challenges to innovation is not so much the generation of creative ideas, as developing them and bringing them into reality as services or products that produce social and economic value. This is a social activity, not the activity of a lone creative genius. Even in the conceptual phase, shaping an idea that has social potential, as opposed to a purely self-indulgent fantasy requires the engagement of the social world with the imagination. This is clearly true in science and the creative arts. For example, an artist such as Beethoven or Miles Davis or a scientist like Einstein, did more than create from their imagination, they interacted creatively with their contemporaries as well as with the works of those who lived before them, and then made a conceptual leap that was their own contribution.

Certainly self-interest and competition also drive us to innovate. But cooperation with others is essential to realizing successful results. Trust and compassion are necessary to form the bonds for team work and partnership, just as they are for friendship and love. When we run into glass barriers, and our conception of reality blinds us to other possibilities, trust and compassion enable us to accept the perspective of someone else, and encourage them to share possible solutions with us. Even in a work place where people are paid for their contributions, you can’t buy a certain level of engagement and motivation. It must be based on authentic trust and compassion.

Trust and compassion are built through practice. This includes the intentional practice of maintaining a positive emotional and mental state, and overcoming the fears and inhibitions that can limit our ability to experience trust and compassion. It means overcoming fears from past situations where others took advantage of us. It means being able to deal with the reality of evil in the world without becoming hardened and cynical. Maintaining a positive state also enables us to develop our gifts and skills, and to find our clear purpose. It also includes the intentional practice of building and maintaining relationships. Clarifying our purpose, developing our skills, and our ability for trust and compassion make our relationships both more enjoyable and more fruitful. With positive relationships extending in all directions, like connected neurons in the brain, we are more likely to overcome glass barriers to innovation, and the successfully realize our ideas and our purpose.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, for coaching or consulting, you can reach me at

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Making Sense Out Of Chaos And Asking For Help

There’s certainly wisdom in the serenity prayer used by Alcoholics Anonymous, on the issue of individual responsibility and choice versus dealing with what is beyond our control. We’ll not be very effective if we don’t make this distinction between what we can control and what we cannot, and target our energies and efforts to the areas to where we can have an impact.

Achieving our purpose usually requires the involvement and support of other people, the application of other resources, and a particular arrangement of events or circumstances. We can clarify our purpose, and begin development of creative ideas toward its achievement. Soon, however, other people, organizations and circumstances come into play in order to continue on the path of innovation, resulting in a viable service or product that creates value for others, and therefore generates income. This is true whether we creating a work of art or engaged in a more pedestrian activity.

The sense of Assurance (or faith) helps us to be hopeful and positive about the things that are beyond our control. The discipline of being present helps us to enter into and remain in a positive emotional and mental state, which improves our judgment and our ability to make good choices about where to apply our time, energy and other resources.

Assurance also enables us to tolerate the sometimes painful tension between the vision of our purpose, and the reality of our distance from it. Maintaining awareness of both of these conflicting situations creates momentum towards resolution; that is towards the realization of our vision.

In striving to attain and remain in a positive mental and emotional state, how do we avoid the trap of hedonism; of separating pleasure and pain from an ethical foundation? That is, how do we avoid just pursuing feeling good while ignoring real problems that require attention? Clarity of purpose should help with this, because true purpose always has aspects related to values and ethics. The kind of purpose that generally inspires us involves someone or something beyond oneself; and producing benefits for others, not just ourselves. Yes, that is a value judgment. Part of being human is to make value judgments. I suggest we aim to make them inspirational and beneficial, rather than destructive.

It’s also important to know how to ask for help. There will be times when we’ve come to the end of our resources and can go no further. No matter how creative and brilliant our ideas, we’ll need other people to bring them into reality. We shouldn’t let the fact that we need help to realize our vision make us underestimate the value of what we have to offer.

We must remain present. Don’t keep looking over our shoulder at the mistakes that we’ve made; the poor or less than optimal decisions. We’ve made plenty of mistakes, and we’ll make others in the future. We can recognize the errors but let go of regret in order to be fully present, and perceive and grasp the opportunities and decisions of today. We can be grateful for whatever resources we have, even if it’s little more than our minds and bodies and the important people in our lives. That is plenty with which to face whatever challenges beset us.

In the middle of the chaos, there will be those things that still make sense. In music, for example, there are keys and scales, not just a bunch of notes played randomly. Once we find the key or scale, sounds that otherwise seem random make sense. There are keys and scales in life also, often more difficult to discern amid events that appear random or chaotic. Sometimes we find these patterns and become oriented more by feel that from logic, or rather from the logic of emotions and sensations rather than that of reason and thought.

SOPPHIA The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom is like a seven note scale that plays in the key of life. SOPPHIA, which is the Greek word for wisdom, represents seven sets of skills or competencies shown by research to enhance leadership performance: S - for self; O - for Others; P - for Purpose; P - for Presence; H - for Health; I - for Innovation; and A - for Assurance or faith. It can help organize vast and seemingly chaotic elements of life circumstances into understandable patterns related to skills that help you achieve your purpose.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, for coaching or consulting, you can reach me at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Achieving Success Requires Purpose, Creativity, Help From Others, and Luck

Achievement of any significance requires a commitment to a purpose, creativity, effective and timely help from other people, and luck. All of these challenge the self, requiring endurance, courage, patience, hope and again patience; because sometimes it takes a long time.

Commitment to Purpose enables us to keep continuously improving. For example, what is it that distinguishes good and great music in a particular genre from other music in that same category? It has both technical and expressive components and form and content that together create a distinctive and articulate voice. It’s not about convincing others, but about breaking through our internal barriers to reach that authentic expression. When we get there, others will also be able to hear it.

To get there we must continually face that blank page that can be a doorway past boredom and frustration to a new world of ideas. Or even better, it can be a tunnel or bridge to your destination, when all paths in the physical world are blocked. Sometimes it seems that our brain cells get lazy, and can’t find any new ways of connecting. Despite our hundred billion neurons, and their almost infinite possible combinations, we keep repeating the same patterns that have not been able to get us past this point. We have to break out of the patterns of rational thinking, and enter the realm of creativity and imagination; where we reestablish the mindset of a child, and allow any combination of images, sounds and sensations, and any train of thought, no matter how fantastic.

Music and the other arts are helpful in this process of engaging the non-rational mind. It’s curious since music is structurally quite rational and mathematical, that it can induce emotional and mental states so different from linear thinking. There is an inner freedom that is possible; where self-imposed constraints and inhibitions that limit our creative potential can be released. We can discover new patterns of conceptualizing that contribute to our overall understanding of life and existence. Each person is thus his or her own intrepid explorer, with a unique entry way into this new unknown continent; an inner space as vast as outer space.

The SOPPHIA model provides a tool, an internal geographical positioning system (GPS) to guide us as we explore this inner space, using The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom. SOPPHIA, which is the Greek word for wisdom, represents seven sets of skills or competencies shown by research to enhance leadership performance: S - for self; O - for Others; P - for Purpose; P - for Presence; H - for Health; I - for Innovation; and A - for Assurance or faith.

The sensations of inner tension and release can also guide us. It’s important to continue on, past the point where we feel stuck, because that is when we really reach new territory. Like a runner getting a second wind, we reach a more efficient level of functioning, where breathing and oxygenation of cells are synchronized, and we get a natural high; a sense of excitement at possibilities unfolding.

When the dam breaks, thoughts and images flow in a jumbled chaotic mass, more like lava than water; including jagged boulders, as well as liquefied rock. Let it come out as it does. Don’t worry about shaping it. That can come later. Don’t reject any thought or image as unworthy of expression. Don’t be cowed by fear. Don’t be afraid either to stand alone, or to be open to others. The biggest challenge you face is the power of your own emotions. Don’t be overwhelmed by what you feel.

The realization of our ideas and vision requires the help of other people and involves a random element of luck or chance. This can in turn become a test of our resilience. How do we avoid being stuck in feelings of helplessness and frustration, when we have to rely on other people, and wait for opportunity? We can induce the comfort of Assurance or faith by practicing being Present; through meditation, contemplation, prayer or whatever method is most workable for each of us. We can’t force opportunity. We can prepare for it and we can position ourselves to receive it, but we can’t make it happen when we want it to. Opportunity usually comes through other people’s recognition of the value that we have to offer. But don’t let lack of that recognition cause you to devalue yourself. Let it motivate you to get better: to become clearer about your purpose, and to hone your expression of that purpose.

Be courageous. Know that you are not alone. Others can benefit from the fruits of your struggle, just as you benefit from the work of others. Eventually the joy and excitement of teams or masses of people moving in a common direction with come. Meanwhile, you must find that joy and excitement in yourself in relation to the activities involved in your purpose. You must be able to do this, because it is a necessary precursor to getting other people excited about what you are doing. Get past the negative defeatist thinking and feelings. The joy is there in you. Uncover it. Believe in it. Fear begins to subside when faced. Once fear declines, joy will surface. It also helps to enjoy and celebrate other people’s victories. Your turn will come.

This is actually a process of rediscovery of the Self, and in it you may feel like a stranger to yourself. This is because the Self you are becoming is different from the one you have been. With knowledge from positive and cognitive psychology, we can look at internal experiences with greater objectivity by seeing that feelings and thoughts or cognitions are tied together. We can change one by changing the other. With practice, we can learn to maintain a positive mental and emotional state, which enables the development and implementation of creative ideas; resulting in innovation, value creation and success.

I'm Dr. Bernard Brookes. For coaching, contact me at

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Winning In Spirit When Logic And Your Senses Say You’ve Lost

At one time or another, each of us has faced, is facing or will face a situation in which we hit a wall and don’t see how to get past it. It could be a challenge in business or career, or it could be a challenge in personal life. For example, you have what you think is a great service or product concept, but have not yet been able to generate the revenue or other financial support to build it into a viable business; and time and resources are running out. Or you’re unable to solve a technical, quality, customer service, or staffing problem and the situation has become critical. Or you have lost your job or business and have been unemployed for many months. It’s at such times that we need to reach beyond the evidence from logic and our senses, and find the strength to persevere, and to open our minds to creative new possibilities.

It requires belief that such options are possible even though you can’t perceive them logically or with your senses. A suspension of disbelief is needed. All of the negative emotions and attitudes that have accumulated as a result of frustration with the problem or problems must be overcome. You overcome these by looking closely at them; observing them; sensing them fully. As you do this, their sense of inevitability will dissolve, and you’ll realize that though the facts may not change, your emotional reactions to those facts are not inevitable. You can cling to those emotions and accept them as uncontrollable forces that imprison you, or you can let them enter your awareness and then pass on. With practice, it becomes a matter of your choice.

These emotions such as frustration, helplessness, anger, hopelessness, are actually the seeds of the solution to your problem. They are your internal representation of the external challenge that you face. Getting a handle on that internal representation can give you leverage to solve the external problem. I recognize that the natural tendency is to want to continue to obsess about the external problem, and to think that the way to make these negative feelings go away is to first solve the external challenge. But it’s more likely to work in the reverse order.

In the SOPPHIA coaching model, there are 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven areas of skills or competencies that lead to success. The last of these, represented by the ‘A’ in SOPPHIA, is Assurance or faith. It’s the ability to seemingly reach beyond yourself when your resources are exhausted, and find the motivation to continue and to achieve success. This assurance or faith may be religious or non-religious, and can be defined and experienced in any number of ways; but it has a quality that defies logic and the evidence of the senses.

You may have a particular activity that helps you to call on this additional resource. It may be meditation, prayer, a walk in the woods, exercise or something else. For me it can be all of those things, but the primary activity is writing; a process of finding, bringing into awareness and articulating, things of which I was previously unaware. Find what works for you.

There are three main aspects to this process of activating assurance or faith. The first is to change your emotional and mental state. As you engage in this process through your particular activity, you’ll become calmer, less anxious, and begin to feel more at peace, or assured. Your external situation hasn’t changed, but your emotional reaction to it has changed. Once you enter this more peaceful state, the second aspect of the process is activated. This is the generation of new ideas. You’ll begin to see possible options of which you were previously unaware. These may involve small steps towards solving your external problem, or they may be more dramatic. This leads to the third step of assurance; which is to pursue the ideas while retaining a positive emotional state. Some of these ideas will bear fruit, and some will wither. The key is to not allow this winnowing process to push you back into your previous negative emotional state.

You’ll win in spirit and ultimately in your life situation if your continue to engage in this process of activating assurance or faith; to change to a positive emotional state, to generate new ideas, and to pursue these ideas through trial and error while retaining a positive emotional state.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, you can contact me for business of life coaching at

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Both Work And Love, The Key Element Is Compassionate Commitment To Purpose

Two of the most important domains in life are love and work. Based on how we spend our time and what we sing and make movies about, this certainly seems to be the case. In work as in love, it is the element of unselfishness or giving of oneself that leads to a higher experience; to a sense of being part of something greater than yourself; what some might call self-actualization or transcendence.

Love can be seen in various contexts such as romantic love, love of a child, a parent, sibling or friend; or love of all humanity. The common element is genuine unselfishness or self-sacrifice, in which you place the interest of the loved person(s) above your own; sometimes to the point of not just inconvenience, but actual deprivation, pain and even death. This is certainly different from being passionately interested in another person primarily as a means of satisfying your own desires. While there are certainly self-serving aspects of any close relationship, we would probably not call it love if there wasn’t some element of unselfishness or self-sacrifice.

In work, this giving of oneself occurs in at least two ways. One is commitment to excellence in a particular kind of activity. To become very good at any complex activity requires a high degree of self-sacrifice. For example, to become a great musician or athlete requires giving up some social activities and dedicating yourself to practicing. This also means overcoming the barriers of physical and emotional discomfort that are involved in this kind of discipline. A similar thing is true of other professions.

The second kind of giving involved in work is being of service to others. This includes both serving or supporting team members, and serving the customers or users of our products or services. In business, the highest form of this servanthood may be exemplified in excellent customer service, team work and leadership. In the public sector, the highest form is probably the self-sacrifice and heroism of the soldier and other public servants.

It is, however, important to distinguish the commitment and self-sacrifice of love and servanthood from the martyrdom seen in fanaticism and obsession. Possibly the best concept to distinguish the two is compassion. In fanaticism and obsession, a person is blinded by ideology or passion and has become unbalanced in themselves; almost mechanical and inhuman, and lacking in compassion. In love and servanthood, the person is self-aware, emotionally self-disciplined and compassionate; and acts unselfishly or self-sacrificially while remaining in touch with their own humanity.

In a broad sense, one could say that there are really two kinds of work and two kinds of love relationships. The first kind of work is what we do out of the necessity of making a living, and the second kind is how we pursue our purpose or calling and in doing so express who we are, and make our imprint on the world. Love similarly can be a pragmatic relationship in which we get sexual gratification, raise children, and provide financial support, or it can be something the poets and song writers commemorate as a joining of souls, minds and bodies. In both love and work, we seek both to meet basic needs and to reach higher ground.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, you can contact me for life and business coaching at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Impatience Can Be A Greater Challenge To Success Than Fear

Just like the plant is able to turn sunlight, water, carbon monoxide and soil nutrients into leaves, fruit and grain;  by engaging in that creative activity that is our purpose, we turn a confused jumble of life experiences into something that is energizing and mentally and emotionally nutritious; and even something that could change our physical lives and the lives of others for the better. Purpose is one of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom. Presence is another Dimension of Wisdom that is particularly involved in settling into that place in ourselves where ideas and images flow. We can sometimes forget that our main challenge is with our emotions rather than with what is happening in the world. It is through feeling and refining our emotional reactions to our situations that we find the most effective ways to act in the world.

Instead of doing this, we sometimes tense up, push buttons, and take actions driven by impatience and apprehension. Some of these actions appear to produce results, while others do not. But overall, we feel frustrated by the constraints that we are under. We’ve gone past fear and now are dealing more with impatience, frustration and anger. The anger can be energizing, but can also radiate in raw and undeveloped forms that are unproductive; such as hitting something out of frustration. It certainly feels better than being paralyzed by fear and anxiety, but it can be just as deadly.

In dealing with the frustration, it’s important to acknowledge the areas where we need to get better in the quality and depth of what we produce out of my creative ideas and energies. We must remember that the grace of the dancer reflects freedom wrung from discipline and constraint. We haven’t had as much patience with applying the discipline and working through the constraint as we need to. A bit more emotional honesty is the balm that must be applied to the bruise of impatience. Impatience is essentially us saying that we have produced more than reality says that we have. So which is correct, our perception that we should be further along, or the reality of where we are?

If wisdom is more about being than knowing, then it’s essential to become present in whatever is our current reality; in a sense to accept it; to settle into it; even to feel its painful, rough edges. As we do so, we find that we make external adjustments. For a simple example, we may drink more water, because we had really become dehydrated, and that was one source of our impatience and discomfort. There’s something in us that seeks a way of avoiding having to go through our current experiences and feel the accompanying emotions. It’s actually another kind of fear; an internal shrinking away from the work of coming to terms with ourselves; a bit of internal cowardice that must be overcome.

We can only teach others what we are ourselves willing to learn. That takes us back to the Self, another Dimension of Wisdom; to Shakespeare’s “to thine own self be true” and Michael Jackson’s “man in the mirror”. No one else can do the work for us. In fact, no one may even know whether or not we’re doing the work, or just pretending. But we will each know, and ultimately, it will be reflected in the quality of the work we produce.

Freedom begins with unlocking our own mental prisons as the bard Bob Marley sang. Personally, this has been one of the most difficult challenges I have faced so far. It’s much more subtle and treacherous than outright terror. We may not always be able to manipulate our situation in the world, but there is never an excuse for not doing something with ourselves; for not using the time to be present, and by being present, to become a little better at being authentically ourselves; and thus being able to hear and to tap into that creative source that flows through each of us; ultimately also producing something that is of value to others.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. For life and business coaching, you can reach me at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When Jobs And Profits Disappear, Courage And Innovation Are Needed

In times of economic scarcity, with many experiencing job loss and companies seeing declining sales and profits, it requires courage and innovation to avoid either taking desperate actions that violate one’s purpose and values, or becoming paralyzed by a sense of helplessness. Rather, it’s essential to keep trying different paths that move in the direction of your purpose, in a deliberate and confident manner. Therefore innovation becomes even more necessary than usual.

The battleground for the struggle between courage and fear is the Self. Self is the first of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies necessary for success. Self is represented by the S in acronym SOPPHIA, the Greek word for wisdom. Skills of self-awareness and self-management are severely tested during these challenging economic times. The I in SOPPHIA represents Innovation, the ability to generate ideas and to develop them into services and products that create value for others. Skills of Innovation can be brought to bear once courage has gained the advantage over fear. One of the P’s in SOPPHIA represents Purpose, another of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom. Clarity about your life Purpose serves as a compass or GPS during turbulent times.

If you are in this type of situation either as a job seeker, business owner, or business leader, you may well experience moments of intense fear; fear of failure and of the unknown; fear of not being able to find the resources to sustain yourself, others who depend on you, or the business. You may also feel regret, resentment or self-pity about your situation. But all these feelings are challenges that must be overcome in order to see and grasp the opportunities that will arise. They are reactions to your situation, and are not identical with your situation. You can change these emotional reactions with practice, and that is usually necessary in order to successfully deal with a challenging situation. You also will need to act even while you still have doubts and are not fully confident in your ability to succeed. Yes, opportunities for jobs and for profits are fewer in times like these, but they still exist. It requires more resolve and creativity than usual to attain them, and that is your task. All your resources and sensibilities must be applied deliberately.

Don’t become complacent either, waiting for someone else to take action. Action is required of you, but it needs to be thoughtful action. There will be times when you don’t have any idea of what will work, and neither do your advisors. At such times, it is necessary to take a few steps in some direction, your best guess, and observe the results. Such small experiments can help you to find the correct path without too much cost in time or other resources.

Remember that the best value proposition you can offer to an employer or a customer is still innovation: that is, the generation of creative ideas, and the development of these into services and products that are valuable to others. You must use your own store of creativity to add something to the value creation process for the customer or the employer. Therefore, it’s important to keep your mind and emotions in that energetic, open and creative space, and to also apply that creativity to the process of marketing your value to employers or customers. Keep the focus on meeting their needs rather than your own. By doing this successfully, you will be able to add value and therefore you will be compensated for that.

If you feel like you’re at a dead end and think that you have a full perspective on the situation, remind yourself that there is always more going on than you know. After all, you’re not God. Get past your fear. Get past yourself. Look around with new eyes. There are possibilities and resources that you have access to that you are not using. It’s not going to be easy. But you will get it done. I tell you this from both personal and professional experience.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. To get coaching from me, go to

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Partnership And Mentoring: Helping Shape Purpose And Innovation

It comes as no surprise that when Daniel Levinson did his ground breaking studies reported in his books The Stages of a Man’s Life and the Stages of a Woman’s life, he found that mentoring played a significant role in the life and career development of the participants. Beginning with parents and teachers, we each understand from our own experiences how important it is to have the guidance and support of more experienced people, who nurture us at critical points. A business partnership can also serve a similar function, where two people or more provide each other mutual support and guidance from a complementary set of strengths.

Sometimes mentoring transforms into partnership as the junior person matures. This is what I experienced in the longest lasting business relationship in my life. It began when I was in graduate school and worked closely with a professor, whom I will call Henry. Henry became my mentor in the profession of psychology. We became friends, and then I became his flute teacher; so we had a bit of role reversal. Eventually, I went to business school and then we decided to form a business partnership with a third person. That person dropped out after two years and Henry and I spent 17 years building two multi-million dollar businesses, before going our separate ways.

The relationship factor represents one of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom in the SOPPHIA model. These are seven sets of skills or competencies linked to business and individual success. The word Sophia is Greek for wisdom, and the ‘O’ in the acronym SOPPHIA, stands for Others – i.e. relationships. The close relationships that occur in mentoring and partnerships help us to walk the delicate path between living our purpose and creating value for others through the process of innovation. Purpose and Innovation are two other of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom that promote business and personal success.

There is indeed a delicate path to walk between living your purpose and creating value for others. We shouldn’t assume that just because you are passionate about an activity, that it is your purpose or calling or that you can use it to create value for others. First, purpose includes not just passion, but a commitment to achieving excellence. Therefore competence is also required, in addition to passion. But even if you are passionate about something and excel in it, this may still not result in value creation for others. Value creation depends on meeting other people’s needs and wants.

Needs and wants are quite complex. Even a need that is absolute, such as the need to eat food to survive, can be expressed and satisfied in seemingly infinite ways. So satisfying the need to eat becomes a matter of taste and fashion. That you are passionate about and excellent at creating certain delicacies, will only be perceived as valuable if they meet the prevailing taste and fashion of a community of potential customers enough to generate demand.

Mentoring and partnerships help both to clarify purpose and to socialize it. They get us both into and out of our own heads. They help us to channel our sense of purpose into forms that are more likely to be of value to other people. They connect that inner flame with the needs and tastes of the community of others who are likely to become the customers of our successful innovation.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. To learn more go to

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Organizational Change Management And The 7 Dimensions Of Wisdom

There are a number of models that are helpful in facilitating a major organizational change, whether this involves changing information technology systems, organizational structure, work processes and roles, or a combination of these. However, since rapid change is becoming a regular feature of organizational life rather than the exception, it seems optimal to use a model for change management or change leadership that is applicable to the ongoing state of striving for excellence in achieving the mission, and living the vision of the organization. SOPPHIA, the Greek word for wisdom, is an acronym representing what I call The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies for achieving individual and organizational success: S - for self; O - for Others; P - for Purpose; P - for Presence; H - for Health; I - for Innovation; and A - for Assurance. This essay explores how the SOPPHIA model can help us to deal with rapid change as the normal state of affairs.

The SOPPHIA model is just a conceptual framework for organizing skills or competencies that have been researched for many years, have been shown to enhance individual and organizational performance, and have been incorporated into performance management systems by large corporations and governments. In addition to the seven sets of skills represented by the SOPPHIA concept, research in both change management and in performance excellence have highlighted the importance of communication, engagement, and measurement. We can think of these are three major streams of activity that are necessary to support better organizational outcomes. Using phrases that together can become a call for action, I name them respectively:

• Make it clear!

• Engage and support! and

• Keep Score!

“Make it clear!” immediately raises the question of just what is it that we need to make clear. In other words, what is our purpose? Purpose is of course one of the seven dimensions of wisdom, the first P is SOPPHIA. Purpose is more than a goal. It is a goal or set of goals that are deeply rooted in the core values, vision and mission of an organization. Therefore in a time of major change, the leadership must craft and transmit a compelling explanation of what needs to be done and why, and be continually communicating it in both actions and words.

The first challenge to be overcome is in the Self, the first of the seven dimensions of wisdom. Just as in ancient times when the prophet or shaman received a vision that required the people to radically change what they had been doing previously, both leaders and followers will experience resistance to change based on fear, habit and custom. This requires finding the courage in oneself to face the unknown. At the same time, helping others to overcome their fear and inertia requires excellent relationship skills; and this is the dimension of wisdom represented by the O in SOPPHIA, standing for Others. Employees’ fear of change is often based on concerns about their jobs being eliminated, or that they will not be competent in the new ways of working. These and other issues must be addressed directly and leaders must show employees a believable path to success for them.

“Make it clear!” morphs into “Engage and Support!” as it become necessary not just to tell people about the new direction, but to coach and teach them; to bolster their courage, deepen their commitment, and to give them the tools to succeed in this new world that is being created. Two other dimensions of wisdom come into play here: Presence, the second P in SOPPHIA; and Assurance. Presence is the ability to be effectively in the present, to really listen to others, and to inhabit one’s own body and senses, rather than being distracted and mentally somewhere else. Presence brings calm and focus and increases the capability to deal with challenges. Assurance similarly is the ability to call on resources seemingly beyond oneself and others. This is faith of some kind that generates hope, endurance and perseverance even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.

And remember, while all this is going on, we still need to Keep Score! Measuring reactions and results is necessary in order to know where we stand in relation to our goals. Ongoing measurement is also important to give clarity, direction and hope, as well as to keep expectations within the realm of what can be achieved. Measurement also tells us what is working and what needs to be improved. Improvement is dependent on Innovation, the I in SOPPHIA. Innovation includes the generation of ideas and the development of those ideas into value-creating solutions. Innovation flourishes in an environment where there is a clear and compelling Purpose, and the Presence and Assurance to help hope to triumph over fear and despair.

The one dimension of wisdom not yet discussed is Health, the H in SOPPHIA. Particularly during times of stress, it is important to remember that we are human beings, not computers. Promoting and maintaining physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is essential to achieving and sustaining high levels of performance.

Therefore, in the context of ongoing rapid change, remember to “Make it clear!”, “Engage and support!”, “Keep score!” and call on all The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom represented by the word SOPPHIA.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. Learn more about leading change at

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Customer Relationships And Value Creation: The Fundamentals Are Trust, Generosity, Courage And Wisdom

When we meet in the marketplace of things and ideas, we must have something of value to contribute. That can only come from the somewhat mysterious process in which we digest and reflect on our own experience and that of others. It requires settling into the stillness of being present, where we are reconciled with our known past and unknown future. We go past exhaustion and pain to the source of energy and creativity in the present. That’s where ideas come from. And ideas diligently pursued and developed become innovations. I consider Innovation to be one of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies for success.

Customer relationships are at the core of it. So let’s start with basic question. What is a customer relationship? A potential customer is someone with a need or want, that your service or product (the result of your innovation) can satisfy. For a transaction to occur that can develop into a relationship over time, the potential customer must become aware of the need or want, and of your service or product as one possible way of satisfying it at an acceptable cost.

After awareness, must come trust; the confidence that buying the product or service from you will lead to satisfaction. A free sample or some other way of experiencing the product or service prior to purchase can be a part of establishing trust. Another way is through having a relationship prior to the purchase. This can either be a direct relationship with the provider of the service or product, or through referral from or affiliation with another person or company that is already trusted. The bottom line is that you receive trust because you have given. Therefore trust is related to generosity.

How do you establish trust with another person? It begins with generosity but also requires courage. Courage is required to overcome your fears and desires about your own needs, and to become authentically generous and compassionate about other people’s needs. That is the struggle with self. We are each motivated in part by the desire for financial security; to obtain resources for our own benefit and for the benefit of those close to us. We may also have other motivations such as for power and prestige. Without denying the reality of these motivations, we must still develop the courage to look past these needs and desires to focus on the needs and interests of others. The skills for self awareness and self management, on one hand, and the skills of relating to people, on the other, are two more of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom.

To develop a service or product that truly adds value, you must get past self-interest and become engage in the creative process; i.e. lose yourself in the passion for creating something. This is the first act of generosity. Though you may expect to be repaid ultimately for that generosity, the passion and commitment required to perfect your gift is more than can be generated by merely the hope of financial gain. In other words, purpose and passion are required; a commitment to excellence and to producing results.

The customer relationship is built through face-to-face interaction, through one-way media including television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and now more frequently through the dialog enabled by the social media. Regardless of the medium, there are still human beings on both sides, and relationships are ultimately based on fundamentals qualities such as generosity, courage, and trust.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can learn more the coaching and consulting I offer based on The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom at Sopphia is spelled here with two P’s; and it is the Greek word for wisdom.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Business Owners and Executives: Finding Joy In Your Journey And Clarity About Your Destination

When you’re running a business or leading a large organization, the level of daily activity can be so intense and absorbing, that there is little time or energy to either enjoy the work itself, or to reflect on where you are heading in the long run. Or perhaps your situation is one where you are alternately extremely busy and very bored. Yes, in the long run we are all dead, as John Maynard Keynes said. But that’s not what we consider our destination or our destiny.

These two seemingly conflicting emphases on the present versus the future highlight the importance of Purpose and Presence in achieving success and fulfillment. Purpose is the commitment to excellence and to producing meaningful results. The key word here is meaningful. Sometimes we are producing results that meet some external measure, but are not ultimately meaningful to us within the full scope of our lives. Presence is the ability to be effectively in the moment, bringing your full attention to what is happening now. This is different from being focused, which can be accomplished just by developing tunnel vision. Presence implies a joy in inhabiting your body and perceiving and mindfully interacting with people and events. Other people can see when we are truly present, and listening.

Purpose and Presence are two of what I call The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies for success. Purpose and Presence are skills that you can develop with practice. You no doubt have goals such as accumulating a certain amount of wealth, attaining positions of greater power and influence, and helping others. But to shape those goals into a life purpose requires disciplined and courageous reflection, followed by decisions and action. It includes placing these career or business goals within the context of the other aspects of your life beyond work; because fulfillment requires that integration.

As you make progress in clarifying your Purpose, you realize that Purpose and Presence are not contradictory, but rather are compatible. Clarifying Purpose actually clears a space in which you can be present. This means making decisions about how to use your limited time; rather than trying to do everything. You keep the things that are essential to your Purpose and let some other things go. With some of that available time, you can commit to practicing being present; breathing, smelling the roses, being with those you love.

It’s difficult for any of us to make these kinds of life changes on our own. As someone who built two multi-million dollar businesses, I know that from personal experience. That’s why life coaching and executive coaching can be helpful. Depending on your particular goals and situation, with the help of a coach you can focus primarily on work and business issues, or use a more holistic approach that includes balancing the other aspects of your life.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, to contact me about coaching using The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom, go to

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It’s OK To Admit To Sometimes Being The Cowardly Lion

If we leave the highways and main roads where everyone travels, and explore that unknown path that is uniquely ours, it’s Ok to admit that we will sometimes get lost and become afraid. Being the main character in our own comedy-drama, we like to always remain the hero in our, and other people’s, eyes; but acknowledging the less than heroic truth may be exactly what is necessary to get to us to our true destination.

When our attempts to achieve a goal are repeated frustrated, we tend to internalize that experience and develop feeling of powerlessness even when external obstacles are no longer present. This phenomenon, called learned helplessness, was discovered by psychologist Martin Seligman in the 1960’s. This emotional reaction corresponds to a pessimistic or depressed attitude, in which obstacles are seen as personal failures, and as pervasive and permanent. In addition to being painful, this pessimistic or depressed attitude also leads to unmotivated behavior, in which we don’t explore, perceive or take advantage of available opportunities for success.

Though most of us will experience this sense of powerlessness and become unmotivated and intimidated in the face of repeated frustration, we can do something about it. The first step is to recognize that we have become the cowardly lion. As in many things, self awareness is the beginning of wisdom. In fact, I consider self-awareness and self-management as the first of 7 Dimensions of Wisdom. By becoming aware of how we are feeling and behaving, we begin to see that we have some other alternatives.

The future isn’t fixed. We’re painting it right now in the present using the colors of both our imaginations and reality. Words and images in thought and reflection become things in the world. We can build the bridge from here to where we want to be out of images and ideas made real through courageous reflection followed by action. When we think that we’re at a dead end, it is just a temporary failure of creativity which can be overcome.

As we observe our pessimistic, helpless and hopeless reactions, we gain some distance from them and we can challenge them rather than accepting them. We can learn to use the information we’re receiving that our particular methods of trying to reach a goal aren’t working; but at the same time we can deny the pessimistic reaction that nothing we can do will work. In most cases, our attitude and behavior will need to change before the external problem or obstacle can be overcome. As we perceive the cycle of negative thinking, we can identify it for what it is, a distortion of reality. As self-awareness reveals the distortions in our thinking and emotions, the grip of fear and helplessness is loosened, and we can begin to experiment with new actions aimed at achieving our goals.

We’re all capable of making mistakes in our lives or of experiencing failure due to external circumstances, and we are also capable of overcoming these situations. It requires being open to possibilities and trusting the creative process. We must believe that it is possible to get there and be willing to walk across that bridge. Sometimes we get tired and begin to believe that we can’t get to the other side of the pain and fear to freedom and our second wind. In fact, we become lost in the pain, and forget what it’s like to feel good and confident and right with ourselves. With practice we can learn to remember more quickly, that it is possible to acknowledge the real danger or obstacle, but to not remain afraid; to stay with the joy and the light and to find a bridge across the abyss.

I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes You can learn about the life and business coaching I provide at