this month's issue:
that August is a holiday month for so many, I thought I'd devote
this issue to dynamic living concerns relating to work and the workplace.
Something to cogitate on while you partake of your ease . . .
- The Resident Quotation:
from Martha Graham
How to manage your manager
- A Principle of Dynamic
Living: Put 'Life's-work'
- A Parting Reminder:
from C. S. Lewis
- Back Issues:
Visit the archive
- Automatic Subscribe/Unsubscribe
- Publisher's statement
The Resident Quotation
The Resident Quotation is repeated with
each issue. It is chosen for its directness and clarity, and for
its ability to combine thought and a basis for action in a way that
is both reassuring and empowering.
The current Resident, from the innovative,
courageous and dynamic dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, exemplifies
the essence and context of living dynamically:
"There is a vitality,
a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression
is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any
other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.
"It is not your
business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor
how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep
it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do
not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep
yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open."
Quoted by biographer Agnes de Mille in "Martha: The Life and
Work of Martha Graham"
Managing the manager:
Authoritative vs authoritarian
essential part of being content in the workplace is to have some
awareness of the underlying personal dynamics that govern the environment,
especially of your managers.
One of the hardest
management types for gifted and analytically savvy people to work
for is the authoritarian. This is the person who replies: "Just
do it!" when you ask for advice or suggest you need more resources.
You sit there baffled, because it's precisely because you can't
do it that you brought it to his or her attention in the first place.
are less direct but still clear indications of the authoritarian
manager. I remember interviewing a New York sales manager who’d
hung a framed poster on his wall. It showed a subordinate being
kicked in the backside by his boss. The caption read: 'Management
isn't a democracy!'
signs of the authoritarian should be regarded as warnings to you
if you tend to respond to this style in a negative way. You'd better
stay clear because to take a job with this person promises nothing
but misery for both of you. And, if you are the subordinate, it's
your backside that will eventually be kicked.
gifted people would be at risk in this environment. They are typically
much too questioning and independent in their assessments and would
therefore threaten the authoritarian type. They most thrive - and
thus most benefit their employer - when their autonomy is respected.
there are many people for whom clear lines of authority and black
and white thinking offer a sense of security. They can be most relaxed
- and thus most effective - in an authoritarian environment which
also offers unambiguous performance measures. For them, these signs
of authoritarianism might be seen as positive.
personality type your are, if you find yourself in a subordinate
role to an authoritarian manager, it is necessary to be self-protective.
This is best achieved by 'managing the manager' from a point of
the root of authoritarianism
authoritarian approach, even when in everyone's best interest, is
always rooted in inadequacy. The manager who shouts: "Just
do it!" is essentially saying s/he doesn't know how to do it,
doesn’t have the resources to work out how to do it, or simply
doesn't have the time to explain how to do it.
person who shouts "Run!" as the ceiling begins to fall
is similarly short on resources - mostly the 'time' resource - and
resorts to an authoritarian approach in order to save lives.
military is the classic example of institutionalized authoritarianism
Here, the commanders and the commanded have essentially entered
a tacit agreement that orders will be followed unquestioningly.
This is understood to be in the interests of mutual survival because
resources such as time, information, and perhaps IQ are likely to
be short on the battlefield.
only breaks down when less competent officers are put in charge
of more competent men, as recurred during the Vietnam war. Fragging
inevitably ensued, again in the interest of survival of the larger
number. This is not recommended in the conventional workplace .
the root of Authoritativeness
authoritative manager, on the other hand, is the one who is sure
enough within themselves to admit to ignorance when appropriate.
They might then seek input from their staff to help arrive at a
course of action, giving public credit to contributors of information
and other thoughtful people gain a great deal of work satisfaction
working with and for authoritative managers. They feel appreciated
and respond by delivering far more than their contract demands.
They also gain pleasure from their own growth in their role and
from their sense of making a valued contribution.
should ascertain at your job interview which kind of manager you're
likely to have. Ironically, the authoritarian might deny your right
to ask such a direct question where the authoritative one might
commend you for it.
you feel you have to take a job under an authoritarian manager for
its CV-building capabilities, or an authoritarian boss is put above
you after you have taken a job, step with care.
they are deeply anxious about their own adequacy they will probably
quickly discern your skeptical attitude toward them and will resent
you for it. Remember that the authoritarian approach is rooted in
fear, and that frightened animals, including us, are potentially
you are able to recognize that their inadequacy doesn't significantly
impact you, you might consider making yourself indispensable to
them. Learn to recognize where their shortcomings lie and provide
them with the information and even the course of action they need
to follow in their - and your - best interests.
Sooner or later
you will have to move out from their jurisdiction, but you will
feel better about this if you can plan it for yourself and bring
it about in your own way.
Go on . . .
Just do it!
A Principle of Dynamic Living
INTENTION: BUILDING A LIFE'S WORK, NOT JUST A WORK-LIFE
is not easy to build a dynamically aware life. The different requirements
often seem to clash, leaving us saying of the quotation above: "It’s
all very well for Martha Graham to keep her channel open! She didn’t
have to take care of a sick mother, work two jobs to pay her mortgage
or constantly watch the back yard to stop the neighbor’s dog
from killing her cat!"
point is a good one: how can we ease our hurt at not living a more
fulfilled existence when just surviving is such a challenge? The
answer is in the quotation:
do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to
keep yourself open and aware directly to the urges that motivate
following thoughts offer some ideas on how this can be done.
is a process, not an outcome
start post-natal life on the run, merely continuing a process of
development which started nine months earlier. We end mundane life
if not on the run, then at least still moving forward. We go breathing
right up until we stop. In other words, life is an ongoing process,
not an outcome.
a process to have significance, it must have an intent. Once it
has an intent , it doesn’t matter how slow or elaborate the
process is, it is going somewhere.
ease your hurt, therefore, and feel that you are going somewhere
- ‘keeping that channel open’ - it is useful to have
a stated intent. This does not have to be a precise statement of
goals, and perhaps - if you are truly to ‘be open and aware
to the urges that motivate you’ - ought not to be.
following affirmation, repeated daily, will keep your intention
to listen to your inner self in the forefront of your unconscious
direct all my strengths toward living a life which is true to myself."
statement sets the overall strategy. Then all you have to do is
find tactical ways to ease your inevitable anger, frustration, hurt
and other negative reactions to your daily work.
questioning look at ‘work’
a survey quoted recently which suggested that 94 percent of people
are unhappy at work.
first sight, this statistic seems shocking, but it’s also
not really accurate. The term ‘work’ is too general
and the common assumption that work is a coerced activity - "I
have to go to work" - is bound to leave most of us complaining
response might be: "I enjoy the drive to the workplace, and
it’s always a pleasure to see Ann-Marie, but the two days
a week I have to spend administering the payroll drive me up the
wall and leave me feeling I’m wasting my life."
following assumptions about work are designed to help you feel better
about what you do. They will also give you ways of reassessing your
work satisfaction in terms of your overall work output, rather than
just from those two days you spend on the payroll . . ..
never stop working
a mechanical sense, you - the physiological organism we call ‘you’
- will never stop working from the moment of conception to the moment
career starts as a bio-engineer, processing nutrients to create
healthy flesh and bone. It continues after birth while you take
on additional tasks as the Surgeon General , organizing the fight
against infection. Now, you’re walking, talking, lifting,
balancing. You’re processing information, even when asleep,
all the while keeping your heart and lungs going and monitoring
all the complex functions of your body mind system. You are one
our first fifteen to twenty years, the majority of our work is of
a developmental nature. We’re building body, intellect, knowledge
and skills. As time goes on our work becomes increasingly a maintenance
function: in addition to sleeping, eating and grooming, we spend
hours on work-for-hire that indirectly acts as our source of nutrients
some people, development work of all kinds seems to cease as soon
as they reach physical maturity. This is not the case, however,
with gifted individuals. They seem more likely to neglect some aspects
of routine maintenance. Sadly, this works against a happy work-for-hire
life, because this is largely a maintenance activity.
is largely a maintenance activity
adopted the term ‘work-for-hire’ to cover that activity
we think of as our job or career. It doesn’t mean that the
reward is entirely financial, though it is almost certainly predominantly
so. Very few people would maintain their work-for-hire situation
in exactly the same way if they weren’t dependent on it for
this term makes it clear that work-for-hire is not a top-level activity
in itself, but a sub-category of the overall work we have defined
as maintenance. We do it to help keep food in our bellies and a
roof over our heads.
wonder most people don’t think it’s much fun. As a source
of pleasure it’s right up there alongside other maintenance
functions like cleaning one’s teeth and doing the washing
upon a time, when the world was more primitive, humans could meet
their basic needs in four hours’ outdoor work each day. That
left them plenty of time to think, tell stories, paint on the walls
of their caves and so on.
work-for-hire has expanded to fill at least twice that number of
hours because we’re no longer just meeting our own needs but
also those of shareholders, governments, and other forms of society
problem is, this doesn’t leave us the same time for essential
restorative processes such as artistic creativity and manifesting
our unique selves in social groups. The need for these processes
remains, however, and drives us to seek rewards from our work which
go beyond the purely financial. And that ‘s where the painful
inner conflict starts . . .
isn’t a matter of choice
of us have a near-desperate need to manifest our true selves in
the workplace but find ourselves frustrated by the harsh realities
of work-for-hire. We then tend to castigate ourselves for not having
a more meaningful job. This might display powerful motivation, but
it is not kind to ourselves.
blast of reality helps us ease up on the self-punishment that often
accompanies the need to do an apparently ‘meaningless’
job. The truth is, most of us don’t have a choice. Just as
we typically don’t have the attributes needed to become billionaires,
or launch major charities, so we are unable to create or obtain
meaningful work at will, even when we want to.
is oddly reassuring to recognize that we are constrained by forces
beyond our control. The frustrations engendered by this reality
are less damaging then the sharp, debilitating sense that we ’should’
be able to do something else. Even in a fluid society such as exists
in the USA there are many factors which govern our choice of work-for-hire.
Local opportunities for education and work
Minority issues: sexuality, age, gender, ethnicity, physical capabilities
- . . .
(Add your own)
of the above are matters of choice at the age when we are forced
into deciding what our work-for-hire is to be. Nor are they later
on, because once we have started making a living we still tend to
be governed by the prevailing set of circumstances.
doesn’t always look that way, though, which is why we hear
so many statements like: "If it hadn’t been for the wife
and kids, I’d have gone on to medical school/law school/business
school . . . ". It may be true, but it’s unlikely. More
probably, if it hadn’t been for this wife and these kids there
would have been another wife and other kids. We simply do not have
that kind of control over the determinants of our lives.
‘Work-for-hire’ for ‘Life’s work’
relative lack of freedom to choose can actually be quite liberating.
It means that we can free ourselves from having to find the perfect
job - lots of money, liberal working conditions, loads of autonomy,
worthwhile product or service, beautiful location - and concentrate
on designing and building the perfect life.
the reality that every moment of life is a moment at work turns
work into a playground of opportunity. Then, ‘work-for-hire’
becomes just one activity in your ‘Life’s work’
and the question: "Do you enjoy your work?" now means:
"Do you enjoy your life?"
of feeling constrained by the limited capacity of one employer to
meet all our needs, we can construct our own life-work. We can list
the things that are valuable to us, we can apportion percentages
of ‘need ‘ to them, and then we can work out what we
need to do to achieve them.
example, if we want to spend some time ‘doing good‘,
we may find that an evening a week of condensed activity at a local
community center is more useful and hassle-free than taking a job
as a probation officer. And if we’re working-for-hire as a
mailperson, we’ll have plenty of time to rest and freshen
up before going to the center, thus being ready to deliver and gain
maximum benefit from the encounter.
is a suggestion of how a Life’s-work model might look,structured
in terms of percentages of your time devoted to different activities:
work: 15 percent (3.6 hours/day)
work: 85 percent (21.4 hours/day)
(sleeping, eating, grooming, exercising): 53 percent (12.5
32 percent (8.9 hours/day)
percentages broadly reflect my own beliefs and constraints. Recently,
due to moving, I haven’t been able to adhere to them but they
do represent my - magic word - intention.
actually makes more sense to spread this kind of calculation over
a week, because most people are not at work-for-hire seven days
a week. Nor will they spend an hour and a half at exercise every
day. This means it is usually possible to ‘trade’ hours
between activities on different days.
it does reveal that living a healthy life in which continuing development
is matched by a healthy maintenance schedule is difficult to manage
in the Western world. Lengthy commutes and fifty hour working weeks
are real threats to the good life. The compressed schedule they
cause leads us into trying to combine developmental time with maintenance
time, to make more effective use of our time.
without being able to establish too much overlap it is possible
to schedule a full and enriching Life’s-work which includes
sufficient work-for-hire to meet financial needs. Unfortunately,
meeting our financial needs is not all that work-for-hire is used
yourself from work-for-hire constraints
carries an enormous and disproportionate amount of social significance.
That’s why, if she’s in any way typical, your mother
will say: "She’s a doctor!" with much more pride
than: "She cleans lavatories!"
it may be that you’re cleaning lavatories because the pay
and schedule exactly conform to your Life’s-work desire to
run marathons, play classical piano and write screenplays based
on historical events. Also, your mother may have overlooked the
fact that lavatory cleaners live longer than doctors, have more
freedom than doctors, and don’t have to pay hundreds of thousands
of dollars a year in malpractice insurance.
for mom as for most of society, the urine in a hospital ward is
of greater social value than the same thing in the facilities at
the local park. This kind of status-related societal pressure affects
us and makes it hard to sustain our commitment to our Life’s-work.
order to protect yourself against societal and family pressure to
do work-for-hire that is antithetical to your Life’s-work,
here are some reinforcing statements:
You are not your job description. You are a human being,
with a unique combination of aptitudes and motivations. The use
of terms such as lawyer, professor, personal assistant, computer
programmer, writer, queen, tell us nothing about you whatsoever
and would not help us pick you out in the crowd. (Except, perhaps,
on Coronation Day!).
Your security lies between your ears. I thank Peter L.
Gill Ph.D. for bringing this one firmly to my attention. Too many
people have trusted their employer with their life and the profit
of their life’s work, only to have it stripped away by involuntary
redundancy or some such mechanism. Had they been more self-protective,
they would have maintained a level of skill and connection such
that they could move quickly and relatively easily to a new job
yourself as a self-employed skilled artisan, even if you are in
full-time employment, and you will be better protected against
all manner of misfortune than if you depend on someone else to
watch out for you. ‘They‘, after all, only have interests
in common with you to a limited extent.
Don’t rely on the workplace for significant relationships.
The strings that tie us to a workplace or even a line of work
are many and subtle. None are more so than our innate need for
community, external validation and even - small ‘l’
- love. Once we depend on our workmates to provide these essential
emotional nutrients, it becomes much more difficult for us to
change our circumstances, even in our own best interest.
solution to this is not necessarily to become a solitary lighthouse
keeper, but to build community and social interaction into your
Life’s-work structure. It will then stay with you no matter
how you may be forced to change.
Pursue the healthy rewards of work-for-hire. Even if
you don’t place great personal value on the particular tasks
you fulfill as a worker-for-hire, there are real healthy benefits
to be obtained from the workplace. In addition to the virtual
resource called ‘money’, it can also provide executive
opportunity, intellectual stimulation, risk-taking satisfaction,
confirmation of skills, affirmation of integrity and opportunities
to develop in all these areas.
Your happiness is a right and a benefit to everyone. ‘Happiness’
is a rather vague term, but I use it here to imply an overall
contentment with the direction of your life’s effort that
is sufficient to keep you reasonably motivated.
who are unhappy at work - no matter how their employment is rewarded
with some form of familial or social approval - spread debilitating
energy around them. I don’t know how one could measure it,
but I’ll bet unhappy doctors’ patients recover more
slowly. You can see how unhappy street sweepers leave the same
hard-to-sweep bits of garbage behind, day after day, because they’re
not motivated to stop the truck and pick them up.
this way , unmotivated attitudes make life worse for all of us.
Unmotivated workers don’t call you back; make mistakes that
beget more mistakes; and may lie, cheat and even steal to compensate
themselves for their misery.
opposite is also true. Happy workers enhance life for everyone.
So please don’t be an unhappy clerk in the city taxation
office. Take a ten percent drop in pay and be a happy swimming
teacher at the local pool. That way you could save someone’s
life AND it might lift your depression and give you the time and
stimulus needed to write the children’s book which is going
to knock that ridiculous Harry Potter right off the shelves!
. . and in conclusion
real conclusion, the definitive, end-of-process point of it all,
is the one marked by that gathering which will meet to celebrate
your departing this life.
you’re going to live to be 110, then not too many people there
will remember what you did as work-for-hire ninety years earlier.
I hope, however, they will remember that you kept at work-for-hire
until the day you stopped all work. There is such honor in work-for-hire
that to stop without good reason is to dishonor ourselves.
the talk at your funeral will not be about your work-for-hire life,
but about your Life’s-work life. Your mourners will represent
and remember everything about you: your personality, your warmth
and courage, and your range of activities, conventionally successful
or not. Your work-for-hire activities, while significant, will be
seen in the context of your larger existence.
for example, they will admire your persistence in writing twenty-seven
books that never found publication, while pointing to the fact that
your inspiration found its success in your brilliantly successful
that’s what Martha Graham meant: that the intention and the
organizing of our work - all our work - around our intention is
the important thing. The benefits to the world of this are simply
A Parting Reminder
deep desire is to be truly loved for who we are, and we are all
searching for a context to make ourselves known." C.
Explore the Archive
now possible to take a look through the back issues of Dynamic Living.
Just visit: http://www.santafecoach.com/dl/dlintro.htm.
©2003 by Christopher J. Coulson. All rights reserved.
4, Eaton Manor, The Drive, Hove, East Sussex BN3 3PT, UK
01273 749636; or toll-free from the USA:1-866-761-1392.