Do you remember that part in the movie Glennary Glen Ross with a young, brash Alec Baldwin where he is grilling the sales team? The “coffee is for closers”, “ABC. Always. Be. Closing!” scene? Well, I had a mom the other day who had just sent her son to a wilderness treatment program. Two other kids in the house might also be going to treatment soon and she is lost, heart broken and struggling. “I just don’t know what to do anymore. I just wish someone would tell me what to do and I would do it, whatever it is, if it would make things better. Can you give me any advice? Do you have any words of wisdom for someone in my shoes? I know that’s not what you do, but I’d love any direction you can give me.” I didn’t have anything immediately to say. But I appreciated the request and let her know I’d put some thought into it and get back to her.
This movie mention may seem like a strange thing to juxtapose with this desperate mom’s request, but this is often how things seem to coalesce in my world. Just hold the question close and see what becomes self-evident. It was Sunday so I went on a run after we spoke and the “Always be closing” scene above popped to mind. “Always be…” What could I tell her, or anyone to “always be”? Not closing, but maybe another “C” word. Here’s what clarified itself on the run.
Always Be Connecting
In the spirit of John Gottman’s “bids” for attention and affection. The 5:1 “golden ration” tells us that we can either turn toward a bid, ignore it, or turn against it. The idea that we can always be connecting is a movement in the direction of always working to make a deposit in the emotional bank accounts of those around you. And in so doing, adding to your own as well.
In a similar way, in “Hold Onto Your Kids”, Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate assert that the foundation of connection between parents and their children needs to be prioritized and cultivated in order to best address the topical, daily behavioral issues that may assert themselves with some urgency. Almost as if to say that if you tend to the relationship as a priori, that the knots or problems may untangle themselves. In the introduction, they insert this quote from J. Krishnamurti
“Action has meaning only in relationship and without understanding relationship, action on any level will only breed conflict. The understanding of relationship is infinitely more important than the search for any plan of action.”
Always be Courting
Thinking further, beyond their kids and to their strained marriage, this phrase came to mind. Always be courting. Something magical is alive in the courting stage of a relationship. The air is magnetic. We are dancing enchanted at the precipice of the unknown in the self and in another. Back to Gottman for a minute. In the beginning of a Gottman’s couples work you are taken back to the time when you first fell in love. What was it like? What were you thinking? Feeling? Where were you? What was she/he wearing? What did the smell like. What was it like when you first tasted their lips? We move not only to remember thoughts, but we move beyond to feelings and then are also invited to ground our memories in the 5 senses. These same five senses that exist in the moment that we are confused. We also feel that we “know” our partner. Courting is an invitation back into the unknown. Can we “unknow” our partner? Can we move in a way that allows us to re-engage with our feelings that drive us to do things for another because we respect them, appreciate them, are re-enchanted by them? Can we prioritize connecting and courting once again? I watched my grandparents, who were married over 75 years before they passed, courting each other every day. With diagonally-sliced, buttered toast or a hand on the knee and a loving glance.
“Always be Courting” extends into our working relationships as well. It is what I was doing when I was running and sitting with this question and this request. They are already “our” clients so why make calls on a Sunday and let “their problems” occupy my mind on this run? Well… because this is what the work looks like. It’s what it looks like and what allows me to over deliver to our clients and families. But here’s the secret, it allows me to “court” myself and to show up in the best way that I can, for me. Thus, showing up better (God willing) for others, too.
Always be Chasing
Always be chasing a goal, a dream, a better version of you. This is an allegiance to a growth mentality and a move against the stagnation and rigidity that is the garb of the fixed mentality. The chase is the path. The path is the goal. Sure we want to bag that peak, reach that goal, cross that finish line. And way may and we celebrate if we do. But the priority here is the journey that takes place when we are chasing sunrises, sunsets or something that breathes life into us. The people we become and the strength, confidence and friends that we find and make along the way are our true reward. The chase puts the wind in our sails and allows us to discover internal and external landscapes that would never have illuminated our lives and hearts otherwise.
So to anyone reading this, test out the hypothesis that life might be better if you remember this:
Always be Connecting. Always be Courting. And Always be Chasing something. Because you’ll find yourself there.