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Your Essential Self

Your Essential Self

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Your Essential Self

207 pagine
2 ore
Nov 30, 2008


This book reflects the content and input elicited from hundreds of participants of a five-day public seminar given throughout the U.S. over the past 10 years. This seminar has been presented to a broad array of managers and leaders in corporate and institutional industry, crossing cultural and economic boundaries. Based on this research, this book encompasses three unique but intimately related areas of action: the introspective search for the "Essential Self", the practical methods to deliver that "Self" to the world and the methods to sustain the "Self" through a daily practice based on three simple life defining questions.
Nov 30, 2008

Informazioni sull'autore

A West Point graduate with a doctorate from New York University, James Looram served two tours of duty in Vietnam, served as Professor of Leadership at West Point and held other faculty positions in leading graduate universities. He has provided "leadership" seminars for over 30 years to corporate and higher institutions across America.

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Anteprima del libro

Your Essential Self - James Looram


To our seminar faculty, who over a period of ten years helped to evolve these ideas into the body of work that it has become: Bo Boynton, Jerry Eppler, Al Coke, and Mary Looram. To the hundreds of participants who added their personal insights and experiences over this period. We truly teach best what we most need to learn.

Chapter One

Your Essential Self


You are special. There is no duplicate you in this universe. This is something that you have always known. It is something that you have never not known. You have an essential self that is absolutely unique. No matter how bad it gets, you have never wanted to be someone else. You may have wanted someone else’s good fortune or life style, but nonetheless you wanted to be yourself in that lifestyle. Isn’t it true that maintaining this sense of an essential unique self has been our one fierce non–negotiable stance in life? We know we are uniquely special. If this is a deeply personal yet universal truth then the first order of business is to understand fully this gift from the universe. It is your essential self.


We use the notions of nature and nurture to explain how we have come to be who we are. Nature suggests we come into the world with a certain genetic heritage that defines many physical and mental characteristics. Nurture suggests that we become products of our environment: The culture in which we are born, the family in which we are raised, and the religious and educational institutions in which we mature have an important impact on our development. So – the theory goes – nature and nurture ultimately shape and come to define who we are. If all you are is a product of nature and nurture then you are a package that has been manufactured by the genetic code in your animal body and the accident of birth that has caused you to be programmed by individuals and institutions to embrace a particular belief system and a set of values. You then become a cosmic accident. We do become products of both social nurture and genetic nature. However, this packaging often distracts us from the larger truth that we also arrive with our own uniqueness. Nature and nurture may describe who you are. They do not describe who you were meant to be. You have an essential self that transcends your genetic nature and your social nurturing.


The universe did not provide us with this uniqueness for us to ignore it. Sometime in our lifetime we have heard –or will hear– a voice deep inside of us calling us to be – or become – our unique essential selves. This calling does not come from the outside. It does not come from the social programming of your parents, your peers, your religion or your schooling. It comes from deep inside your being. We each have a personal destiny – a unique reason for being here. This destiny has a way of whispering to us in our quieter moments: Yes! This is it. You are on the right path. Right now, you are doing what you were meant to be doing. You are one with the universe. Victor Frankl describes this voice from your essence as the partner of your most intimate soliloquies". When you are with it, you have hit the sweet spot in life. Your essence delivers to you a personal destiny. Your destiny translates into your purpose for being here. Your purpose is reflected in the path you have chosen.

All too often, this inner guidance system becomes overwhelmed with the mind’s constant chatter and years of programming and distraction. You begin to lose touch with this internal guidance and consequently with your essential self. There is a whispering in your ear You are on the wrong path. This is all meaningless. You belong somewhere else. There is no joy here. This can be rather disturbing and unnerving. When you are doing and being someone else’s definition of you, depression is often the result. However, it is a blessing: Black grace. It is the universe caring enough about you to tell you it is time to change. Whatever hat you have been wearing has gotten too tight. It is time to go inside to find stronger and more nourishing roots. It is time to find your path once again.


What truly enthuses you?

What has recently brought you the most joy?

Are you making maximum use of your talents?

Are you doing what you were meant to be doing?

What is your vision for your work–your relationships–your life?

Are you placing your time and energy into what is truly meaningful to you?

These are simple questions that may take you a lifetime to answer. They challenge you to consider how well you have chosen your path. This path draws on your innate unique talents (not necessarily your present learned abilities), aligns with your values (not your parent’s values or anyone else’s) and brings you great joy (not necessarily pleasure). When you find the activity that draws on your talents, is meaningful to you, and brings you joy, you have found your Path, your Destiny, your Purpose, your unique Essential Self.

You may choose other paths later in your lifetime, and we will describe how that might occur. However, in the present moment this particular path appears to be your life’s work. Those who have truly found their life’s path cannot imagine not doing it for the rest of their lives.

Our path calls on our unique talents – not our learned abilities. Our talents are innate. They show themselves at an early age. Many of us put away these talents when we choose a profession because they would not be particularly useful in that profession. Later in life, we find ourselves resurrecting those talents that we had to put away. Executives tell me of occasions when they were given promotions because they were so good at a particular set of tasks. The job itself brought them no joy and was relatively meaningless, but they were good at it and were paid well for it. They used their learned abilities and not innate talents. Their essential selves were not involved in the task. There may be nothing wrong with accepting such a position, performing it honorably and using the profits from this effort to support your true mission. However, it is not the path that is your destiny. It is not a path with a heart.

This path must be meaningful to you. It must resonate with your particular personal values. A physically talented professional baseball player once remarked how fortunate he was to be playing the game when he was sure there were others in the city with more talent than he had who had chosen other walks of life. He was probably right. Those with greater talent may well have decided that professional sports were not meaningful enough for them to devote their life force to that line of work. Others justifiably find great meaning in being role models in a sport. Your mission must be meaningful to you. It should justify to yourself your purpose for being here. You find meaning in those activities that reflect your own values.

Lastly, the litmus test: Walking the path you have chosen must bring you joy. It is an activity that you can’t wait to get to each day. When you are on this path, there is a loss of self–awareness. You are often in a flow state. There is a loss of time. You are at one with the universe. To be sure, every activity has a certain element of drudgery involved. The drudgery will grind you down when you are doing something that is unimportant. However if you are on your mission, the drudgery is simply an accepted and normal part of the effort.

There are two high school teachers just classrooms apart who have both been teaching for 25 years. The first is still full of enthusiasm and joy. She continues to learn new ways to teach and can’t wait to get to the classroom each day. The second is burned out, does an adequate job, but is simply going through the numbers. We have met both of them. The first has found her mission. She is on the right path. It draws on her talents, is meaningful and brings her joy. She will gladly do it forever. The second is doing a job. There is nothing wrong with that. The second however has not found his calling in this work. It is elsewhere.

"Those who have a why

can endure any how"

– Nietzsche



Many managers equate their path with their life’s work (which is correct) and therefore conclude that their mission must be found at work (which is not necessarily correct).Your mission can be found at work. If what you are doing at work draws on your innate talents, is truly meaningful and brings you great joy then you may very well be on the right path eight hours a day.

For many years, I consulted to a hospital CEO who has spent a career moving from hospital to hospital, establishing very healthy organizational cultures wherever he goes. He is one of the most effective managers I have had the privilege of helping. His mission in his own words is, I fix sick hospitals. After he has delivered his managerial magic, he takes great joy in walking the wards of his hospital, seeing that the procedures he has put in place have made a significant difference in the way patients are treated, the way the nursing staff has developed and the obvious improvements in the physical plant. He creates a culture within a hospital that is healthy for both patients and professionals, and these cultures have permanence. At some point, he moves on to another hospital and creates another transformation. It is a very meaningful way for him to live given his particular values. Your path may have to do with only a certain portion of your work. Mentoring others, building teams, creating marketing plans or any other special aspect of your work may focus you on a mission.

The path may have nothing to do with work. It may involve family. I am creating a legacy of a healthy, mutually supportive, extended family for generations to come where individuals can seek and obtain mutual support and encouragement. This is the mission statement of a big bear of a man who, together with his wife was raising twelve children. This was a combined family from previous marriages. A legacy is passed through generations. We all know of some unhealthy family legacies; generations of alcoholism, abuse etc. This man envisioned creating a mutually supportive extended family culture with meaningful rituals and ceremonies to insure that all members knew they were included and valued. By the time he finished talking about his vision of the country home, the ceremonies that marked each season, and the special ways each family member was honored and recognized I wanted to be an uncle in this family! The more he talked the more enthused he and we became. His joy and enthusiasm filled the room. This was truly his mission. Work was not his mission. Yet he held a PhD in mineralogy, held a very responsible position and was perfectly functional at work. His work however was simply a way to fuel his mission.

You may choose a path that focuses on community. One gentleman whose job was particularly boring – he updated and published yellow pages – struggled with making his work his mission with no success. Throughout his conversations with us, however he talked about the funds that he had raised for his church the previous year, and the grant money he had obtained recently for a youth group in his community. It finally became apparent to us that his life’s work drew on his innate talent for finding and winning sources of funding for communities that were meaningful to him. It brought him tremendous joy. And just as importantly, it placed his work life in perspective. The yellow pages job was simply a means to make a living. His life was in fund raising and from time to time we hear from him as he celebrates his next success in delivering his essential self to the world.

The proper path for you may or may not be at work. It may be something that you are not doing full time. It may in fact be something you only get to on weekends or one day a week because you have other obligations to

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