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Are you acknowledging the Ray Rice inside of you?

By Shayne Hughes

As a man, I found the video of Ray Rice hitting his wife deeply troubling. The fact that they were apparently screaming at each other, and she spit in his face right before he hit her, doesn’t excuse his violence. I’m supportive of the tougher suspension given to Rice, and to the NFL’s overdue increase in consequences for domestic abuse.

And all of us, men and women, need to examine how we fall prey to the cycle of powerlessness and rage that overwhelmed Rice that night.

Although I have never hit my wife or children, I am all too familiar with anger. I was a raging, reckless teenager before I was a stressed out, over-achieving husband and father. At its core, rage is a visceral reaction to powerlessness and vulnerability. When I feel incompetent, unloved, a failure, alienated, criticized or just plain inadequate – and I don’t face it – I lash out. I have no idea what Ray and Janay were arguing about that night, but it undoubtedly cloaked vulnerable feelings they were unable to admit to themselves or each other. As they defended themselves with anger and blame, they said things that increased the pain and vulnerability of the other in unbearable ways. Like a runaway nuclear reaction.

(Almost) all of us struggle to let ourselves experience and share these feelings. Those of you that have anger problems know that irresistible wave of anger that blows everything up. But I’m also talking to those of us that numb. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, withdrawal – all the tricks of the trade to avoid the acute, vulnerable pain of feeling hurt or inadequate. Same problem, different strategy.

Just yesterday I spoke with a female client who had ended a romantic relationship. The man often criticized her for wanting to “process” interactions, claiming she was emotionally needy. He rarely had issues to discuss. His solution involved staying up late drinking whiskey and scribbling in his journal. She was the problem.

So make no mistake – we all have varying amounts of Ray Rice in us. It doesn’t condone him, but it also shouldn’t make him a pariah. He is a symptom of our cultural difficulty to embody true manhood: standing undefended in moments of inadequacy or hurt, and leading with empathy, learning, and co-responsibility. It is the only path I know of that can transform our hurt into healing.

So, try this “Ray Rice” self-reflection and see what happens:

  1. What’s your vulnerability avoidance reaction? Do you blow up or shutdown? List the behaviors you fall into when you’re triggered/threatened.
  2. What experience of weakness feels most intolerable to you? Do you hate feeling weak? Inadequate? Unwanted? Take some recent examples and search for the fears and feelings that cause shame. These are your “hot buttons”. Push yourself to actually feel the sensations. I get a burning fire in my sternum. This is what your rage or numbing protects you from.
  3. Share these feelings out loud with your partner or a friend. That’s right, time to man up! Anger is a sign of weakness. Authenticity in moments of vulnerability is transformative strength. The goal is not to control your anger, but to release the emotions underneath it. Create a context in your relationships where you, your partner, and your entourage can identify and say what is really going on. If you get it out early, it won’t build up in ways you’ll later regret.

Learn a Powerful Tool in Our New Free Booklet: Making Others Good

MOG CoverDoes your team need more trust and collaboration? Do you wish the silos and ‘Us vs. Thems’ in your organization could dissolve? You have a relationship with a colleague who “just doesn’t get it” — what do you do about it?

What if there were proven tools that could dramatically reverse this dynamic?

In Making Others Good: The Crucial Tool for Transforming Dysfunction in Your Organization, Learning as Leadership’s President Shayne Hughes tells of two directors in a large technology company whose conflict creates an ‘Us vs. Them’ power struggle between their teams, delaying several products and hurting the company’s competitiveness – and how the resolution launched it ahead of industry benchmarks.

This dynamic – what LaL calls “Making Others Bad” – is happening right now in every large organization in America. It can manifest as passive aggressiveness, assuming negative intent, protecting one’s turf, or undermining and it is why teams of very smart people can function below the sum of their collective talents. Yet it is rarely intentional and entirely avoidable.

Making Others Good identifies ten ways people Make Others Bad and why, as well as six steps to shift to Making Others Good – an organization’s greatest competitive advantage.

“The concept of ‘Making Others Good’ is the secret of life and the key to a thriving organization. If you use this hugely powerful idea, it changes everything.”  —  George McCown, Co-Founder & Operating Partner, American Infrastructure MLP Funds

‘Making Others Good’ is incredibly powerful. I truly believe it, and I talk about this principle regularly.” — Joshua Freedman, COO, Six Seconds EQ Network

“Clear, powerful, accessible, wise.”  — Charles F. Behling, PhD, Co-Director, The Program on Intergroup Relations (Retired), The University of Michigan

 To download your free copy of Making Others Good, click here.


Nipping Dysfunction in the Bud: Attending Personal Mastery on the Cusp of Adulthood

African American Mother And Adult Daughter Relaxing In Parkby Jonathan London

LaL’s flagship seminar, Personal Mastery, is a life-changing journey of self-reflection and discovery. Because of the transformational power of the seminar, it’s not uncommon to hear older participants, energized by a new realization or considering the long-term impact of an ingrained behavior pattern, wishing they would have done this work twenty or thirty years earlier. 

While most of our clients are at least a couple of decades into their careers, some are lucky enough to have attended Personal Mastery on the cusp of adulthood. One such client is Talia, who attended her first Personal Mastery at age 17 and has since graduated from our 4-Mastery program. Talia is now 25, living and working in New York City. We recently reconnected to talk about the impact that Personal Mastery has had on her, and on her once-strained relationship with her mother. Here’s what she had to say:    



How to Create Balance in Our Life

I’m lucky because my life is very balanced…



What is Learning as Leadership?

Untitled-3By Shayne Hughes

People often ask why we named our company “Learning as Leadership”. The key word is “learning”, which we all use but can find challenging to embody.

Learning is not something confined to the classroom, or that I turn on or off in certain situations. It’s a state of mind, an orientation at every instant in life. And there are so many unconscious ways we’re not in ‘learning mode’.

When I explain to you how much I know, running over your point of view – because I want to be right or, more often, just because I’m sure I am right – I’m not in learning mode.

When a colleague offers feedback or a different perspective, and I react defensively – visibly arguing or justifying, or invisibly shutting down and mentally rehashing why he or she is wrong – I’m not in learning mode.

When I am driven to succeed, consumed by the allure of acknowledgment; or feel the fear of failure, stressed by the consequences of under-performance – no matter how hard I’m working – I’m not in learning mode.

When I’m on autopilot in my comfort zone – admiring my prowess, or rushing to get something done – I’m not in learning mode.

When I replay in my mind what I wish I’d said or plan out what I’m going to tell you once you stop talking – I’m not in learning mode.



Love What’s Precious, Today

I have children in 4th and 2nd grade, so the Newtown elementary school massacre scared me more than other recent gun rampages. My boys go to a public elementary school in a “safe” neighborhood, and Newtown was an unnerving reminder that there’s no real protection. Like millions of parents, my strategy is to hope that bad luck and statistical improbability don’t strike me the next time this happens.

Grief is Love

Seeing parents lose their children, I remembered my own losses: grandparents, an uncle, a stepfather, friends. My grief was most raw for those closest, and I found that intensity of grief is proportional to intensity of love.

Grief is love expressed after separation. I shudder to imagine the grief of a parent.

My grief for two people in particular was overwhelming. Yet today I remember their deaths among the purest moments of my life. All I could feel was how important they were to me. How sharply I missed their presence. Their imperfections, my frustrations; the conflicts we’d had – everything vanished under a tidal wave of grief-love.



Choosing the Quality of your Present Moment

Have you noticed how the people and situations in our life are sometimes — often!? — sources of stress and disconnection? The demands, the criticisms, the performance pressure. We can feel a lot of undesirable emotion about what others are doing to us.

We call this being “At the Mercy.” We can particularly feel At the Mercy in our time management.
























And yet, every so often, something shifts, and we see it all in a different light. We have feelings of connection, creativity, growth, and joy towards these same people and challenges. What happened?! Did they change? Or did we?

We call this state, where we are bringing our highest self to our daily life, being “At Source”. At the source of who you want to be and the life you want to create.
























This shift is within each of us. The beauty — and challenge! — is that we choose it, or not, at every moment.

What is your experience of these two states of being? What are your tips to shift from the state of being At The Mercy to the state of being At Source? What are your questions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Author’s Note: Although I have a husband, a daughter and clients in need, these drawings of course bear no resemblance whatsoever to my life…






Hyper-Responsiveness Isn’t Worthiness

iStock_000015117755_ExtraSmallIn my last blog post, I discussed how discovering our unconscious drivers was key to getting rid of unwanted behaviors. In this post, I want to pick up where we left off and discuss another aspect of this, which is the degree to which our ego reinforces those behaviors.

One of my clients has high blood pressure, went through a major surgery this year and is under doctor’s orders to take better care of himself. The problem is that he’s addicted to the rush of adrenalin he gets from being so responsive and proving what a high performer he is. What’s also true about this client is that he has a goal to have more work/life balance and to spend more time golfing and being with his family.



What’s Really Underneath Your Unwanted Behavior?

ManBeachComputerOne of my clients is your typical type A, fast-paced, multi-tasking Vice President.  He can’t sit still, and his electronic devices are constantly invading his work and home life — and he knows it. He prides himself on being organized and efficient, is a Harvard graduate and a rising star in his company. He is also young compared to his peers with similar titles. By all indications, he has a promising career ahead of him.

One Friday afternoon (West Coast time) I sent him an email about a non-urgent matter. Even though it’s the evening on the East Coast where he lives, I get an immediate response back saying…

“I am hosting a barbeque at my home with my family and friends in my backyard, and how bad is it that I am replying to you right now?”

I could just imagine him, blackberry in one hand, barbeque tongs in the other.


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