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Living an Undivided Life

leading & LIVING • Apogee Group

Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

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After last month’s reflections on the invitations of solitude, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at KANEKO, a program space that invites progressive exhibits, performances and innovative programming in a handsome, new downtown Omaha venue.

Led by Hal France, former orchestral conductor and now KANEKO’s “impresario,” the program, “Undivided Lives: A Conversation about Career and Creativity,” featured four artists and business professionals who insist on leading lives that link commerce and artistic expression. Stanford Lipsey, Pulitzer Prize-winning publisher of The Buffalo News and a longtime senior leader at Berkshire Hathaway, offered his latest photographic exhibition, “Affinity of Form,” as the setting for the KANEKO conversation. Other panelists included Dr. James Salhany, a medical researcher, who sees elegant and inspiring structure in both science and the music and poetry he creates; Tom Kaminski, who combines his role as a stockbroker with his sculpting, and Molly Jarboe, an online media specialist and photographer.

I have always found the dynamic tension between our private and public lives to be a source of energy, if we understand it. Otherwise, we feel split and splintered. If our life can be seen as art, our work can make our life, indeed our love, visible; first to ourselves and then to the people who share our life’s journey.

But our early programming often demands that we choose.

“Decide!” my mother impatiently demanded when I wanted to do and be more. It was clear, certainly to her, that I could only become a teacher or a minister when I graduated from high school in 1958. That was it. I choose university teaching as my first path, and spent two decades “doing it,” all while dabbling in writing, traveling, speaking, acting... wondering.

I couldn’t see how I could link my passions with what I thought was my purpose. I have a sign in my office: “If life is a stage, I want better lighting.”

I needed a life path with more illumination.

The generous insights of our panelists confirmed that we don’t have to force ourselves into an “either/or” life. They chose instead an undivided life of “and.” So many of us feel forced to live that life divided from all that we wanted to be and become. The idea of a divided life, where one part of us remains invisible and eager to find a voice, can become, over time, intolerable. Our day jobs are at odds with our hearts.

In my Spring MBA Personal Leadership class at Creighton University (where I am a part-time clinical professor), my smart students—lawyers, physicians, dentists, accountants, bankers and folks who have worked for 10 to15 years before deciding to study for an MBA—strive intensely to understand their own True North. At the end of every term several students confess that they feel like imposters, all the while living a life someone else chose for them. Their story is running out of gas. They have always really wanted to do, to be, something or someone else. They feel stuck and anxious. And depressed.

I spent a good deal of time helping them find permission and a voice for what they really want to do. But again, they saw their life, their choices, as “either/or,” not “and.”

Oswald Chambers reminds us that the author who teaches and inspires us the most, who tells you something “you did not know before... [is the one] who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”

When we decide that life means only “this” and not “that,” sometimes our role and our soul divide. Our lives can feel fraudulent, and we can become anxious that our secret will be discovered; that we are “secret sharers” of another passion or mission. When we choose (and we do choose) life as a binary either/or equation, our passion for our work and for how we express our lives dims.

Let me be clear. Living with a single focus invites clarity and accomplishment, for we know that time on task is a proven way to produce. But for many who want to transcend the script they were given, that’s not enough. We want more. It may mean, like the artists on the panel, doing more. Working more. Making more false starts and taking more chances.

But sometimes we don’t have a choice.


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I am often asked about our work and our global leadership Practice. We help leaders become more effective, and to produce exceptional results. We are in the Performance business.

We partner, assess, coach and support senior leaders and Board members to enhance their effectiveness as leaders and to help them take responsibility for their work and their lives, to lead and live fully. We believe that in a world of possibility we can choose to create conditions for greatness, to alter the forces that act upon us, and to exercise our intention upon the world of business and commerce. We can choose to take responsibility for our lives and our future, and in so doing, unleash incredible energy to live and perform at our best
In our newsletters and commentaries we frequently comment about the elusive path to life balance, the challenge of staying present in our own lives, the invitation to own more of our experience, to live, lead and love more authentically, and to have more fun.

Roger Fransecky

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