Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash

Core values

Brene Brown’s latest book Dare to Lead urges today’s leaders – which means you, me, and the entire world FYI – to take time to consider their two core values. No, for those of you wondering about your personal and professional lives, you cannot compartmentalize values. You cannot compartmentalize lives. We are one being: one glorious, dynamic, extraordinary creation which is whole and the same, whether we are at the office, in the shower, or on a public stage.

A value is a way of being or believing what we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk – we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviours align with those beliefs. – Brene Brown

It is no secret that Brene Brown is a personal inspiration to me. Her simple approach to big, complex topics is relatable and real. I don’t know about you, but I am personally over phony displays of grandeur and ‘guruship’. I was not surprised to find that one of her core values was courage. Courage lies at the centre of her work. This vulnerable, honest, and powerful woman is the embodiment of living the value of courage, not hanging it on a poster in her office.

Naturally, my own two core values have been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. It so happened that this stimulus came at around the same time I was invited to join a group of inspiring humans to speak at TEDx Arar Street Women in Amman.

I am not sure if you have ever experienced the introspection that burrows deep within your soul, literally opening up new pathways and shedding light on minute details that would have otherwise – under different circumstances, like regular life – floated by. It makes for an interesting self-study. Multiply this by 1000 when you have to also deal with the anxiety of public speaking. You are left as a raw ball of human essence.

I first learned that plans were underway to host this TEDx event back in the summer. My name was suggested; I think for my advocacy of plant-based nutrition. The poor organizers had no idea what was coming! There were no mentions of plants in my talk. ZERO.

A few months, and many conversations later, I watched myself denigrating my inclusion on such an inspiring list of names to my sister in Canada. I said – out loud – that she shouldn’t be too impressed, because it was much easier to have such opportunities in a small place like Jordan where everyone knows everyone, and, you know, it is just easier to get noticed.

That is true. But let me tell you something else that is true. We are hungry for conversation: for stories, for inspiration, and for courage. The real kind, not the one which is sparkled with star power. And you know how we feel when we are connected, disarmed, and ready to relate? When this two-way interaction takes place with someone ordinary, who has breathed our air, drunk our water, and walked our land? This shared playing field is the basis of empathy.

A decade ago, Nick Kristof wrote about the success of social enterprise initiatives which stemmed from ideas borne within the community, by the community. This is how they actually address a real need, understand the intricacies of the culture, and are guided by a true desire to empower (in the sense of being and living versus doing and performing.) It is not imparted by an expert flown in from Mars on a private jet to lecture the locals on how to live green lives. (Today, the alien gurus have been replaced by machines that speak algorithm.)

Sharing the stage with the speakers at TEDx Arar Street Women reminded me of the power of synergy, and the dis-empowerment of compartmentalisation and isolation. The new pathways forged by those hours of introspection about values brought to mind the root cause of our disenchantment and isolation; our constant effort to swim against the current. We think our perceived weaknesses are unique to us, when the opposite is true. What makes us unique are our combinations of strengths. Everyone shares our doubts, fears, and made-up stories (what Brown calls SFDs – shitty first drafts.) When I stood up on that round red carpet and allowed my SFDs to take over for a moment, I was anxious about being judged, misunderstood, and maybe even mocked. Then I remembered the playing field and the shared purpose. My heart was at peace.

Before I got up on that stage that day, I knew in my heart that my two core values that have subconsciously guided me throughout my life have been authenticity and faith. I have chosen to be me and not to do me. I have also elected to recognize the divine in every living being. Sometimes it is impossible to find that spark, especially on those days when the SFDs in my head embed themselves so deeply they turn into manuscripts. As I faced my audience, I noticed the conversations in my head, and smiled. Authenticity is simply being yourself without apology. It means speaking the universal language of energy. It requires a lot of work, and then surrender, if you plan to be in it for the long haul. The words you speak will touch the heart of the person/being they are meant to touch. (You are lucky if you find that ONE.) And in so doing, you will be daring greatly, rising strong, and braving the wilderness.

Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another. – John C. Maxwell

Leadership is not the platform or the stage. It is the connection. Our humanity is marked by a dynamic cord of connection to one another, and all living beings. That is the divinity in us. And this thrives on authentic relations through community. The TEDx Arar Street Women planted a new seed of community in a small plot in Jordan. But its branches will soon touch the planet. And that is a very big deal.