Crawling Out From Under Your Skin

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to strengthen your emotional intelligence. Reading time: 3:32

       Ben Franklin did it in the nude. D.H. Lawrence did it under a tree. Gertrude Stein did it in a car.  Robert Louis Stevenson did it in bed. Ernest Hemingway did it standing up. And Sir Walter Scott did it on horseback.

Ernest Hemingway at his stand up desk: typewriter perched atop dresser doors

Ernest Hemingway at his stand up desk: typewriter perched atop book shelf.

      Indeed,  the process of writing is as diverse as those individual writers. So is the process of leading.

      Yet the object is the same in both writing and leading: get into the mindset of your readers or followers and serve their interests.

       How do you more efficiently adopt the mindset of another beyond basic research and survey tools?

        Writers do it with a ritual that begins each writing session; a ritual that signals a conscious effort to change their behavior from the ordinary “me and we” to the extraordinary “them and theirs.”

        It’s a ritual so arresting writers seemingly climb a ladder –step by step –to get away from everything familiar and then they take a proverbial plunge into something new, different, and exhilarating. Consider these various writing rituals to get into the hearts and minds of others:

         Poet Friedrich Schiller would fill his desk with rotten apples. Composer Richard Wagner wore historical costumes. Author Samuel Johnson wrote most prolifically with a purring cat near him.

        Author Marcel Proust lined his work room with sound-absorbing cork.  Author Charles Dickens required his standing desk face north and Rudyard Kipling couldn’t work at all without black ink in his pen. And Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk would leave his house, walk around the block twice and then come back home to write.

         With those rituals, highly respected, thoughtful and provocative writers prove over and over again what all  effective leaders  eventually come to know:

                        To write (and to lead) meaningfully
                        you have to get away from it all —
including getting away from yourself.

Ernest Hemingway at his standup desk

Ernest Hemingway at his standup desk

        You have to crawl out from under your skin to get under the skin of a reader or follower.

 Alone With Your Thoughts

     That’s why the best writers and the most effective leaders begin their writing and leading the same way:  alone.

                 ALONE, leaders like writers , first begin connect their words to their thoughts so others can follow their thinking.

                ALONE, leaders like writers, first get real with themselves. They  suppress and vacate as much as possible their own selfish interests, concerns and desires.

                ALONE, leaders like writers,  can then more productively focus on the  interests, concerns and desires of their readers or their followers.

           That’s why economist and author John Kenneth Galbraith noted: “The best place to write is by yourself because writing then becomes an escape from the terrible boredom of your own personality.”

          So too the best way to lead is to first get out of the way. Get out from the barriers of your own flesh and blood.

         Crawl out from your own sense of self importance and arrogance. Crawl out from your own bias and prejudice. Crawl out from under your own skin so that you can more fully get under the skin of your readers or followers.

         Even if takes a few rotten apples. Or a purring kitten.

 Today’s ImproveMINT

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