Ferdinand teaches us 3 Steps to befriending the monster and healing after trauma

Ferdinand teaches us 3 Steps to befriending the monster and healing after trauma

As I reflect on my almost 4 years of intriguing and challenging research into balanced human behavior, my seemingly random choice of flight movies seemed to trigger more thoughts, but not this time, this time, I will go all the way to an animated feature, something more light and less philosophical.

But as you know, it won’t end well.

Ferdinand is a bull that doesn’t like fighting. He just wants to see the world being a beautiful place and to enjoy being part of this beauty, but being the intimidating bull he is, he doesn’t seem to have much of a choice as he is grabbed into fights. I don’t know if this was supposed to happen with everyone, but I did relate to Ferdinand.

I tried to understand and extract lessons from this story and from my own life experience that can help us make sense of this dilemma affecting many leaders today. The empathetic, warm and supportive person who shares a vision for a beautiful world, and being grabbed into bringing their hyperaware, confrontational, aggressive side.

The things that I have seen in common with Ferdinand are:

Trauma and Loss

Nice people are often struck by Trauma due to the exact qualities they exude, it’s the empathy, warmth, people-first approach that  haunt them down, not just on a public stage but also on a very personal traumatizing experiences. It’s this moment in which you realize that these exact qualities are the core of your weakness as they will be used against you. From angles and from people you have never expected, it often results in resenting these exact qualities as the source of pain and loss.

Natural Expression of Rage

Driven, intelligent and strong people often have a very powerful dark side, they do good not out of lack of capacity to do harm, but out of choice and self reflection – right after or during the moments of trauma and resentment to these qualities, expect nothing but raw human rage, coupled with intelligence, the effect of acting upon rage could be immensely shocking and destructive.

Confusion and Identity Crisis

For the big-hearted leader, reflecting on what they have done. Not only this bring about confusion, remorse and identity crisis; but it also promotes concious reduction in assertive behavior, almost leading to total inaction. It is for the greater good, people like me are not meant to lead with assertive actions, I will just settle down here and pretend to be doing my best.

This is a state that I have personally visited and stayed at for a while and came to see people with great potential stuck at it, what seemed to work for me to evolve out of this state are the following:

Step 1: Identifying, Accepting and Channeling Your Shadow Sides

It is easy to identify, accept and channel our positive, socially acceptable traits like being empathetic, positive and loving. Though, the way we respond to sudden, shocking events often shows us snippets of our nature that we are more likely to deny and avoid dealing with. With deeper questioning and reflection you can discover the shadow sides that sometimes goes totally against how you see yourself.

The aggressive commander with outstanding oratory skills. The uber idealist with unrealistic expectations. The master manipulator with social hyperawareness.

Owning these shadows and putting them to good use is essential to reversing the cycle of inaction. Now, not only you don’t need to deny your shadow sides, but you put them to the best use through acceptance and proper channeling.

Step 2: Mastering your emotions and responses

Regardless of how much we tend to exaggerate events in our minds, a traumatic experience is only an external triggers, you can still own the way you respond to them.

Stoicism promotes getting yourself used to responding to challenging conditions (e.g. cold showers in winter), this way when you have to face an unexpected negative situation, you can still get your mind to lead, probably avoiding immediate emotional reaction and planning a proper response.

As you have identified your shadow sides and know for sure the types of situations that’s more likely to trigger an unpleasant response. You can now set the boundaries to avoid being exposed to these situations.

Step 3: Building or moving to a new environment/social circle

It is certain that different industries, social circles and environments have underlying dynamics that might be exposing you to constant confrontations that trigger and activate your shadow sides. The wisdom then is to change the industry, social circle or environment in which you find yourself under constant pressure of acting in ways you don’t like.

In conclusion, don’t let your trauma lead you inaction, rather use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and to get ready for the rest of your journey with more in-depth self-awareness and readiness to lead and respond properly while investing your capacity in the environment most receptive to your giving.

Have you faced a traumatic experience before, how did you manage to recover, share your story with me for more inspiration as I research more into the topic.

10 mental images to practice growing a thick skin as CEO!

10 mental images to practice growing a thick skin as CEO!

I decided that in the next 10 years, Im going into Global Trade and Investment on behalf of Generation-Y in Egypt well, he mumbled, you were just complaining about corruption and power struggles in your local Cairo community, now you are about to kick ass with the most powerful people in the world? You think you are ready for this?

Anyway, It’ll either destroy you or youll will grow into it.

His scenario planning methodologies and projecting ones vision into the long term of 10 and 20 years, came to formulate Egypreneurs vision statement: Establishing Cairo as the modern Mecca of Global Trade and Investment and taking the lead in systemically influencing the economic behavior of Generation-Y in Egypt.

Dont get me wrong, he did believe in me when I was just a kid selling stuff on the internet and consistently invested hours and hours of his expensive consulting time waiting for me as I make it to our meetings 45 minutes late, as he looks at his watch and say EXACTLY 45 minutes, its almost like a branding thing, right? Well, I impressed him a few time as I show up sharply on time, he wondered, then, If I can do it, why not to do it consistently!

He still told me he saw massive potential in the CEO version of me. Though, he always wondered whats really behind this cold mask of formality, why would I be overweight, why would I be late to a meeting when I know exactly how not to, as he carefully thought about these matters when I couldnt care less.

He asked me for a meeting at the Conrad after a meeting with a large international institution, he relaxed on the lobbys sofa and told me, I was hearing a States Man in there, your strong voice was taking over the room with these perfectly picked words, ideas are sharp and clear as it can be and scenarios are given, I looked at everyone taking glimpse of respect and consideration to your words, you are planning on becoming a President one day right? Im flattered thanks, and no, no plans to go anywhere.

He once pushed too hard for answers, and was surprised that this cold smart kid who has a special talent of picking the right, diplomatic words, exploded. Emotionally exploded with why is he like this. What do you want to know, huh? You want to know what the people I trusted the most did to me? You want to know how many time I was back-stabbed in a period of 6 month? Or you want to know the cunning of your friends and the corruption of the institutions you work for?

He comfortably relaxed back into his chair and did nothing but staring into my eyes while my body language is getting more and more aggressive, while Im throwing stories of pain, deceit and betrayal right and left, with the same boldness of the one who made the impression of a states man some days back.

Wow, my f**** lord. He mumbled quietly as I nervously adjust myself back to my chair and took an aggressive sip from this finished cup in front of me, while throwing my eye contact away to the wall, wondering what the hell did I just do!

I didnt expect him to understand, neither I think he did while taking glimpse to my round belly, fallen hair and slightly discouraged spirit at the tender age of 26 which a few years back stemmed with positive energy, with stories about my Parkour adventures, and how much my Kung Fu coach tried to distract trainees from the fact that this barely 5’7″ dude, just delivered a stylish flying kick to a heavy sand bag that dropped into the ground of this underground training garage with a sound of an explosion. And all eyes of the new guys headed towards me as I respond with a cocky smile and aggressive eye contact of a SIDI who can do serious damage.

He had to give up. He tried his best. And the asset that he was working on had so many emotional blocks he didnt know how to fix. Do you know the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear about wasted resources and potential. What? You? you represent the wasted resources of your generation as you continue to live with fucken 2% of your capacity.

As the image of a mentor fades away to the back of my mind, and the few people who just came to look me in the eyes and tell me, I only do this because I believe in you.- I always found renewal, self-discovery and willingness to resist and bite only just not to let them down.

I even started searching for these emotional blocks to tear them down, to crush them as I crushed the sandbag.

As we get down to business with the philosophies of a cute childhood, we are often struck with the reality that the values, principles and ethics we brought up on are challenged in the workplace. That the people we get in contact with are often influenced by completely different paradigms about life, power and society. Its unless we discover and re-discover whats really motivating these people and how to deal with them we will fall a victim to either their cunning or our own sense of giving up after seeing the worst part of human behavior.

I tried to search for these situations that caused me emotional blocks from doing what I want to do in the past, I wanted to study them to tear them down, to accept the fact that, often people who we trust the most will be our worst enemies and that there are relationships in life that we cant fix an dont need to.

1. Personal Envy
Do you know that some of the people who betray you, they do so only because they wish theyd be like you? You have these qualities that tortures them and they just cant stop until they completely destroy you if they can. The kid who is getting all the toys, support and power and still challenged to keep up with you, the amount and consistency of hate, cunning and betrayal coming from this jealous kid will either destroy you or them.

I have tried to fix some of these relationships and think that, If Im nice to him, hell just stop and like me or something, which only made me more vulnerable to more betrayal and cunning. Mark the jealous kids and know what to expect from them.

2. Your Mentees
You see potential in them, you bring them close, too close, you cherish them with your attention, you award them with shiny titles and unconditional support and belief, you expect them to be grateful, but no, they resent you and the only thing they can think of is proving how much they are better than you, that they didnt need this care, that they didnt need this attention and that they would have got it on their own.

A very clear example of that is the relationship between Rocky Balboa and his mentorship to Tommy Gun and how it turned into revenge and animosity.

This is probably one of the hardest situations to be at but Adrians response is brilliant here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr4x9aEWHZc

3. Power and Control freaks
Your potential scares them, they believe in nothing but power and more power and control, they always place their bids with whatever works best for them, ethics, morality and gratitude are extremely self-focused and self-centered principles in their dictionary, they will slaughter you if it works for them and they will just follow you and support you if it works for them.

Their betrayals might trigger resentment in your heart, as I wrote here after experiencing their swords in my back How do people react upon resentment, but believe me they are not worth it, they dont care and you shouldnt care either, these are the roles of the game, never take it personal or go emotional about it.

And if you dont like their ways, just dont be like them.

4. Taking advantage of your naivety, till when?

So, you like to be the specialized, narrow and deep type? You are only doomed to be used. They dont like this type in the club of leadership, they dont treat them as equal. They consistently take advantage of them, which can be a blessing as you can learn power games from the scratch, the more you pay attention and see whats happening, the more you master the game early on and punish them for their misbehavior later.

Learn their ways and let them taste their own poison.

5. Fortify yourself against betrayal/character assassination trials
Sometimes they are undecided about you, they like you a little bit for qualities of passion, dedication and commitment, but you are a possible threat, even some of those who you trusted must see you vulnerable at some point and consider taking a shot. To them, its a no brainer to take on clean shots at you for their advantage when they can.

I had been consistently guilty of leaving close people so much space and probabilities that they might take a clean shot at me, now understanding that without the need to go through its emotional content, it is vital to be always ready with a counter strategy. To ring their phones immediately after, letting them know you are going to get what you want regardless of their betrayal and evil cunning.

6. Hypocrites will take advantage, haunt them and crush them!
Some situations in life are too complex already, its when both sides are trying to avoid a foreseen undesired result that will hurt both, with good intentions and inter-mediation, the whole situation can be fixed. Though, its the hypocrites serving their own agendas and taking on the role of innocence and finding the best results are often are the ones who run the whole show for their advantage.

This scene from The Rock shows how a general who only intended to pressure authority, not to kill fellow soldiers ended up killing dozens of soldiers, why? because some of his mercenaries just wanted to cease these fuckers.

7. Do you know where I live? Then, fuck off!
Barking dogs are most likely not to bite, though the cost of psychological stress causes by others noise can be really exhausting. Enemies and haters will try to overload you with psychological stress, as long as you are not doing anything ethically or morally wrong, its important to cut through the chase, assess potential damage, plan recovery and fuck everything else off!

8. Maybe they dont want the Sheick
If you have a quality you might not realize its a big part of the source of your own power, the best way to take off this quality is not direct hits into it, though, it can be your own manipulation so that youd strip yourself out of this quality.

If what gives you strength is being vulnerable, with great belief in collaboration, community and open source, the best way to haunt you down is to take off the belief in these principles from your mind, and the best way to do that is to force you into situations where you are forced to let go of them as you see them abused.

9. The queen always protects her king, let her in!
For the workaholic entrepreneur, its often relationships that hurts the most, to the extend that we try to avoid having any, though, the presence of feminine energy is essential for growth and sustainability, a loving woman is capable of bringing the best in you, they are extremely hard to find and there are bad investments are often done along the journey of discovery, but if you arrive there, itll be all worth it.

There is only one woman who should be allowed to be more powerful than you, after she earns that, a big part of your job is to allow her to lead you towards your inner being and external goals.

Because in life, just like chess, the queens job is to always protect her king.

10. A warrior doesnt give up what he loves. He finds the love, in what he does!
We are often in a continuous battle with our ego, as I blogged here in Arabic about the ego and how it influences our behavior, its important to acknowledge the ongoing internal battle, try to understand it and always defeat your ego for the sake of doing the right thing.

These mental images might help aspiring CEOs navigate around the though world of business, especially if they come across more experienced and powerful people who want to take advantage of them or completely eliminate them, which had been my case for almost four years now.

As I break through my emotional blocks, I come closer to the image of the CEO someone has hoped and worked so hard for me to reach.

Power vs. Vulnerability. Which is the behavioral framework to live by?

Power vs. Vulnerability. Which is the behavioral framework to live by?

In my previous posts In Egypt, Are we hypocrites? and From Good to Great, what makes outstanding performances I have highlighted how I have seen vulnerability as a source of inspiration, progress and beauty.

Furthermore, I have integrated that in a lot of aspects in my life, recently, I was invited to deliver a session to members of a student organization called SYS, they introduced me as former President of Cairo ToastMasters Club, da, da, daaah! and while everyone is waiting, this guy in sports wear to drop public speaking bombs, I told them the best way to make a great speech, is to embrace vulnerability.

A girl told me she has a problem with the Arabic letter R, it sounds funny and they ask her to avoid it. Well, I told her even to stress on it, to be proud of it. I guess, after my session, some of the attendees doubted that I had any qualifications to make this session or if they should take my 2 cents seriously!

I have also fully embraced vulnerability in my startup life, with my team, with my surrounding, I share myself openly and do everything possible to avoid power games.

Though, being sharp, open and transparent fires back I remember a Facebook chat with a friend of mine, who told me that naivety and failure to understand power games was the reason that Im still being hit and back-stabbed right and left.

For the few years in business I had been trying to understand the hows and whys of that, I have read The Art of War for Sun Tzu and The 48 Laws of Power for Robert Green, and more of which actually made a lot of sense to me, I would bite my lips while relating some of the ideas in these books with some real life situations in which I was used and taken advantage of.

In this interview with Robert Green, author of 48 Laws of Power he makes it clear starting minute 41 that the world has changed and that consistent practice of these principles is the only guarantee for Mastery, he makes a valid point that most of those who shine for a while and then disappear experience that because of failure to turn it into a craft.

Which very strongly supports the argument that Power is what matters most and that the conscious practice of power is what sustains and grows whatever you are doing.

With these two conflicting paradigms about living life and interacting with my surrounding, I think I was suffering from an intellectual dispute, or social psychologists call it, dissonance, should we interface with our society with the beauty and energy of vulnerability, or should we control or seek to control, predict and direct as much as we can.

In my quest to answer that, I finished 2 courses on Coursera Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence by Dr. Richard Boyatzis and Social Psychology by Scott Plous, I have also became a member of the social psychology network to keep myself posted with all knowledge and news in the topic.

Social Psychology as an experimental science didnt provide a direct answer to my question, though learning about principles like Obedience, Conformity, and Deindividuation provided basis to better understand authority, power and influence.

Obedience shows that human beings have the likelihood of blindly following anything that looks like an authority. They even ran an experiment on marrying strangers as below:

Milgrams Obedience experiment even makes this clearer, people would take it to extremes and even feel they havent done anything wrong as they were following what they though is an authority who takes the responsibility.

Furthermore, principles of conformity and group biases have shown that people are more likely to agree and join who they think is more powerful and who based on their judgement is more likely to win in any situation, disregarding whether they are right or wrong, good or bad, its a fact that people want to place their bids with the winner, no matter what.

In another experiment on Dissonance, it was found that students who were paid a good amount of money in exchange for a lie, didnt really feel dissonance or guilt, they felt that it was worth the lie. Those, who were not paid well felt strong dissonance and guilt, comparably, not for the wrong they have done the lie but for what they have got in exchange.

Though, Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence had been a fabulous resource in putting all the leadership lip service to the test, as I proceeded curiously with the course, I was stopped at the Sacrifice Syndrome and everything started to make sense.

The Sacrifice Syndrome assumes that leadership is not just a skill or a gift, its also energy, that fades away and gets exhausted if you dont initiate regular Renewal Cycles. Its regardless of how much of a great leader you are or you can be, if you run out of energy out of providing everyone around you with what they need and more, youll reach the point in which youll not be able to provide them with the minimum they deserve from your attention and compassion and everything you invested in, will eventually collapse.

As I take notes of the number of times, I dropped myself off on a bean bag without getting home, and invested more time on refining or often redoing everyone elses tasks, I wouldnt have the space and focus to do my own as well as it should be.

And I guessed thats why I have probably asked this question to start with, the consistent practice of inspiring leadership while allowing renewal cycles to get more fresh energy wouldnt make the practice of power and authority any necessary, though, people would continue being inspired by the vulnerability of the goals and dreams they are executing against.

But does this mean that understanding power is not needed or not important and that the understanding and practice of these principles wouldnt defend boost and maintain our focus and energy on our goals?

Well, I guess Im still experimenting so Im not sure, but what I became more sure of from this exercise is what I shared with the kids of SYS in my public speaking session, Is that vulnerability by far, is the most brilliant practice of power.

Here, tell these people something they dont know about me!

P.S. The 48 Laws of Power can be looked at as evil and hostile, I did look at it like that for years, though, watching the interview above will educate you with what the author meant by highlighting these ideas and the video at the end might help you understand how they can be ethically used in business, watch this video from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ons-MA2PMGg