Foreign guests are invited each year to join a fall walk at the beautiful summer palace in Beijing. Everyone was given identifying stickers, a bright yellow backpack, and a jacket to wear, and encouraged to mingle with hundreds of foreigners and Chinese hosts as they make their way around the palace grounds via a marked path.
Our university invited us again this year (our third year) to join the group. We had another commitment in the afternoon, but thought we would attend just the opening ceremony of the walk before quietly and unobtrusively leaving.
To our surprise, however, before the walk started we were honored on stage with big colorful “longevity” banners as the announcer said, “Charles and Laraine Chamberlain, American experts, are recognized for being the most outstanding walkers.” Apparently, we were the only ones who’d attended the event for three years straight.
After this honor, we felt so guilty about walking away, we stayed for at least some of the walk, then skulked away from the marked path and plethora of organizers by ripping off our stickers and hiding our bright banners as much as we could. Our hearts were beating fast as we sneaked away. “Outstanding walkers” indeed!
China does an outstanding job of opening up opportunities for dialogue with foreigners. It is obvious that a great deal of focus, energy, and money is spent on presenting a friendly face to the world. For instance, when an important global trade or government meeting is to be held in China, it is very common for the meeting to be held in one of China’s “tier two” cities. This gives the country an “excuse” and a deadline to renovate and upgrade that city. Travel anywhere in China and you’ll see massive road and landscaping projects in addition to the building boom. It reminds us of families who hold a daughter’s wedding reception in their backyard. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see the family remodel the living room, family room, and back patio in preparation. Now if we could just get more attention to those bathrooms!
This link puts you on the show’s archive site. Look for the 20191106 interview. That’s ours. It is a drive-time program, so must have tons of listeners. Don’t be intimidated by the Chinese characters. The program is in English. They introduce us in the first couple of minutes, but then our interview starts somewhere around the 25-minute mark.
by Charles J. Chamberlain, co-founder Chamberlain Leadership Group LLC
We have worked with many clients over the past 10-11 years who have used our tools to overcome emotional issues, or to simply develop better emotional control and awareness in leadership roles. But as people gain more emotional literacy and increased ability to manage their emotions, the same two frustrating phenomena show up time and time again. Perhaps there are better words to describe these phenomena, but two metaphors do a great job in helping us visualize them.
Due to its buoyancy in denser sea water, an iceberg floats
with approximately 10% of its mass showing above the water and 90% submerged. When
we embark on a plan to understand behaviors and underlying emotions, we see a
similar pattern in ourselves and others. Only 10% of our emotional “mass” is
visible as conscious behaviors, vocalizations, and consciously controlled non-verbal
The remaining 90% of our emotional world is “submerged” beneath
our consciousness. But just because an emotion is below the surface doesn’t
mean it has no impact on us. To the contrary, because it is submerged, it has
even more power over us, especially if we continue to be consciously unaware of
it. This 90% carries significant weight as we form and maintain our identities,
create relationship habits, develop meaningful motivations, and navigate the
challenges of our lives.
The extent of our enjoyment of life and relationships is
largely determined by how well we understand and manage the entirety of our
emotional iceberg. Whether or not we are at ease in our lives or at “disease”
can be a function of how well we are managing the submerged portion of our
emotional existence. Submerged emotions can interact with our physical bodies
in unexpected and unwanted ways. They can come “out of nowhere” and affect our
verbal and non-verbal communication. They can cause illness. They can also
cause us to do things that don’t make sense to our rational minds. Have you
ever said, “I don’t know why I said that?” Or, “I don’t know why I did that?” Our
submerged emotions can be particularly sensitive to triggering stimuli, thrusting
us into “mysterious” episodes of despair or confusion, leaving us wondering, “Why
am I suddenly so upset, worried, or depressed?”
You could think of the self-directed tools we offer as scuba diving gear, allowing us to dive beneath the surface and explore the submerged 90%. And, like a scuba diver’s equipment, the emotional tools allow us to go as deep as we are comfortable going. No one is there to pressure us to go beyond our comfort level. If we want to stay just a few feet beneath the surface, we can do that. If we want to dive deeper, we can do that too. The tools allow us to gain an appreciation for the extent of our emotions, while at the same time working on specific areas of concern.
Emotional Leaky Roofs
Once we have discovered some tools to work on specific emotional areas, we often face another phenomenon we’ll call the “leaky roof” phenomenon. Anyone who has experienced a leak in the roof can relate to this dilemma: After a hard rain, you notice water coming through a small hole in the corner of your dining room. At first, you place a bucket under the hole to collect the water, then when the storm has subsided, you look for the source of the problem. It is unlikely, however, that the hole in the roof is directly above the hole in the ceiling. Water has a tendency to enter from one hole, travel many feet away along trusses and structures in the attic, and create another hole as it follows gravity. An inexperienced homeowner might patch the drywall in their ceiling, thinking they’ve fixed the problem. A later storm comes along and it becomes clear that the source of the problem is not where it appeared to be.
Likewise, in our work with people who come to us having
identified a specific issue, more often than not, “the issue” is not the real
issue. For instance, we’ve worked with people who have taken our anger
management classes in lieu of jail time. It is tempting to say, “I have a
problem with anger,” especially when a judge has confirmed that indeed you do
have a problem with anger. But in our anger management approach, we recognize
the fact that you probably do NOT have a problem with anger, but you most likely
have a problem with fear, guilt, confusion, or an array of other possible
This “leaky roof” dilemma appears everywhere. A man who can’t
control his spending is really struggling with depression. A woman who puts on
too much weight is really protecting herself from pain. A combative, rebellious
teenager is really overcome with grief. The examples are endless.
Using the tools we provide, a person can quickly test the emotional strength of a particular issue and decide if it is simply in the path of gravity, like water flowing to its lowest point, or if the issue itself is the source of the problem.
A clear understanding of both the extent and complexity of who
we are emotionally can help us be happier, more productive people.
For more information about the tools offered by Chamberlain Leadership Group LLC, contact us by clicking here.
Along with some of our university colleagues, we were invited by our university to attend a special dinner for foreign experts who are living and working in China. We arrived in buses and, for our benefit, the entire highway was shut down on the way to the dinner, which was held at The Great Hall of the People adjacent to Tiananmen Square. Some 2,000 foreign experts were in attendance and treated to an amazing dinner and speech from Vice Premier Han Zheng. He praised foreign experts for assisting the country of China in reaching its current strength and status on the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party in China.
At our table was a couple from the Ukraine, a woman from Mexico City, a man from the UK, a man from Russia, another American man, and two Chinese hosts. We had a delightful time getting to know them. Unfortunately, cameras and cell phones were not allowed in the hall. We did get pictures of our group at the university and outside the hall.
Incidentally, after the dinner the entire crowd exited the doors to the front of the hall, while I (Chuck) slipped into a restroom at the rear of the hall, behind some heavy curtains. I was there for just a few moments when an entourage of young men in business suits wearing ear buds entered the restroom with the Vice Premier himself. I was surprised and could only think to say, “Hi” to him. Afterwards I exited, holding open the curtain for him as we walked out together. I remember thinking, “Why are these security men allowing me to be so close to the Vice Premier.” Then I remembered the worried looks on their faces. Obviously, this bathroom break was unplanned and worrisome to those whose job it was to keep him safe. I caught them off-guard.
Under Chamberlain Leadership Group LLC, we held two leadership development sessions at the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.
Session I dealt with self-awareness and the importance of understanding yourself before leading others. In this session, we did some exercises that allowed participants to understand some things about themselves that they had not considered.
Comments from participants after Session I included, “This is great! We’ve never done anything like this before!”
Session II was focused on re-defining leadership to include those activities that are so small they would not be deemed “world-changing.” If leadership is influence (according to John C. Maxwell), then anything we do to influence someone comes under the banner of leadership. This could include something as simple as complimenting someone or smiling at someone. Also, when we simply manifest our internal values, we are being leaders. We looked at four short video clips of orchestra conductors, each with their unique leading style. We then discussed the participants’ top three values and had them put those values into “I Am” statements. It was a powerful experience.
We look forward to further leadership development sessions with this organization as well as with several other corporations outside of the university. It feels very satisfying to take the leadership development curriculum we have developed for our university students and expand it into the non-academic world.
As native English speakers associated with a university, we were asked to record English dialogue (so far about eight hours’ worth). Apparently, the recordings will be used to test candidates who want to work for BMW to make sure their English is “up to snuff.” We had fun doing the recordings, and may do more . . if asked. It is difficult to cold-read a script, especially when the vocabulary gets into scientific terms. However, we did not have to do too much re-recording, as we soon became familiar with the process.
For a very short time, our friends Diana and Albert from Tai O Village in Hong Kong came to visit us in Beijing. When you bond with people born on the other side of the world, whose culture of origin is quite different from your own, you recognize the fact that we are all truly brothers and sisters.
In early 2020, we plan to release our book, Threads of Resilience: How to Thrive in a Turbulent World. It will come not a moment too soon. This week alone, there has been another mass shooting in Texas, a threatening hurricane in Florida, and escalating tensions in our beloved Hong Kong. We feel a rising need for the many hopeful messages in our book.
The following is one such message–a short excerpt from the book:
. . Jeremy and his dad spent the evening discussing what they soon realized was a foundational concept in dealing with any challenge in life. They discussed an important characteristic of happiness: it comes and goes. In fact, it comes and goes pretty easily. Joy, on the other hand, goes deeper. Joy is slower moving. Joy is always from within, while happiness can so easily depend on things outside of us. People often say, “I’m happy about” something. They don’t say they are “joyful about” something. People might say, “I’m happy about the weather” or “I’m happy about the promotion I got at work.” But they never say they’re joyful about those things.
There is a very subtle, implied insertion of the word, “about,” nearly every time someone expresses their happiness, thus happiness is more fleeting and dependent on external factors. If the situation after the word “about” is negative, then typically the happiness is not even expressed. But joy is different. Where happiness is about the small moments in time, joy is more focused on the big picture. It’s very possible to live a joyful life even when there are unhappy incidences.
Chuck said to his son, “The longer I live, the more I’m able to look back and see the bigger picture unfold. Looking back on a span of several years will give you a different perspective.” Jeremy realized that looking back on his own life, there were certainly unhappy incidences, but through it all, even he could recognize threads of resilience which brought joy. Happiness comes and goes but the lack of it never has to interrupt one’s joy.
In the middle of deep, emotional, even devastating times, continuous threads of resilience not only allow us to survive the difficult times, but to thrive in true abundance. These threads of resilience can literally pull us through momentary trials or even years of unhappy circumstances.
To top off our 17-day trip, we landed in Bangkok for a few days before coming back to Beijing. We stayed at Legacy Suites Hotel in the financial district of Bangkok at the recommendation of some friends who had stayed one night there. It was a beautiful, spacious hotel, but we discovered it was in the middle of a “red light district.” We did go away from the area for some fun experiences. We went to a cultural show one evening that was astounding in the way it was performed. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed. We also toured the river and canals via long-boat.
Prior to our cruising adventure, we spent a few days in Singapore. What a delightful place! We lucked out in our choice of hotels when we stayed at the Nostalgia Hotel, which was located on the edge of a residential area. Consequently, we had quick access to a community eatery that served delicious local cuisine. And the best part–it was only a few dollars per meal. Needless to say, we wandered over to the eatery several times per day.
Singapore has a very diverse population, very livable weather year-round, and very few natural disasters. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the local citizens we came across (at least in the area of our hotel) spoke a mixture of English, Cantonese, and Mandarin . . which happens to coincide exactly with my own current linguistic state. It felt like heaven.