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Ed France

Ed departs for new adventures in public service with the City of Santa Barbara, and here shares some of the value sets he holds.

As I leave this role and leadership community, I want to share some tidbits of insight and unsolicited advice. These ten prompts are a sort of light-hearted reflection of ‘In this I believe.’ Think part NPR and part David Letterman. They aren’t all that valuable in and of themselves, but it feels great to share. What would be valuable is if this sparks you to reflect and even share themes of your own.

10). Work with people you like and respect: I believe in meritocracy and avoiding nepotism and favoritism. That said, don’t leave your work setting to fate. Find roles with teams where you learn from people you admire and enjoy the people you work with. Advice taken appreciatively from my dear old Dad.

9). Goals are stupid, have a goal: having a goal means visualizing something clearly, and setting a date. Both are huge. But also be willing to let things go. Emergent and unforeseen elements are part of life, so we must often reassess things. So treat goals like Eisenhower treated plans: A plan is nothing but planning is everything.

One exercise I like is to take the time to write out ten goals that you’d like to complete by the end of the year. Take the time to reflect on goals that will advance where you are. Now read through these goals and find one goal that will move the ball forward right now. Write out the elements that will make this work: the components, the timeline, what success looks like.

8).Self-sufficiency over status: showing off wealth is absurd, but we all do it. Not spending money is incongruent with our dominant culture. Consumerism is a trap, pernicious and layered. (Star Wars ‘It’s a trap’ meme) Think of Thoreau out on Walden pond. Self-sufficiency is the single most impactful value set-IMHO- that let’s us lead by example and not contribute to deleterious elements of our society or economy.

7). It’s not about YOU! Just get over yourself. I believe that everyone is thinking about themselves and anxious about being judged. So much so that they probably aren’t paying enough attention to judge you. As a result, you are thus liberated from being anxious about this. Conversely, if someone is sending out negativity, even if it’s bullying or similar, remember that has more to do with what’s going on with them then with you. So empathize with them instead of getting defensive. It’s like interpersonal aikido.

6). Speak your truth while holding others’ truth- and yes, they may clash. But being righteous is about simplistic outlooks and not opening oneself to the mystery and paradox of the world. Don’t be intolerant or too self-assured. Value peoples lived experiences and different lenses. Gleefully taken from the Courage and Renewal touchstones.

5). Stay focused on your purpose – Here’s a way to avoid the whole debate about is it a good or bad idea to ‘follow your bliss’. Just find where you can contribute and feel fulfilled. I find the idea of Japanese Ikegai to be an elegant approach to this. Where do you have passion, skill, and ability to pay them bills? The overlap of these is the sweet spot to hang out in.

4). Meet people, greet people, and reach out!- Say hi to strangers, share acknowledgment to your daily passersby (or coworkers), call old friends and celebrate milestones. I aspire to send birthday and anniversary cards, Christmas cards and little thank you notes- by mail. You know who is amazing at this? Realtors and dentists. My counter cultural vein hates this, but I hate not keeping up with amazing people from my life more. Switching to positive. I LOVE catching up with people IRL vs. social media when possible. This theme is for me: Embrace your inner hype-man/salesman/networker. Help people to feel acknowledged.

3). Meditate- Our brains are just too darn powerful for our state of existence. It can feel like a computer or phone that badly needs to be reset and is bugging out. I think this is normal and a simple reset for the brain is to actively ‘not think’ is a key practice. You can have a mantra, or breathwork, or visualizations, or any number of religious or secular methods of ‘checking out’ of your cycles and things you may be holding. It could be nature time, prayer, WHATEVER- but find a way to cycle off and restart, lest you find yourself tripping. Oh yeah, high blood pressure is why I got started on this. And it really helped! Not to mention a mellower disposition.

Four years later I still practice and host two meditations a week on zoom. If you are ever trying to get help getting into this practice, hit me up.

2). Lead by example, humbly- Accept that you are part of the problem that you may see, not as a fatalist, but in order to meaningfully and honestly address it. That may take the edge off of judging others and allow you to experiment with solutions. If you find yourself being righteous about it, you are doing something wrong, and probably not seeing your own (however minute) hypocrisies. Model the way and make a meaningful change qualitatively.

1). Make friends with your future self: to quote the british garage band band the streets, “that’s future me, I’m glad I’m not that guy’ – studies show we subconsciously we see our future self as a totally different person, and that is why we don’t invest in our future- it’s like a dystopian terminator version of us! Turn that around. This could also be called Plant trees- make an investment in the future.

Bonus! Focus on the things that really matter. I’m prioritizing being a stand up dad, spouse, family member, and friend. I’m going to trade out levels of ambition in favor of making good on commitments I make. I’m going to not sweat the small stuff and make sure I’m showing up in the key ways that define who I want to be in this world- including within myself!

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