No Ego for Better Work and Life, Part 2
Insights from my interview with Cy Wakeman were too plentiful to fit into one blog article, so I felt sharing a part two was important. This blog contains an up close and personal set of insights from how this inspirational author, thought leader, speaker, and human being leads her life. I hope you find Cy’s insights and tips as useful as I have.
How has the pandemic been an opportunity to evolve our work and lives?
Cy Wakeman believes that many people have been impacted in extraordinary ways during the pandemic. Despite all the very difficult circumstances, impacts, and losses, she speaks about how the first part of the pandemic was a beautiful “time out” for many of us. COVID gave us time to reflect on ourselves and key societal issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement. And for so many of us, it has been an opportunity to evolve as human beings.
Cy describes how when she got stuck in Mexico at the beginning of the pandemic, she found herself intellectualizing her feelings, which was difficult. In her words, “everything fell apart – my relationship, my business… hundreds of conferences were cancelled.” But in the end, it was a blessing and she had profound revelations during this personal “time out”. She reflects on the quote: “Barn burnt down, now I can see the moon!” Cy was able to pivot and curate a new life and direction for her business: “I didn’t lose my business, I found my business.” According to Cy, “we can choose to cultivate the life we desire instead of accepting the life that busy-ness or external achievement has given us.”
“WE CAN CHOOSE TO CULTIVATE THE LIFE WE DESIRE INSTEAD OF ACCEPTING THE LIFE THAT BUSY-NESS OR EXTERNAL ACHIEVEMENT HAS GIVEN US.”
In terms of the evolution of work – Cy and I agree that the rise of the human-centric workplace is here. We must acknowledge that our old way of working no longer works, and it’s questionable whether it ever did work. In the old way, we weren’t allowed to get too “personal” in the workplace. That was the work of the ego – how convenient it was to make a personal focus taboo. Let’s transcend this together, and embrace each other’s unique humanness.
Your accomplishments are outstanding and your energy must be incredible. What does “work-life wellness” look like for you personally?
Cy believes in energy management. As Mary Anne Williams said, “you’re not the electricity, you’re the toaster” – in other words, we need to plug into sources of energy, rather than trying to generate energy from nothing. Cy explains how we waste a lot of energy in the “not now.” We go into the past and we worry about the future. However, attending to the present can be profound when practiced consistently, and this is where Cy’s energy source comes from.
WE NEED TO PLUG INTO SOURCES OF ENERGY, RATHER THAN TRYING TO GENERATE ENERGY FROM NOTHING
We must be careful about over-giving and over-functioning. Self-reflection and attention to boundaries are important. You must avoid the energy vampires of your life (ie, people who take but don’t give you energy). We each can be self-responsible for our energy rather than at the mercy of our circumstances. Respecting our own needs is important, and we must take note of what we’re willing to say yes to, that we can do peacefully without resentment or self-harm.
What would you do if you didn’t need to sleep and could use that time on whatever else you wanted?
Cy is an avid reader, and she would read more if she had this extra time! She loves fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Mary Anne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, and Byron Katie are authors at the top of Cy’s list. A Return to Love is a book that Cy reads every January. She notes that she doesn’t read a lot of business books, as they encourage an external focus. Whereas Cy urges people to have mastery of their internal environments and arrange the external world to their own liking.
What is one book, podcast, or other resource you’d recommend to help people improve their work-life wellness?
Cy recommends some more fantastic books and resources:
- Anne Lamott and her collection of autobiographical essays, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.
- David Whyte is a poet who hosts the wonderful “Three Sundays” reflection series.
- Krista Tippet’s podcast, “On Being,” exploring the human experience.
- Byron Katie’s books and podcasts are great resources for practicing mindfulness and meditation.
I also recommend Cy Wakeman’s podcast, No Ego. She covers the basics of her teachings in Season 1, and goes into depth about her philosophies throughout the rest of the episodes.
If you could have one wish for a better world when it comes to work/life, what would it be?
A lot of people believe heaven is something that only comes when they die, Cy explains. Heaven, however, can be tapped into right now and right here on this Earth. In order to do this, though, Cy wishes that people will learn to become comfortable with impermanence, and get better at letting go.
Further, the polarization society is facing in the 4th wave of COVID is a big ego play. There aren’t two camps – there’s only one camp – it’s US, human beings. The solutions we need to look for are ones that serve the whole, not a specific group or subset.
THERE AREN’T TWO CAMPS – THERE’S ONLY ONE CAMP – IT’S US, HUMAN BEINGS.
Cy aptly describes that when we’re in an unpreferred reality, we do one of two things that can detriment our wellbeing:
- we WISH things were different, or
- we ARGUE with reality (e.g., this is not how it should be!).
However, there’s a space in-between an unpreferred reality and a different future – a small space – that is where your agency is to bridge a different vision of how things can be.
For example, some people are saying: “I will come back to the office if you guarantee I will be safe” – but we didn’t guarantee that before! People want this third option, which is, according to Cy, the work of the ego. According to the Dalai Lama – if you don’t want suffering, then you either need to radically accept suffering or move to have impact. However, most people want a third option: to vent and try to bend reality in their favour. Cy sums up how this is not an evolved way to move through the world.
In sum, if you are not happy or content, you can choose to look at the external reality or at your internal landscape – only one of which you have the ability to alter.
Cy Wakeman is a drama researcher, global thought-leader, and New York Times best-selling author who is recognized for cultivating a counter-intuitive, reality-based approach to leadership. Backed by over 25 years of unparalleled experience, Wakeman’s philosophy offers a new lens through which employees and executives alike, can shift their attention inward, sharpen their focus on personal accountability, and uncover their natural state of innovation simply by ditching the drama.