Practicing Kaizen at SRH

We talk a lot at SRH about the books that have moved us and changed the way we think (and subsequently, act). Great business books like The Machine, Good to Great, The Wizard of Ads and pretty much everything by Seth Godin have changed us. 

At the beginning of this pandemic, I tried to look at the newfound time at home as a gift. No more stuffy airplanes! Finally, more time at home to cook, clean and organize my life! I naturally focus on the positive so I saw these new restrictions as real opportunities to get $#*% done. However, as a natural-born extra extravert, after only a few weeks, I struggled with so much time away from my teammates, friends and family. But I challenged myself to do more… I leaned in. I signed up to learn French on Duolingo. So far, I have 300+ consecutive days of spending about 15 minutes refreshing my french language skills so when the borders open up to Americans, I’ll be ready. Je suis prête. 

But I still felt stuck. 

One of the values at SRH is Kaizen “continuous improvement.”  Sounds good, right? It’s also a bit daunting.  Continuous improvement!? Continuous sounds linear.  But most improvements in life come in fits and starts.  One tiny change can lead to another… 

A couple of months ago, my friend told me she was teaching a class on Compassion that was started at Stanford University School of Medicine.  I thought, “Hmmm, I think I’m good in that department. I’m compassionate.  No thanks.”  But I told her that if she was short on students (she’s getting a teacher certification and needed at least ten students to participate), I would step up. And.  Bingo.  Pinch hitter on deck: me. 

And that first Sunday morning class in February, I was like a trapped animal.  The class focused on meditation techniques.  It was over two hours long and during that time, I was asking myself “When will this class be over!?  Why did I sign up for this?  Dammit.  It was my compassion that got me here in the first place.”  Oh, the irony. 

Just as always, the universe was conspiring in my favor.  I was in that class for a reason that I couldn’t see initially, but in the subsequent weeks, the more I learned to meditate, the more I realized that this is exactly what I needed.  And that’s the thing about learning.  Even when we are resistant (why are we so resistant to things that are good for us?  We’ll save that for another blog post), it still finds a way to give us what we need.  I couldn’t articulate that I needed this class.  I wasn’t consciously looking to practice Kaizen – my primary motivation was to help my friend, but in the end, the class has been a total game-changer for me.  It’s rearranging molecules in my brain.  It’s giving me a new way towards continuous improvement because it’s giving me a new perspective on everything.  Like Jerry Maguire’s breakdown. Breakthrough.

Back in the days when we were all working in our office, Jonathan Gundlach would play New Music Fridays. We would talk about the great new films we’d seen and share the inspiration we felt from those films (Side note: have you seen Minari or Promising Young Woman?) Nobody knows where the big ideas begin so we must be in a constant state of diversifying our creative portfolio with books, movies, Master Classes, compassion classes, photography, painting, writing, playing music. Because learning is a practice that may help us in extraordinary ways that we can’t begin predict.

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