CVDL alum Dr. Lee Murphy, CEO of Chicago-based Inspera Health, was the speaker for the graduate commencement ceremonies on June 3, 2017. What follows are his insights into how a leader can grow their capacity to be mindful and loving. (View a video of the speech at this link.)
Thank you, President Brophy, Provost Payne, Dean Gill, Abbot Austin, Benedictine University faculty and staff, friends and relatives of the graduates, and you, Goodwin College of Business graduates of 2017, it is a great privilege to be joining your celebration.
First, a hearty congratulation to all the degree candidates and to all the loved ones here who supported these amazing graduates, a deep bow of gratitude to the families; without you none of this would have been possible (bow to the families and invite the graduates to stand up and bow in gratitude to their families)
Now, I have 10 or so minutes remaining to find something to say of value – to a group of incredibly smart, ambitious, achievement oriented degree candidates who are current on the latest theories, understand the roots of their chosen area of study, some here have developed their own theories and published already, and all have plans for highly successful career recently boosted by completing this degree.
So, I will begin the way we start most of our meetings at Inspera Health – with a moment of silence. [Dr. Murphy then led the audience in a brief meditation exercise.]
I decided to speak from my heart, about what that matters most to me now. This has changed from when I first completed my MBA and MSMOB here in the early 90’s. There was a time when I knew exactly what I wanted and where I was headed professionally; back when I was in control of my future.
That time was long ago and learning the lesson that I was not in control could be heroically told as an amazing burst of insight, or gently shared as ever-unfolding moments of grace; but if I was to speak of it truthfully – it was not pretty, at times downright ugly, with moments of behavior I am not proud of; and yet, what I am proud of were three foundational commitments I made that have become core to who I am today:
- Commit to expanding my ability to live an ever more conscious life (this is lifelong learning applied to oneself).
- Commit to leaving the planet a little better than it would have been without me here – this has grown to aspire to leave every interaction a little better (and I have work to do here).
- Commit to continually expanding my capacity to give and receive love.
So how can I do this? I have five observations:
One: Most importantly create space in your life for growth promoting reflection – meditation, centering prayer, whatever you call it – find a way to hear both your own still center point and align with the resonance of your higher power. This is the most important engine I know of for expanding joy, deepening love; and, it supports the context for you to have a deeper more profound positive impact in the world. I was introduced to meditation 25 years ago and practiced sporadically for about 10 years then figured out how profoundly helpful it is and now every day I find time for this practice.
With practice and support you learn to distinguish the messages (by messages I mean thoughts – typically patterned thoughts – the type you hear over and over in your self-talk) and learn to discern which of those sourced are in pain or fear from those of your true higher self – and when you figure this out, life becomes easier, more joyful and you will find yourself moving to find ‘work’ that is aligned with your soul; and then the entire classic definition of ‘work’ transforms.
Two: Learn to live in relationship TO your pain not FROM your pain;
- Living FROM your pain is reactive, less conscious, and typically is draining both to you and those you are interacting with – it removes the possibility of creativity, integration, and generative relationships.
- When I live in RELATIONSHIP TO my pain – I come to understand it; I ‘hear’ it; I feel it fully; I acknowledge its presence. I am never happy that whatever created it occurred; but it did, and it now exists so my choice is to integrate it productively into my life or be unconsciously controlled by it. Denying or avoiding your pain never works in the long term.
- There are lots of ways to engage this shift, like with most things it begins with awareness; and it can be supported by reading personal development books, engaging a therapist or a coach, finding a strong support network. For me, it was talk therapy which I used historically to heal and now I use regularly from a preventive perspective – ‘prevention’ meaning I set a regular time for reflecting out loud with a witness; a witness who will challenge me when needed about how well am I living my life congruent with my values.
Three: Find a personal truth speaker – said another way seek Trusted Feedback – a spouse, friend or small group of friends who will speak truth to you (in this context ‘truth’ is rarely what you want to hear – but if taken in and used as grist for the mill of growth is invaluable). I have a group of 3 other men, we have met with the stated purpose of supporting each other’s growth for the last 17 years; first in person, now by Skype as we are geographically separated
I remember a time I heard some feedback from a business colleague that was not delivered tactfully or even appropriately, so I took this story (as it was quite emotionally charged for me) to my next session with “the boys”, expecting to be joined in total mutual agreement of what a schmuck I worked with …and, what I heard from them was……well, um Lee – you can sometimes be like that ….”surprised” does not quite capture my initial response, but I took a couple of deep breaths to say please clarify and provide some specific examples for me…which they did….and more growth was invited.
Four: Create your own infrastructure of support – this is not only for when you are in crisis or pain; this is a preventive collection of relationships and practices that creates the basis for you to navigate life’s white water – seeing choices where others do not, and engaging more consciously. Each of you can proactively create your own infrastructure of support – do it now when you don’t need it. Just like in banking – the best time to go for a loan or line of credit is when you don’t need it. This is the same, put these resources in place. Start small, but start.
Five: Finally, be willing to risk being vulnerable. Yes, probably the culmination of all the above – finding a way to stand deeply in your strength and from this place open yourself up, moving beyond your strength to your softness – to engage from your heart. The relationship with my amazing spouse Jacqueline has helped me tremendously here.
Now, as this is a business college it is a perfect place for me to invite all of you to join the movement to elevate business back to its place as a noble profession
Business needs to see itself as an integral part of the fabric of our society; the end goal is not exclusively profit maximization, but an outcome that is generative and sustainable for us as individuals, for our societies, and for the environment. Business can and must see itself as a central contributor of positive impact on the planet if we are to flourish.
If flourishing on a personal and professional level is of interest to you, I encourage you (or challenge you if that language works better) to consider adding one additional life goal or aspiration. I invite you to include “constantly deepening your ability to give and receive love.”
If you choose to do this I guarantee you three things:
- First, it will be very very difficult; quite possibly the most difficult thing you can undertake
- Second, it will at times be very painful – it is impossible to aspire to expand your capacity for love without simultaneously expanding your capacity to experience pain;
- Third, it unequivocally will be the single best investment you could ever make.
Love allows us to serve each other with grace.
When I sat down to write this graduation talk, I was not expecting to end up here; and yet when I thought of what could I possibly say in a short period of time that maybe one person in the room might hear; If you are out there, this one person, I guarantee you all the effort, pain, challenge, and angst will be worth it.
Are you up to my challenge?
Do you dare to include as a life goal to love more deeply?
I hope so, it would transform your world and our planet needs more of us willing to take this risk.
Blessings for each you.