I was observing a leadership course while the group were discussing their personal values when the facilitator pointed at me and asked me to share one of mine.
I was about to offer an easy answer – Commitment. I had just read Anthony Bourdain’s excellent book, Kitchen Confidential, in which he describes how one of his employers splits all people into two groups:
- Those who do what they say they will do.
- Everybody else.
However, as my current personal development goal is to not always say the very first thing that comes into my head (which often gets me into trouble), I took a breath and allowed another thought.
Reflecting on a personal history
It was just after Yom Kippur, the annual fast for Jews which I have done since I was 13 years old. The previous morning, my daughter looked at my hungry face and said “Dad, why do you do this?”. After offering the first thing that came into my head—it’s healthy, I’ve always done it, grandma and grandpa did it, etc—I thought more about it and found it a really interesting reflection.
I am not a “good” Jew. Brought up in Madras in the 1960s, there were no synagogues and probably no other Jews for miles. I had a strong sense of who I was and where I was from, but would have been clueless in an orthodox synagogue.
One thing was constant: Yom Kippur. My parents always fasted and when I turned 13, I started, too. I did it every year. Even when I was in a Christian school which made no allowance for it, through University, and to this day. Sundown to Sundown. Why?
Okay, I know it’s obvious!
It is totally and utterly essential to who I am. I refer to it, joke about it and share it no matter who I am talking to because if you can’t accept or connect to that part of me, we’re history.
What interests me about it is that, initially, it doesn’t feel like an “actionable” value. Others, like Respect or Responsibility, you could make a list of two or three things that you can actually do to demonstrate those values. However (before I disappear up my own navel), I have found that realisation and reflection tell me that my identity is a value that I am living reasonably well. People who know me and work with me recognise it in so many ways. Interestingly, so many of the other usual suspects—including those above—seem to flow to that one value.
Reflection has always been a challenge for this extrovert, but this was worth the pause!
Managing Director, Sun and Moon Training