Alan E. Shelton: An interview by Bob Morris

Alan Shelton has lived a seemingly dual life of developing into a quintessential corporate manager while simultaneously engaging in the seeker’s quest. Born in California, Alan grew up within the sixties’ vision of infinite possibility. In his twenties, he worked tirelessly to master the nuts and bolts of his craft; within five years, he was at the pinnacle of his field. Beginning at the age of thirty-eight, he spent four years over a ten-year period sitting with sages in India, blending his personal search with his love for the corporate adventure. These two territories had appeared to be incompatible, but in the wake of an event that permanently altered his perception and experience of reality, he realized that these worlds can be united in the domain called leadership.

Observing that the leadership community is in the process of expanding their stewardship by demanding and creating a platform for personal development, he decided to write Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery (Red Hatchet Press, May, 2012), using his life story as a laboratory. He sensed that the story of the development and subsequent relaxation of his ego could become both a pointer and an inspiration for others’ awakening.

At the core of Alan’s world is the irresistible challenge and examination of the assumptions upon which people base their lives. Many presuppositions that are collectively held by our culture, corporate or otherwise, are responsible for both the lack of leadership and the discontent evident in society today. Alan has experienced the unwinding of these in his own awakening. Now his work centers on supporting others to deconstruct assumptions, thus opening the doorway to their own possibility of living as the awakened self.

Note: This is an abbreviated version of Alan’s biography. To read a more complete version, please click here.

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Morris: Before discussing Awakened Leadership, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Shelton: In my case I’m not sure that there is one particular person that I could point to as being the greatest influence on my personal growth. Life blessed me with an incredible grandfather who started my life by teaching me sacred stories and supporting all doubts and questions that an individual might ask. The result of that early experience has been what I call the” grandfather effect” in my life. It has been from this place that the biggest influence has wielded itself in my life. So starting with my grandfather and advancing through amazing teachers and then into business leaders and finally the Masters of India this influence has been a steady force in my life. From the personal point of view, my grandfathers talk of Socrates and Buddha was an amazing start. And then finishing with Osho and Ramesh Balsekar and their stories of the seekers journey has molded my life into what it is today.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Shelton: It’s hard to distinguish the influence on my personal development from the influence on my professional development. But in the professional area certain people stand out. When I was 19 I served a Mormon mission in Peru and the president of the mission organization was a former VP of IBM named Robert Driggs. When I started at Price Waterhouse, my first tax partner was a fellow from a small college in Missouri named Spring Hill College and his name was Gayford Hinton. Some years later I was a member of a TEC [The Executive Committee] CEO resource group, now called Vistage. This group of 13 CEOs, all of whom were much older than I, played the wise man and grandfather role in bringing up this young cub of a businessman.

And let’s never forget my closest friends who have lived from beginning to end in this journey. Glenn Odell, a wonderful CEO, and I have been together since the age of 27. Jerry Skillett, another amazing leader, started and ran companies with me for years. He wrote a wonderful preface for me in my book. And let’s not forget my current partner Bob Bunshaft. if you ever meet Bob you will know that you’re in the presence of a great man. To this day my partner is the wise and ever knowing grandfather that allows a crazy Californian to bounce around in his passion with the belief that leadership isn’t just a value proposition but a service to mankind.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Shelton: In my mind most leaders spend their life journey and polishing the ego that they think they are. And in that, for many years, I was no different. However, internally there was a seeking drive that simply became the central focus of my life journey. It wasn’t until well into my seeking life that I understood that there was a place beyond ego. For believing that we are large and powerful we have a tendency as leaders to block the sunlight out for all those who follow us. We become the central and largest focus of any initiative relegating those who would be our biggest supporters to small little parcels from which no leader could be effective. Now all that I have just said is simply a concept. And until that concept becomes an experiential reality, leadership and its underpinning authenticity will never arise.

The incident to which you refer is one that threw me into the pool of experience. As I did my internal work there came a day that I was driving to Los Angeles for a very important meeting. As that drive was taking place my whole world including me re-situated such that my ego was seen as part of all that was. It was that experience that pointed to the place beyond ego or self-mastery to new kind of leadership. The kind that only exists in the maturity of understanding our own position within our entire world. It is from that place that leadership can be seen not as being an attribute of any single person but rather the contribution by any member of any team as it is called out by the issue at hand. That is authentic leadership and living.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Shelton:Like all human beings life continues to deliver surprises. Had you asked this question two months ago I would have replied that my formal education wasn’t as important as one might think. However, in my recent work I have been asked to tie the concept of financial fluency to leadership. Now who in the world would undertake to tether these two disparate functions together? Why yes, you guessed right, I got the job! But it wasn’t hard to see the connection. In the corporate world financial and operational fluency hold the language of decision-making.

All leaders must stand inside the conversation of decision-making to even claim a leadership possibility. Just knowing that means the two must be connected. And so now I have taught my first week of financial fluency and leadership. And in addition I have been asked to create an entire curriculum on the subject for one of the largest corporations in the country. So you asked me how important is my formal education. Without my formal education in accounting, business, and behavior I would not hold content that currently I am being asked to mold into a leadership process.Morris: To what extent has your formal education been a hindrance? Please explain.Shelton:To my mind a formal education rests on our common holding of the idea of a concept. The biggest hindrance to all formal education is the assumption that a concept is in and of itself something real. In fact, we worship concepts to such a degree that we separate ourselves as human beings by virtue of those very ideas. For instance, there is no such thing as a value proposition. A value proposition is simply a concept that describes certain movements of goods, services and currency within our market system.

So how does understanding that a concept by itself isn’t the real thing? What else could it be? The bridge from formal education to real experience is anchored in this difference. A concept can be seen as a placeholder or a pointer to experience. And when it is, the concept itself does not have to be held, burnished, or worshiped. It can be immediately dropped upon the entry to experience itself. I recently sat in the presence of the CFO of a very large company. He mused that the hardest quality to develop within his company was the sense of “gut feel”. He was astonished how often that the leaders in his company would hold on to a concept or set of instructions when they knew from their own experience that there might be a better possibility. It is this “gut feel” that, fully expanded, is the intuitive and authentic platform for a different kind of leadership. I call this awakened leadership.Morris:When and did you found Source Consulting?Shelton: My partner, Bob Bunshaft, was the founder of Source Consulting. I joined as the second principal shortly thereafter. The company was founded in 2008 and continues to be just the two of us at the partner level.

Morris: What was its original mission then and to what extent (if any) has that mission changed?

Shelton: The original mission of Source Consulting was to create business solutions for clients that included both leadership development and corporate fluency. Bob and I both had been working executives for many years at high-level functions. But both of us had also led a life dedicated to internal personal expansion that we saw as part and parcel of our entire experience, the corporate portion inclusive.

And so we undertook to do leadership as a whole undertaking rather than the piecemeal approach that the two of us had experienced. In the broad sense our mission was and is the same as in the beginning days. However, we have learned a lot about how this deep intuitive undertaking can now be expressed within the corporate world the both of us love so dearly. We have learned how to find our fellow seekers within camouflage world of corporate organization. And in so doing we have been dragged face first through the refiners fire and learned how to deliver on our heartfelt destiny.

Morris: As you know, M.B.A. programs have been criticized – sometimes severely criticized – in recent years, even those offered by the most prestigious business schools. In your opinion, in which specific area is there the greatest need for immediate improvement? Why?

Shelton: This question in my mind harkens back to the distinction I made about concept. My belief is, that for the most part, as corporate leaders develop that they began to feel the insecurity that emanates from a lack of corresponding adult maturity. That is to say that most corporate types ignore their own internal expansion in favor of external education. So when this insecurity arises, the answer must be more of what got them here. That is to say that if some formal and conceptual education is good, then more must be better. As a result of this misconception most managers find themselves back in the classroom being taught by people who understand diagrams, methods and processes but typically have little to no experience swimming in the real pool of business. And so once again the students of these programs are expected to mentally master stuff that they will migrate into real experience. It makes me want to ask “How’s that working for you?” I probably don’t need to belabor this point.

So where is the need for immediate improvement? It is in the recognition that the delivery of something that will make a difference in the corporate world must situate itself on the platform of experience. And experience itself must be delivered in to an executive process that will take its students to somewhere different than it has before. In my experience with programs of this type I am most proud of the Integral Leadership Program at Notre Dame University. For it is in this program that each student must participate in a 360-degree profile and then be debriefed and coached by experienced executives. It happens that I have the occasional luck to be one of those executives. And it is in those moments when I am seated face-to-face with a young and emerging executive that I know a possibility is being presented to them that is unlike any that I have ever seen in an educational program. Leo Burke of Notre Dame and Bob Anderson of The Leadership Circle are the two people who have created this environment. If I were in charge of the world I would put these two people in charge of all MBA executive education.

Morris:   Here are a few of my favorite quotations. Please respond to each. First, from Lao Tzu:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Shelton: Asking me to respond to a Lao Tzu quote is a bit like asking me to sing with the choir of which I am already a member. But here goes. This quote points to the highest possibility of leadership that I pointed out earlier. For it is in this quote that there is no distinction between the leader and the people themselves. For once you learn, plan, and play with the people, you in fact become one with them. And in that oneness it will not matter to you one bit who of your beloved group is the one that is called into action at any moment.

I want to take a little detour here that is suggested subtly in these sentences. As part of Western society we are proud of all of our learning and the theories that we have created. And one of our proudest achievements seems to be the theory of leadership development and the corresponding stages of adult maturity. We are arrogant enough to believe that somehow we have discovered or created such a theory. Part of my passion and mission has been to show that the development of human potential has been in play in human history for thousands of years. Is there a better leader than Lao Tzu? I suspect not. And this is why I chose to sit with awakened masters in India, as to my mind they were the bearers of ancient wisdom. And what I found superseded any theory that we might’ve created in the Western world. What I found was the experience of wisdom that arises from experience and has been cherished and nurtured by caretakers through these thousands of years. And now I shout from the hilltops in Corporatelandia that we too can take advantage not only form these newly discovered conceptual theories, but from the experience of thousands of years of swimming in exactly the same ocean.

Morris: Next, from Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

Shelton:  For the minute that truth is spoken it has been reduced to a concept. All concepts have to be trimmed and pared in order to take their place in the pews of conceptual curriculum. And in so doing we have cheated ourselves of our very birthright. That of not only being who we are, but of being all that is at the very same time.

Morris: Then from Peter Drucker: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Shelton: When I began my seeking journey I enrolled in a graduate philosophy program at Claremont Graduate School. I though I might find something in post-modern and deconstructive philosophy. At the time there was a professor in the business school who taken notice of my meteoric rise in the business environment of California. His name was Peter Drucker. And when he was in town I would often be invited to have a cup of tea and discuss whatever seemed important at the time. Many years later I would have the same sort of talks with Ramesh Balsekar in India. What Peter describes here is the efficiency that arises from the deeply rooted passion of who you are.

Many might take this statement to be about executing with great prowess. But knowing Peter the way I do I can guarantee you that he was talking about something much deeper than execution.  When I made the decision to make my first trip to India, Peter was a big supporter. Neither of us could put into words what was we thought I might find. But both of us knew that it was important and likely related to the subject of leadership that captured the two of us so often in conversation. And so when I read this statement I can imagine Peter telling me exactly that as I readied myself to enter into the most important passage of my leadership life.Morris: Now please shift your attention to Awakened Leadership. When and why did you decide to write it?Shelton: I am not sure that I can take credit for having made a decision to write the book. As I was developing myself into a more complete leadership resource the voices inside my head screamed at me that there was something important that the leadership world simply didn’t recognize. It’s not that other people had not written on the subject but I couldn’t find a personal account that captured the experience of the internal journey. It was easy to find in the spiritual world with works like the famous Autobiography of a Yogi. But where were the corporate voices that had experienced something more profound than simply being an incredibly successful ego? This type of story that was relevant to our world today was a hard thing to find. And so the sense simply welled up within me that this writing needed to occur.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Shelton: Perhaps the biggest head snapping revelation was simply finding my own voice. You see I had never written anything beyond a corporate memo before. I did have the wisdom to hire a good editor, who is also a personal friend, to help me in the process. When I started the book I took a trip for several weeks to South America where I could simply hold up and began to experiment with my writing. The first day I completed an entire chapter and e-mailed it to my editor. Ten minutes later I received a response which said to throw that chapter away and start again. The next day I promptly created my second chapter and mailed it off again. Ten minutes later I received an e-mail response that indicated that I should throw this chapter away faster than the one I had tossed the day before. Now having Irish DNA I must admit I was officially pissed off.

And so on the third day I decided to write one simple thing that was so good that my editor had to like it. And so I sat down and wrote my own personal story about winning a red hatchet by selling chocolates when I was a cub scout. When I was done with the short story I e-mailed it off much like I had done the previous two chapters. Ten minutes later I received an e-mail with instructions to write every story that I could think of from my own life. And in that moment I knew that I had found my voice.Morris:To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?Shelton: Having a philosophy background and reading voraciously over the years mystical and religious texts, I felt that my contribution would be something of that ilk. So I in the beginning, and certainly in the first two chapters that found the trashcan, I felt that I could write a work that would be a contribution to leadership literature. As you can see in the previous story that was not the case. What I did find was that my gift is that of a storyteller. And that in my stories I could include the invitation to others to stand within my stories as though they were their own. At the core, it turns out that I am just a kid from the orange groves of Corona, California. And it is in the simplicity of that recognition that the understanding became clear that my kind of stories where the simple kind of stories that populate everyone’s lives.

And if I could undertake to respond to the most central and motivating sense of my life to expand myself internally, then why couldn’t anyone else who felt that same pull. So is my book the contribution to the literature of leadership? I doubt it. But do the people that I work with relate to it and does it give them an insight and clarity that otherwise would have been missed? The answer to that seems to be a resounding” yes”. Every day I receive communications from leaders who have read my book and now have re-found the passion that many times has gone missing. The first time I received such a message I knew that for that one message, the book was worth all the effort I had poured into it.

Morris: What is “beyond self-mastery”?

Shelton: Self-mastery is simply the holding of concepts about one’s ego to the highest possible degree. It allows for incredible conversations about how things might get done. But unfortunately these concepts do not include the experience of internal maturity and expansion that can only be found in experience. And that within life experience the happenings are not as tidy and neatly categorized as those that one might find in conceptual self-mastery. But one will find the nourishment and the highest expression, messy or not, of authentic human living in a place I call “beyond self-mastery”

Morris: Why attempt to get there?

Shelton: You may laugh at my response to this one. But I suggest that one never attempt to get there. The reality is that inside each seeker, the highest possibility of human maturity and unquenchable need will make itself known. When that happens, simply strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. For in this process one will see that who you thought you are, was simply a placeholder and nothing nearly as serious and monumental as what most folks think they are. And within this understanding that you are simply a placeholder within all that is, an entirety of possibility will stand before you and beckon you to produce like you never have before.

Morris: By what specific process can that transition be completed?

Shelton: There really isn’t a specific process as each individual approaches their own internal expansion from their very specific personal composition. Are there processes and devices that will open the doorway to this transition? The answer is yes. In fact one of the major points of my book was that you don’t have to go to India for years to find internal wisdom. Now I didn’t know that until I had gone to India. But I wrote the book to point out that the wisdom of consciousness is available ‘here and now’ and where you stand. And so what is my suggestion? It’s much like in the book when I tell the story of the man who was fallen in a hole. Go find such a man and ask how to get out of the seekers hole. He has been where you think you are and knows the way out.

Morris: Please explain the meaning and significance of what your grandfather once told you: “When scientists find the center of the universe, listen for the sonic boom of all those who are shocked to find they are not it.”

Shelton: I am sure that you can understand the difference in how I understood the statement when my grandfather first spoke it when I was probably 4 years of age, versus how I see it now. In the beginning I thought it was funny because I saw, with my grandfather’s help, that some people were incredibly arrogant and self-important. And to a 4-year-old this was a pretty funny discovery. It was only later that I understood that the ego in its typical puffed up position assumes that it is the center of the universe. And within that assumption most if not all of our leadership theory resides. So I can only imagine what the leadership scientists will experience when it becomes evident that all the egos not just one, properly located, make up the entirety of ‘what is’. And that responding to the flow of  “all that is,” is the ultimate in leadership. Unfortunately upon seeing the ultimate in leadership we will have lost the obvious location of the ego that we thought we were.

Morris: What are the defining characteristics of an “awakened state”?

Shelton: Phenomenally the characteristic of the awakened state is the felt sense of identity with ‘all that is’ rather than the single ego entity that most assume they are. Within this sense actions and speaking arise and are lived through the individual as though that individual were simply a vessel. The ego as a placeholder, in this felt experience, will understand that it’s role is simply to serve from availability into the call of ‘here and now’. There is no sense of individual accomplishment nor is there a sense of individual guilt. Those emotions may arise but they are simply seen as part of an ego placeholder that occupies a small piece of this new felt world. Everyday one arises simply to meet that call. The very basis of awakening is the re-identification from the individual autonomous decision-maker to the entirety of ‘all that is’. For it is this new identification that is the natural birthright of all who make this journey.

Morris: What is the relevance of such a state to one’s personal development?

Shelton: From the state of awakening the needs of the individual ego no longer demand thought or attention. This means that unconscious and reactive characteristics that trigger themselves, no longer obscure the service that one can render to humanity. For in awareness these traits simply drop and no longer haunt the individuals to whom they once belonged. And now leadership can be exercised with full clarity and in complete service. What is the relevance of such a state? Gone will be the relentless nagging that somehow and somewhere you have not met the highest possibility of your very own passion. For you will see that your very own passion is actually the passion that drives the entirety of our world.

Morris: In my review of your brilliant book for various Amazon websites, I quoted a passage from Alan Watts’ book, The Book:

“We need a new experience — a new feeling of what it is to be ‘I.’ The lowdown (which is, of course, the secret and profound view) on life is that our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing — with our own tacit consent, just as every hypnotized person is basically willing to be hypnotized. The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.”

What is your response?

Shelton: Well, my first response is that that statement is more what I had in mind when I undertook to write my book. I couldn’t have said it better myself. It is exactly this hoax of a separate, independent, and isolated ego that leads us to believe that this is really how works. And once stuck in that assumptive state the urge to seek arises. Why does it arise? It arises because the intuitive self, which is much larger than the puny ego, advises our assumptive state that there is more to find. And what’s more, we better get on that task right away and do it with all the effort that we have at our disposal. This is the definition of a seeker. And it is been my pleasure to actually discover that embedded in my corporate world or lots and lots of seekers. And it is to those that I wrote my book and I now spend my time.

Morris: What is the symbolic significance of the red hatchet to which you refer in the first chapter?

Shelton: This is simply a story of a very young man’s call to action and achievement. For those who find in themselves the excitement of climbing that mountain, this story will resonate. But within that very story are the seeds to the assumptive beliefs that somehow this boy by himself could climb the mountain of winning a red hatchet. And so there is the bitter sweetness of finding that first excitement and at the same time seeing that this was the first movement towards self-mastery. The seeing of the mountain to climb as being separate from the boy himself will create the need to rediscover that this first assumption is not the case.

Morris: In your opinion, what is the relevance of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, to personal development? For example, what valuable lessons can be learned from it?

Shelton: I love the story. My grandfather would tell it often. I’m sure that this story was a big motivator of my lifelong habit of searching for unseen assumptions. Long before I became a full-fledged seeker I had been schooled to examine every concept, turning it over like a river rock, in order to find what was missing. The Emperor’s New Clothes is a story about an assumption held by an entire community. And only the clear vision of an unconditioned child sitting on his father’s shoulders brought awareness to this situation. Much like the ‘beginner’s mind’ that we are so much about within the Zen tradition, my version is that child sitting on his father’s shoulders. We should all stand on the shoulders of those who have brought us to the wonderful pinnacle of self-mastery and ask ourselves does the Emperor have new clothes?

Morris: Please explain this sentence that concludes Chapter 5 on Page 47: “The fact that no one can ever produce as flawless piece of art should give us our first clue that the self-mastery approach to shaping individuals may not work.”

Shelton: Much like my comment about concept being worshiped as a fixed destination rather than being understood as a pointer within a process, art gives us a window on the same point. Many observers of art might think that the end product is final outcome in the artists or author’s mind. My experience is that artists and authors understand that their work is simply captured at one point during the process and reflected to the outside. Had that moment not been chosen, the process would’ve continued and the artistic output would’ve emerged at a different point and in a different perceived state. The fact of the matter is that art is simply an extraction along the way. Correspondingly the idea promulgated that somehow an individual has a final composition through ego enhancement simply is flawed. I often tell my coaching clients ” just because you can think it, doesn’t make it so”. My point is that self-mastery is a concept worshiped and held within the mind and that we all chase as though it were real. But ask anyone along the path and you will be hard-pressed to find one response that indicates that someone has arrived at self-mastery itself.

Morris: For those who have not as yet read Awakened Leadership, you describe reaching a point in Chapter 7 when you “reached the limits of what the corporate world could offer [you].” Please explain.

Shelton: The answer to this is much like the story of Buddha who returns to see his wife after a 12-year absence. She asks him  “Did you need to leave me for 12 years in order to become enlightened”. He responds,  “No I didn’t need to leave for those 12 years. However, I would not have known that, had I not left for that time.” Much like that story, I had lived in the corporate world and had attained all of what I have been told could be gathered there. And so, based on my concept that further development wasn’t available corporately, I struck out into another world to find what intuitively I sensed was missing. When I say that I didn’t know specifically what was missing, I just knew I had a sense that there was something missing. I concluded it wasn’t available in the corporate world and so the spiritual world became my next stop.

When I wrote this book it was in a big way responding to that decision I made long ago. For I had returned from my journey and had begun to stand both in my own corporate fluency and a new felt sense of awakening. I, in fact, was proving the basis upon which I had made that decision long ago to be false. If there was ever something that made me happier upon finding out that I was wrong, I don’t know what that could be. I am delighted that the corporate world, that I love so much, actually is the playing field upon which consciousness and awareness can arise.

Morris: I was intrigued by the passages in Chapter 8 in which you share your thoughts and feelings about your initial association with the Osho Aloka Meditation Center.” As you reflect back on that time in your life, what impact did those experiences have on you? Why? To what extent (if any) is that impact explained by how receptive you were then to what you experienced?

Shelton: When I was first exposed to the meditation center I was as corporate as I ever have been in my life. So my initial reflections upon wading in to an experiential environment was that I was surrounded by a unique crowd. They didn’t appear to be organized and in fact it seemed they could have been selected from a group of extras found on the movie set of any 60s movie. But there was something different about this group and their connection to something very different than I had ever experienced. In fact, it was the relationship to direct experience itself that was different. I had been accustomed to dealing with experience through the lens of concepts.

Those concepts, to me, were part and parcel of the experience itself. And now these concepts were being stripped from experience that allowed for me to stand and ultimately disappear within experience itself. The impact of this time was indelible. For it taught me that concepts were not an end in and of themselves.  They were simply pointers or access points that didn’t need to be carried along as baggage once that experience emerged.

Morris: As I read Chapters 8 and 9, it seemed to me that you were embarking on a process that Joseph Schumpeter would characterize as “creative destruction” that I think must precede what I characterize as “creative creation.” Is that a fair assessment? Please explain.

Shelton: I would agree with this assessment. It is clear that when one believes a concept that they hold is indeed a thing operating in their life, and that solidity must be dissolved. It is the only way to cross the bridge from conceptual bondage into freely lived experience. The destruction is that of the assumptive state held by the worshipped concept. And from the ashes and the ground that is revealed by that destruction, creativity will root and to begin to show it’s sprouts.

Morris: Why do you call “time out” in the narrative to share the lyrics of an unpublished song written by Brad Cahill, “The Redneck Enlightened Rodeo”?

Shelton:  When I wrote the book I had two specific experiences that I wanted to convey. The first was the collection of my own stories that I felt others could stand within and understand as similar to their very own life. The second was to migrate the understanding that arose from those stories into leadership or authenticity, as I understood it. My sense was that a full stop should be introduced to clearly signify the difference between these two approaches. When Brad, my dear friend, wrote these lyrics for me I laughed so hard that I knew I had found the perfect device. It seemed impossible to me to read that wonderful poem and remember anything that had preceded it or imagine anything that might follow.

Morris: Here are three terms of the terms on which you focus in Chapters 14-16.  Please explain what you mean by each. First, “presence”

Shelton: All of these terms are pointers to the possibility that who we think we are it is much bigger than we normally assume. The term presence is a pointer that I use for people to see that the paltry sense of ego it is not all that is at work in our life. In fact, it is easy to see that there is something much bigger at work. But our love of concept usually will have us pare down and ignore those pieces that are at work that don’t fit within our definition of ego. Presence is the larger you manifesting in front of your face.

Morris: Next, “service”

Shelton: Service is another term that connotes that one is in action on behalf of something bigger than “just myself”. Once again it is a term that points to an activity that properly recognized cannot help but reflect that our assumption about our self is undersized.

Morris: Finally, “relationship”

Shelton: Relationship is the activity between two supposed separate and autonomous egos. Within that illusion there are specifics that the ego attempts to secure by its assumed activity with those other independent and separate objects. I have also found that is the area that is most beloved by the so-called autonomous egos they read the book. I can’t tell you how often I have been told this is the first chapter that many of my readers turn to. I suspect that many must be disappointed to find out that my observations a relationship are not nearly as exciting as those found in the latest issue of Glamour or Vogue.  But the ultimate point it is to recognize that by assigning ourselves to this set of mechanics that we have unconsciously reduced or eliminated the most beautiful possibility that we are.

Morris: As Chapter 15 begins, at which point are you during your journey as a “seeker”? Are you still seeking the same objectives? Please explain.

Shelton: Seeking it is an activity that is pursued by the illusory identified ego. Within the process of awakening the felt sense of insatiable searching drops away. Within that dropping away arises the acceptance of one’s own pursued objectives. The difference is that there is no longer the turbulence of the ego second-guessing and even fighting for what it sees as the objective. Rather objectives appear and issue a call to which a response is needed. It is to that call which, what appears to be a personal response, is effortlessly and naturally provided.

Morris: Here’s another statement that caught my eye, on Page 178: “Defining yourself as a separate ego-entity, which cannot resist what is, will cause your suffering.” Is suffering the “tuition” for obtaining wisdom that would otherwise be inaccessible? Please explain.

Shelton: I suspect that we could easily refer to the suffering of holding ourselves as separate to be tuition to a later possibility. Of course, when that later possibility arises, the ego that endured the suffering no longer is present in an identified way. Many authors have often referred to awakening as a cosmic joke. This is because the suffering that one has endured as an ego is seen as unnecessary and necessary all at the same time.

Morris: Please explain your admonition, “Let life love you.”

Shelton: This is a pointer to the difference in the felt experience of the ego versus the awakened possibility. As an ego there is no doubt that it is assumed that we are in charge and in fact living our life. In fact, we speak incessantly of how the individual can overcome all of the challenges placed before him in life. Notice in that explanation, that the individual and the challenges are clearly seen as separate things. One could not help but assume that the separate me must live relative to those separate challenges. However, when this ego is properly situated as a small and simple placeholder within the entirety of what is, then the felt sense of that relocation and new identification is that life is living you. For in this expanded living you are never separated or out of touch with the entirety a manifestation. In fact, it is only in your mind that you can see that it could be posited that there are actually two or more things.

Morris: For more than 25 years, it has been my great pleasure as well as privilege to work closely with the owner/CEOs of hundreds of small companies, those with $20-million or less in annual sales. In your opinion, of all the material you provide in the Awakened Leadership, which do you think will be of greatest value to leaders in small companies? Why?

Shelton: I too have spent a large part my career with entities that you and I refer to as entrepreneurial. It is within those companies that I find it is easiest to assume that the separate and autonomous ego is most responsible for entrepreneurial outcomes. If ever the illusion was strongest, I find it is in these companies. In fact, it is that illusion that I believe keeps entrepreneurial companies from growing beyond the boundaries of the founders themselves. So to me the greatest value provided in my book would be the early warning that would alert an entrepreneur that he himself will emerge as a possible obstacle to his very own vision. This insight might likely be the one that allows an entrepreneur to live the dream of his own vision but in a way he might not have ever imagined.

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Alan cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His home Page, please click here.
His blog, please click here.
His Amazon Page, please click here.

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