What To Tell Someone That is About to Jump

We were walking along the Tai Po River (  大埔河 ) one chilly November night in 2002, we were looking for people to talk to. We were looking for connection.

There she was. Sobbing loudly. She was sitting on a ledge, under the bridge that separates Tai Wo from Tai Po, with her feet hanging over the water. We sat next to her and began talking with her. She want to jump. She said didn’t want to live anymore. She said her life had no meaning.

Mike and I stayed with her. We stayed for a long time. She kept crying.  We told her life has meaning. That she is important. That she is loved. That if she wants to be loved, she can find it as she gives it. We kept repeating that she is loved. It was dark outside, we were supposed to head back to our apartment for a mandatory phone call that evening. We skipped it. We stayed to tell her that she can have both meaning and truth, if she wants it. We told her that we love her even though we don’t know her. She didn’t jump. We created and found connection.

Meaning & Leadership

Truth is real. Truth doesn’t change. Truth can be found.

Meaning is elusive. It is rarely found when searched for. It rather comes from doing, from being, and from living more than it comes from theory.

The best leaders help others define and live by meaning. If you are not in a “position” of leadership, helping others find meaning in their life will help you have the most influence. And if you are, it is your responsibility.

We need meaning. People want more meaning. Yet meaning is hard to find. Emily Esfahani Smith has been searching for ways to to find meaning her entire life. She has found some remarkable and actionable ideas. Her new book “The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters” is a breakthrough work that teaches with elegantly told stories and wisdom that can only be found after serious pursuit.

While I don’t agree with all of her assumptions about religion and truth, she has shared many incredible lessons that when studied and applied can help all of us live more meaningful lives.

The 4 Pillars of Meaning

The 4 Pillars that author Emily Esfahani Smith discovered are:

  1. Belonging – Being part of a group of people that value our contribution is our foundational level for connection. As we have shared interests and common goals, we find ourselves loving and being loved. Interests create a sense of community. Sometimes that interest is familial relationships other times it could be a sports team, work team, professional organization, or even a book. We all need to belong to a group of people who accept and respect us. When you find a group like this, be grateful and present. Find ways to help them as they will no doubt be helping you.
  2. Purpose – When the reason why you do something is bigger than the challenges you face, you have found a purpose. Living with purpose does not have be grandiose or world-altering. It just has to be important to you and those you serve. Doing something out of desire rather than compulsion is one cornerstone of living a live with meaning.
  3. Storytelling – The stories we tell ourselves become part of our meaning. Everything that happens to us becomes part of story the moment we try and define the impact of that experience. Our identities are created by the stories we believe. We can learn from our own stories or from stories of other people. As we listen to stories, the stories become part of our identity. If the stories focus on redemption, growth, and love, we are destined to have a more meaningful experience.
  4. Transcendence – This is where we recognize that there is more out there than us. That we are not only and are lead by a “higher reality”. These moments can happen anywhere or anyplace. The are defined as a time when we rise above the everyday world to realize there is more to connect with. These experiences of transcendence provide us with well-being and peace and help everything else make sense.

Bringing it All Together

If we pursue actions that help us develop a sense of belonging, we can craft a life of meaning.  If we pursue actions that let us live our purpose by helping others, we can craft of life of meaning.  As we tell ourselves stories that match our desired outcome, we can craft a life of meaning. If we pursue actions that provide us with experiences of transcendence, we can craft a life of meaning.

While at the Tai Po River that November night, I learned about meaning. I learned that belonging and purpose help us craft our story. As we believe the story of love, importance, belonging, and purpose we can understand how valuable we really are, which in turn helps us to have transcendent experiences.

As we live our lives full of meaning, we can help others do the same. We can be better leaders. A good place to start is by reading Emily Esfahani Smith’s new book.

Space to Grow

Space to grow is just as important as the will to know. Space is both a physical place as well as a mental state. You have to make room for the good by letting go of the bad. The feeling you feed will always grow. Make space in your mind for growth by believing you can and will get better, be better, and do better.

Learn It

There is so much to learn. You can’t learn it all, yet… Try anyway. Learn and connect. Connect and learn. The more you understand one thing the better you can apply it to everything. As you study and learn, your can share it with others. Sharing is where true understanding comes from. Read more to learn more to share more. Read to share.

Organizational Health

Your organization needs to be healthy. Just like your body and mind, an organization performs better when healthy. To create health you limit the bad, encourage movement (change, growth, progress), and stay committed to improvement. Your organization could be your family, your church group, your company. Whatever tribe you are a part of, focus on the overall health of the tribe by focusing on the composition as well as the direction. What you put in will determine the feelings, what you focus on will determine the destination.

Change Your Perspective

We all want to find success. Often we look in the wrong places. When I lived in Hong Kong it was easy to forget how beautiful the city is when you only look at eye level. When you raise your eyes, your senses explode. Adjust your line of sight and you will find new beauty. The same is true in life, sometimes we need to look for the good in places we have not looked before. When you know where to look, the finding is easy. Change your perspective to find your success.

Our Own Fault

The horrible truth is some emotional suffering is our own fault. We only suffer when reality does not meet expectations. Our highly developed brain often is the cause for this suffering. As humans we regret the past, don’t enjoy the present, and worry about the future. We suffer because we are not content with what we have, yet do not work toward what we want. This is self-inflicted suffering. Which is sad, troublesome, and also hopeful. If our brain and thoughts are the root cause of our suffering, that means it can also help to erase it. What we focus on, is what will grow. We can reshape our brain as we reshape what we think about, on purpose. Focus on the good, focus on gratitude, focus on others. Suffering goes away when a content heart is helping others.

Your Truth

Listening to others can help. Listening to yourself can help more. Trust your intuition. Your desires + your experiences + abilities = truth. Listen to your truth. Sometimes to find your truth you need to disconnect. Actively pursue ways to listen to you mind and heart.

My Horrible Co-Worker: Actionable Ways to Overcome Them Without Being a Jerk

Every project seemed to sink. It was one person’s fault too! You know the person. We all do. That one employee who is just good enough, yet hurts more than they help. They make themselves look good at the expense of others. Selfishness at their core.

A few years ago in a previous role in another industry our team managed large scale software rollouts to major enterprise clients. Each team member had important functions to perform. Most of us did them. One person did not.

They were educated. They had experience. They didn’t use either; they did surf the internet a lot though. They dropped the ball on every project. Then blamed the people who actually did the work. Then they would work late to try and fix their own mistakes while still blaming others for the problem. Often they looked like the hero. It was a genius plan. Even worse, it worked multiple times.

When someone goes behind our back, blames us for thing they caused, or in some other way hurts us, we experience strong negative emotions. Each person can feel that same experience in a different manner though.

“Humans vary greatly in the way they experience emotions. Even after practice and effort, you can’t really control how you feel. But you can control your reactions to those feelings.” – Justin Bariso

When dealing with a horrible coworker – the thing that must be fixed first is your mindset. Your frame of mind will determine the outcome. This is based on the science of brain and emotional neuroplasticity. The theory of Self-directed neuroplasticity was developed by Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz and is the idea that we can consciously control how we want our brains to work.

To take proper action and get the correct mindset we must emotionally disconnect from the situation. This is not ignoring or moving on, this is the science and art of not worrying about things outside of your control so you can focus on things you can control. This is about emotional intelligence in action. This is awareness and then management of emotions.

Peter Bregman, the expert consultant and author of 18 Minutes and 4 Seconds said:

“Our ability to resist an impulse determines our success in learning a new behavior or changing an old habit. It’s probably the single most important skill for our growth and development.”

When we experience a negative event we can take specific actions that will help us Emotionally Disconnect. The four step process is:

  • reClassify – Identify what you are feeling then assign a label of being real or imagined. Once an emotion has a name and classification
  • reDefine – You give meaning to everything. Nothing has meaning until we give it meaning. If something has a negative meaning, you can change the definition.
  • reCenter – The center is your focus. You get what you focus on. Stop focusing on the things that bring your down about the current event or situation, instead focus on the things that you can control. Center your mind around your own attitude and actions.
  • reAdjust – We believe the stories we tell ourselves. Tell yourself that the person you are dealing with is not bad, that they are good. Adjust your thought process to want to help them. Your whole world will change.

Once our mindset is correct we can then take calm, educated, calculated, actions that in the end will help the other person as well as helping ourselves. As we focus on helping ourselves, we will very rarely win or feel complete. As we focus on helping the other person, even when they have wronged us, we can find true satisfaction in our professional and personal lives.

In order to make the relationship work I knew I had to change my behavior. While I was not doing anything wrong , I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing. (much like what brought Nokia down…)

With my mindset in a position to grow and change and I decided to take 4 specific actions:

1. 6 Second Rule

I committed to not reacting for 6 seconds. Every time I felt a negative emotion coming I would spend at least 6 seconds focusing on a deep breath. This allowed me time to adjust my mindset.

2. Smile More

People can sense how you feel about them. They know when you don’t like them. Emotions are contagious. The fastest way to change and emotion is to do something physical. Exercises is good but not always possible. So I decided to smile. I smiled more at everyone, especially when I greeted this co-worker. I smiled to make myself happier but more importantly to let the other person know I was a friend not an enemy.

“…smiles have many different facets and meanings to different people, including light, appreciation, love, acceptance, sympathy, kindness and humor…to be more conscious of our smiles, and to actively and compassionately offer an authentic, from-the-heart smile to as many people as possible…” – Kathy Caprino

3. Take Them to Lunch

The focus was to listen. Listen and listen. Listening shows care. When someone feels like you are concerned about them, that you care about them, they begin to care about you.

4. Ask for What is Needed

Step 1 helps you not destroy trust while steps 2 and 3 help to build trust. They are genuine, not manipulative ways to learn more about another person and get them to see you as a person as well. Once people connect with people, relationships get strong. As I smiled and listened our trust grew. The final step was to let the person know what I needed help with. Not in an accusatory manner, but rather in a friendly “this is what will help me approach.”


Amazing. Not an overnight turnaround but the ship did turnaround and the work got done. The projects went smoother and the relationship grew stronger because of the ability to emotionally disconnect from every negative situation. Then I could take correct actions. Those actions would not have been possible if the instant emotions controlled my actions rather than my self-directed conscious thoughts.


Every Step Helps

When something looks hard, it probably is. At the same time, it is easier than you imagine it to be because once you are committed to making it work, making it happen, you won’t let minor challenges stop you. Climbing the mountain is always harder when looking at it from the bottom. Every step you take toward your goal builds your strength, your ability to accomplish your objective. Take small steps everyday that help you get to the top of your mountain. Help others do the same.

Your Story Matters

Sharing your experience allows your story to become real for others. When something is real it can then help, motivate, inspire, and even cause change. Let your life be one that others examine, not to judge but to find purpose and answers in. Let yourself be vulnerable and find the joy that you feel as your help others.