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The power of Gluggavedur

(May 2, 2024 Newsletter)

I don’t have a steady mindfulness practice, but every now and then I feel the urge to regulate my nervous system by opening up the Calm app to do a guided meditation.

  • It almost always pays off, even if the core message of the meditation doesn’t stick with me in the long term.


The big exception is Gluggaveður (pronounced GLOOH-kah-veh-thoor), which was the theme of a meditation a few years ago that I still think about every few days.

  • Gluggaveður is an Icelandic word that literally translates to “window weather.” It describes weather that is more pleasant to experience from inside than outside.

  • Or, the feeling of safety one gets when you can make space between your inner self and the “storm” outside, as I remember it from the meditation.  


Why it matters: You have a stressful job (or hopefully, a job that you’d occasionally call stressful). Yet you’ve chosen to step up and lead through times of uncertainty and complexity – which means that you’re in or near storms on a regular basis.

  • At times it can feel unsustainable, right? How could you possibly handle one more unexpected curveball?

  • Gluggaveður might be your answer.


How to cultivate Gluggaveður: The ability to feel inner calm during a storm is a crucial leadership practice to cultivate.

  • By imagining yourself inside, warm and dry, with a comforting drink in your hand, while just outside the window it’s cold and wet, you can regain control over your nervous system and remain calm enough to make rational and creative decisions about your next steps.


So think about the storm you’re currently facing. After reading the below prompt, you’re welcome to close your eyes and imagine your answer for a moment.

  • Imagine you have to make a tough set of decisions and you’re doing so from the eye of the storm. What does that feel like in your body? What thoughts and feelings are swirling through you?

  • Now imagine the decisions again, but you’re doing so with a glass wall between yourself and the storm. You’re safe and dry, but have a full understanding of what’s happening on the other side. What’s different in your body, mind, and heart? How does the calm advance your ability to make a plan?


Final thought: Over the last three years, I’ve worked from a corner desk in my Manhattan apartment with big windows in front of me and directly to my left, so I’ve watched countless storms. Sometimes I’ll literally pause whatever I’m doing to make something warm to drink, so I can more fully feel gluggaveður.

  • The concept has helped me feel grateful and get back to work more quickly. No pity or self-doubt, just conviction and passion.

  • This is what I wish for you too. That this imagery stays with you and you can recall it in moments of crisis, when what’s needed of you is summon a distant calm instead of getting soaked in the storm.

 

The Coaching Corner


Encourage some calm before a storm


Part of your job when coaching your team is to know when the storms are coming. Obviously you can’t predict them all, but many of the busiest or most stressful times of year have actually been planned by… you (or your org).


In those cases, make sure your team has a chance to rest beforehand. Hold down the fort for your team while encouraging them (individually, in a staggered and moderated way) to:

  • shut off over the weekend leading up to the launch,

  • have a late start one morning when they were up late finishing a piece of the puzzle,

  • take a longer-than-usual lunch break mid-day that includes a walk,

  • or close their computer by a certain time at night.

If you don’t set the expectation that they rest before the big event, many of them won’t.

 

Recommendations


  1. Check out "Jewish at Work," a project started by one of my mentors, Deborah Grayson Riegel, in the aftermath of the October 7th massacre in Israel and subsequent rise in antisemitism. The mission is simple - to collect and share stories of what it's like to be Jewish at work these days.

  2. On a totally separate note, bookmark this classic article by TED CEO Chris Anderson "How to Give a Killer Presentation" which summarizes a bunch of the key points from this fantastic book on giving TED Talks. As he says in the article, "Many of the best talks have a narrative structure that loosely follows a detective story. The speaker starts out by presenting a problem and then describes the search for a solution. There’s an “aha” moment, and the audience’s perspective shifts in a meaningful way."

 

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