Tattoos are an interesting club.
While going mainstream over the past decade or two (moving from sailors and bikers to CEOs and moms), today everyone probably knows someone with a tattoo. Many of us, at one time or another, have even had the crazy thought, “I think I’d like to have one!”
I’ve wanted a tattoo for almost 20 years. I first wanted a tattoo when I was 13 years old and saw the Fab 5 run out to face the pretty boy, Duke Blue Devils: Black socks. Long shorts. Tatted up. Man, I thought they were just the coolest. It was an epic moment sharing that story with Jalen Rose this past fall while on the same flight.
I wanted a tattoo again at 20 while playing college football and seeing all my buddies getting ink. From crosses and art to Sanskrit and barbed wire, it felt like everyone was jumping in the chair for a tattoo.
Despite the growing trend I just couldn’t get there; first because Mom wasn’t having it and then because I just couldn’t commit.
As someone who has struggled with commitment in the past, the idea of putting permanent ink on my body was both intriguing and simultaneously terrifying. I mean, talk about going “all in”, right?
To get there, I decided I had to go deep. If I was going to permanently place something on my body, it had to run to my core.
So the question I began to ask myself was, “What is my deepest held belief?”
Now I realize not everyone approaches tattoos with this level of contemplation and that’s totally fine, but for me this became an exercise of searching the very depths of my soul.
20 years after seeing the Fab 5 and thinking about a tattoo, I finally crystalized my guiding beliefs and identified the symbol that would represent them. After much study, mediation, prayer, and soul searching, I discovered the principal that most deeply resonated with my soul…was actually quite a simple idea.
We Are All One.
Not only has this idea been talked about across all religious, spiritual, and wisdom traditions for centuries, today quantum mechanics proves this to be true.
When placed under our most powerful microscopes, we discover that each and every one of us is at our very essence, energy.
Your body is comprised of cells and your cells are comprised of atoms and your atoms are comprised of subatomic particles and at the very bottom we find quarks, which are waves of energy.
So, we are all literally waves of energy and the most interesting thing to me is there is actually no place where I end and you begin. Our waves continue out and mix with everyone else’s waves of energy. We are in fact existing in a sea of energy.
While that concept can be hard to wrap your head around as you look down at your individualized body and then at the “interesting” person sitting next to you (say what!?), I do think most of us at our core actually know this to be true.
It’s similar to when you can feel the “energy” in a room change or when you meet someone new and it feels like you “resonate” with each other…or maybe you say I got a bad “vibe” from that guy. If we’re tuned in and really aware, most of us have experienced this phenomenon.
So if we’re to believe this idea of interconnectedness is true, if we really are all one, the question I think we have to consider is….
How should we behave?
How should we choose to show up in the world?
If I approach the world as if everyone around me is in fact an extension of myself, how will I treat him or her?
From a business standpoint, how will I lead my organization? How I will I treat my customers? How I will I treat the barista who’s having a bad day? How will I treat that stranger on the street?
Of course, I know this is a radical thought considering the way we operate today - particularly in the business world. Business has historically operated out of a place of separation. Separation from each other. Separation from our planet. Separation from everything around us.
I invite you to consider a new choice about this.
What would it mean to lead and work from a position of connectedness?
This means you own and live the idea that what you do to another, whether it is your customer or your competition, you are in fact doing to yourself.
That may sound soft. That may sound naïve. That may even sound fantastical.
Despite all of that, I still can’t think of a better way to live and lead.
To remind myself of these questions and the belief that there is no separation between you and I, I finally sat down in the chair and entered the club of the tattooed by placing a Mandala on the inside of my left forearm.
The word Mandala (pronunciation mon-dah-lah) means "circle", symbolizing unity, harmony, and our interconnectedness. In short, we are all one.
The experience of getting a tattoo was one I’ll never forget. I was fortunate to have my amazing wife by my side and an artist doing the work who believes this same message to his core.
Of course you don’t have to tattoo your ethos on your body to explore the powerful process of identifying your deepest held beliefs about who you are, why you’re here, and what you’ll represent in this world today, but taking the time to tune in and touch base with your own guiding principals is what I believe will be required to truly lead from a position of authenticity today.