Field Notes on the Compassionate Life

I have had occasion to run into managers who don’t exhibit much compassion. The net effects of such lack can be disastrous to an organization. At the other end of the scale are those who are overly compassionate, sometimes to a fault, which can also create problems in an organization.

So is it possible to increase empathy in those who lack it, and tone it down in those who have too much? What is the nature of compassion? Are we born with it? How do we lose it? Can there ever be too much compassion?

Marc Ian Barasch has some thoughts on this in his book, “Field Notes on the Compassionate Life”. He takes us on a journey of exploration from Bonobo apes to Budhist monks to every-day people who have donated a kidney to someone they didn’t know in search of the questions I’ve asked myself (and he obviously wondered about).
I loved this book. Marc’s writing style – funny and poignant – captivated me from the start and managed to hold my attention throughout. I’m not sure I came up with any answers, but it was an uplifting exploration, humbling and joyous. One of those rare books that helped me to restore my faith in mankind. And provided some hope for leadership as well.

In the meantime, I’ve had the pleasure to work with a couple of clients who, through some hard work, were able to increase their own compassion and empathy. Their lives have been enriched, and I’ve discovered that compassion sometimes lies dormant and can be revived.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.