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What Is Love, After All?

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Pass the Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices.

In this special series, we’re shifting from our usual unscripted group exploration to a one-on-one discussion with people from various walks of life, as we revisit one of the most iconic and fascinating ideas in history. An idea so strong it can change our world in crisis: Love.

For our seventeenth episode, we sent six questions to our guests ahead of time and asked them to come prepared to share their answers.

Starting the Conversation

As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer paved the way for this conversation to discuss what is love, after all, when that world is breaking apart.

The current pandemic has dramatically increased our anxiety, as we’re propelled into an unknown world, without a new narrative to guide us and add meaning to our lives. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S, affecting 40 million adults over the age of 18.

Welcoming Our Guest

We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss this topic.

Aaron Force is a researcher, writer, and author of "What is Transpersonal Extropy?" exploring the concept of a global awakening, or shift, within humanity. He experienced his own spiritual awakening in 2015, an event that has led him to develop and discuss ideas about ego and the nature of an expanded state of consciousness to impact humanity's future.

Jim Spivey is a Partner at Mazzi Partners. Jim brings his experience as a former business executive, executive coach, and life coach to his sacred work as a modern-day mystic at a small firm focused on holding space for awakening and transformation for both individuals and communities. He is inspired by Jesus, Khalil Gibran, Rumi, and his wife Bunmi in his surrender of his life and will to Grace and Love.

Rashmir Balasubramaniam is a thought partner, coach, and strategic advisor who helps leaders of transformational systems change and their teams harness rapid change and uncertainty to learn, grow, and lead with presence, purpose, creativity and joy. She has worked with some of the poorest and wealthiest people on the planet, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nesta, the National Health Service, the World Bank and the Rapid Results Institute. She has taught and mentored graduate students and entrepreneurs at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business, Presidio Graduate School, and Fledge - a conscious company incubator. With over 25 years of experience across the public, private and nonprofit sectors, including six years in international finance, Rashmir has a proven ability to build trust and consensus, work strategically, generate tangible results, and unleash confidence, creativity, and capabilities amongst diverse cultural and multidisciplinary groups.

Dr. Mike Watson is a proven leader, facilitator, speaker, and educator with expertise in integrative thinking, ethical leadership, communication, marketing, and instructional design. He is a senior leadership professional specializing in the construction, design, and implementation of innovative, strategic organizational initiatives and graduate online leadership courses. A recognized industry and academic leader, he has the ability to purposefully guide and inspire collaboration and interdependent teamwork to accomplish challenging goals. Dr. Watson believes in working with individuals and leaders who are inclined toward worthy goals, guided by core human values, and in relationship with all stakeholders. He believes in the power of purposeful tension, active patience, diversity, working collaboratively, and the development of personal insight as a tool for prosperity. Mike Watson has partnered with a wide range of professionals, from CEOs to creatives. He’s been a subject matter expert on HuffingtonPost Live, emceed and hosted multiple TEDx events, shaped a national retail company's visual footprint and brand image, as well as designed retail stores.

Gary Gruber is an author and Transition Management Consultant. Dr. Gary Gruber has served in leadership roles for many years. He has taught in college and university settings, co-authored a book Understanding & Enjoying Adolescence (1988) and published two recent ones, Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir (2013) and Your Child, Your Choice: Finding the Right School for Your Child (2014). Gary served as a Chaplain and Department Head at Choate Rosemary Hall, was the Head of School at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and was the founding head of Bosque School in Albuquerque, where he served as the Interim Head of School during the 2010-11 school year. As the founder of a non-profit group, the “Southwest Institute for Educational Research and Professional Teacher Development,” Gary was instrumental in that entity evolving into “The Santa Fe Leadership Center.”

Mark C. Crowley is the bestselling author of the book Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership for the 21st Century. He hosts the Lead From The Heart podcast, bringing world-class authors, innovators, CEOs, researchers, and other top thinkers whose work inherently adds unique support, validation & dimension to the Lead from the Heart leadership philosophy. Mark is a leadership consultant and speaker with the goal to change how we lead and manage people in the workplace. He believes that the workplace should be more supportive of human needs.

John Poehler is the creator of the award-winning blog - The Bipolar Battle. John is the author of the book This War Within My Mind and the host of the podcast “The Bipolar Battle” helping those living with bipolar disorder. As a winner of the WEGOHealthAward, he was recognized as a voice bringing empathy back into healthcare and helping to create a better tomorrow as a mental health advocate. Living with his own bipolar disorder, John has firsthand experience managing it on a daily basis. He sees himself as a warrior and bipolar disorder as the battle, an empowering perspective that he adopts in all areas of his life.

Dan Rockwell is listed in the “Top Fifty Leadership and Management Expert and Top 100 Great Leadership Speakers” by Inc Magazine and he is the author behind the Leadership Freak blog, which according to the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, is the most socially shared leadership blog on the Internet. Dan started his career in the nonprofit world and has earned an MBA and undergraduate degrees in Theology, Pastoral Ministry, and Construction and Design. He owned two businesses and served fifteen years as a Workforce Development Consultant for a Penn State University Special Affiliate. In that capacity, he designed courses, hired and mentored instructors, and delivered hundreds of presentations for local, regional, and global organizations. Today, Dan coaches leaders, consults with organizations, and delivers corporate and community presentations.

Pádraig Ó Tuama is the host of Poetry Unbound podcast from On Being Studios. As a poet and theologian, his work centres around themes of language, power, conflict and religion. From 2014-2019 he was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community. Ó Tuama’s published work incorporates poetry (Readings from the Book of Exile [longlisted for the Polari Prize 2013]); (Sorry for your Troubles), prose (In the Shelter) and theology (Daily Prayer; Borders and Belonging [forthcoming Nov 2021]). His poetry has been featured in many publications and platforms including AAP’s Poem-a-Day, RTÉ’s Poem of the Week, and Poetry Ireland Review.

Key Shared Insights & Perspectives

How Do We Define Love?

This colossal question has challenged all our speakers and triggered a sense of humility as they ponder its depth.

Jim Spivey described himself as often “a failed student” of love and shares a beautiful poem he was inspired by, once able to get out of his own mind.

For Rashmir Balasubramaniam, love is “what we are inspired for and inspired to be as humans” and she reminds us of the four types of love described by CS Lewis: Eros (erotic, passionate love), Philia (love of friends and equals), Storge (love of parents for children), Agape (love of mankind).

Our definition of love “evolves over time” says John Poehler and for Aaron Force, love is “multifaceted” and “what keeps the world together.” Dan Rockwell defines love as the greatest thing in the world” and “love is seen and observed, rather than defined” adds Pádraig Ó Tuama.

Synonymous with allowance, Mike Watson sees love as “the intention to create space for another to feel their truest self.

Love can also be connected to the sacrifice one is willing to make for others, as Gary Gruber points out when sharing his experience during World Word II.

Finally, Mark Crowley reminds us that in our business lives and from a leadership perspective, love translates into “any act that a leader can do to make others feel encouraged, supported” including sharing their knowledge.

How has isolation changed our access to and attitudes about love?

We’ve been taught to search for love outside of ourselves and in times of isolation we are forced to reexamine and rise above our inability to connect physically with others.

According to Barbara Marx Hubbard, evolutionary educator and inspiring speaker, “Crises almost always precede transformation.” This isolation can be an opportunity for many of us to go inward where we can find our wholeness and remember how love is our true nature.

During the conversation, we heard many of our speakers share how our temporary isolation has changed their own view of intimacy as they felt a longing for a deeper authenticity in their relationships.

What is the biggest act of love that you’ve personally witnessed?

The immense power of love can be witnessed in small acts like visiting a friend, or sharing a quiet moment and offering our vulnerability, describes Pádraig Ó Tuama .

For Dan Rockwell, witnessing a friend who stands by us, even after we disappointed him/her, is humility - a genuine act of selfless love.

When the birth of our children becomes our hope for a better future, as John Poehler describes, they are our biggest acts of love.

Mark Crowley shares how he witnessed trust as the biggest act of love when his daughter had to send her newborn away to receive care.

Martin Luther King was the biggest act of love incarnated, shares Gary Gruber. Love emanated from him when he met people because he was on a mission much bigger than himself and he was willing to give his life to save others.

Mike Watson witnessed waking up as the biggest act of love. Each day, his body knows to breathe which allows him to do his work. His wife is by his side, willing to support him and allow him to be himself.

Finally, Aaron Force considers creation the biggest act of love and being alive the greatest experience of both love and nature.

How does our work help others find, connect with, or express love?

We asked each of our speakers to share how their work helps others find, connect with, or express love.

Listen to their thoughtful, inspirational, and love-filled responses as writers, poets, business and leadership consultants, coaches, mental health advocates, and educators.

Final Thoughts

When our habits are disrupted, our jobs are disappearing, our relationships are tested, and our truths are questioned, we wonder, what remains? The answer is love.

Love is more than a feeling that a person has for another person. It’s an intimate relationship between ourselves and the world.

When expressed in the workplace, love enables everyone to do their best work, in addition to boosting well-being and productivity. The more love co-workers feel at work, the more engaged they become.

And it starts by exhibiting empathy toward a stressed-out colleague, expressing caring and affection toward a teammate, and showing compassion when things aren’t going great (inside or outside of work) for someone you manage.

It may not be surprising that those who perceive greater affection and caring from their colleagues perform better, but the average manager or leader may not focus on building connection and collaboration, even though it’s one of the four ingredients of a positive culture.

People who work in a culture where they feel free to express affection, tenderness, caring and compassion for one another,­ are more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

Whole Foods Market has a set of management principles that begin with “Love.”

The Zappos Core Values state: “We are more than a team though. We are a family. We watch out for each other, care for each other and go above and beyond for each other.”

We cannot develop a positive culture without being aware of our own limitations. We cannot be the change we want to see in others without love.

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