Inaugural TIER Talks rethink modern-world success
By Steve Seepersaud
When few of his colleagues studied forgiveness, Fred Luskin '76 filled the void. It wasn't purely altruistic as the research helped him process his feelings. At the inaugural TIER Talks: Talks that Inspire, Educate and Resonate held on campus at Homecoming 2014 – in a panel discussion titled "Rethinking Success: Thriving in the Modern World" – Luskin shared that his journey toward forgiveness started when his closest friend instantly severed their relationship after finding a new love.
"I believe the real need for forgiveness is at home with the handful of people who really matter to us," said Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project and co-chair of the Garden of Forgiveness at Ground Zero in Manhattan. "There has to be someone you love that you are also ticked at, or someone you used to love and you're not letting go of the wound. I'm here to tell you it's time."
Bill Groner '77, an Alumni Association board member, was instrumental behind the formation of TIER Talks. In opening remarks, he said the talks will be offered on and off campus throughout the year, but the idea came from a discussion about enhancing Homecoming.
"We can take what's so brilliant here at Binghamton – our alumni and faculty – and from that treasure trove, we can find those who want to speak on topics of interest," he said.
Hoping the content would be life-changing, panelists assigned "homework" in the form of self-assessment exercises. Kimberly Jaussi, associate professor of organizational behavior and leadership, and fellow at the University's Center for Leadership Studies, surveyed attendees before TIER Talks and will send a post-event questionnaire to see how the content impacted them.
Pictured above: Fred Luskin '76, Christopher Morgan-Knapp, Kimberly Jaussi, Matthew D. Johnson and Michael Finkelstein
Jaussi also served on the panel and told the audience she was frustrated when a counselor suggested she drop an eighth-grade art class because it would lower her GPA. The ostensibly well-intentioned suggestion stifled her creativity. As an instructor, Jaussi stresses that good leaders find creative solutions to problems.
"I had felt sad [for years] because creative people are so cool," Jaussi said. "I was an economics major and, later, I worked in brokerage houses and was good at it, but miserable. I rode and trained horses, and found that nature became my place to be creative."
The habit of comparing oneself to others, according to Christopher Morgan-Knapp, leads millions of workers to not fully use their vacation days as they don't want to lose ground in the workplace. Although your position isn't diminished, not earning a promotion becomes a crisis because you compare yourself negatively to the promoted colleague.
"[Envy] calls attention to the difference between you and a rival," said Morgan-Knapp, associate professor of philosophy at Binghamton. "You see this as unjust. But, can this difference really threaten your self-esteem? Your self-esteem should be determined by something you fully have control over."
Matthew D. Johnson, professor of psychology and director of the University's Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory, said his research reinforced the finding that achievement doesn't bring satisfaction. When someone is promoted, he or she will be happier for a short while. However, he said, relationship quality is a far better predictor of someone's health and well-being. Divorce, he found, can permanently reduce life satisfaction.
"All couples experience problems and we don't pick our partners based on their ability to solve problems," Johnson said, eliciting laughter. "We've tried to train couples to be more supportive and more empathic. And, we've asked other couples to watch a romantic comedy then talk about it. Those couples did better... because they talked to each other and attended to their relationship."
Moderator Michael Finkelstein, founder of SunRaven, a holistic learning and healing center in Westchester County, said people wake up at various points in their lives to find that they should be focused on processes and not the end point.
"In the achievement mentality, it's about the outcome," Finkelstein said. "It's simply 'Can I get there?' We look at ourselves as successful when we achieve that, and we pull away from the moments that are part of the process where all the beauty really exists."
Information on future TIER Talks will be posted to the Alumni Association's events calendar.
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