Your Aloha Spirit, Tightly Curled and Regal

It’s been years since I had written the first edition of Managing with Aloha, and I’m not the same person. Neither are you. Yet I sincerely feel what the book proposes remains relevant, and working with it is rewarding.

Our continued practice can help us both, keeping us grounded in universal values as we continue to grow, learning more together in other shared experiences. These have been six years of working with MWA intensely in one type of coaching that has proved very fruitful, yet is changing for me in response to the way the workplace is changing. Exploring those possibilities (and others) is what Talking Story is all about.

There’s another way of tackling change that I call the judo approach: absorbing the force of the blow and flipping it to your advantage.
Sara Davidson, Leap! What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives?

So you’ve read the book” Now what?

It’s a question you should ask yourself about every book you read, and not just Managing with Aloha. Even the answer, “Now nothing. This one entertained, but I choose to not have it influence me” is self-expressive; the decision was made for a reason you have validated.

When you read a book, you open yourself up. You take stuff in. Thing is, your reading will either flow straight through you and not matter much as you return to the real world of your life, or it will stick, lining the walls of your insides with a new kind of self-captured texturing you can continue to draw from.

I love that you can drink of such an emotional connection to what you read in a way that comes from inside you. Think about it: someone else wrote the words, and they aren’t reading them to you. You can’t hear the emotion in their voice, or see it in their expression. You have only the words to draw it from: their words, but your meaning for them regardless of the writer’s intent. The emotional connection comes from inside you, and your own personal truth (Nānā I ke kumu: You look to your source.) , not from whoever wrote them.

It’s the same thing that your Aloha Spirit does for you. Perhaps that’s a good way to start our Managing with Aloha Mondays, reviewing Aloha, our foundational value in MWA. Over the years, this has remained the single most reprinted quote from the book, something I am very grateful for, as it should be our focus:

“Every single day, somewhere in the world, Aloha comes to life. As it lives and breathes within us, it defines the epitome of sincere, gracious, and intuitively perfect customer service given from one person to another.”

The Breath of A Life

Aloha is the combination of two smaller Hawaiian words, ‘alo’ and ‘ha.’

Like your Aloha Spirit, Tightly Curled and Regal— and ready to uncoil its promise.

Ha is the breath of your life, a concept which is like DNA to the Hawaiian way of thinking.

When you breathe in, and collect your breath, you are collecting a type of human intelligence from three centers of being, which is DNA-like in that it is unique to you. It comes from your gut, where your ancestral wisdom resides, your genitals, as your intention for continuing all life in future generations, and your head as mindfulness which is as close as you can come to being graced with divine intervention. Those three things (ancestral wisdom, forward-looking intention, and divinity), combine in each and every breath you take, the breath which will propel you toward living the rest of the following moments. This propulsion is what we mean by someone’s Aloha spirit. It is fueled by ha, the breath of your life, and the engine of your body.

Whereas ha is inside you, ‘alo’ is on the outside. Your ‘alo’ is the face you present to the rest of the world, and much different from DNA, your alo is of your choosing. Your demeanor, your presence, your blending into the world and opening up to what each and every day offers up to you —and to what each and every person you encounter offers up to you —you choose to make those encounters happen well, or you don’t. Alo is sort of like personality and mood, whereas ha is more like the character you have when no one is looking, character you will always have, and only borne of ancestral good.

Unconditional Acceptance, and the Expectation of Good

One of the most beautifully compelling beliefs about the Hawaiian culture, is that there is no such thing as a bad person from the standpoint of ha: People are born good. There is only bad behavior, chosen in the manipulation of your alo for some mis-directed reason, but a reason which can always be redirected toward good when you manage to purposely connect to your ha.

This is a belief a person can choose to have: You need not be of Hawaiian blood or ancestry to believe in the goodness inherent in humanity.
(…and you do choose to be the company you keep!)

So put them together, your alo and ha, and Aloha is living your life from the inside out, where both inside and outside are a harmonious and healthy match, perfectly aligned, and willingly shared with the rest of the world.

Thus Aloha is referred to by most in Hawai‘i as the value of unconditional love. Love for self and others. Loving yourself enough to share who you are in complete authenticity and vulnerability. “What you see is what you get, and it’s me, and it’s good!” It is a greeting hello, as in “I offer myself to you completely.” It is the Aloha of goodbye, as in “when we part our Aloha remains ever shared between us, helping us remain healthy and connected” for life is not meant to be a solo proposition.

What stayed inside?

So I ask you again. You’ve read the book” Now what?

What stayed inside as part of that emotional connection you made to keep it close? What has “lined the walls of your insides with a new kind of self-captured texturing you can continue to draw from” so it will be a part of your ha forevermore?

Savor it. Imagine it there, within every breath you take in the week to come. You decision to knowingly identify it (as your given ha) or choose it in some way (as your chosen alo) is a great way to start this every-Monday MWA journey with me.

Footnote: There is more backstory to MWA Mondays here if you are interested, including an index of relevant resource pages: Monday is for Managing with Aloha. My Book Page is here.


  1. Rosa Say says

    March 27, 2012: Am reading Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, (more about it on my GoodReads page) and came upon this quote in the beginning of his essay: It really speaks to the Aloha Spirit as I described it above, doesn’t it?

    “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense, for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgement.”


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