Practice What You Preach

What are you practicing? I am re-reading Richard Sennet’s ” Together” ehere hr investigates cooperation. He takes us through an historical journey back to the early 16th century. When discussing chivalry as a cooperation technique he offers that chivalry is the practice of restraint and the maintenance of honor. The idea that knight’s practiced restraint was incongruous until he explained the they were practicing sexual restraint so as not to assault or rape women of the court.Seems an outrageous state when not raping someone is the most chivalric thing they could do. But the idea of practicing prompted some personal questions.

What am I practicing? Am I practicing perfectly and am I seeing improvement? I am not thinking about the running and weight training that I do almost every day which has provided improved health and fitness. It isn’t the practice of learning that takes me through a routine of reading, writing and inquiry. I isn’t the practice of healthy eating that makes me food conscious.

I am wondering about a less specific set of practices. Do I practice generousity? Am I taking intentional steps towards joy? Is there a planned routine to curiousity? kindness? restraint? improvement? cooperation? persistence? mediocrity? excellence? stubbornness? reflection? The list isn’t comprehensive but was meant to prompt me to think about what I am rehearsing by my attitudes, intentions and actions.

The path to achieve awareness is in the doing and the recognition of the doing. Becoming self aware requires honesty, transparency, reflection, and willingness to adapt. Is my practice working or is it bad practice fostering bad outcomes.

I have been dwelling on the tribalism of politics in my head, heart and writing and need to let it all go so I don’t break. Instead I am choosing to practice joy and look for ways to improve being joyful.

Mei Mei Fox of MBG wrote a post a couple of years ago entitled ” 40 Ways To Practice Joy Every Single Day“. It seems like a great place to begin. While I can’t undertake all of them every day – it seems that progress could come from trying/doing 10 each day.
For today I am making the following my own joy exercises.
5. Listen to the wisdom of elders
6. Cheerlead someone to greatness
8. Speak to yourself with kindness
13. Spend some reflective time alone
15. Pause to say thank you – and really mean it
20. Make someone smile
26. Re-gift something
29. Dress in brightly coloured clothes
37. Connect with nature
40. Pray

I am hopeful that you will take a look at the 40 and choose your own and practice them i your own way or write your list and make it habitual. The ingrained outcome comes from persistent practice and improvement.

Make Your Practice Remarkable,

Icons and Bull’s Eyes

What are we chasing? False gods, idols icons? Or are we on target to hit a bull’s eye that defines our raison d’etre? Is there any meaning found in a new car with a shiny hood ornament or a new Apple with a bite taken out or shoes with someone else’s initials? Are we defined by how many square feet we occupy – withe more being better not worse? Are there objects or possessions that you fill with uncritical adoration, at least in the shortest of terms?

All generalizations are false. including this one” ~ Mark Twain

That being said ” we are always better if we are pursuing meaning rather than materialism. It is weird that the word material means relevant, important and significant but materialism is none of those things. The stuff we hold and horde and lust after are immaterial and their shine fades within ticks and tocks of the capture.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain (again) (showing my literary biases again).

I come to this troubling conclusion by looking at the accumulation of 11 years. When we moved last, we did a major purge and now closets and book shelves and storage spaces are jammed. We have added a second property and soon a third and stuff is piling up there too. I have hundreds of books and every year I donate a couple of boxes to a local literacy charity. I borrow ~ 100 from our library every year and still somehow I find another shiny cover that lures me in. I now own about a dozen pairs of shoes (and can somehow justify needing another pair), I have 6 pairs of snowshoes – snowshoes, really. There are so many technical running shirts and race t’s that they take a full drawer, 20+ colored shirts, socks and socks and socks. You see where I am going – too much stuff and I confess too much attachment to meaningless stuff.

The books and shoes and shirts and jackets were once supposed to make me better at something – health, running, writing, coaching, networking, a better dad, a better man, someone who could be loved. The hole I/we are trying to fill can’t be plugged with meaningless objects. Only meaning making will fit the hole and make us whole.

Find your mission and make it so.


Messing with Mindfulness

Living in the moment is all the rage. Being present without thought of past or future but only embracing what is in front of you now is a mantra I have heard often. I know that I live through time too much. I rarely stop and seek the aroma along the journey. I have mixed feelings about being totally present. Mindfulness can lead to obsessive self interest – the selfies culture that records the nuance and minutiae springs from being hyper aware of ‘now’ in what I see as unhealthy behaviour. But being mindful in a difficult conversation removes the edges of anxiety and emotion. I can see the discussion unfolding in front of me like a hockey game – I get to be part of the broadcast crew (neutral but interested).

I tend to try presencing when I am alone on a journey. Driving across the prairies can be monotonous so I meditate on what I am encountering. How is the scenery changing. the geology?the topgraphy? the surface of the road? How many cars come towards me in 2 minutes? Where are they going? I have seen some amazing stuff when I turn my attention to the moment rather on the past, the future or some fantasy. Fifteen pronghorn antelope crossed the highway in front of me, at a full gallop, and without breaking stride dipped under the bottom strand of a 3 wire fence. I have witnessed red tailed hawks hunting in pairs, sunlight glistening on a canola field and for a stretch of 32 km, not another car in sight.

The journey is interesting and when I live in the current situation, the destination magically gets closer faster. It is like when I tell my grandkids that if “they go to sleep, I will take a shortcut” magic. Time’s elastic nature slows in the moment a speeds in the aggregate. I don’t gaze down the highway or wonder about what is in the rear view mirror. I am sure that my focus is sharpened when I don’t try hold too much time simultaneously. When I walk a familiar path, after the first 10 minutes, I find I can fall into the rhythm that I am hearing in the here and now.

I don’t practice mindfulness all the time. I find forcing it exhausting, when around more than one other person. I can’t manage it when I feel there is deadline or I am brushed with rush. I haven’t figured out where it fits in my creative or athletic processes and if I have limited control over the situation I find it impossible.

The mind and time shifting properties of meditating on this moment are overblown and under appreciated depending on the messenger. Like everything I encounter, it is easy to say and harder to do but today as I journey across the city on foot, I am open to what those minutes will offer.

Make Today Mindfully Remarkable,

Feedback Fails

Do you offer advise, solicited or uninvited? Do you provide feedback to friends, colleagues, bloggers, writers, businesses, servers, legislators? How much drama is involved in the way you advise, criticize, or offer feedback? Does conflict arise when you provide helpful suggestions?

How do you receive input about what you are doing or should be doing? Are you grateful or resentful or ambivalent? It can be tough to take feedback that we hear as negative. When I hear advise that seems contrary to what I already believe I can get defensive. It has been years since I threw a big hissy fit but not that long ago I did a pretty good job of pouting.

Is there a better way to offer and receive frank observations?

Build a hero sandwich. When I was actively writing politicians and government departments, I crafted the hero sandwich every time. The meat of the messaging was surrounded with a positive message about how grateful or impressed I was with something that they were already doing. The meat in between was specific to the issue or expectation not pointed at a personality trait or characteristic.
I always am more receptive when offered the hero, even if I recognize the format. I feel the feedback is sincere and valuable if they are taking the time and care to think about what they want to share and hoe they are sharing.
As mentioned above I try to focus on the issue, the practice, the situation not the person. Ad hominum approaches can be forceful but are almost always hurtful. Rather than saying that a colleague is lazy it is better to suggest that delays or missed deadlines or incomplete assignments create difficulties for others.
Even when the feedback is difficult or specific to performance, a passive voice rather than active. Saying ” the data you provided was flawed” rather than you gave me bad data” will be received with less resentment.
I have felt deflated or challenged depending on how I heard the message.
If the issue or criticism is pointed towards performance I try to offer specific examples and specific remedies. When I have gotten a general review I usually don’t know what I am missing or how I can change.

Sometimes I am not ready or willing to hear anything. Not advise, suggestions, praise nor glowing reviews. I suspect that my gentlest and best framed feedback hasn’t always bee appreciated. I do appreciate having someone say ” I have some concerns, when would be a good time to have an honest discussion”. I haven’t used that approach but recognizing that it improves my reception, I will be sure to offer it in the next opportunity.

Is there feedback you should be providing? Have you asked someone to let you know what they think about something you are doing or creating? Do we all need trusted critics or honest confidants? My answers are yes,yes,yes.

Take the next opportunity to give better advise and receive advise better.


Tribal Discomfort

I am a fan of Seth Godin and Jeff Goins’ interpretation of tribe. A place where we belong, where we add value, where we are challenged and where we are cared for. The world I watch in mainstream media seems to leave a different impression of tribal membership.

It seems that if you align, affirm or sign up for anything that is ideological or partisan, you need to shut off your brain and accept a complete package no matter how unpalatable it might be. I have been accused of heresy, treachery, and disloyalty when I criticize or question an idea, an intention, an action or an individual that is part and parcel of the doctrine, dogma, plan for domination.

I have been introduced by zealots, conservatives, liberals and environmentalists as “the most ideologically promiscuous person they know”. In each case I think it was meant to be a slight but I have celebrated that they noticed and that I was transparent in my confusion and curiousity.

The current US presidential race has seemed to this outside observer to be void of content and full of tribalism. Supporters and detractors are wedge uncomfortably in one camp apologizing for behaviour or ignoring inconsistency but not wavering or reconsidering. It seems that the candidates could say, do, or be accused of anything and the tribe still aligns with the original investment.

Do we get so far down a road that retreat is too big a pill to swallow? Can we invest time, money and reputation and then find it impossible to admit that our decisions might be wrong? I worry and wonder where I am intransigent. Am I blinded by the mantra and message in some area of my life and unable to be interested and inquisitive?

The concern I am expressing seems exemplified in the current political arena but could be as easily seen in religions, activist organizations, team fan clubs or anywhere else we profess allegiance. I hope to strive to be pan-political, pan-religious, pan-issue, and agnostic about the home team.

That’s as close as I am getting to posting about the US Presidential race.  I trust that the system will pick the right person and if it doesn’t that the self correcting mechanisms of democracy will apply a correction.


Make Today Remarkable, by being less strident,


Acts of Kindness

I don’t have any particular problem with the motivation or mission of Kindness &Co. and think they have landed on an idea with the Kindness Movement. I like the Kindness & Co + Pick The Brain, Kindness Kit and can see myself using it. Where we have a tiny difference is around Random Acts. I believe that anything thta is left to random or organic is best to be left all together.

I prefer Intentional Acts of Kindness. I set out each day prepared to be kind. Not just in situations where I happen to notice someone or something and take a momentary leap and provide some generousity. For me if I am on the lookout for kindness, I see it in others and am aware of it in circumstances. I more often pause and reflect (sometimes for a few days) about how I might inject some thoughtfulness and gentleness.

John McKnight says that “generousity is the only lubricant that will make our neighbourhoods viable”. I love that sentiment and understand it to mean that we need to become fountains of kindness for each other with so much helpfulness, graciousness and hospitality spilling over the top that we are splashing each other in puddles of goodness and grace. When I am wet with drops or a deluge, I can’t help being kind.

Set out everyday to be kind, to accept kindness and to splash someone you don’t know.