Original Thought

What do I Need to Learn?

“Every day I am surprised by what I know, what I don’t know and what I don’t know that I don’t know.” ~ Bob McInnis

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I had two long conversations today about culture change processes, intentionality, stepping stones, and establishing social norms in an unfamiliar and fluid environment. I recognized that some of the work I have been doing ans most of the reading has equipped me with some language, some models, and definitely some opinions about how and why people with something in common engage in the creation of a common culture and readily accept social norms. I know enough to have a theory and enough to facilitate significant shifts and enough to be dangerous.

I don’t know how diversity plays into the formation of common culture. One suggestion today was that we need to take Diversity 101,201,301 specific to the group we are living with, working with and playing with. For most we need to get to know or be reminded of our dispositions and tendencies so we can share them with others who we are interacting with so that they know I am not being a jerk – I just see the world differently and have different needs and practices. We understand tribe members better and figure out how to utilize the diversity to create an as yet unimagined game plan or solution.That would be 101 and 201. 301 takes us to  a place where our egos are set aside and we demand diversity by reaching out to those who see the landscape differently and asking ” Can you take a look at this and help me understand where I am going wrong?” Then I need to listen to the other opinions without resentment or defensiveness and after the feedback is provided reply with ” Thank you, you have made my project better.”

I still don’t know what I don’t know but based on the conversations, learning and impact I am committed to being receptive to outlandish, incomprehensible, out of my frame of reference challenges and to widening my scope of mentors to include a couple of folks that I really don’t agree with.

Are any of you up to the challenge?

B

Self Improvement · Uncategorized

Choose Optimism

“Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.” ~ Seth Godin

I am not an eternal optimist but I am a dreamer. Not rose colored glasses dreaming but taking the circumstances and whistling them through my imagination.
Idealism sees the best something can be and wishes and acts it to be so. When I whistle and wish and look to a preferred future I am filled with hope. Hope is a choice that we get to make every day and the more we choose it the more we feel.
I don’t subscribe to a Utopian agenda because I believe that we live in a time and place that can be good, better, best but if we get Pollyana the menu of change becomes sappy and sugary and hard to swallow.

Optimists, enthusiasts, fanatics, admirers can be a ray of sunshine in a group or community but they need a tinge of realism so that they aren’t seen as naive empty headed zealots.

Why is the best of us and the worst of us separated by such a thin line? Have we always seen the easy going, buoyant, stargazer with suspicion if the enthusiasm was too over the top? Bryan Welch wrote “But history also gives us plenty of reason for optimism. On the humble foundation of skin clothing and bone jewelry we have built a wondrous technological superstructure to support ongoing innovation.” Maybe we only suspect the optimist when the level of uncertainty gets too high or the circumstances to dire. I imagine the guy who said ” It will all be great tomorrow” as meteors were raining down or an ice age was upon us would have been pretty hard to take.

Optimism is a motivator and a coping skill. For me it can be both at the same time. Leading me forward to good, better, best and protecting me from bad, worse, tragic.
I get to choose to be optimistic every morning and with every turn of my day. You get to accept my zeal every morning and at each turn. The acceptance has to do with me and our relationship and you and your disposition. Given that we both have a choice, I have decided that I am going to lean to hoping for the best and expecting the best. You can make your own decision.

Make Today Hopeful,
B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

A Simple Answer?

The simple answer to every question is ” there is no simple answer”. Well that may be too simplistic, there probably are simple answers but they may not be complete, appropriate or valid. If the question is closed-ended and ‘yes or no’ is sufficient, it still isn’t really an answer. Closed responses are only closed because of the framing of the question. If I am asked ” Are you going to type a post today?” The answer to the specific request may be “yes” but the answer I should give might be ” Yes, if I get this project complete and go for a run before 7am”. Even then the answer is shorthand for a much longer and more comprehensive response. ” I am feeling a bit of stress with some projects and procrastination, I need to clear my head and heart before I tackle anything else. I am not sure I have anything left to say or if anyone is really listening”

Do we lose content and context when we accept simple answers? Would our lives be richer if we shared deeper emotions and honesty? The most common question we ask and hear is one that we very seldom answer truthfully. ” How are you?” gets a variety of “good”,”fine”, “I’m well”, ” busy”, “tired” …but is the question or response just a courtesy mantra? Are you sincere in understanding the state of wellbeing, health, finances, relationships of the person in front of you? Should we swear off the question “how are you?” if we really aren’t interested. And if I am interested, can I ask a deeper, better, more complex, open-ended question?

What if I said ” what is the best thing that has happened to you in the last 24 hours?” or ” how is your health?” or ” why did you decide to come to this event?” or ” how did you celebrate the weekend?”. The answers would be more interesting and reflective and after the strange look it would foster a higher level engagement. Are we ready to engage with some colleagues, family members, strangers or do we want to just pass though the space and go through the actions? Even the last question could have a ‘yes or no’ response but if we opt for deeper connections then we need to build in patience and time so that meaning and meaningfulness can rise up in stages.
The first time you hear an unexpected deep question, it might rattle you for a second. You probably won’t jump to transparency initially because the unusual provokes suspicion but trust is waiting in the query and if you can choose trust, a better, truer response will eventually come out.

Are you constructing your own barriers to meaningful conversations? Do you frame your bids with honest curiousity or are they tempered with cynicism, suspicion and reserved detachment? What are you hiding from? Are you fearful that some disclosure will be abused? Is it shame? distain? anxiety?
Are aware of the tendencies towards open or closed? Has this just become ‘your way of doing things’? Are you interested in change and willing to be involved in the lives of a chosen few ?

I confess that this lesson has been difficult to learn well. I have stumbled and fallen. I have disregarded my personal commitment to engagement when I felt anxious. I have resisted overtures and bids with flippant sarcasm and been dismissive of friends who frightened me with their openness. But I continue to try. I make progress and step back but the movement over the past year has generally been forward, towards stronger friendships, deeper relationships and interest in the feelings and interests of others (even when I don’t understand). Like most things, there isn’t a simple answer, or a single step but I am committed to making the most of the gifts of relationship that I have. It probably means that contrary to the social media frenzy of accumulation, I need to be discerning and dedicated to a few rather than the very many.

Make Today Remarkable, by asking difficult questions,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Don’t Let Guilt Drag You Down

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Guilt slows us down. I think it is supposed to in the short term to create a window of reflection. But after a few minutes it bogs us down and swallows us up and moving forward through the morass becomes impossible. When you hear that tiny nagging voice inside your head, don’t ignore it – deal with it immediately. When you hear the sucking sound of disgrace and disillusion ask yourself ” what is deeply buried here?” If you answer that “I messed up” then ask ” how did I mess up?” ” what are the consequences?” “Who has been hurt?” ” Do I need to make amends?” Do it fast, do it fully and do it often. Guilt hates the true side of vulnerability – the recognition that we are not alone and that there are others in our lives that we need deeply. Guilt loves vulnerability that looks like isolation and self pity. Don’t give her space in your head and heart to draw you away from others and into dejection and sorrow. Stand up, speak up, make up and move on. The bandaid comes off cleanly when you do it quickly. There may be some scars and the cut might not be completely healed but this formula goes a long way to treating the wound.

The admission of guilt and the conviction to make amends keeps you humble, You are forced to display some of your warts and own them. In humility, relationships improve and long held views give way to new and improved possibilities.

When you fess up and fix what you messed up, it shows courage and a recognition that you are willing to admit your foibles and take risks to mend fences and relationships. Hiding behind curtains of denial, that everyone sees through, say ” I am more concerned about how I pretend I am than how you know I am. My rep is more important than our relationship.” Demonstrate great courage.

If you get trapped in a guilt bubble, your time and resources are no longer yours. The energy it takes to avoid the acknowledgement is exhausting and a terrible use of these assets. But sincere atonement saves time and resources and as soon as the confession leaves your mouth a weight is lifted. Even the reaction of the other(s) isn’t as important as the immediate intimacy that you feel with your true self. You will be better, will do better, and relationships will be restored – seems like three great reasons to admit, act and atone.

Make Today Remarkable, by getting rid of guilt,

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

The Wasted Enterprise of Worry

In the grand scheme of things, I/we tend to worry about stuff that is way outside the span of our control or has already happened and we can’t change history. We do reinvent the past through our faulty memories or a desperate need to reconcile our actions and thoughts but we don’t rewrite it. Worrying is a wasted enterprise in most circumstances yet we can become masters of it. I wonder if worrying begets worrying. If we begin fretting about one thing does it make us more likely to fret about another and a another? Is it possible that we open a floodgate of concern?
I admit that I can be a worry wart if I let my mind go there. Even knowing that the outcome has been decided or I have no influence over the result doesn’t curb the anxiety. If I begin thinking about finances and have concerns about a purchase that I made last week and winder whether it was wise, I am soon wondering about my health or my kids or the state of the world. Full blown, out of control worry ensues and a gale of unnecessary anxiousness begins swirling through my head and I am soon swooning.

I can’t seem to hold the nagging nettles at bay through logic. It doesn’t help to say ” Stop worrying. There isn’t anything you can do about it. Whatever will be, will be.” Rational thought and reasoning doesn’t seem to work. I have tried to blow up the worry with hyperbole. ” What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if …?” ” I blew that chance and I will never get another” ” This headache means I have a tumor”. Intentional exaggeration creates exasperation and rather than showing the ridiculousness of the effort to change the unchangeable it opens a cavern to fall into. I can feel my heart rate rise and my palms get sweaty when I try to trick the worry away.

I have found that breathing through the anxiousness and becoming still and focused on something else lifts the scales and I begin to see reality. I perceive the same circumstances without the edge of concern and fear. I don’t ignore the situation but breathing and meditation brings a softness to the knife edge and the physical and emotional scars don’t get as deep.

My meditation practice is sketchy. When I do it, it is unstable. I fall into a delicious rhythm and then find myself down a rabbit hole of thoughts and need to pull myself out. Breathing in through my nose 1,2,3,4 hold 1,2,3,4, exhale 1,2,3,4 repeat I quell the demon. Listening to the air, feeling it in your nostrils, acknowledging it flow through you arrests the cycle of concern and allows me to catch up and be present, not regretting the past or plotting the future.

Worrying takes my breath away and breathing takes away the worry. I like the symmetry of it.

Make Today Remarkable, by breathing,
B

Original Thought

The Best and the Not so Best

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The Olympics offers us a glimpse into life, patriotism, courage, corruption and perseverance and commitment. There are tragedies, travesties, fairy tales in real time and a whirlwind of metaphors and parables being woven in the ether. I don’t know if I need the official approval of the IOC to even type the O word or some official credential to tell a story or offer my perspective from afar but I will chance it this morning and offer some observations. The words here are generalized and if it sounds like I am stating a fact, well I am likely not.

Let’s begin with the heroism. I admit that I seem to have a need for heroes, especially if they have fallen from grace and had some type of redemption. Prior to the Rio games I wasn’t a fan of Michael Phelps. There wasn’t any animosity or distaste, just ambivalence. His records and performance were impressive but I didn’t cheer for him. This year, his back story and rehabilitation meant something more. A Joseph Campbell hero saga story was crafted by circumstances, agents and media and I found myself rooting for his return to the top of the podium. The conquering hero didn’t disappoint. With all the drama of a James Cameron movie (one in the making?) Michael took on the challengers, heir apparents, and wanna bes. If there is a lesson rather than hype, it might be that we are created to overcome odds and like Von Goethe says we need to be committed.

For Canadians, the new hero, with her own guest in the background, is Penny Oleskiak. Rather than a vanquishing dragon slayer, she is the protagonist with humility. Her medals and individual results don’t overshadow the team she is a part of. As a reluctant hero, she is charming and humble. I suspect that there was some story crafting before the games and some editing and adapting since they started but in her story we see hard work, determination, genetics, and hope. We can all use more of three of those.

There are so many athlete successes from the Refugee Team to the Fijian 7s that speak to what I understand the O to symbolize but tantrums, favoritism, missed opportunity and cowardice have raised their heads too. For me the corrupt action of decision makers in disregarding drug testing reports in order to save face and appease a nation embroiled in the scandal is the antithesis of these symbols.
I struggle to understand how men and women could condone illegal action by athletes and state and still hold the rings high. There has been many suggestions that we should hold Juicer Games where anyone can compete regardless of steroid or HGH or genetic manipulation. Somewhat tongue in cheek, they say they would love to see how fast, high, strong we could be before exploding.

Away from the games Bill Murray offered a better comparison. He would like there to be an average Jane or Joe in every race just so we can actually understand how remarkable these performance are. It would give us pause to realize that 64th in the world is still 10’s of times faster, higher, stronger than most humans on the planet could achieve.

As we move into the track and field, where there is sure to be controversy, I am choosing to stay focused on the best of the games – the athletes, coaches and teams who represent excellence, honesty, fair play and generosity.

Make Today Remarkable, by being inspired,
B

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Are You Really Committed?

Is today the day you take the plunge? Are you standing at the top of the precipice counting down to one? Have you been standing at the ready for more than a few weeks? Is fear paralyzing you or have you not firmly committed to the next step?
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, famous 19th C German philosopher is best known for an inspirational quote. “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.” The most quoted piece is a portion of a longer and I think far more profound quote.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
It isn’t in the dreaming that magic happens, it is in the commitment. If you have been planning and re-planning a new venture, a new idea, a new product, a new relationship but haven’t acted then you may be trapped in hesitancy and ineffectiveness.

It is easy to say “that every journey begins with a single step” but so cliche as to be virtually useless. The first step is important but it is in the third and fourth that momentum towards the splendid plan. There isn’t a magic bullet, a secret incantation or elixir that will move you. It takes courage to be committed and a recognition that you are stepping into the unknown. For some of us it is a jungle for others a city park, nonetheless perceived as a great risk. You may never overcome some of the fear but courage isn’t acting in the absence of fear or by simply ignoring it. Courage happens in spite of acknowledging the risks and barriers and moving ahead anyway.
In most coaching that I do, we work to find small steps that make taking the big one more manageable. When you are perched at the top, fighting between jumping or retreating, there aren’t any small steps. It isn’t my judgement or my decision – it is yours. But if you have done some homework (remember you can’t know everything) and are now conflicted it can be as simple as trust. Trust is a choice that we make and once made becomes invisible. Trust yourself and your intuition (framed by your life experiences, observations and research) and act. This isn’t a flip of the coin – heads I go tails I retreat. The decision is waiting for you to make it. Trust yourself and respect the choice. If you leap – good luck. If you retreat – you still are better for having made the decision.

Today is the day to test your commitment. Trust your gut. Breathe and act. Accept the results and consequences and celebrate whatever the outcome.

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Geometry is Wrong

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line or so my high school geometry teacher convinced me. A  to B shouldn’t run through C,D or R. As the crow flies will get you there in less time, if you could actually fly and if crows were plain geometry wizards. I do understand that the Pythagorean theorem shows that the diagonal is shorter than going round the block (so to speak). But what if shortest distance, fastest time, or least effort isn’t the metric we should be striving to meet? What if honouring curiosity, lifelong learning, answering wicked questions and exploring life were the expectation, would A to B still make sense?
Is this the same sentiment that leads us to confusion between urgent and important?
Do you respond to urgency with a goal of short circuiting the immediacy? When you get a call or a text from a customer, a client or a colleague with ” we need to talk, right now” as either the tacit or implied message,do you put everything else aside and connect with them? Even if what you are doing or working on is important to you and you are in an important flow state towards important goals? If you answered “yes. Of course” you may have an issue that will eventually consume you and your quest for creating meaning.
A healthier response and one that allows for the foundation of boundaries might be ” I appreciate your call, I am working on an important assignment at the moment. Can we schedule time in 3 hours (or tomorrow)? Is there something I can prepare for before we connect?” Creating a respectful boundary and acknowledging your respect for their needs/concerns should be enough of a response. If they get ‘huffy’ or excessively demanding, it may be time to reframe or disengage from the relationship. If you understand that shortest distance only measures expediency rather than innovation, creativity, productivity, and doesn’t allow for as yet unimagined possibilities to bubble up.
On the days that I take a moment to meander, I see differently and find new insights that inform the assignment differently. I get to test a different path and even when it doesn’t lead anywhere that I can justify, it isn’t a wasted effort.
It takes courage to be an adventurer, checking out trails and backwoods, but a single minded focus on black and white, linear highways regardless of how fast it gets you there or how many others are using the same path only creates more of what you already have.
If you have been the person at the other end of the conversation above – the instigator of urgency. Stop it. Be respectful. Honour boundaries. Explore less ‘efficient’ paths.

Make Today Remarkable,  by meandering towards an adventure,
B

Self Improvement

Zone of Genius

Are you operating in your zone of genius? Did you know that you had one? Rhett Power published article in June on Inc. “10 Ways to Acesss Your Creative Genius”

He suggests that “We were each born with an active imagination and creativity. We’ve never really lost it. We just don’t take time to nurture it.” and outlines the 10 steps. (followed by my comments)

  1. Practice doing nothing.  We are flying from one activity to another and get into routines that are the death knell of creativity and effectiveness. When we scramble to put out one fire because another is burning, we get trapped in a narrow set of solutions that appear to be working.
  2. Take time to smell the roses, literally. For those who have read this blog before you know that I suggest that we need to be outside in the world taking in the view at least 1 hour every day. Make it a priority, put it in your calendar and treat it like any other appointment.
  3. Laugh and Play. I am fortunate to have 11 grandkids within 1/2 hour so I am filled with their energy and play. But I also intentionally seek out fun things to do alone and with my beloved.
  4. Challenge your senses. Not only smell the roses but also listen to them. And then describe the senses with a song or a poem.
  5. Write This is quite simply the best outlet and impetus for creative genius I know. I write 1000-2000 words every day. Sometimes it is crap and sometimes it is genius but without doing the writing none of it would show up. As I write solutions to subconscious problems find their way into the stream and new approaches are discovered.
  6. Awaken your animal instinct. I haven’t tried this one but it will become part of my morning run. If you see me leaping and jumping I am striving to be a gazelle. If I am lumbering along, I may be tired or just practicing to be a hippo.
  7. Get out of the box. This is always my favorite but I love ambiguity and change. For less zealous readers you might want to commit to doing one thing for the first time every couple of days.
  8. Imagine yourself in your own perfect world. The preferred future is where abundance and hope resides Hope Opens a Window and Another Hope Lesson from November Hope Series say more about this.
  9. Never listen to negative voices. Easy to say harder to do.  I can take everything personally and need more practice with this.
  10. Applaud yourself for the effort. If you have read this to the end you can clap and celebrate. As you take up 6,7,8,9 of these suggestions give yourself a big Bravo!

Make Today Remarkable, by taking an intentional creative breath,

 

B

Original Thought

How Do We Decide?

How do we evaluate the importance of the services we receive and how we compensate the providers? Do we stop and think about everything that is undertaken on our behalf by a food service worker? A lawyer? A politician? A doctor? A soldier?
Or do we just assume that those scales have been established by someone in charge and are fair and just? What would the most important criteria be in evaluating fair compensation? The number of hours assigned to the service? The number of years of study and experience the provider has? The difficulty? How impossible it would be for you to duplicate the work? Is it life saving work? Time saving? How would you compare the services provided by a doctor to those provided by a soldier? Both could save your life and one may be called to put their life on the line in order to keep yours safe?
Does it make sense that someone portraying a doctor on TV could earn more a year than someone who is an active practicing doctor? What about a politician? They receive a salary and perks whether they actually represent their constituents. Would you pay one more if they were influencing political changes that you agreed with?
A clerk at WalMart and an associate at Holt Renfrew have similar duties but one makes minimum wage and the other could earn substantially more. Does the value of the goods or service determine fair compensation? Is it right that some people can work fulltime and still need to access social services to make ends meet? Should taxpayers be subsidizing profits of companies and corporations by making up the difference?

There use to be consideration for how much the employee of provider need to provide to the family’s income. That is why women are still paid between 65-70% of men doing the same work. Does that seem fair? In today’s environment most would believe that the luxury of choice around working for mothers is lower than in the 1970’s. How is gender a qualifier for rates of pay?

Should meritocracy reign supreme? Do we ignore age, seniority, gender, education and pay for success? Maybe that is what were doing in some measure already Sales teams can make $250k and up selling more stuff we don’t really need and earning their corporations $Millions in profit. Should we celebrate a salesman who peddles goods that are harmful to our health, our environment, our sense of community? Do we really need another exploitative company raking in obscene profits while destroying the commons?

For my perspective, we should celebrate and reward those who contribute to the greater good- education, health, safety, environment, food, and chastise and punish those who only contribute to shareholder value. Teachers, nurses, doctors, farmers, police, emergency services, scientists, explorers, writers would be recognized for their greater good efforts. The best teachers would have the best package and the worst would be encouraged to do something else. Medical professionals would be rated on the comprehensive care given rather than on billing for minutes of service and a bloated test regime. Farmers should be measured against nutrition and land stewardship. Peacekeepers and EMS for proactive action reducing the need for their service. Scientist for their contributions to improving the world, explorers for finding new and better ways for us to live in harmony with each other and our planet, and writers for entertaining and challenging each of us to be better.

What do you think? After you, who should be the most highly recognized?

Make Today Remarkable, and trust that you will be compensated fairly,
B