Original Thought · Uncategorized

Choices

Can the world change at a global scale or is all meaningful and lasting innovation local? This week, I heard John McKnight say ” generousity is the lubricant that makes neighbourhood viable.”. I don’t believe we, as individual actors, have the capacity to create and deliver the level of generousity he envisions except at the most local and democratic level. In 1804 Thomas Jefferson was running to be PoTUS on a campaign that could be summed up as ” I believe every American, given the opportunity and circumstances, can and will take care of herself, her family and her community”.

I may be naive and too optimistic but I trust that the spirit of magnanimity and the commitment to our tribe is still alive, if not well, in North America. If we can awaken personal responsibility, involvement and awareness of consequences we can begin rebuilding our local communities on generousity, care and respect.

The breakdown of global systems, organizations and theories, while devastating, may be the critical impetus to allow mutual aid and unmeasured reciprocity to embed itself into our culture again. As we need each other, we can serve each other. Brexit, divisive European and American elections, financial and environmental crises, distrust and anger are matched by a rise of optimism, service, entrepreneurial spirit and loyalty. There will be clashes and ‘haters are gonna hate’ but past the vitriol there is a new way waiting for us to steel ourselves and demonstrate the seed of hope.
The news, as it is portrayed and the divisions it creates is one way to view the circumstances. But a change of perspective fosters a different response and results in a different future. We can, individually and in small tribes, change how we see the world, how we respond to challenges, a alter the future with relentless small scale incremental shifts in our decisions and actions.

We can choose not to participate in the fall and degradation. It is a matter of commitment to a different path. Make your choice and make your community.

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Choices #celebrateblessings

Original Thought · Self Improvement

Rights and Responsibilities

“I have a right to my privacy” were the first words I heard on the radio this morning as someone who had been accused of possession of child pornography complained that his private life was being upturned and police and media were prying into his personal life.

The next story was about a group in Quebec challenging the governments plan to block Internet gambling sites in order to protect citizens from evil and preserve their gaming revenue. The group contends that their freedom of expression is reduced if they can’t access whatever they want on the Internet.

I was at a registry this week renewing my driver’s license when an angry man in his 40’s started shouting ” I couldn’t get on my flight because my license had expired and you didn’t send me a reminder notice.”

At yoga last night, there was a complaint that “the school didn’t tell me that my 5 year old would need to go into the gym for assembly, with all the other kids from his school. ” I have a right to know everything that could effect him”.

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It is difficult for me to not be judgmental. Generally I have strong personal opinions that often don’t align with what I hear in my world. I believe that our rights should be defended at every turn. I should defend, you should defend, we should all defend. But with every right there is an associated and often unspoken responsibility. In fact in every situation, we bear personal responsibility for out actions and consequences. Rights can’t and shouldn’t absolve us of those responsibilities, they should encourage us to take both rights and responsibilities seriously.

Often the most vitriolic defense of ‘my rights’ is when someone feels that the treatment or service they received didn’t meet what they felt they needed. On examination, we might realize that we have been coddled by authorities in whose interest we have been absolved rather than involved in decisions and actions that impact us. I was aware, because I pay attention, that the government wasn’t sending out reminder notices to renew and marked a date in my calendar (well ahead of expiry) to visit the office and get it done. When incidents occur in my life where I am unhappy with the consequences, I ask ” should I/ could I have known? Could I/should I have done something else? Was I speeding? is my health condition a result of lifestyle choices?” Often I can’t change the consequences but I can accept that if “I did the crime, I should do the time”. Rather than being quick to shift blame to a scapegoat, it is more productive to accept evaluate my culpability and accept my role in the results. If atonement is needed – I like to get it over with quickly.

I don’t have any advise for those that see the world differently other than to suggest that sacred texts have been offering thoughts like “why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” for thousands of years. Maybe it is time to pay attention to the words and the log.

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Self Improvement

The Choice

Fear is a choice – I can be afraid and paralyzed or I can be afraid and act. The test isn’t being fearless it is being courageous. I heard Jamie Clarke @JC_Climbs and Suzanne West @IamSuzanneWest speak today about failure and the mountain climbing adventurer confessed that he wavers from cowardice to courage in situations that have too many variables. Some days he courts failure as a lover so he can learn from her and other days he hides from her because she can be cruel and unrelenting in seeking accountability. When he faces her she teaches him important lessons.

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Suzanne, who is one of the most self aware people I know, is courageous in her actions, big and brash in her approach and relentless in learning from her failures. They are both inspired by people who are courageous against all odds – Nelson Mandella, Martin Luther King, Laurie Kresslet… Fear is a choice – easy to say, harder to do. Making a choice to move when the mistress is coaxing you to hide, urging you to retreat, inviting you to make excuses is really hard. But when you opt to act, her power wains and yours increases. Even if you fail after facing a fear, you are better off than failing to act and living with the fear and the unknown.

I choose to let fear compromise me sometimes. On the days that I only give 75% (really anything less than 100%), I am preparing a justification for not reaching the goal. “Well I didn’t really work that hard.” as if to justify the limited progress. Fear and failure are about limits. Fear sets a limit, usually way inside our maximum performance or ability and then convinces us not to near that line in the sand. Failure is an accumulation of errors until you reach a limit. If you have an exam in front of you and you haven’t done the preparation. Fear might say ” If you get 60%, that is okay” Failure occurs when you answer too many questions incorrectly and the accumulation drops the percentage below a prescribed pass/fail level.

What if we approached tests, prepared and ready, but also prepared and ready to accept nothing less than our best effort and prepared and ready to learn how you can approach the next exam? Would we move closer to our best? Are you demanding the best from yourself? Is anyone seeing your best work? If the answer is “no” then you might have something to really fear. And another choice to make.

I know I write a lot about risk, courage and taking action. Know that these posts are as much for me as for you.

Make Today Remarkable, by acknowledging fear and acting anyway,
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Uncategorized

The Power of a Myth

Mythology exists in all aspects of our life. We believe we are a country of intelligent, entrepreneurial, caring, radical individualists who come together to share our resources and skills and make the world a better place. It likely doesn’t matter where you live, The myth of people and place is pretty powerful. And there is some truth in every myth.
We listen to our Genesis stories; as people, cities, companies and celebrate them by rewriting them to fit our current expectations, mores, attitudes and regrets. The adaptability and flexibility of our stories reflects that we understand that they may never have happened but are definitely true.

My myths keep me safe, keep me calm, help me stay rooted and inspire me. I have absorbed some from my kin and their strange Scottish Scandinavian practices and history. I was taught some from my grandmother and mother that form the basis for my morality and responsibility. I have crafted a few myths myself so I am able to continue doing what I do and to justify my actions in the face of resistance. As the narratives become embedded they earn mythology status, for a time. They are relative to an audience that is predisposed to the lesson. Christians lean towards and love Christian narratives although most zealots would be uncomfortable with the myth reference since they see the stories as complete and inerrant.

There are myths about the glories of capitalism that supporters love and myths that deride and denigrate capitalism that detractors love. Myth – Under capitalism, anyone who works hard can succeed. Myth – Under capitalism only those with a silver spoon get to eat from the golden dish. Sometimes the myth is accepted by both perspectives but for completely different reasons. Myth – We are all in the same boat.

I was raised with a protestant work ethic with tinges of puritan morals so shaking those off and seeing the world with more joy, hope and optimism was a long process and there are days that the baggage rears its head as a defense mechanism against an idea, a party, a person who I disagree with. When I am struggling to understand I can twist and turn my personal narratives with all kinds of logical fallacies. I see injustice when none exists, I hear slander in feedback, I taste opposition in diversity but on the days that I trust and hope (another area of mythology) I grow in all those circumstances.

Myth, as a social construct, is most often destructive as we are seeing in a current election campaign. The myths of race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, money creates sides and factions. And when you choose a team or are picked for a team loyalty overwhelms our senses. I have found myself accepting and then defending something that didn’t sit right because it was part of the team’s narrative. Political parties and religious factions have notorious influence on the common sense and common decency of adherents. When the narrative creates a them and us, it is time to deconstruct it and hold it up to the brightest light because it is likely in service of an agenda that is self serving and selfish.

I love myths, ancient and modern. Like the heroes of ancient myths, modern superheroes have extraordinary powers. The most famous superhero is Superman, created by American cartoonists Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster in 1938. In comics and on radio, television, and movie screens, he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way,” using his powers of flight and incredible strength, powers he possesses because he is from another planet. Like most modern superheroes, Superman keeps his identity a secret and pretends to be an ordinary man. Such myths suggest that anyone can have unsuspected potential for heroism.

Make Today Remarkable, because you believe the myth that you are,

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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,

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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.

Self Improvement

If You’re Happy and You Know It (even if you aren’t and don’t)

Can people around you make you happy? Turns out that we are masters of our own domain and many of our emotions are within the span of our control but, the big but is that if we are surrounded by negativity, it begins to pervade our tendencies. If we hang out with negative people we begin to have negative feelings regardless of how we structure our mindfulness. Even, if we read negative status posts on social media, we get nudged towards negative thoughts about our own lives. A large Facebook study determined that the degree of happiness and contentment we feel is significantly impacted by who we follow and whose posts we spend time reading.

If we can be influenced by fleeting glimpses from Facebook, imagine the impact that we can have on those who we are closest to; our partner, children, friends and coworkers or they can have on us. Are you being dragged down by constantly surrounding yourself with unhappy people? Are you choosing to be unhappy in this moment, today, this week? Would you prefer to feel joy rather than despair? This is where the power over your own decisions comes back into play. You get to decide how you act (If you consciously choose to) and how you feel. When you finishing reading this post, spend 10 minutes exuding happiness, being exceptionally social and expressing gratitude.

Start with 10 minutes and build to an hour, then 2,3,4. You will be amazed at how quickly a dramatically your experience and that of those around you will improve. Once the momentum shifts to happiness, the impact goes viral and becomes infectious to a much larger audience. It takes commitment and persistent incremental change to keep the ball rolling but my/your 10 minutes can grow into a neighborhood celebration.

The world is large and we aren’t but we can make a big difference if we commit and change how we act.

Make Today Remarkable, by choosing 10 minutes of happiness, being social and expressing gratitude.

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Self Improvement

From Where I Stand

My view of the world, my country, my ideas is based on when and where I have planted my feet and likely how I got to that line in the sand. We all adopt perspectives and for most of the time that is a safe, sane and effective practice. We are comforted by knowing what to expect because we construct tomorrow by how we view today. We can breathe in the chaos of life when we can anchor to a place or position. And we get stuff done when we don’t veer too far left or right. Safe, sane and efficient but also prone to mediocre, missed opportunities and single-mindedness.

When I stand at the crossroads of fiscal responsibility and social justice, I see an inequity of opportunity and reduced choices when I look from the point of view of the most vulnerable. Their options are limited and moving from one crisis to another, doesn’t  offer any margin for planning for improvements. When faced with the choice of feeding the kids or paying the utilities, you don’t have the luxury of striving or thriving.
If I take the extreme fiscal conservative place, I see irresponsible waste and poor planning. I feel like I am working harder and getting nowhere fast. My taxes are going to support octal programs that I will never use and it makes me angry to think that someone else is living off the sweat of my brow.

If I manage to reflect as the god Janis would, seeing both directions simultaneously then I see a version of “from each according to his means to each according to their needs.”
But we are only reduced to three choices by our own design. What would the circumstances look like if viewed from above? Would it seem like a living organism with each role filling a different and necessary responsibility? What if we could see the scene from a place that understood the future or the past, would the way we see the present be different? More generous? Angrier? Caring? Content?

As an example, this one might miss the mark but the point to make is that what we see as fact/truth/known/obvious/the only way/ has more to do with where we plant ourselves or maybe in the fact that we are planted than in the moment/circumstances/situation/challenge.
We might see unimagined solutions if we took off our shoes and ran in the sand rather than defending a position. When I go on the defensive, my ability to create/Innovate/change is reduced exponentially. If I don’t draw the line or I rub. It out with my foot I become imaginative/open/motivated.

What do you see from where you are standing and what would you see if you crouched down or jumped up?

Make Today Remarkable by stepping into a different field,
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Self Improvement

Choice

Is choice a social construct, one that can be made if the and only if you have the leverage and margin to make the decision without causing significant (maybe life threatening) ramifications? If I was a single income parent working three jobs trying to make ends meet and one child needing special transportation to special programming, do I really have a choice? Do I quit one job and come up short $700 or do I stop taking my daughter to something that fulfills her life? In the 90’s Mel Hurting wrote a book titled ” Feed the Kids or Pay the Rent” – is that really a choice.

If I have margin, I can choose but if the space between what is and what could be is full of barriers that require effort, money, time, education, influence – do I still get to choose? I go about my day believing that I am making choices but maybe I am deluded into accepting a narrow set of possibilities.

If I have a choice between three things, when there are really dozens of options, am I still making a choice? Even if my circumstances don’t narrow the possibilities am I narrowing the variables because my scope and vision isn’t looking in places that aren’t obvious.

How can I make the options more diverse without getting overwhelmed by the choices? Does it make sense that in every instance where I have a choice (that I recognize) that I enumerate 1,2,3 and then add at least 2 additional options as a way of practicing broader horizons? What are the costs of tasking a few moments to consider other options? What are the potential benefits? My intuition says that the cost/ benefit analysis would always skew positive toward benefits.

As always this is likely easier to say and harder to do but I am pretty good at honouring the commitments that I make and trying new things. As I begin to practice broader horizons this afternoon, I will need to be diligent in recognizing that I am choosing, enumerating choses, and widen the pool of possibilities by at least 2 before coming to a conclusion. I have always celebrated that I make decisions easily. Today at lunch, there was a couple – my age, that belaboured the decision from a fairly limited menu for what felt like 10 minutes. Of course I made a choice in a minute and stuck to it. Did they enjoy the process more than me ?Was their meal better than mine? Maybe for them but not for me. Their inability to decide and need to think through every option gave me anxiety and I could feel ridiculous resentment creeping in. I will bite off the challenge of choosing from a broader palette but I won’t (for now) change the process of picking the right color. I will continue to make decisions easily.

Make Today Remarkable, by thinking about choices,

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Uncategorized

Gotta Love It

When a plan comes together even if it doesn’t execute the way you expect, you gotta love the guidance that a plan provides. Whether it is a list that helps you accomplish a day’s worth of tasks ora ten year plan like I wrote this morning, it offers some focus even when I know that the world is changing so quickly that what I see from today won’t be the same a year from now.

The plan I created focused on health, relationships, vocation, avocation, fun, and finance. As I wrote I began to fill in some detail as to what it would take to get to that strategic position on July 4 2026 and celebrated a bit the opportunity that is laid in front of me.

There was a focus on sustainability – are their enough resources, is it ecological within my values and does it have enough of a challenge to keep me motivated?

How does community interact with finances and how can we participate in the gift economy more fully. What role do I want to play in the vast relationships I have and can I do that from a distance? Where would the ‘from a distance’ be? Would it be one place or many? How could many happen?

I viewed ten years from now from the vantage point of today so my health plan is a maintenance program of what I am doing and the improvements the past three years have brought.

Part of the plan includes spending more time with people who are important to me so I am going to do that right now.

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