Self Improvement · Uncategorized

What’s left? If you aren’t sure about God, what do you believe? If you don’t see the bible as a complete and inerrant set of instructions, how do you guide your life? If there isn’t anything after this life, how do you keep going? When you stop believing, what’s left?

I flippantly and defensively said “everything” when I was asked that question a few months ago. But the word stuck with me and the idea that I had the world at my doorstep began to grow. If I wasn’t bound by a history and tradition that had been an important part of my life I was free to explore a range and diversity of ideas, opinions, and traditions. I could undertake rituals and readings that were outside the canon and liturgy of my faith community without feeling guilty. I was able to hear the same scripture with new ears and either embrace it or reject it without reprisal. There wasn’t a 6-course meal in front of me with the clear instructions that I needed to swallow it all. I could order a la carte and if I wanted only have soup or desert. I could even fast and not eat anything that was on the menu. I could even go to another restaurant or make my own meal at home. While that freedom isn’t the reason I have become an agnostic, nor should it be, it was an unexpected and beneficial outcome of standing firmly in doubt and curiosity.

When I was asked by someone who was/is concerned about my soul ” what’s left”, I am sure that they meant that there is nothing left worth living for and I discovered that there was everything to live for and live with.

In a world where for the first time political realities and armed citizens have made me uncertain about freedom, I find myself free to be uncertain. The next statement is about me and not pointed at anyone else. I think I am smarter because I am uncertain. When I had easy answers, I asked questions that conformed and confirmed. Now I ask myself and others better questions out of a sincere desire to understand. My queries are framed differently and use softer language that seems to elicit more open and thoughtful responses. My conversations have been ranging because, in my desire to understand, I get to pause and wait for others in the discussion to reflect, find their voice, and craft a response.

Tim Ferris, in “Four Hour Work Week” says that “most people will choose to be unhappy over uncertain”. I think he is referring to an addiction to a weekly paycheque and the choice to stay doing a job that enslaves you and offers no autonomy or purpose rather than make changes that allow you to live a life of meaning. Making meaning is a choice too but when you are constricted by rules, rituals and reasons from the minds and swords of others, you can’t see the choice. As the world changes and when we are conditioned to be fearful that if we don’t put a forkful in our mouth and swallow, we might starve, it is convenient and easier to suck it up and stay the course.

Right or wrong, I am choosing to risk it all. My brand, my reputation, my soul to discover what is out there if I can only wait and listen for the whispers.

 

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Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Planning Pitfall

“The best-laid plans of mice and men are oft to go astray” ~ Robbie Burns
Burns seems to be saying “No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.” Yet in most situations, we ignore this sage advice and expect that ‘if we plan it, it will happen’. We imagine that there are no variables, external influences or unexpected providence that makes our certain expectation fallible.
My contention isn’t that we shouldn’t embrace expectations but rather that we should explore options that are as yet unimagined. Certainty creates a space where willful blindness rears its head and closes off alternatives. This leaves us ill-prepared and even surprised when something doesn’t turn out as we anticipated. When the unexpected leads to frustration, certainty is trying to bully us into mediocrity. If we lean into uncertainty, the unexpected nurtures curiosity and creativity.

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How do we get off the train? Just when we think that there is a breakthrough, we usually are chasing a desired outcome. Brainstorming quickly becomes stormtrooping. Once a destination is laid in, our planning GPS kicks in and we begin exploring the fastest, shortest, cheapest, most convenient route to victory. What if a few detours or roadblocks changed the route? What if the destination is not quite right?

Leaning into uncertainty isn’t easy or organic. Nothing really is. It requires a disposition to curiosity and a tenaciousness to breaking form. An intentional tendency to ask ridiculously difficult questions in order to understand is an asset worth pursuing and an optimistic wisdom to know when to stop asking will keep some semblance of planning alive for those who struggle with ambiguity.

To begin, it may be helpful to ask 4 whys. When you are feeling sure of the destination or next step, ask why. Why do we believe that growth is the most important metric? – however you answer that question, ask why again, 3 more times. What do you notice? Has there been an orientation shift? Are you still charging ahead? Was there an unexpected lesson? None of these observations are negative, they just are.

After trying 4 whys, move to the next step. If you get to a stage where you are blinded by certainty again, try 4 hows, or 4 whos …

Curiosity begets curiosity. Lean into uncertainty and see what you see.

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Original Thought · Self Improvement

Curious

I listened to an interview on Curious this morning that was taped in April 2016. W. Kamau Bell was just airing his CNN show that week and he reflected on the state of his country’s politics, economy and social structure.  He confessed that he lives in Berkley so his politics are as far from mainstream as he could get but his big three issues facing America during the campaign should be education, health care and prison systems. I live in Canada so am not subjected to the daily barrage of candidate messages but from my seat there hasn’t been any discussion about these issues, regardless of how right or left you lean. I haven’t heard any substance and worry for the future of American friends.

As is the custom on Curious, the guest is asked to speak to someone in the future and offer them advice as if you were no longer there to provide it. Kamau spoke to his daughter Sammie and reminded her ” that as bad as things are today, remember you need to keep hope in your heart and have some really good boots so you can get out and do the work”. On the eve of the eve, I am holding hope and urging the world to hold hope and am encouraging everyone to wake up on Wednesday, no Thursday and put your boots on and step out to make your corner of the world a better place.

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Original Thought

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,

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Original Thought · Self Improvement

Happy 75th George

Happy 75th Birthday Curious George. You look great for your age and it is great to confirm that contrary to rumours, you weren’t eaten by a lion on the safari you took with ‘the man in the yellow hat’.

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‘Be like Curious George, start with a question and look under the yellow hat to find what’s there.” James Collins

In a world where polarization is becoming the norm and rigidity, partisanship and stubbornness reigns, what if you were the one to bend? Could you concede that you may only be 74% right? Would you be willing to listen to someone you disagree with and consider (not just accept) 26% of what they feel, believe or ‘know’? Are you flexible enough to sway a bit and still feel rooted in your values?

True curiousity exists when we seek to understand not seek to get an advantage. I have done both and am embarrassed to say am better at asking questions to gain ammunition. But on those days when my curiousity extends beyond my self interests to my interests, I am enriched and strengthened. Whether going to the beach or encountering an electric fence George took risks to gain additional information and awareness. He ‘asked’ ridiculous questions and began his analysis slightly a kilter from the norm. Every day was an everyday adventure because there was always something to try, something to question, something to upturn and look under.

George had a beginners mind and didn’t assume that because something was so that everything else was so. The cult of expert has made me/us lazy and we just accept and swallow ‘facts’. We are all better when we are courageous and challenge the accepted norms (even when they are true/right/best in the end).

Even if you are an expert, you can grow, learn, improve by adopting George’s posture ;not hunched over on all fours, but a posture of inquisitiveness and astonishment.

George made it to 75 and has been translated in dozens of languages, is on PBS and Disney by being curious. I wonder where you could go, if you asked 3 ridiculous questions every day?

Make Today Remarkably Curious,

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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,
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Self Improvement

Contradictions

Contradictions can be the spice of life. When I meet someone who believes something that I hold dear and acts in a way that resonates with me, I am surprised when we don’t agree about everything. If I hold one value that you hold, do you expect that we will be in sync on most things? As an environmentalists and feminist I am attracted to folks who display some of the same tendencies but have been shocked to then discover that they are anti-something that I also believe. I have, in the past let these contradictions, as I saw them, allow me to cast judgement. I have been quick to dismiss and quicker to challenge. But I have been slow to listen and even slower to let go of my self ascribed moral superiority.

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Begin a discussion with a stranger or acquaintance with a political question or comment (this subject has been floating around the past two weeks like the aroma from a fresh skunk carcass and will probably reek for the next six months). I have found general agreement on the candidates and the platforms (mostly negative and distrustful) but if we delve into the nest of specifics, things can get testy. Kicking that fire ant’s nest will result in some surprising bites but if you stay in the moment of the discussion, you can learn and teach a lot. The contradictions are as much perspective as opinion and learning something from where someone else is standing is challenging and expansive.
I so often come back to the idea that I need to be curious to understand not curious to gather information so I can win an argument. If I can wonder about something that I instinctively disagree with and ask questions for clarity and context maybe what was a contradiction can become a variance or a different path to the same destination.

Make Today Remarkable, by embracing a couple of contradictions,

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Self Improvement

In the Game

Sitting on the sidelines or on your hands or with your hand over your mouth is the only real failure in life. Choosing not to join in, contribute or speak up is the ruination of a purposeful and remarkable life. Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others.Every moment in every day, you have the opportunity to choose remarkable.

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So what drags us to the grandstand or the couch rather than playing the game? There are external forces at play. The single perfect model of reality TV says ” Go Home, You are Cut, You are Voted Off, You are Not Good Enough.” As ridiculous as it seems having 4 judges, or chefs, or pseudo celebrities deciding what talent or personality is, it is even crazier that this craze is still growing. Millions tune in every week to live vicariously through the small lives of characters on a screen being rated and chastised by people whose opinion should have very little value. But the popularity of watching network spectacles rather than living life and the premise that someone you don’t know or care about should have a meaningful opinion about you, creates a barrier to us raising our hand and saying ” put me in coach”. If there isn’t a coach or even if there is, get off the bench and join in. Have fun doing it and the more you try, the more proficient you will become (if that is important to you).

There are numerous times every day that an opportunity arises for you to share the load or take the lead. That’s when you drag your mitts our from under your butt and say ” I can do that”, and then you go about getting it done. Whether it is something smaller like writing a note, making a call, checking out some sources or something bigger like organizing the team, collecting relevant data or guiding a decision making process – you are capable and if your are willing and ready then the opportunity will come your way.
The key to seeking permission is completing the assignment to the very best of your abilities and following up to see if there is anything that you missed or anything else arising from your efforts. Taking the extra step rather than the bare minimum sets you apart but more importantly it gives you confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes the immediate, relevant and concrete action that is needed is for you to speak up and support, modify or challenge an idea or premise. Even if your thoughts aren’t fully formed, they can contribute to the active iteration and help generate a new pathway for discussion. Speak up to add value to the debate, discussion or conversation rather than to win the day. Ask probing questions in order to understand not defeat or belittle. So often I observe passive/aggressive behavior in gatherings that derails the flow and stifles the open dialogue. When someone asks a clarifying question or asks someone to “say more”, it leads to more diverse and ranging possibilities.

Success lies in the doing of one or all; getting in the game, taking your turn and speaking up. Right or wrong, brilliant or naive, true or imagined isn’t relevant. Playing with others with respect and interest leads to respect and interest being the norm and it will gradually be reciprocated. It won’t be immediately accepted because we have so many cannibalistic group encounters that leave us exhausted and without fresh fruit.
But I/we can start the change today. If you spend more than a couple of hours in the company of others, there will be dozens of chances to shift tone by simply becoming an active participant or agreeing to use your skills to make sure something gets done. Either or both will reduce any tension in the group and leave others with a sense of relief and maybe a bit surprised.

Take time today to measure the quality of your interactions. Am I asking to hear more or asking to trap her? Did I want to understand better or embarrass him? What did I learn? How will that change something for me/us? Am I better for having spoken up? Are others better? Will this move the discussion closer or farther awy from some resolution?

We all have choices and all our choices create consequences so if we are mindful of what we choose we can be confident that the results will carry that same care and respect.

Make Today Remarkable with remarkable choices,
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Uncategorized

Curiousity

I seem to be a curious sort. I ask lots of questions across a wide range of interests. I read dozens of books simultaneously and finish those that I satisfy my wonder.

Curiosity may have killed the cat (unlikely) but for me (and maybe you) it is the breath of life. Seeking light when there is fog, looking for treasure when the road isn’t clear, being challenged with new ideas keeps us breathing. When we believe that there is nothing new to learn, we begin to wither and life begins to drain away.

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Sitting in front of a predictable TV program or wallowing in some pseudo reality nonsense drains your reserves rather than fills them. Curiosity is the challenge that our desire for learning presents.

Go to your local library and type an interest area into the catalogue search. Pick up 5 or 6 of the titles and flip through them waiting to have your interest piqued. Take a couple home today and read them over the next week. Search out a video or documentary on the subject. If it is part of your learning style, take notes. Check out reference materials and other work by the same author. Take a sidestep and converge on one idea for a couple days and then see how far you can diverge again.

One of the titles I am reading ” The Brain That Changes itself” by Norman Doge M.D. offers some amazing stories of what can happen when we exercise our grey matter and retrain our brain.

Make Today remarkable by getting curious,

 

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Uncategorized

From Strategic Monk  “It is easy for us to get focused on mastering the puzzle by finding the solution. There is something seductive, almost addictive, about knowing the right answer. When we decide we have the answer, we stop look and stop asking questions. We close our hearts, and minds, when we already know.We experience more when we are asking questions, before we decide we know the solutions.What are the questions you most deeply want answered today?When will you ask your next question?”

I do think we need to focus on solutions to our big wicked problems but in general and in relationships, I agree with the monk.

When was the last time you were curious to understand? To learn something just for the sake of learning something? To be interested in something frivolous just because it is fun?

Be curious, not judgmental.
~Walt Whitman

I am passionately curious about so many things that I have a breadth of information but not so much depth. I have accepted that I won’t be an expert on anything and probably don’t want to be one. I still have a thirst for new subjects and read and take notes on stuff that has no practicality in my current life. Somewhere knowing some of this will be beneficial but it will mostly just rattle around and synthesize to some other gem that I hear or find.

Make Today Passionately curious,

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