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Month: January 2017

THE TEN THOUSAND HOUR THING

THE TEN THOUSAND HOUR THING

Everybody’s heard about how putting in 10,000 hours  working on a particular skill-set pretty much “guarantees” that you will be very good at using those skills.

The number makes the “rule” easy to remember.  It’s so nice and round.

It’s also more than a little intimidating!  Ten thousand hours apparently translates to about ten years, after all, and I’m not sure whether that includes time for eating, sleeping and doing all of the other stuff humans do.

On top of the sheer immensity of it all, there is a caveat hooked onto that number:  any self-improvement and skill development that occurs after you’ve reached a certain level of skill is actually tied to how you spend your time practicing and expanding on what you do.

WHAT IS IT REALLY?

The 10,000-hour thing bounced around scientific circles since the 1970’s.  Why, the Big Brains wondered, did some people achieve an extraordinary mastery in some discipline while others did not?

It was in 2005 that a research team headed by Neil Charness, a psychologist from Florida State University, published the results of a decade-long investigation of The practice habits of chess players.

Their findings were popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book, OUTLIERS, and all of a sudden every man- and woman-in-the-street was urging their offspring to put that nose to that grindstone.

THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY

Throughout the 1990’s the Charness team placed ads in newspapers and posted flyers at chess tournaments, looking for ranked players to participate in their project.  They eventually recruited over 400 players from around the world.

For each player, the scientists collected a detailed history and created a timeline of their significant training and practice events.  The players were asked questions like these:

  1. At what age did you start playing chess?
  2. What type of training did you receive each year?
  3. How many tournaments have you played? When?  Did you win or lose?
  4. Were you coached? By whom?  How?

And so on…

The Charness study not only asked the players how long they practiced, it also asked what the players did when they practiced.  What the Charness team found was that chess masters dedicated five times more hours to serious study of the game than the players who plateaued at the intermediate level.

THE HOW OF THE MASTERS

The grandmasters focused on what Anders Ericsson, a colleague of Chandress, called “deliberate practice.”  These players chose to do activities that stretched their chess-playing abilities where they most needed stretching.  As Ericsson would say, the grandmasters challenged themselves “appropriately.”

The grandmasters studied the moves of historic gamesmen.  They memorized important game strategies until they could recognize the start of a game-winning gambit.  They studied counter-moves and practiced blocking or subverting their opponent’s efforts as well.

In this YouTube video, “Deliberate Practice,” calligrapher Esteban Martinez allows his viewers to watch as he practices writing his kanji.  It is a beautiful thing to watch.

COMPETITION DOES NOT FURTHER

An interesting sidelight was the finding that, after a certain point, tournament play really did not significantly improve playing skill.

The better guy wins.  Period.  If the better guy is you, you’re just using your skill well.  If the better guy is not you, then you lose the game and probably don’t learn much that is new.  The improvement to your game playing, if any, is a small “don’t-do-that-one” insight.

Hundreds of follow-up studies in a diverse array of fields validated the Charness team’s finding that deliberate practice is the key to excellence.  If you practice deliberately, you do get very good.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Assorted life-coaches and other advisors will usually give you the following pointers after they’ve explained about the hours.

  •  In order to get past “good” you have to take on projects that are beyond your current comfort zone. You have to bite off more than you can chew, but not so much that you choke on it.
    • Because the project is an exploration of new territory, you are going to have to shift into high gear and pick up chops. Hustle becomes the order of the day as you try to keep all those spinning plates going on that forest of sticks on your stage.
  • At some point you will go into overwhelm.  If you keep on going past that point, you will break through your  former comfort zone barriers.
    • That’s when your “comfort zone” gets bigger.  That’s when you’ll succeed at pushing back the fences and walls that enclose your zone and all of a sudden you’ll have more space to move.
  • It is a good idea to measure and get feedback on everything when you’re heading onto new territory. Measure, track, and listen your way to a new understanding.  Then you’ll be able to repeat your successes and avoid the potholes and bogs into which you’ll probably fall the first half-dozen or so times you do this.

WHAT MOST ADVISORS DON’T SPELL OUT

All of that practical advice is good and righteous.  They are very likely to work just fine in real life if you actually do them.  However, most of the advisors do tend to touch on (and then bypass) a most important point.

It seems to me that what you are really doing during all the rest of the 10,000 hours as you work towards mastery of the skillset of your choice (after you get “good enough”) is deliberate practice.  No matter what other skills you are refining and perfecting, the one that is the meta-skill, fully transportable into every endeavor, is that one.

maui-trees-at-sunrise
Maui Trees At Sunrise by Derek van Vliet via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that mastery requires practicing deliberately over time.  [Doing something over and over without conscious thought (like a caged hamster running around a wheel) is not deliberate practice.]

As you work your way towards becoming a superb artist or a magical performer, a superlative farmer or a business-magus extraordinaire, you will also be learning how to pay attention to details without drowning in them.

You will be learning how to focus down on the essentials of a thing, learning to suss out what matters and what does not.

You will be developing the capacity to turn your hand to any task, even when it is outside your comfort zone.

More importantly, you will be developing grace and agility, the confidence and the trust that you will be able to deal with anything that life throws at you because, like the chess grandmasters, you will develop a very large repertoire of mindsets, strategies, and moves that work as you move along your way to your own mastery.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Real is “deliberate practice” is just another phrase for what the wise guys call “mindfulness.”

To me, it’s a cool thing to know that a person can get to that without having to sit in a corner folded up like a pretzel, trying to breathe right.  I have a hard time sitting still and have spent a lot of my life failing at that one.  It’s good to realize I won’t actually have to.

What do you think?  Your comments are always welcome….

Here’s a poem…


WAITING

Waiting properly, not stagnating,

Not caught in indecision,

Patiently doing what is essential,

Right, real, and true,

Letting time work its changes

One by one by one.

 

When the time comes to move,

You will know it.

There is no need for haste.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Chess by Bob Vonderau via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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ON MAKING MISTAKES

ON MAKING MISTAKES

ARGH!  Making a dumb mistake.  Could anything be worse than that?

Making stupid mistakes tends to leave you red-faced and embarrassed.  You trip on an uneven stepping stone because you were running down a muddy path in the dark, and you slip and take a header.

Bunged-up knees, scraped shins, bruises, and assorted bumps and lumps are the prizes that remind you of the dumbness of you.  You already know you’re not supposed to go careening off in the dark, so all you’ve done is validate a fact already known to you.  There is no lesson learned, only one reiterated.  Again.

Everybody around you sighs (or laughs) at the latest pratfall.  Everybody agrees it’s “only human.”  (It isn’t so bad unless you’re the human who made the error.)

THE OTHER KIND OF MISTAKE

But, then, there are the other kinds of mistakes.  The interesting ones, the ones that test your perceived limits and leads you to scratch your head and say, “Huh?  How did that happen?  Can I repeat it?  What can I do with it?”

You need an example?  Okay.  Did you know that brownies are failed chocolate cakes?

brownies
Brownies by lauraklehmann via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
 Way back when some baker made a big mistake and ended up with a flat, chocolate cookie instead of a tall, glorious cake.  Since there wasn’t anything else for dessert, the cook served it up anyway. Foodies went wild.  Now bakers make brownies deliberately, repeating the original error (and expanding on it) to our great pleasure.

Neil Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and film.  His notable works include the comic book series THE SANDMAN, a legendary series that one reviewer said “changed the landscape of modern comics” as well as novels like STARDUST, AMERICAN GODS, CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. 

I have grown fond of Gaiman’s thoughts.  My favorite quote from the guy is this one:  “Go and make interesting mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes.  Leave the world more interesting for your being here.  Make Good Art.”

Hear, hear, Neil….

My own thought is, since I am going to be making mistakes anyhow, it’s a lot more fun when they are interesting ones.

ANOTHER TAKE ON MISTAKES

In this YouTube video, “What Do Mistakes Reveal About Human Nature,” by Big Think, Harvard  psychologist and writer Dan Gilbert talks about how the mistakes we make are the result of “arguments” between our right and left brains.  Gilbert is fascinated by the whole thing.

Gilbert’s best-selling book, STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS, presents example after example of human foibles and delusions that arise out of the way our human brains are structured.

A TIP FROM A WIZARD

And then there’s American businessman, Roy H. Williams, who wrote a trilogy of books about the Wizard of Ads.”  Williams spent a quarter of a century studying on why folks do what they do.  He used the empirical knowledge he gained to help his small business clients grow their businesses rapidly and well.

Williams’ tip is this:  “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”

Here’s a poem….

______________________________________________________________________________

BACKED UP AGAINST LIFE AND BEING

 

Here I am….

Backed up against life and being.

All the world and its cares press on me,

Jostling against my bubble,

Demanding that I answer

That ultimate question,

The one Big G asked Adam

When he was hiding under

All those bushes in the Garden

After That Woman and her friend, the Snake,

MADE him bite into that apple-thing.

(Really, they did.

It was all, all, all their fault.

Ask Adam.)

 

The question?

WHERE ARE YOU?

 

That question still echoes

Down through the ages.

The Dude’s come looking for you,

And, boy, is HE gonna be pissed.

You had one job…ONE JOB…

And you blew it!

The Epic Fail to the Max.

That’s when THAT question

Thunders down from the sky:

WHERE ARE YOU?

 

You’re Adam, okay?

And you hear THAT.

So you try to make yourself small.

You try, try, try to go unnoticed,

Tick-tocking your way

Through your boring, meaningless routines –

Sorting and stacking leaves and shit,

Organizing the hell out of those messy trees,

Beating up on all the critters,

Trying to line up all those ducks just right,

Trying to make those silly chipmunks

Stop fooling around…

And you know The Big Guy’s waiting.

 

And it comes again, that question:

WHERE ARE YOU?

 

Rats!

Can’t put it off any longer.

(It’s not a real good idea

To ignore The Dude, ya know.

Maybe, maybe, maybe…)

Oh-oh.

 

ADAM.

DON’T MAKE ME ASK AGAIN….

 

Oh, wow!

Now, he’s really mad!

Ulp!

Here goes…

H-h-h-here I am…

 

Well…

Ya know what happened next.

 

So, yup, uh-huh,

Here I am,

Backed up against life and being…again.

Just another in a long line of dummies

Caught in the act of failing

To make the prescribed, mandated move

Imposed from on high,

On the verge of getting kicked out of

Yet another garden,

Designed and organized by some Almighty or other.

 

And ya know what?

It occurs to me that

I am HERE,

At the start of yet another adventure,

At the beginning of one more history…

A true descendant of the lineage of Adam.

By Netta Kanoho
_______________________________________________________________________________
Picture credit:  Mistakes…by Chris and Karen Highland via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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WHAT DO YOU OFFER?

WHAT DO YOU OFFER?

When comedian Steve Martin was interviewed by radio host Charlie Rose, the funnyman was asked to answer the “how” question aspiring performers always ask those who have made a success of their career.  Martin said nobody liked hearing this answer, but he did it anyway:  “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Here’s a YouTube video published by Suzanne Pope with that segment of the Charlie Rose interview:

Cal Newport used that quote as the title for his 2012 book , SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU:  Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You LoveIn the book,  Newport shares the journey of exploration he made in response to his own confusions about finding work that would add meaning and mana to his life.

The current mono-focus on “following your passion” was particularly unsatisfactory to him.

THE PASSION MINDSET

Often, when we go looking for answers, we are spoon-fed thoughts like those in this beautiful YouTube video, “Finding Your Life’s Purpose – Passion” by The Journey of Purpose TJOP, featuring words by Randy Pausch, Steve Jobs, Will Smith and Stuart Scott.

Newport found that what he calls the “passion mindset,” where (he says) you focus exclusively on the value your job is offering you, to be both simplistic and misleading.  He noticed that this stance, which is pretty much a staple cliché handed out willy-nilly by assorted career advisors and life design coaches, often leaves you at a crossroads, trying to hear a heart that is confused, mumbling and stuttering.

The passion mindset, he says, also sucks away your head into fantasies and daydreams of “better” choices that exist “out there.”  Instead of focusing on what is on your own plate, you spend all of your time dreaming about what is on some other plate somewhere else.

It does work.  This mindset can help you soar.  If you’re just starting out, however, holding on to the passion mindset is above your pay-grade.  You haven’t finished building out your wings yet and soaring just doesn’t happen when all you’ve got are stubby wings.

AN ALTERNATIVE MINDSET

Newport’s book is a reminder that there is another, more traditional approach to your working life that has been in existence for centuries.  He calls it the “craftsman mindset.”  In this one, your focus is on the value of what you are offering to the world.

In this TEDxKC YouTube video, “Stop Searching For Your Passion,” writer and branding specialist Terri Trespicio argues for letting go of the passion search in favor of “just doing.”  Passion, she says, is the fuel you run on.  Doing is what you spend the fuel on.

WHY DEVELOP CRAFTSMAN MINDSET?

One of the most useful things Newport does in the book is delineate the traits that defines “great work”:

  • Creativity
  • Impact
  • Control.

Somewhere on everybody’s list of the things that make their heart sing these items show up.

Being able in your work to use and stretch your innate creativity, work that results in your having a decided impact on the people in the world around you, and being able in your work to control how you use your time to get things done are among the most desirable attributes for a job and work you can call “great,” Newport says.  Most people would agree, I think.

The deal is, though, these job attributes are in high demand.   Everybody wants them.  Work that actually has all of these qualities all together is in short supply.  They don’t get handed to you as participation trophies when you show up at the door.

As Newport goes to some lengths to explain, these job traits are rare and they are valuable.  He points out, “Basic economic theory tells us that if you want something that’s both rare and valuable, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return – this is Supply and Demand 101.”

ANOTHER KIND OF CURRENCY

The author goes on to explain “career capital” – what it is and how to develop it.

Career capital is the key currency you will need to exchange for the “great” job you want.  It is an assorted set of skills and abilities you develop and own – what Hawaiians call mana’o – the unique knowledge and experience that are yours as well as your own ways of using them to product the results others find valuable.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION:  YOU

Developing and owning these kinds of skills takes time.  It requires making choices and decisions that hone your focus, that require commitment.

Along the way, as you develop these skills, opportunities will be offered to you because you have developed these skills.  You will be given chances to develop other related or complementary skills.  You will meet people who can and will help you along your way to your “great work.”

Newport spends the rest of his book expanding on strategies to help you choose your moves well as you build your life on this foundation of the craftsman mindset.

The following YouTube video, The Road Home to Craftsmanship,  is part of a 4-part series published by GOOD Magazine which is put out by Carharrt, Inc., a family-owned company in Dearborn, Michigan.  Carharrt makes durable work clothes that have become almost iconic.  Their motto is:  “Hard at Work Since 1889.”

 FINAL THOUGHTS

My own thought is that SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU is a great blueprint of a plan that has worked (and continues to work) for people who have found their own “great work.”

As always, you still have to go do it your own self….

Here’s a poem:


ROOTS AND WINGS

Papa was a drinking man,

A happy-go-lucky guy,

A laughing, gambling, good-time Charlie,

With a twinkle in his eye.

 

‘Twas Mama made him toe the line,

‘Cause all those kids had to be fed,

And every time he tripped and fell,

She poured rage upon his head.

 

Papa was a bootlegger

During Prohibition days.

“Party” was his favorite word

And he frolicked and he played.

 

And Mama sold the liquor

At 25-cents a shot;

All the girls could dance and sing,

Food was always in the pot.

 

‘Cause Papa loved his chickens

And he trained them into the night

And in the camp his fighting cocks

Were famed for winning every fight.

 

He grew the corn and ground it,

He built and cleaned the coops,

And when his roosters won the day,

Their rivals made good soups.

 

Mama kept Papa working hard:

He’d work the live-long day

In cane fields, then in pineapple fields,

And Mama saved the pay.

 

He grew a big old garden

And went fishing for more food.

Mama and the girls took in laundry

To help care for the brood.

 

And Papa was a joy to me,

On my head, the sun rose and set.

I was a marvel in his eyes.

I was his favorite pet.

 

He taught me love and laughter

And reaching way up high.

He showed there are no limits for

This one who would touch the sky.

 

Mama was the strict one

Who taught me all the hard:

How to work and when to fight,

And duty as its own reward.

 

The training that she gave me

Has stood me in good stead.

Responsibility and family

Got drilled into my head.

 

She set me firmly in the ground

Made sure that I sat strong.

She patted the earth all around

And scolded me long and long.

 

Making sure I stood up tall,

For all that was true and right,

Making sure I’d always keep

The real within my sight.

 

And Mama gave me roots

That go way down deep.

She it was who gave me strength,

So the course I set, I keep.

 

But Papa was the one who made me brave.

He gave me the wings to fly

His love was a celebration of

A promise none can deny.

 

He showed me that anything I want

I can have if I just try.

That I am all I have to be

And all I was glowed in his eyes.

 

He told me that inside the bad

All the good can still reside,

Waiting to be noticed,

Waiting to be recognized.

 

I bless them still, my tutu,

Every day that I draw breath.

My thanks and blessings always

For my course that they did set.

 

Because of them, my heart still dances light and free,

One gave me roots and the other wings,

In gratitude I bow to them,

Because of them my heart still sings.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture:  In Love With Clay by Carol Von Canon via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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WHAT MOVES YOU?

WHAT MOVES YOU?

Meaning and mana are the pillars that hold up the gateway to life lived as poem-fodder.  Oregon’s late poet laureate William Stafford once said, “Poetry and other arts come from acceptance of little signals that immediate experience contributes to beings who are alive and fallible and changing.”  Actually, meaning and mana are probably the pillars for the gateways to all the different lives a human can live.

Life lived by humans is almost never simple, even when the moves we make appear to be straightforward.  According to ancient wisdom teachers, our moves arise out of a mixed bag of needs and motivations, desire and goals that form the matrix we call “self.”  The motives and needs and desires are pretty much standard-issue, they say.  It’s just the mix that differs.

Science agrees.  Daniel H. Pink’s popular book, DRIVE:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, lays out the results of a wide variety of scientific studies about human behavior.  Pink lists the “three primary elements of true motivation”:

Autonomy (which is about understanding oneself and cultivating self-direction, a large part of developing mana or personal power)

Mastery (which is the other part of developing personal power)

Purpose (which is another word for “meaning”)

 

Says Pink, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another.  And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”  In his book, Pink goes on to present assorted ways and means for achieving that liberation in your own life by working with your own particular mix of motivations.

A PARABLE OF SORTS

Need an example of the wide variance in human motivations?  Imagine that you’re a time-traveling researcher gathering data for some scientific study or other research project about why people do the work they do.  Your subjects happen to be laborers working on a cathedral.  Not just any cathedral.  Make it a big one, like the Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Chartres Cathedral by anthony rue via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Four journeyman bricklayers are among the people who’ve agreed to take part in your study.  You ask them why they are engaged in this work they all do.

The first one says, “It’s hard work, but it’s my job.  I do this for my family, to provide for them.

The second one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my career.  I do this because someday I shall be a master builder and I will be the one in charge of a project like this.”

The third one says, “It’s hard work, but this is a part of my family tradition.  For generations now, my family have been bricklayers and builders.  I do this because I am carrying on the legacy of my ancestors and I want to pass it on to my children.

The fourth one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my calling.  I do this for the glory of God.  I do this because even when I am gone, this cathedral will still stand, and it will be beautiful.”

Each one of the bricklayers is doing the same hard work.  Each one looks at the work with different eyes.  Each one does the work for a different reason.  And each one of them are probably living very different lives.  Motivations — the “why” of living your life – vary.  So do the results.

This YouTube Video by the Great Big Story video network, “The Lone Man Building a Cathedral by Hand” is about 90-year-old Justo Gallego who has spent 53 years of his life building a cathedral on the outskirts of Madrid in Spain.  It is amazing….

THE EXAMINED LIFE

Life lived as poem-fodder requires a particular mindset – one that begins by looking at who and where you are now.  Poets, artists and storytellers are particularly prone to examining life-as-we-know-it.

We look at the messy chaos of it all, focus on one specific thing that catches at our hearts, and we unpack and tease out the meanings contained in this ordinary slice of life.  We roll all of these meanings and metaphors up into a ball that makes some sort of sense to us and we play with it.  Sometimes by doing that we can discover new worlds to which we can invite other people to come and play.

Here’s a YouTube video, “For Those Who Dream.”  It’s a heart-felt spoken poem by Osric Chau.

THE MEASURED LIFE

Scientists, engineers, technicians and other more linear sorts also look at the world with special eyes.  They pull out their tape measures and calipers and use them to tally the height and width and depth of some part of life.  They gather together far-flung bits of data and throw them into a funnel that moves the bits through a series of filters that have already been set up.  These filters have names like “hypothesis,” “premise,” and “theory.”

All of the data gets compared and correlated according to preset or already established ideas and ideals.  They hope, these smart guys, to suss out how the “rules” are supposed to work.

They take the little bits they’ve sifted out of the whole thing and press them into molds made according to older, established constructs to make more bricks.  With these  bricks they build other rules and constructs and edifices as they trundle right along making their visions “real.”

This way of seeing and doing can also be quite exciting.  This YouTube video, “A Day In the Life of An Oxford Physics Student” was published  by Simon Clark.  What is most evident is the young man’s passion for his field of study.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Very different ways of seeing become divergent ways of making.  Each one is a perfectly valid way to build a life with meaning and mana.

Here’s a poem:


NOT MY WALK

Oops!  Sorry!

I forget sometimes, you see…

Your walk is not mine,

You are not me.

You’re headed off in

Some direction that

Makes no sense to me.

 

Maybe it’s ’cause your horizon’s set

At an odd angle from mine.

Maybe your gravity well’s

Located in a different place.

I don’t know.

 

It really looks peculiar,

That way you’re standing,

But, mostly…probably…that’s just me,

Just the way I see.

Looking at your stance from here

Gives me the jimmy-jams!

What is holding you up?

 

Do you get dizzy from that levitating thing you do?

Does standing sideways like that

Feel to you like hanging your head backwards

As you pump your swing up higher?

 

Maybe not.  If that’s normal for you….

Hmmm….

 

There must be cool stories

Sandwiched in there somewhere

In all that precarious-looking

Crane-stance thing you’re doing.

There must be things

That I can’t see

From where I’m standing.

 

So tell me, please….

How’s it going for ya?

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Gateway by George Redgrave via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

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THINKING NATIVE

THINKING NATIVE

I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s an artist thing to ponder frequently on the direction you want to head.   (You tend to spend a lot of time making course-corrections when you’re flying by the seat of your pants, I find.)

I have been musing on this a lot lately.  I think I am trying, in all my work – in my art, my poetry, my writing and even in my property management gig —  to incorporate the Oceanic mindsets in which I’ve been steeped.

Oceania includes Australia, New Guinea, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.   Adrienne L. Kaeppler, in her book THE PACIFIC ARTS OF POLYNESIA AND MICRONESIA postulates that the goal of Oceanic art is to produce fine art that makes Pacific themes understandable in today’s worlds.  She points out that contemporary Oceanic artists don’t slavishly copy old products or art processes.  Their work is based, instead on knowledge of traditional aesthetic systems.  She goes into detail, explaining this concept of hers.

THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR AUDIENCE (CUSTOMERS)

One very real aspect of doing work that arises out of an indigenous mindset is the awareness of the importance of the audience.  (For a business person, I suppose that would be your customers.)

I remember watching a friend (a sculptor of stones) looking at and appreciating the Light of My Life’s rock work.  He did a series of petroglyph carvings on rocks that he set in a spiral in the yard as a memorial for his dad who had died at the beginning of that year of carving.  He was also aiming at honoring the old Hawaiians who taught him so much when he first came to the island.

petroglyph-labyrinth
Petroglyph Labyrinth. Art by Mathew Westcott

Mat’s petroglyphs basically arose out of traditional Hawaiian motifs but they are definitely not exact copies of the old stuff.  Each bit is layered with a superficial theme and then deeper kaona, inner meaning, metaphor, and symbolism.

 

My friend Cecilia didn’t understand the cultural references at all and may not have even been aware of them, but she did appreciate that there were layers of meaning in there.  Just knowing that deepened the experience of the things for her, I think.  It could be, too, that Cecilia is particularly sensitive to stone her own self and that also was an enriching factor.

LAYERS AND LAYERS AND LAYERS

It’s important, I think, to remember that the layers incorporated in a work may be deep or shallow.  The one looking at it brings his or her own world and views to it as well.  Hmmm….

Native scholar Greg Cajete has written that in indigenous ways of thinking, we understand a thing only when we understand it with all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion and spirit. My goal is to make art and poetry that tap into these indigenous ways of knowing….

People are affected by my poetry because they arise out of my life experiences that are mirrors of their own.  Everyone has experienced loss.  Everyone has experienced anger, betrayal, disappointment and pain.  Everyone has experienced joy.  Everyone makes decisions about the paths they will take and the ones they will not.

This is what I share with others – my own paths toward grace.   For me, the paths that lead to grace are buried in the detritus of the everyday and they are also illuminated by my own cultural understandings and mindsets.  My mission seems to have been about finding the paths and byways that resonate with me, marking them, trying to follow them.

MAKING THE CONNECT

As for my audience, well…I am still trying to suss that one out.  A new book has just come out that addresses that very question.  Nicholas J. Webb, a popular speaker and corporate strategist, has written a new book, WHAT CUSTOMERS CRAVE:  How to Create Relevant and Memorable Experiences at Every Touchpoint

Webb has spent 25 years helping people gain insights into what their customers want.  His company, Cravve, provides counseling and training in customer design and innovation for many of the world’s top brands.  This book tells you how you, too, can figure out what all those eyes that you’re trying to get to notice you are wanting to see.

In this YouTube podcast posted by CT Corporation (a subsidiary of Wulters Kluwer) as part of their business marketing “toolbox,” Webb talks about his ideas for dealing with “touch points” – the places where you connect with other people.  As I listened to the podcast, it struck me that Webb’s ideas are all about making good connections.  They are positively Oceanic in mindset.

 

(Wulters Kluwer is a multi-national information services company based in the Netherlands with operations in over 35 countries.  CT Corporation is “the largest registered agent service firm in the world representing hundreds of thousands of business entities worldwide. It provides software and services that legal professionals use,” it says here.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My audience is probably going to be made up of the people who are trying to do the same as me, people who are trying to add mana and meaning to their own everyday lives.  I think there may be a market somewhere in all that.  I just need to refine my walk so that I can connect with the people who are already working on that their own selves.

As I am learning my craft and learning more about my market, my real reward will be spending a bunch of time in what I call “Little-G World”…where I can be just like a little god, making it all up as I go along.  That is a cool thing, I am thinking.

Also, I am thinking that the late, great Ray Kroc once said, “If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.”  In WHAT CUSTOMERS CRAVE, Webb helps you figure out how to influence other people to love you for doing what you love.  This, too, is a good thing…and it’s very Oceanic.

And here’s a poem:


CONNECTING THE DOTS

Art.

What is art?

Art is not a piece of work.

It is a reaching inward and a coming back.

 

Artist.

What is an artist?

What are artists for real if they are more than

The producers of pretty objects

Meant to cover up some wall space or match a couch.

 

We are the keepers.

We hold.

We are the seekers and explorers.

We go.

We are the lost ones.

We come back.

We are the messengers.

We carry the dreams.

 

We look forward and see what can be.

We look back and see what was.

We look outward and see illusion.

We look inward and we wonder.

We accept what-is and build from it.

We accept what-is and choose the good.

We accept what-is and work for change.

 

Native.

What is that?

It is a way of life,

It is a way of being.

It is a reaching forward and a coming back.

It is looking inward and looking outward.

The way of Art is the way of the Native.

It is walking in Beauty and taking it in;

It is holding the Beauty and pumping it back out.

 

This is Native.

This is Artist.

It is a way of being.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Oceania Boards by Karen Green via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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LYING FALLOW

LYING FALLOW

Philosopher, author, theologian, educator and civil rights leader Howard Washington Thurman once said, “There is a fallow time for the spirit when the soul is barren because of sheer exhaustion.”

FARMING LESSONS

Here’s where you ask, “What’s ‘fallow’?”  A fallow field is land that a farmer plows but doesn’t cultivate for one or more seasons.  The practice, which dates back to ancient times, helps the soil recover from being used to grow crops.  Historians believe that farmers in the Middle East practiced crop rotation as early as 6,000 B.C.  Letting the fields lie fallow is commended in the Jewish Torah.

The theory is that when you keep planting and planting and planting the same field over and over with the same plants, those plants eat up all the same nutrients until the field is, well…drained.  The nutrients get depleted.  The land gets “tired” and less fertile, the dirt gets hard and susceptible to erosion.  (Think “Dust Bowl.”)

Besides this the bugs figure that you’ve opened a restaurant for them with their favorite food and they start coming in droves.

You can stave off these problems by rotating your crops, planting different crops in the same patch, and even planting crops that have a secondary purpose of helping the soil recover.  Legumes (peas, lentils or beans) help fix nitrogen in the soil and build it back up.  Planting them in the same ground after the oats or whatever are done helps build up the soil a bunch.

Eventually, though, even that strategy just means that even more nutrients get sucked out of the soil.  So, you just have to let the ground rest.

landscape-plotted-and-pieced
Landscape Plotted and Pieced – Fold, Fallow and Plow by Ann Fisher via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
You can run cows or horses on the resting land and let the wild critters come and live there for a while.  Their manure and other doings help build up and replenish soil fertility.  As a farmer you can add all kinds of amendments to the soil as well, but letting it rest, letting it breathe and live wild for a season or two does seem to work better.

For a while, until the resurgence of the organic farming movement, the ag scientists and experts pooh-poohed the concept of letting the fields lie fallow.  It was so old-fashioned and not PC.  We moderns got obsessed with economics and massive productivity.  We also had a lot more people to feed.  Letting some resource just sit there bordered on heretical thinking.

We’re seeing the effects of that in the lessening nutritional value in some of our foods.  We’re getting lots of not-so-good produce and meats because of our food production practices.  Pesticides and chemicals that force growth are a part of our diet as well.  This is not a good thing.

WHEN THE MAKER GETS TIRED

As Makers and as creative sorts, we humans are also all farmers.  The soil we till is our own selves — our talents, our skills and our hearts.  Sometimes, like the productivity-focused modern farmers, we get carried away, working, working, working to produce more and more and more.

Like the punch-drunk boxer in the ring we keep taking the blows on the chin and getting up time and time again, stumbling on unsure of how to proceed, but standing up anyhow.

Then, one day, you just can’t come up with a single, solitary new idea.  One day you are just tired.  You’re tired of the B.S., tired of all the misconceptions, misunderstandings and mis-thises and mis-thats.  You’re tired of going, going, going.  Your body rebels.  Your brain sits there like a lump.  Your heart hurts.  You just “don’t-wanna” any more.

kuau-sunrise
Kuau Sunrise by Anthony Charles via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that sometimes rest is the most productive thing you can do.  [Slowng down lets your heart catch up with your thoughts….]

DO-IT-YOURSELF FALLOW FARMING

That’s the time when you need to remember about the fallow fields.  That is when you need to take a break, rest, and feed your soul again with all the other things that make your life worthwhile.  Watching your baby smile and hugging the heart-people in your life are good things.  Taking a walk and feeling your feet touch the ground is great.  Talking to trees and counting stars help.  Collecting rainbows are a good thing too.  Whatever works.

It is a harrowing time of great fragility and you will probably be feeling very sore.  Your vulnerability rating will probably be off the charts.  And then one day, after you’ve done this stuff for a while, after you’ve slogged through all of your despondencies, an opportunity will come and the field will be ready to work again.

This moving YouTube video is glass-blower J. P. Canlis’s talk at TEDxVail.  It’s titled “What Is Creativity?” and is nominally about how he put together the stage set for the conference.   The night before the talk, he says, he threw out his first speech.  He got up onstage and went with this talk which details the struggle, breakdown, and breakthrough that led to the rejuvenation of his stalled creative work.

And isn’t that a very good thing?

Here’s a poem:


SO MANY TIMES I HAVE SAID

 

So many times I have said:

“This is me, I can’t change.”

And time and circumstance

Prove me wrong

Again.

 

So many times I have said:

“This is me, take it or leave it.”

And the tides of change

Come sweeping through.

Again.

 

So many times I have said:

“Leave me alone, I am tired.”

And the paradoxes

Keep on pushing

Again.

 

So many times I have said:
“No, I can’t, it’s too much.”

And the me that’s real

Keeps on growing.

Again.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Furrow and Ridge by Patrick Dalton via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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LEADING BY FOLLOWING

LEADING BY FOLLOWING

Here are some thoughts from E. Thomas Behr, Ph.D. in THE TAO OF SALES: The Easy Way To Sell In Tough Times.  First published in 1997, it attracted a lot of interest until it went out of print.  It’s since been re-issued.  (A great book.)  The major thought Behr had was this:  if you lead by following your principles and your own authenticity, then it makes room for good things to happen….

1.     DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING, STAND THERE.  If you take a stand on values and principles, perhaps others will develop the courage to do the same. Sometimes it leads to you being street pizza, when you try to face down assorted steamrollers, but I notice it does tend to be true that you can get a lot of the pettiness out of your life by doing this one.  This leaves a lot more room for creativity and for beauty, so what’s a little flatness here and there?

2.     SIMPLIFY ALL ACTIONS AND BEHAVIORS TO A FEW CONCRETE PRINCIPLES.  Let the values guide the results.

This one works really well.  Mostly, if you always follow a few basic principles that mean a lot to you, then people know where you are standing and they tend to allow you that space.  Maybe they are just being kind about not wanting to disillusion you and all or maybe they just don’t have the time to start shoving your head into other spaces, but who cares?  It works.

3.     TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MEASURING YOUR OWN INTEGRITY YOURSELF.  You are not the only one who knows whether you’re walking your talk.  It shows.  It’s a good idea to pay attention.

4.     CONFRONT YOUR OWN CONCERNS AND FEARS ABOUT AUTHORITY IN AN OPEN, CARING WAY.  I do have major “issues” with authority.  However, I have figured out that scorched-earth war tactics really don’t leave much for anybody to work with.  It’s a lot easier on everybody if I can be gentle.  This is a lot harder for me than coming out swinging so I have to be really gentle with my own self as well.

5.     MEASURE WHAT MATTERS.  That’s a problem I have with bean-counters:  They are so busy counting beans when other things matter so much more to me and I often cannot get my head around their concerns.  I do try because it is important, I suppose.  I just prefer measuring things like room to move and heart-space and stuff like that.  (I probably drive the bean-counters crazy.)

6.      IF IT AIN’T BROKE, BREAK IT.  The best thing about this one is that it helps me forgive my own klutziness.  Calling the stumbling around I do “re-inventing the world” is a lot cooler than saying, “Oops!”.

7.     REPLACE “CONTROL” WITH “ORDER.”  The neat thing about this one is that there are all kinds of order.  Some of them are quite lovely and meaningful to the people who are in them.  It’s a very cool thing to be able to see other people’s “order” as wonderments rather than as them being wrong because you are so right, right, right….

In this YouTube video, Art – Life Made Me Do It, Simon Birch, an artist who has gained some renown in Hong Kong, tells about his life and how his art grew out of it.

That is the thing, isn’t it?  Following your life, letting your days lead you to your best place, is often the best way to get to authenticity and gives your life its own meaning and mana.

So, hey…what are you doing to get back to you?

Here’s a poem:


GETTING BACK TO GRACE

 

Getting back to grace is Job One.

(It says so right here.)

So…

What happens when you’ve run out of cheek to turn,

And your back is to the wall,

And you’re looking at yet another transgression,

Another incursion, another this or that?

 

Getting back to grace is gonna be tough

When you’re bucking the gale-force winds

Of somebody else’s stubborn,

Of somebody else’s stupid

And somebody else’s something-or-other.

 

It gets even rougher when you’re leaning into

The tropical storms of your own blindness.

 

Hmmm….

Let’s do it step-by-step.

If Grace is a place where I can stand,

Then, probably, it doesn’t need ME to make it real, right?

It’s just there.

I mean…I didn’t invent it.

It’s THERE already…

Like, say, Haleakala, maybe, or Pu’u Kuku’i.

 

And if that’s so,

Then all I have to do is find it again.

Hmmm…okay.

Maybe I just have to take off this stupid bandana

That’s worked itself down over my eyes….

 

There!

Got it!

Oh…well….

Wouldja look at that:

I’ve been standing in Grace all this time!

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Follow the Leader by ehpien via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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RISE OF THE KHAN (ACADEMY)

RISE OF THE KHAN (ACADEMY)

It’s a well-known story now:  A young engineer and hedge fund analyst begins helping his niece understand algebra during a family visit.  The lessons work so well that the young man continues to tutor the girl online using Yahoo’s Doodle notepad.  Then, other relatives and friends want help in mathematics as well so the analyst moves his tutorials to YouTube where he creates an account so he can meet the demand for his help and…

But, wait.  There’s a YouTube video that’s a collaborative effort of Reddit’s entrepreneur community and the Google Cloud Platform called “Sal Khan’s (Khan Academy) Formative Moment.”  It tells the story better than I can.  CLICK HERE to see the video….

HOW IT GREW

In the beginning, the teaching videos were hand-made by Khan for his cousins.  The earliest ones were about math and followed the interests and needs of the cousins.   The videos show step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard.

As he put them together, Khan presented short, often funny, lectures explaining what he was doing and why.  Khan listened to the feedback from the cousins, working with them to make the things more effective as learning tools for his students.  He was surprised when the videos attracted the attention of literally thousands of viewers from around the world.

Later, after Khan had quit his day-job and stayed home, working with his close friend Josh Gefner to develop the content of his YouTube channel; after they put up the Khan Academy website (khanacademy.org) as a wrapper for the videos hosted on YouTube; after Khan spent a great deal of effort and time promoting the Academy and their mission; and after the Academy began receiving donations to support their work, it began to grow by leaps and bounds.

The Academy was able to expand its faculty and offer courses about history, healthcare, medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, cosmology, American civics, art history, economics, music, computer programming and computer science.  The lesson library continues to grow.

The organization also developed a network of content specialists who help put together the courses as well. Besides the broader range of subjects and lessons, updates have included collaborations with the Stanford Medical School, and even math and science explorations with NBA star LeBron James.

In August 2015 Khan Academy partnered with Disney & Pixar Animation Studios to launch Pixar in a Box on Khan Academy. The goal, they said, was to show how academic concepts students learn in school are used to solve creative challenges in the making of Pixar films.

HOW IT MORPHED

All of the videos available on the Khan Academy website are licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) 3.0 license.  Khan really did mean it when he said he wanted to make opportunities for learning available for everybody.

Tools on the website like the Coach Resources section (aimed at parents, tutors and teachers) has helpful tutorials on using the site as well as monitoring software to help track the progress of students.  An adaptive web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on their skill and performance was also developed.   Teachers and tutors could track a student’s progress without having to subject them to the stress of testing.

Software for doing the exercises with feedback and continued assessment was made available as an open source project under the MIT License.

The dashboard on the site improved over time.  Navigation got easier and lessons could be recommended based on student progress.  Students were able to pause the lessons and return to it at a later time.

A companion iPad app allowed video downloads for off-line viewing.  Meanwhile assorted non-profit groups distributed offline versions of the videos to rural areas in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Over the years, thousands of Khan Academy resources have been translated into other languages and is supported by partners and volunteers in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Hindi, Indonesian, German, Czeck, Italian, Swahili, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Xhosa, Greek, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Malayalam, and Chinese.

The website has been translated to 23 languages and its videos to 65.  There are seven “official” websites now, each in a different language.

On September 15, 2014, a brick-and-mortar Khan Lab School opened in Mountain View, California.  The work continues.

HERE’S THE REAL

Khan and his Academy have won all kinds of prestigious awards nationally and internationally.  The Academy is entirely supported by donations from assorted foundations and is used as a tool by many educators and parents, mostly because it apparently works.  Kids and adults learn.  They like it.

Students can sign up using a Google or Facebook account.  An e-mail address will also work.

Khan wrote a book about his vision of education, THE ONE WORLD SCHOOLHOUSE:  Education Reimagined,  in 2013.  In it he presents a case for returning to “mastery learning,” a concept that, he says, was abandoned in the last century.

the-one-world-school-house
The One World School House (via Amazon.com)

LOVE IT, HATE IT…WHATEVER

The Academy and Khan do have detractors.  Professional educators who don’t like the Academy harp on the fact that Khan does not have a background in pedagogy.  What’s “pedagogy”?  Apparently, it is the “art and science of teaching.” It’s the way teachers teach and nurture child development according to the theories behind modern education methods.  There are different flavors of pedagogy and a number of different schools of thought.

Khan and the instructors who put together videos for the Academy don’t work on trying to develop anything in their students.  They just want to share the nuts-and-bolts of how to solve a particular problem and to add to the factoids and thoughts already in the learners’ heads.

The Khan Academy seems to have some virulent haters as well as rabid fans.  The critics say there is nothing “new” about teaching through lectures.  Some haters have even gone so far as to call Khan “boring” and “incompetent.”

It is true that the Academy lesson videos are basically just simple lectures that show students how to do things.  They tend to present the practical, procedural side of things.

Sometimes there are inaccuracies and errors.  There are sometimes confusing bits in some of the videos, especially when the whys and wherefores of a system of doing things are discussed.  These inconsistencies are quickly corrected when they are found.

The videos themselves are plain.  There’s no music, no distracting cartoons, no fancy tricks, and no talking heads in them.  There’s just the lesson.

Students can concentrate and focus on what they are doing.  The best thing about these videos is that the students control the pace of the learning and they can go back over the parts that don’t make sense to them again and again.

Khan points out that he has always said that the Academy can be used as a tool for the classrooms and for education.  He, himself, has never advocated replacing more traditional paths with the Academy videos.  “I think they’re valuable,” he says, “but I’d never say they somehow constitute a complete education.”

The haters, however, especially take issue with Khan’s idea for “flipping the classroom.”  A part of his vision is for students to watch his lecture videos at home, try some of the problems and when the class meets, the students and their teachers can engage and try hands-on projects.  They can have more discussions among peers as well as more one-on-one interactions between the teacher and students.

Academy critics have been called bitter and threatened.  Khan’s “followers” are accused of being a part of a cult.

FINAL THOUGHT

My own thought on this is that Khan has succeeded in making a remarkable product.  Folks remark on it…and the buzz continues.

Here’s another Evan Carmichael offering in his YouTube video series of the “Top 10 Rules for Success.”  Internet entrepreneur and social media marketeer Evan Carmichael has an ongoing project to collect the top ten Rules of Success held by assorted successful people in every field of endeavor.  He’s put together videos featuring writers, artists, musicians, film makers as well as assorted business people.  You may want to check out Carmichael’s website, #BELIEVE (EvanCarmichael.com .)

These are Salman Khan’s top 10:

And here’s a poem:


WRITING DOWN THE BONES

Writing down the bones

Helps in ways that

Echo down through the years.

 

You do not forget so easily….

The daily grind does not wear away

That blade of pain

That lances through your complacency,

Presenting you with the steaming guts

Of another deader-dream.

 

You remember, and you honor

The ephemeral beauty of

The joys that grab your heart and

Buoy it up and up

Until it floats ‘mid nebulous clouds of stars

In the deepest dark,

Catching rides on chuckling comets and

Tickling the edges of black-hole mysteries.

And you savor again the enveloping warmth

Of the welcome home.

 

You do not, cannot muck it up

With think and double-think

When the raw is sitting on the page

Waiting for you to touch it yet again.

 

The lessons transmute and morph into

Axioms that divide into precepts and corollaries

And “whereas-es” and “wherefores” spiral out and out

As your mind expands…

Big enough to contain mountains,

Big enough to cradle the sky…

 

As Dragon uncoils from sleep,

As Phoenix burns in flight,

As Tiger stalks through the underbrush

And Turtle moves, deliberating,

While the winds of change blow through.

 

It’s a hard road, this writing down the bones,

And the tracks of the tears running down your face

Mark the paths down which it takes you.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Salman Khan at TEDx talk (cropped from original by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

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