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Month: February 2019

OPEN TO SERENDIPITY – Another Inner Peace Symptom

OPEN TO SERENDIPITY – Another Inner Peace Symptom

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that setting goals and self-discipline are important but you need to leave doors and windows open to the unexpected.  [Serendipity and dancing in the Mystery takes you to wonders that all your plans and willful intent would have you ignore….]

Awwww…PFUI!

I am having a problem explaining “serendipity,” I think.

And the Jungian concept of “synchronicity” (which is closely related), is a complex mind-boggling morass of interrelated concepts with weird names that grew out of Carl Gustav Jung’s study of “meaningful coincidences.”

Jung was the early 20th century Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who is credited with founding analytical psychology.

(He was also a full-blown mystic and a lot of his musings on the inner workings of the mind and of Life-Its-Own-Self get really “out there.”)

Not a help.

Hmmm….

Maybe I’m approaching this thing wrong.

I’m trying to do the Scholar/pseudo-Scientist thing on it.

Instead of driving myself nuts trying to herd these distinctly counterintuitive, non-linear concepts onto a slide and sticking them under a metaphoric microscope so you can look at them wriggling all around, I’m going to do the Poet on them and try to get them to do a stomp-dance.

leilani-spins
“Leilani Spins” by steve mcnicholas via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND2.0]

LET’S DO THIS….

The thing is, those fifty-dollar words are just names for shiny, startling, free-floating bits in the matrix of what we call “Real”.  These bits tend to land on us when we least expect it.

Some of these surprising bits are joyous and light.  Others can be pretty heavy-duty challenges.

These days we tend to think of serendipity as the happier bits — little surprises that delight us or that answer some need of ours for a thing for which we’ve been intently searching.

One of my favorite definitions of “serendipity” comes from William McKeen, PhD, a journalist and teacher who has written nine books and edited four more.  The definition is also one of the simplest to understand, I think.

He says, “Serendipity is defined as the ability to make fortunate discoveries accidentally.”

McKeen’s job, he says, is trying to make people think.

In an article posted in the New York Times Archives, when he was the Chair of the Department of Journalism at the University of Florida, McKeen tells the story of how he challenged the students in his freshman classes at the University by requiring each of them to subscribe to the New York Times Monday through Friday.

He told the students that he expected them to read through the dailies as a matter of routine and to use the things when they did their research rather than just going on-line and sorting through the front-page stuff that’s cherry-picked by assorted editors and other experts for “relevance” or weightiness or whatever.

Ignoring the groans and moans of his students, the professor required them to engage in the messiness of Life-Its-Own-Self, as documented by folks who are paid to go look at the lives around them and turn what they see into stories, day in and day out.

Why?

Because, he said, if you only use the admittedly wonderful variety and diverse resources available to you online, then “you would only find what you are looking for.”

Internet searches tend to be targeted.  You enter some key words into a search engine and you can pretty much find exactly what you are looking for.

Sometimes there are irritating misses if you haven’t gotten your search parameters right, but you can work your way through all the way to your goal pretty quickly.

(In my research for this thing, for example, I learned that “Serendipity” is also a type of nail-polish styling method and got a lot of tips on how to do it myself.  Hmmm.)

This directed searching thing is an excellent tool.  It saves a lot of time.

However, it does come at a cost.

As McKeen puts it, “When you know what you want – or think you do – you lose the adventure of discovery, of finding something for yourself.”

I think you also lose (or never find) your own voice.

Wandering around in the back pages of a good newspaper can be like browsing through the back shelves of an old library or in a good bookstore.  You can find amazing stuff there.

library
“Library” by Emily via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
McKeen contends that it’s the stories buried in the back of the dailies – in the business section, the sports section, the lifestyle sections or the obituary page — that can add nuance and richness, value and content to your stash of factoids that you can dip into to help direct and spur and refine your own thinking and your ways of seeing the world.

I was pleased to note that McKeen’s books include EVERYBODY HAD AN OCEAN:  Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles (2017), OUTLAW JOURNALIST:  The Life and Times of Hunter Thompson (2008), and TOM WOLFE (1995).  Intriguing topics, all.

SERENDIPITY, INNOVATION AND ALL THAT GOOD STUFF

Here’s a video featuring Jason Silva, my favorite free-style stomp-dancer in the world of ideas.  It was published in 2014 by Shots of Awe and tells us that serendipity results from mashing up a bunch of ideas together and seeing what falls out.

Surprise and startling insights are distinct possibilities when you start mashing stuff together.

Sometimes, as Silva points out so playfully, serendipity involves a moment of insight, the “’aha’ moment” that has since been made popular by communicator-extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey.

You see or experience something that catalyzes an insight which blossoms in your head and helps you find the most elegant answer to a question over which you have been beating that head against a wall.

You pick up a book from the discount table at your neighborhood bookstore and it falls open to a page with a significant passage that changes your perspective on a problem, for instance.

Something your little girl says or a conversation overheard while waiting in line starts a train of thought that leads to your writing a pretty good poem or article or even a novel.

That “aha” moment can spark an innovative idea that propels you forward in a new direction.  You slog along looking for something and you either find just what you needed or you find something better.

aha
“aha” by Tracy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Many inventions were the result of serendipitous insights.  Things like penicillin, Post-It notes, and the telephone would not exist if the people who developed them hadn’t detoured or made mistakes while pursuing other goals.

In 1928, for example, Alexander Fleming was actively looking for a new antibiotic.  He returned from a vacation and found that penicillin juice left in petri-dishes that should have been washed while he was gone was apparently killing off bacteria.

Alexander Graham Bell’s microphone, first tested in 1876, was a detour that led him to develop his telephone.  At the time Bell thought he was developing a new kind of hearing aid.

Post-It notes were born in 1974 when Arthur Fry figured out that he could use the low-tack pressure sensitive adhesive accidentally developed in 1968 by fellow 3M employee Spencer Silver.

Until Fry came up with the idea of using Silver’s glue-that-wouldn’t-stay-stuck as a non-damaging way to hold bookmarks in his hymnal so that he could find the songs he was supposed to be singing as a member of the choir at his church, the not-exactly-glue was an idea that had not worked.

The ever-growing list of these kinds of accidental inventions goes on and on.

SERENDIPITY AND OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Many of us meet our most meaningful relationships – a spouse, friend, business partners, mentors, or life-changing personal connections – from chance encounters.

Often serendipitous events, like running into an old pal with whom you’ve lost touch, can work wonders for your psyche.

Old friends can remind you of dreams you’ve allowed to go dormant.  Sometimes those old dreams get resurrected or revived with good results.

(Either that, or you thank your lucky stars that you gave up on that old thing and are way more appreciative of the life you’ve built instead.)

Sometimes a chance encounter might open doors that were closed to you or help you find a True Companion who wants to join you on your quest.  Sometimes you meet a new person who “gets” you.

In this very short TED talk, “Inviting Serendipity To Your Life”, management consultant and author John Hagel tells the story of how Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired magazine found the CTO of his drone aircraft technology company while participating in an internet forum.

The talk was filmed at TED University in 2011 and published by the TED Archive guys on YouTube in 2018.

AND WHY SHOULD YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT THIS STUFF?

Okay.  Let’s say you are not a researcher, a scholar or an inventor, and you have no ambitions to be an artist, a performer, a writer or an entrepreneur.  Maybe you’re a regular sort of workaday minion, living out your days in the best way you can and not at all unhappy with your lot in life.

Why should you care about this stuff?

Let’s parse this out.

All kinds of studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between the way we see the world and how we feel emotionally.

Other studies (and all kinds of wise guys down through the ages) have told us that the way we feel affects how we move in the world which then affects how the world responds to us and so on and so forth.

It does seem to indicate that being open to discovering new ways of thinking could have a very real effect on us and on the life each of us lives.

In this 2016 TEDx Talk, personal development coach and author Paul Hannaman talks about his concept of “Everyday Serendipity” at the TEDx event at the University of Brighton.

Hannaman’s book, THE WISDOM OF GROUNDHOG DAY:  How to Improve Your Life One Day at a Time, is actually a life-action plan based on the “hidden, underlying roadmap to freedom” found in a popular romantic comedy film, Groundhog Day, which was written by screenwriter Danny Rubin.

AND NOW FOR SYNCHRONICITY….

Okay.

That looks like a wrap on “serendipity”.

Now, for a (very) short and probably misguided look at “synchronicity.”

It is interesting to note that while the bit about “serendipity” in the “Best Answer” from the Yahoo Answers online forum archives for a query about “the difference between serendipity and synchronicity” is succinct and pretty much right on, the part about “synchronicity” gets lost in a lot of verbiage that leaves you scratching your head.

I agree with the Yahoo guy’s definition of “serendipity”.  He says it’s “finding something unexpected and useful while searching for something else.”

Then he goes on to say that “synchronicity” is a “word coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung to describe the temporally coincident occurences of acausal events….”  Huh?

Right.

I say that synchronicity is more like strong currents or riptides in the flow of the life-energy around us or like amazing, illogical, sideways quantum leaps of one sort or another that may not always be such delightful and gladsome surprises as the serendipity things, but which do seem to invariably lead to significant changes in our perceptions of the world we live in.

riptide
“Riptide!” By Big Swede Guy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
They happen.  We cope.

The new ways of seeing that we discover as a result of synchronicity can take us to some other unplanned-for space that’s a decided improvement on where we were.

Those of us with a bent toward the woo-woo like to think that serendipity and synchronicity are evidence of the fact that Life-Its-Own-Self is a grand Mystery of the finest kind.

FINAL THOUGHT

In the words of my favorite poet, Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Good question, huh?  Maybe serendipity and synchronicity can help you figure out your own answers to it.

Here’s a poem:


THE WORLD (ACCORDING TO YOU)

 What IS that?

The World (according to you)

Comes equipped with a set of rules and regs

That surround you with hurdles built of solid P.C. bricks

Set in a mine-field of P’s and Q’s, I’s to dot and T’s to cross.

 

How do you MOVE in a world like that,

Where, at every misstep on this crooked trail

Of shoulda’s, coulda’s, and might-have-beens

There’s a maze of dead ends and deader conversations?

 

How does it work for you

When you do not dare take your eyes off your feet

Because the ground you’re walking is just studded

With assorted cantrips of “polite” and “correct”?

 

Can you see through the veils of other-people thoughts

That tramp on through your head,

Squelching every impulse to giggle and laugh out loud

At the fables of this silly World?

 

Auwe, my sistah, auwe!

So sad, my braddah….

 

Can you even taste the heady wine

of freedom…of change

That floats through this Universe like a river?

Or does the bitterness in your mouth obscure that joy?

 

Auwe, auwe, auwe….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Maui” by Dale Cruse via [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts

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GET TO CLARITY

GET TO CLARITY

“Maintaining clarity of vision is an essential difference between those who conceive and realize great ideas and those who simply conceive great ideas,” it says here.

That quote is from Carol Lloyd, author of CREATING A LIFE WORTH LIVING:  A Practical Course in Career Design for Artists, Innovators and Others Aspiring to a Creative Life, a book that first came out in 1997.

The book’s been through four editions since then.

I’m re-reading my dog-eared, marked-up, well-worn copy of it again. It’s like visiting an old friend.

In the book, Lloyd does an in-depth interview with Loretta Staples.  At the time, Staples was an established software designer and visual communications expert focused on designing graphical user interfaces and helping to develop prototypes for emerging technologies.

Besides her work with Apple computer, she had her own San Francisco-based design consultancy, U dot I.  She was also working with Scient Corp., one of the top eBusiness strategy consultant firms of the time that got whacked down by the hammer of the implosion of the dotcom bubble a few years down the road.

click-here

(Click the button to access a Fast Company article by Keith H. Hammonds about the company and the times.  It was published in 2000 and is an insightful read.)

Since then, Staples has gone on to build a second and then a third career as an artist and educator, and then as a therapist at Rushford, an agency providing addiction and mental health services, and in private practice in New Haven.

A fascinating woman.  The course of her life lends gravitas to the quote from her that Lloyd shares: “If you are clear about what you want the world responds with clarity.

THE TROUBLE WITH “POTENTIAL” AND HOW TO GET PAST IT

All of this got me to thinking about another quote. This one’s from the late George Leonard, once called “the third founder” of the Esalen and one of the giants of the Human Potential Movement.

Leonard said, “Whatever your age, your upbringing, or your education, what you are made of is mostly potential.”

The trouble with “potential” is that if you are only Potential and you don’t do anything with any of it, then you are sort of nebulous.  People don’t know how to connect with you.

After all, nobody can hold hands with a galaxy.  You do have to bring it down to human.

galaxy
“Galaxy” by Bryce Bradford via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The way you do that is by choosing – by making decisions.  You have to create the self you want to be.

This is never easy. In fact, it can get downright painful.

Decisions mean cutting off some of your possibilities so that you can be in the world with people you like.

What you keep is what makes you become a person other people can relate to as well as a person they can help.

In this “víderacy:  spark your interest” YouTube video, published in 2015, author Todd Henry tells the story of how musician Amos Heller’s key career decision that led him to being Taylor Swift’s bass player.

 

Henry wrote the book LOUDER THAN WORDS: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice.  (That one’s another keeper, by the way.)

CHANGE HAPPENS ONE CHOICE AT A TIME, BUT….

Christine DeLorey, a masterful numerologist and philosopher whose signature book, LIFE CYCLES: Your Emotional Journey to Freedom and Happiness, is another of my favorites.

It’s one of those reference books that you can use over time to help you think on and integrate your own life into a semblance of sense.

DeLorey uses the ancient system of numerology to think on the big life-questions and uses the answers she has discovered to help you build what she calls “your framework of potential” so you can create the life you want to live.

What she did was explain the numerological meanings of the numbers from one to nine and explained what they mean to you and your life.

She tied these numbers to the calendar, categorizing dates by adding together all the numbers in a date to find its numerological number.

To use the book, you figure out your personal “destiny” number using the numbers of the day you were born and then you figure out what the number is for the year and then for the month you are currently experiencing.

Basically, DeLorey devised an oracle (and a framework) that guides you in looking at life and what is happening to you at any given time.

I have used it as a catalyst that guides my questions about myself, my life and the world.

On last day of every month I dip into the book and read about the section for the next month.

DeLorey’s thoughts for that month becomes the theme for the month I am living.  I look at my life and see whether what she says could be happening (numerologically) really does happen in real life.

The way the book is set up, this way of playing takes nine years to complete.

In its way, it is a course and a curriculum.

throwing-shapes
“Throwing Shapes” by Brendan Adkins via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Yeah, yeah…it sounds really woo-woo, but, I have to tell you, the thing works well as a structured way for working on exchanging unproductive mindsets for ones that help you walk more effectively in the world.

In one of her riffs about making choices and decisions, she talks about the times when you wiffle-waffle back and forth as you consider whether a particular change of course is what you want or not.

Says DeLorey, “The choices you make should be based on your feelings about the situation along with a conscious understanding of the probable outcome of your choices.”

I say that when you’ve jumped all-unknowingly on a fast-moving, twisty horse and find yourself heading off in all directions at once, you know a decision MUST be made.

You probably also get the gut-wrenching feeling that any decision you make is going to take courage.

That’s because it’s right about then that the fear-engine in your gut starts revving up, and maybe you start thinking that you should just jump off the bucking horse and sit there in the dust….again.

This happens, most smarty-pants and wise-guys say, because you are very much aware of how one change can create a chain reaction of many changes.

One of the coolest examples of chain reactions is this YouTube video published by Hevesh 5 in 2017, “250,000 Dominoes – The Incredible Science Machine:  GAME ON!”

It features the climax of a live domino project sponsored by Zeal Credit Union and organized by professional domino/chain reaction artists Steve Price and Lily Hevish.  Nineteen builders from five countries spent seven days and over 1,200 combined hours to build the thing.

The event achieved three new US domino records at the time:  largest domino field, largest domino structure and largest overall domino project in America.

And that’s the deal, isn’t it?

Choices have consequences.  Choices can topple empires.

But, the takeaway lesson of this and other domino-building efforts is this: Humans can influence and turn all that toppling into meaningful works of art and maybe into meaningful lives as well, one little bit at a time.

Sometimes they can even have a grand bit of fun with it.

It all comes down to being clear, all the way down to your toes, about what you are trying to achieve and what results you want to see happen.

CLARITY = FOCUS

This YouTube Video, “How Clarity of Purpose Focuses Decision-Making” was published in 2017 by Storyforge, an organization that helps “founder-led businesses forge their meaningful story.”

The organization was co-founded by Haley Boehning and Barry Chandler.  They work on helping other people build purpose-driven businesses.

In the video, Chandler talks about putting a “stake in the ground” and how knowing what you stand for and where you are going helps to make coming to a decision much, much easier.

CLARITY AS FILTER

One of my favorite visionaries and deep thinkers is Simon Sinek who is probably best known for popularizing the concept of starting with WHY.  His first TED talk in 2009 became the third most-watched talk of all time, it says here.

In this 2012 YouTube video, “How do I use the Why as a decision filter?,” Sinek considers how you can use your own “why” to help you make decisions that align with your values.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When I am trying too hard to come to some sort of decision or other and I’m wandering around in a fog of angst, feeling confused and suffering over my own suffering, I tend to jump back on my Ho’o-Cycle and take this test:

HO’O-CYCLE TEST FOR LIFE-DECISIONS

Ho’opuleo’o:  Does this action I am considering support the values and vision I have developed?

Ho’opaepae:  Is this action the most graceful/effective/skillful way I can walk now?

Ho’omanawanui:

  1. Does this action give me the freedom/time/space I need to play my way?
  2. Is this the proper time to take this action?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

Ho’oholomana’o:

  1. Does this action help me walk without stumbling?
  2. Can I move freely and well if I take this action now?

The reason I do this is because I made up the test my own self after years of suffering from the 2x4s swung by Life-Its-Own-Self bonking me on the head.  I’m all kinds of proud of the thing and, f’r real, answering the Ho’o-Cycle questions when I’ve got a tough decision to make does help me get to my own sort of clarity.

(If you click on “Ho’o-Cycle” and on the funny-looking Hawaiian-name lead-ins for each set of questions, you can learn more about them and about my Ho’o-Cycle.)

Here’s a poem:


STILL SHAKIN’, WALKIN’ BOSS….

Here I go…

Doing yet another kata

In the middle of

Yet another earthquake.

 

Here’s me…

Trying to find my stance again

As the ground on which I stand

Gets cut away…again.

 

And here’s a familiar thought:

Maybe all of this

Posturing and posing is

Just another exercise in futility.

 

So…

What do you do

When you find out

Your world is

Just an airball?

 

Think balloons, I suppose.

 

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:. “The Skip (as in “It’s a hop, a skip, and a jump”) by Alan English CPA via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit. I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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