Browsed by
Category: Skillful Means

skills and tools for developing mastery and fostering creativity

TEACH SOMEONE AND LEARN BETTER

TEACH SOMEONE AND LEARN BETTER

Every time I open a book I smile.

I remember.  As a child who was just beginning to learn to read, my favorite time was spent sitting on my grandpa’s lap and “teaching” him how to sound out the squiggly lines on the pages.

He would laugh and hug me as I sternly scolded him and got him to sound out the words as I was learning to do in school.  Together we made it through several adventures of Dick and Jane and Spot.

Papa, I suspect, was severely dyslexic.  He could sign his name, but he never learned to read – in English, anyway.

I think those times when he would sit still and let his baby girl “teach” him from her primer books probably set the foundation for my love of books and word-play.

SEE ONE.  DO ONE. TEACH ONE.

In his book, SMART THINKING: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate and Get Things Done, author Art Markman says that the cornerstone of medical education is, “See one.  Do one.  Teach one.”

When medical students are learning a new procedure, the first thing they do is watch someone who knows how to do it carry out the procedure.  This gives them a general idea of how the thing is done.

The student will then practice the new procedure until he or she can carry it out.  Doing it helps the student understand the various elements and techniques involved that aren’t apparent from just watching someone else do the procedure.

After that, the student is encouraged to teach this procedure to someone else.  This helps the student see whether he or she has enough knowledge of the procedure to show someone else how it is done as well as explain, in a simple, understandable way, why the procedure is useful.

As Albert Einstein famously pointed out, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

I found it interesting that these same principles are also used by tradespeople, craftsmen, artists, performers and cooks to pass along their specialized knowledge as well.

discover-the-possibilities
“Discover the Possibilities” by Georgie Pauwels via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

TEACHING HELPS YOU TEST YOUR OWN KNOWLEDGE

Markman points out that in order to teach somebody else you do need to form a complete and organized, easily-understood explanation of what you’re trying to teach.

It’s like writing down a recipe for making muffins.  Stirring the liquid ingredients into a mound of dry ingredients works a heck of a lot better than vice-versa. It’s a good and helpful thing to mention that to someone making muffins for the first time.

If your attempted explanations confuse your student, it’s probable that you need to work on filling in the gaps in your own knowledge.

  • Perhaps the student doesn’t understand the words you are using. Do you?  Are there other more common words or alternative ways of explaining that you can use instead?
  • Perhaps the student needs more information than you are giving them. Take it back down to a more basic level.  Find out what the student knows and does not know and start from there.
  • Maybe the way you’ve organized and presented the information confuses the student. How can you make the steps easier to follow?  Are some of the important steps in a procedure missing in your attempted explanation?  Are they in the right order?

In 2009, Columbia University professor Simon Sinek was interviewed by Erik Michielsen, founder of Capture Your Flag, a virtual mentoring platform.  The following YouTube Video, “How Teaching Others Build Your Knowledge” is a snippet published around that time.

In it, Sinek says, “Teaching forces you…to break down your knowledge into components that give you a deeper understanding of your own knowledge.”

JUST PLANNING TO TEACH SOMEBODY ELSE HELPS YOU LEARN BETTER

Interestingly, researchers have found that students who thought they were going to be tutoring or teaching others worked harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately, and apply it more effectively.

The guys in the lab coats dubbed this “the protégé effect.”  If we are going to teach somebody else, then we know we need to pay attention to the most important, relevant points and organize them in our minds so that we can present them in a coherent, understandable way.

This way of “relational learning” happened even if, ultimately, the students were not actually required to teach someone else.

This YouTube video, “Why Teaching Others Is the Best Way to Learn” published in 2013 by Art of Smart TV features resident nerd Rowan Kunz explaining the value of teaching others in order to get feedback about your own level of knowledge.

Art of Smart describes itself as a “movement that is changing the world through a new kind of holistic tutoring and mentoring for young people.”

An important point Kunz makes is the one about repetition.  Every time you go back over the material you are teaching someone else, trying to help the other person make sense of it, the knowledge gets embedded more clearly and more deeply into your own mind.

It all helps your brain build neurotransmitter pathways that help you access the information in your head.  Cool stuff!  Perhaps, by teaching (or planning to teach someone else) you’ll find other ways to widen and deepen the knowledge you hold.

ANOTHER TAKE ON TEACHING

There are more than one way to teach.  Some of them don’t use words.

The following YouTube video published by Fred Then in 2014, “Learning By Doing and Not Teaching” dramatizes one little Thai girl’s lessons from her mother, a vendor selling fresh fruits from a trolley at a market in Petchburi province.

The girl, Achara Poonsawat (also known as “Nin”), won a scholarship from the Sarnrak Project that allowed her to complete a Bachelor’s Degree program and become an elementary school teacher.

Nin’s mother’s methods of teaching were not academic since she was herself unschooled.  However, they were based on real-life fact-finding.  Nin’s mother encouraged the girl to observe what others did, analyze why their methods worked and try the methods for herself.

Sarnrak Konkeng Huajai Krang (Good Kids, Good Hearts) is an initiative operated since 2000 by AIS, the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand.  The children targeted by the initiative are “underprivileged children who demonstrate love and close tie to their families.”

While the scholarship recipients go to school, their families receive financial aid from Sarnrak as well since that allows the youngsters to attend school without worrying about having to help support their family.

Here’s a poem….


PAPA AND HIS NET

Papa sits on the gray-green sand.

His skin is leathered by the sun.

Jewel drops of water sparkle in the darkness of his hair.

White salt traces down his arms, his back, his chest.

His rough, brown hands weave the shuttle delicately.

Like a bird, it flies intricate patterns over and through,

As the net grows whole.

 

Papa talks about the fish the net and he have captured.

It is a strong net, his best net.

Not even a big uhu could escape it.

Manini and weke they have caught by the score.

He snagged it on some rocks and it was wounded,

Torn upon the cruel, black pōhaku.

He mourns the jagged tears as his hands deftly flutter,

As the net grows whole.

 

Papa argues with a friend, things fishermen argue.

He swaps lies about the ones he and his net “almost,

And he brags about the ones that didn’t get away.

His eyes twinkle when he shows his teeth in laughter.

They shine in amusement at the whoppers and the toppers

And the ones that flop,

And his hands – his rough, brown hands – keep on flying,

As the net grows whole.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Teach Me” by Giovanna Matarazzo via Flickr [CC BY-NC]

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

Get Social....
STEPLADDER TO A DREAM

STEPLADDER TO A DREAM

I am reading a fascinating new book, STICK WITH IT:  A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life – For Good.  It’s by Sean Young, the director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior and the UC Institute for Prediction Technology.

For over 15 years, Young and his team have been working on finding ways to help people change their behavior and make those changes last.

In his work and in the book, Young puts together a framework that describes what he calls the “seven forces of lasting change.”  He lays out how you can use each of these forces to develop an effective, unique-to-you way of walking that will lead to the changes you want to see in yourself.

The acronym he uses is S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (mostly, he says, because he wants people to remember that the existence of the forces he’s talking about are actually based on “thousands of validated, peer-reviewed, scientific studies.”)

If all of these forces are used together, Young says, then you will have a much better chance of persisting in the new behaviors that you evolve as you work on making the changes that you want to make in your life.

You might be able to actually keep that New Year’s resolution you make every year that always falls apart three weeks later.

banana-chocolate-sundae
“Banana-chocolate sundae” by Rian Lemmer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE SEVEN FORCES OF BEHAVIORAL CHANGE

  1. People are more likely to change when they can focus on small steps, studies have shown.  However, the small steps do have to be the right kind of small.  Sometimes your “small” may actually be really big.  Young calls the model he developed from this data “stepladders.”
  2. The people with whom you interact are a powerful force when it comes to effecting behavior changes.  Young helps you understand why this is so and gives strategies for harnessing the power.
  3. People change behaviors when the end result they get and the actions they make are important to them.  Young explains what makes something “important” to a person and what that word actually means in real life and how you can use it to foster your own stick-to-itiveness.
  4. Changing your behavior is more likely to happen if the change is easy to do and easy to keep doing.  Young shows you how to build a structure that will make it so.
  5. Young teaches you mind-games – a set of mental shortcuts – that help you reset your brain so you can make the kinds of changes that last.
  6. You have to make any behavior change “captivating” enough so that you will keep doing it.  You have a capacity for getting addicted to all kinds of things. Young gives tips about using that capability for your own good.
  7. Your brain also has the ability to develop auto-pilot moves that don’t require constant applications of strong willpower or steadfast thinking, thinking, thinking.  Young shows you the mechanics of making something routine.

For each of these forces, Young tells you the science behind the concept.  Then he gives examples of how you can use the concept in your life and apply it in your work or business.

Each one is cumulative.  You do one thing, add on another thing, and then another and another and, together, all the moves you make becomes a kind of synergy.

Each force is a part of a process, he says, and it sounds like the process is sort of like a perpetual motion machine, with each part feeding energy to all the other parts.

Every move you make builds on the other ones until one day you look up and you notice that you’ve become more of what you’ve wanted to be.  It sure does sound like a good thing to me.

ladders-to-reach
“ladders to reach” by thefuturistics via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

TAKING THE ONE SMALL STEP

Over the years, the author developed a thing he calls “Stepladders.”  This way of thinking and the process that Young lays out starts from the age-old advice every change-seeker gets: “Just take one small step.”

How many times have you been told that the way to reach a dream is to slice and dice the parts of your walk towards your dream into little bits and then to make goals with deadlines and to set your intention and keep your will strong while you take incremental small steps towards each goal until you kill it?

stairway-to-heaven
“stepladder to heaven” at Kuhstall (Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Saxon Switzerland) by Ralf Schulze via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
That thing’s endless.  To get to the pot of “goals” at the end of that rainbow you are dreaming about, it seems you are fated to keep chunking that dream on down and doing an inexorable walk á la Godzilla.

It works.  It’s real.  Everybody who is anybody did it and keeps doing it.  Uh-huh.  You, however, have been through that drill, usually with less-than-perfect success.

Example.  You really wish that you could lose that extra 15 pounds that have crept up on you after a whole bunch of hearty living.

You are determined.  You’re going to go all in and destroy that weight.  You’re going to get it done in a month, you say, so you can look all svelte and gorgeous for the big do with all of your old friends.  Uh-huh.

Even the healing after you get all the excess fat sucked out is going to take longer than a month, girl, you are told.  Not only that, it hurts big time.  You are not going to be feeling gorgeous much for a while.

You understand, and maybe even accept, that losing all of the weight you don’t like isn’t going to happen in a month.  (Rats!  The dream of you in that dress-to-die-for withers.)

Never mind.  Get started at least.  Okay, so you go looking for the one small step.

Yup, yup, yup.  In your head, you agree with all the varied and various advice-givers in the books and magazines and blogs and vlogs and whatever else who regurgitate checklists and round-ups of stuff you can do to get rid of your extra avoirdupois.

How about getting up out of your chair and going out the door?  We’re not even talking about getting your buns into a gym here.  Just going for a walk around the block or maybe even walking up and down some stairs.  Right!  Boring!  Not going to happen for very long.

If your automatic reaction to just reading about the “small step” is whining, moaning and feeling put-upon, how long is your change campaign going to last?

The future doesn’t look so bright as, yet again, you fail to take the one small step just for you. (Never mind about the one small step for Humankind.)

SMALL IS RELATIVE

Young says one of the problems with that small-step advice may be one of definition.  What, exactly, is a “small” step?

He points out that when you devise a plan of action, it’s a given that the size of the steps you plan to take depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Most people, when asked to write a list of steps to accomplish something will usually make a plan consisting of three to ten steps.  It doesn’t matter what size the goal is.

Now, let’s say you are focused on a long-term dream, like setting up a food truck business by the end of the year.  Your cousin, on the other hand, is trying to plan a dinner party in the next two weeks.

According to Young, you may both have the same number of steps on your to-do list, but your ten steps are going to be a heck of a lot bigger and harder to accomplish than his.

Because your dream is bigger than your cousin’s goal, even though the steps are similar (decide on a location, plan a menu, buy the food, prepare the food, and so on), the scale of the time, cost, and execution involved in these elements are going to be very different.

the-large-and-the-small-of-it
“the large and the small of it” by Roger Smith via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
In light of our tendency to make really short how-to-do lists and to miscalculate how big our “small” steps might actually be, it is no wonder that people can get really frustrated when they focus exclusively on their dreams and then cannot understand why the results they want to see are not happening very quickly.

The whole point of achieving goals is to get the bennies that come from doing them and making it all good.  You do all that stuff so that you can celebrate at the end.

The celebration re-focuses you on doing the whole megillah over again on another project, and another, and another….

Woo-hoo!

THE STEPLADDER MODEL

Young’s solution to this dilemma is to re-define the time it takes to work dreams, goals and steps.

According to Young, dreams are plans that you have never achieved before that typically takes more than three months to accomplish.  Reaching for a dream fuels your efforts to learn and try new things and helps generate the energy and motivation to stick with and persevere in your plans.

Dreams are bigger than goals.  Sometimes they are so big that it can feel like they are never going to be achieved…or, at least, not by you.  Focusing on dreams too heavily can lead to burn-out and to giving up.

That’s why Young recommends focusing most of your energy trying to complete the steps and goals on your way to your dream.

Goals are the intermediate plans people make.  Long-term goals typically take from one month to three months to achieve.  Short-term goals typically take one week to one month.

Note the time-frames.  They are important.

whats-the-time
“What’s the Time” by Png Nexus via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If you accomplish the short-term goals, you get more energy to keep going for the longer-term goals.

You keep going until eventually the dream becomes real.

Goals are more easily quantifiable than dreams.  You can measure goals.  You know when you’ve met them.

(Goals are actually more fun than dreams, especially if you make a point of celebrating whenever you meet one.)

Young also says something very interesting about this dream-goal dichotomy.  If you’ve accomplished a dream before – say, getting a million downloads for an app – a reiteration of the successful dream plan becomes a goal, even if it takes more than three months to achieve.  (You did it once and so you are much more likely to do it again.  You know how.)

Steps are the little tasks that take less than one week to accomplish, according to Young.  They populate your To-Do List.  As you get them done, you check them off, and are that much nearer to accomplishing your goal.

ladders
“Ladders!” (Mont Blanc) by JWU via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Young recommends that you have goals that take about one week to accomplish and that you plan steps that take fewer than two days.  (You can put your dreams on a vision-board that you hang by your bed.  It’ll help you get up in the morning.)

In his research lab, Young says, the students and staff keep an updated end-of-week chart that describes the goals they have set to achieve for the following week.  This lets them get together at the end of each week to discuss the steps they need to take in order to accomplish their goals on time.

The end-of-week meeting also lets the team see what they’ve already accomplished and gets them excited about continuing the journey towards their dream.

This regularly scheduled assessment of how it’s going so far goes a long way to helping you stay on track.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve focused on Young’s Stepladders model here because, for me, it is an exemplary example of Un-Seeing.  This model is a most effective, very different way to look at dreams and goals that allows us to work on them effectively using genuinely small steps.

The rest of Young’s STICK WITH IT is loaded with extraordinary insights into the way our brains work and with other ways to build perseverance and dancing with change effectively.

I do recommend it.

ladder-man
Photo credit: “Ladderman” by ^bkc via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0] (work by Israel sculptor Tolle Inbar)
Here’s a poem….


GOING ON THROUGH

There is no way to go but through.

I keep telling myself that,

A mantra that lifts my soul

Up once again from where

It’s fallen to the floor.

No whining, no whimpering….

Go through.

That is the whole of it.

 

And it’s a funny thing.

I do get up,

Put my legs under me again,

Put my feet back on the ground.

I stand.

I walk.

And somehow, some way,

Getting through happens.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit: “raise the roof” by super awesome via Flickr [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.

Get Social....
TALK TO STRANGERS

TALK TO STRANGERS

This YouTube video, “Why You Should Talk to Strangers,” features Robbie Stokes, Jr. giving a TEDxFSU talk at the Florida State University.   It was published in 2013.

In it, Stokes, a former Washington, DC events coordinator for a congressional delegate to the United States House of Representatives, tells how, the year before, he quit his job, sold all of his stuff and chased his dream about wandering around the world and talking to strangers.

Over the course of 110 days, he traveled the world, visiting 17 countries.  He spent his time talking to strangers.  Here’s what he learned….

Somewhere in there, Stokes also created the I TALK TO STRANGERS Foundation with a bunch of help from his friends.  They call themselves a “social movement whose philosophy encourages and challenges individuals to create genuine relationships through meeting new people.”

The Foundation’s “initiatives,” – an impressive array of projects, programs and events organized in North America, Africa and Southeast Asia is detailed in the 2012 – 2017 Foundation Report. 

GROWING UP CONNECTED

I grew up in a miniscule place.  Molokai is the fifth largest island in the Hawaiian island chain.  It measures a mere 38 miles the long way and 10 miles across at its widest point.

A lot of the island is empty.  The people cluster in a few communities scattered here and there on the island.

When I was growing up, the population of the entire island stood at around a little over 5,000 folks.  Wikipedia says a “town” has anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 people.  Back then, according to this, the whole island of Molokai would have qualified as a small, very rural town.

molokai-shaka
“Molokai Shaka” by Samuel Apuna via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
For me, there were no “strangers,” only cousins and aunties and uncles I hadn’t met yet.  Even the grown-ups who weren’t officially related to me were “aunty” and “uncle.”  It was good manners and proper to notice people and to greet them and to “talk story.”

It was only later, when I got off that little rock, that I encountered the rule about not talking to strangers.

I got into all kinds of trouble for acting polite. (“What do you mean, I can’t talk to that guy on the street corner?  We see him every day.  He’s really nice, you know….)

conversation
“Conversation” by Sarah Herman via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I never did get the “don’t talk to strangers” thing right.  Maybe that was a good thing.

TALKING TO STRANGERS CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU

According to the smarty-pants who study such things, just noticing the folks around you and being noticed is a good thing.  (They can’t “prove” that yet, but there are strong indications, they say.)

In 2014, a study published by psychologists at the University of Michigan was one of the first to look specifically at neighborhood social cohesion and heart attacks (a fact of life for more than 700,000 Americans every year, it says here).

The study looked at all kinds of factors and the neighbor connection was just one correlation, but as researcher Eric Kim suggested, being friendly with neighbors has some pretty obvious benefits.

conversation
“Conversation” by Christine Vaufrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Neighbors who know each other tend to check in on one another.  They talk story and share health-related information.  They tend to watch out for each other.  Often friendly neighbors share resources as a matter of course.

conversation
“Conversation” by Lotus Johnson via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
More importantly, the casual hand-wave and friendly “Hi, how are you?” adds up to a feeling that somebody sees you and acknowledges that you are there.

Just the feeling that somebody’s got your back is worth the effort to be friendly, if you can.

Other studies since then have shown that people who talk to the other people around them rather than staying inside their own little bubble when they travel on public transportation or zoning out in a checkout line or hiding behind a book at a table for one, report that they enjoy their daily commutes, doing non-recreational shopping, and feeding their faces more.

conversation
“Conversation” by Bernard Laguerre via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The everyday nitnoy annoyances get less stressful when you’re all in it together, it seems.  If you can include and engage with familiar strangers (like the guy working the cash register, the barista serving up your fancy coffee fix, or even the person you see on the bus every day), there’s a warm fuzzy feeling that trails around after you all day long.

CAN TALKING TO STRANGERS MAKE YOU SMARTER?

Not only that, but all kinds of studies have shown that talking to strangers might even make you smarter.

It’s all based on a thing called the “confirmation bias.”

Every one of us tends to think the same thoughts over and over again.  We look for evidence that our thinking is “right.”

We also tend to hang with people who think the way we think, act the way we act, and so on.  It’s comfortable.  You don’t even have to go into spasms about it.

Strangers, on other hand, “think different.”  Often, that makes them annoying obstructions and challenges that you just want to ignore because they take you out of that comfortable space.

conversation
“Conversation”) by Mark Zastrow via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Sometimes, however, their different way of thinking may be just what you need to help you get past your own blind spots when you’re wrestling with a complex problem.  Sometimes strangers can present some other way of looking at a thing that helps you move forward on some project.

You do the same for them.  It isn’t a one-way street.

It could help you to think of strangers as exotic resources you can tap.  What do they see?  Why is it so different from your way of seeing?  Is there something in there that you can use?  Hmmm….

This could lead to exploratory journeys into parallel universes, you know.

Peace
“Peace” by Bart via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

WHAT IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW?

I have figured out, though, that a lot of people really do have a hard time just talking to people who are different.

Take a look at this YouTube video posted by The Atlantic magazine in 2016.  It is an episode of its If Our Bodies Could Talk series.

In it senior editor James Hamblin (who is apparently not so good at talking to strangers) tries out different techniques suggested by Kio Stark, author of WHEN STRANGERS MEET:  How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You.  Stark is really good at talking to strangers and she knows all kinds of ways to develop that skill.

The video was shot in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

The fact that talking to strangers is a skill is an important concept.  A skill can be learned.

It does take a bunch of practice stepping outside your comfort zone.  It also requires a certain recognition of other people’s boundaries as well as an acknowledgement of your own …..

Sure it looks funny at first.  You do get better at it.

TWO CAVEATS

Okay.   Now for an important message from your Inner Smarty-Pants….

First of all, if you’re going to get outside your comfort zone, you still have to pay attention to what your body, your head and your heart is telling you.  If a person or a situation gives you the shivers, do not, not, NOT ignore those feelings in the name of “open-mindedness.”

Whatever else, fear is always real.  You are feeling it and it is giving you a very important message.  Your fear is your early-warning-system and it deserves your attention.

The fear you feel may not even raise a blip on somebody else’s radar.  But, then, it’s not somebody else’s fear.

Get out of there and then when you can breathe again, check in with yourself and try to figure out what set off the alarms.  Was it something tangible, something that makes your backing away a sensible move?

If so, thank your fear and get on with your life.  If not, then take the fearful reaction as a signal that you need to slow down and take smaller steps towards your goal of being more open to experience.

Just ‘cause you’re trying to be more open-minded does not mean you want your brains to fall out nor do you want to fall into a vortex of new experiences that confuse you so much you can’t even think straight.

open-minded
“Open-minded” by Eddi van W via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Keep practicing as you can.  It’ll get you accustomed to testing and challenging yourself .  It will also re-set your fear monitor.

Of course, as with all these types of things, it’s always important to remember boundaries.

  • Don’t spark up a conversation with someone who’s not interested.
  • Don’t push it if people don’t reciprocate.
  • Be respectful of other people’s time and mindful of other people’s boundaries.

If you’re lucky, you might find someone else interested in sparking up a random little conversation as well.

conversation
“Conversation” by Michèle Chauffaux via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem….


not strangers

people with the same loves

are not strangers,

even if we’ve never met.

our worlds dance to rhythms

that mesh and climb, overflowing

into other spaces, other times

that we recognize when

we finally, at the last,

touch each other with our minds,

a hall of mirrors, each to each,

reflecting one another’s span,

refracting and expanding into many,

the penultimate one.

 

awww…that just sounds too esoteric,

makes it seem like angels flying.

 

Let’s get real:

Howzit, braddah?

How you, sistah?

What?  You like play?

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  “The Conversation” by David Schroeder via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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

 

 

Get Social....
THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

I don’t know.  Maybe I am misunderstanding this new-to-me concept of “business pivots.”

starting-on-the-pivot-line
“Starting On the Pivot Line??” by Pure Geekery via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

WHAT IS A “BUSINESS PIVOT?”

The business pivot was an idea that gained traction after Eric Reis’s book, “THE LEAN STARTUP:  How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business” hit the entrepreneurial bookshelves in 2011.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but the Lean Startup thing seems to start with the premise that it’s a good thing to cobble together a prototype of a half-baked idea that’s “new and different” and offer it up first and fast with the intention of getting the product, service or other offering to Good on the fly.  Hmmm….

Apparently, this methodology is supposed to be a less expensive and more efficient way to gather relevant feedback from potential customers and measure the specific tastes, desires, and purported wants and needs of early-adopter buyers and others who come after as you churn out assorted re-iterations of your product or whatever.

Walking this way, they say, you’ll be all set to tailor your product, service, or business model to meet your customers’ needs and fulfill their wishes better.

The “pivot” is a particular mindset that’s part and parcel of this Lean Startup thing.

You’re supposed to stand at the ready to tweak, twiddle, and change the components and structure of your infant business – the products you sell, how you sell them, the way you communicate with and serve your clients and customers, the way you use your resources, and so on and so forth — in order to capture more and more business.

Really, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  I’m just trying to figure out why it does not resonate with me.

IS IT A DANCE THING?

Maybe my problem with this whole pivot thing comes from my knowing dancers and martial artists who use another sort of pivot step.

That one is modeled in the following YouTube Jazz Dance video “How to Pivot Turn” (published in 2012 by Howcast).  In it, director and dance choreographer Liz Piccoli shows you how to do a pivot step.

(Note that the step Piccoli is showing is labeled as a “beginner jazz dance move.”)

Maybe I’m stuck because I’m having a hard time getting away from using this dance step as a metaphor for the “business pivot.”

It does seem to me that if doing business is a dance, then there’s got to be more to it than just doing the pivot this way and that until you get the walk “right” (according to your audience) even with the added body-English.

Doing the pivot step over and over and over looks like “twirling around.”  To me, it just seems like a good way to get dizzy.

Hmmm….

US CREATIVES DON’T DO IT LIKE THAT…OR DO WE?

Maybe my problem with the thing is the whole engineering-world, feature-creature taste of it all.  Frankly, getting feedback from assorted others as you’re building your vision sounds wrong-headed to me.

both-powered-by-the-breath-of-the-earth
“both powered by the breath of the earth” by byronv2 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Wanna-be Creatives have always been exhorted to “find your own voice.”  Expressing your own self and being “original” is supposed to be the end-all and be-all of the Creative gig.  “Authenticity” and being “genuine” is a basic tenet of Creator-hood, it seems to me.

As a Creative hopeful, you believe that the “meaning” of your work is all bound up in you – how you see and feel things and your own conclusions about why the World is as it is.

Your Job Number One is, basically, figuring out where you stand and why.  F’r real, it is confusing and frustrating work.  It’s all about slog, slog, slog, and wandering around in heavy fog.

Looking for feedback too early in your process is likely to keep you from finding your own voice.  (My own thought on it all is if you’re going to do all that hard work in the first place, what’s the point of speaking with anybody else’s voice?)

As you develop your own voice and your own vision, you’ll be moved to send out “reports” from that place that is unique to you.  This could result in any number of “products” – pictures, sculptures, pots, performances, books, poems, songs, Rube Goldberg-y inventions, whatever.

With them you are trying to reach out to everybody else, using whatever skillful means you’ve developed, to produce a body of work that allows others to see the world as you do.  Your purpose in all of that is to get them to buy into that vision you’re sharing.

(The deal is, if enough of these folks buy something you’ve made, you can keep on doing what you do.)

A FEEDBACK SOURCE

Of course, none of this necessarily means that your vision or your work will mobilize and move the world to do anything other than what it is already doing.

That’s when feedback comes in handy.  Asking for feedback from other folks and being open to suggestions can help you in a lot of different ways.

  • Maybe you’ll find venues to showcase your work because of a thing someone or other points out to you.
  • Maybe you’ll try different ways and means to refine how well your message connects with and influences other people, winning their support for your work.
  • Maybe you’ll find soulmates and partners in surprising places who help you expand your horizons.  You might even find your tribe.

tim-devlin-frontside-pivot
“tim devlin frontside pivot” by andrew hutchison via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Some things will work.  Others will not.  You’ll keep doing the things that work and maybe you’ll try other new things as well to get your work into the hands of your supporters.

Instead of pivoting willy-nilly, you’ll use the vision you’ve developed and ride herd on it as you test and try out other people’s suggestions that help it evolve.  You’ll use your vision to make sure that everything you do – your work and the marketing of it — aligns with the direction you are wanting to go.

That’s a good thing, don’t you think?  I do.

PIVOTS AS THE WAY BACK

I do think, however, that sometimes you as a Creative may find the pivot is useful for getting back to the vision and voice you’ve already developed.  When you have gone off-course, it may be the only way to get back to moving in the direction you want to go.

My own favorite example of a pivot of that kind is the one made by a long-distance solo sailing legend, Bernard Moitessier (1925 – 1994).   He was inducted into the Single-Handed Sailors’ Hall of Fame in 1988 for his life achievements, but he is most famous for not finishing a race.

In 1969, the British Sunday Times sponsored the first international Golden Globe yacht race.   The fastest single-hander sailor to complete a non-stop circumnavigation of the world stood to win £5,000 (the equivalent of £82,500 nowadays).

The Golden Globe trophy, also sponsored by the Sunday Times, would be awarded to the first solo circumnavigator to do the round-the-world voyage.

Notoriety, adulation, and fame was expected to follow in the wake of both of these awards.  Book deals, speaking engagements, endorsements, sponsorships and the rest were bound to follow.

Moitessier, who was already a sailing legend as well as a noted author, had planned his own world-circling voyage on his custom-built 39-foot steel ketch “Joshua” before the race was organized.

The timing of his around-the-world trip coincided with the newspaper-sponsored race which was apparently structured to automatically include all of the sailors who were attempting to sail single-handed around the world that year.

The sponsors of the race prevailed on Moitessier to participate in the race and he reluctantly agreed even though he made it clear that he felt that doing so was somehow compromising what he considered his special relationship with the sea.

Moitessier was on the last leg of his circumnavigating journey and many say he would have won the Golden Globe race as both first and fastest if he had finished his trip.  Instead, he changed his vessel’s course and continued sailing eastward.

He ended up completing a one-and-a-half circumnavigation of the world which took him around Cape Horn (again) and on to Tahiti.

It took him 301 days to complete the voyage.  In doing so, he broke the world record for the most miles sailed solo non-stop.

Meanwhile, another legendary yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, became the first winner of the Golden Globe race, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.   Sir Robin’s voyage took  a “stately” 312 days.

Moitessier wrote a note to the London Sunday Times when he turned away from winning the race.  He delivered the note by slingshot onto a passing ship.

In the note he said, “My intention is to continue the voyage, still nonstop, toward the Pacific Islands….I am continuing nonstop because I am happy at sea, and perhaps because I want to save my soul.”

His book, THE LONG WAY, chronicled his 301-day voyage.  It sold very well.

This YouTube video, uploaded in 2011 by GMGB68, features images taken by Moitessier himself during his nonstop solo voyage around the world.

Here’s a poem:


CIRCLES

I figured out something:

I move in circles like the sun because

I want to see everything there is to see.

Like a hunter in territory unfamiliar,

I move slowly, with caution,

Stopping, stooping, seeing the tracks

Of the wild beasts and other things,

Finding the paths they walk,

Following to where they lead me.

I glide softly through the bushes,

Stepping quietly, walking lightly.

 

I stop and listen to the sounds around me.

Let them touch me, let them flow.

My breath is deep; it fills my belly.

Calm I am, a part of the One.

I move with no thought, no expectations.

What am I stalking?

I don’t know.

There is something waiting for me

Out there, somewhere,

When I have traveled full circle,

Perhaps I shall see what it is.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Sunflower” by Mikael Hvidtfeldt Christen via Flickr [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.

Get Social....
DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  You’re busy, I’m busy, everybody’s busy.  In fact, it seems like everybody’s drowning in busy, busy, busy.

We bounce around doing this, handling that, rushing through our days, knocking off all of our bullets on that mile-long to-do list, steam-rolling through the obstacles, knocking off the challenges and so on and so forth.  Rolling, rolling, rolling ‘til we drop.

But, it’s good, right?  Yup, yup, yup!

Or…is it?

THE NEW DEFAULT

In this TEDxFurmanU talk, “The Busy Identity,” published in 2016, the presenter is Lexie Harvey, then a sophomore at Furman University.  Lexie tells us we need to take a rest.  We need to remember that we are human beings, she says, not human doings.

It got me thinking, this video.  It does, indeed, seem to be the new default for a lot of people.  It’s become a bit of a pissing contest, actually.  “My busy is bigger than your busy.  But, it’s all good…”  (Cue the big grin.)

That “human-Being vs human-Doing” thing has been around for a long time.  It’s a clever phrase that wanna-be wise guys toss around, looking all holier-than-thou.  Another pissing contest.  (Sigh!)

The thing is, humans are not one or the other.  We’re a bit more organic and a lot more integrated than that.  What we choose to Do affects how we Be and the how we Be often dictates what we choose to Do.

There doesn’t seem to be any way around it.

The very wisest of the wise guys and the smartest of the smart guys all agree:  you are (or you become) how you walk in the world.  As Henry David Thoreau pointed out, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

This irreverent and very silly BuzzFeed Video was published on YouTube in August, 2015.  It does seem to capture the essence of busy quite nicely:

The video was put together by the BuzzFeed Motion Picture video team.  As you probably know already, these guys are the awesome crew that puts together the daily posts on the BFMP’s flagship channel.

MAYBE “BUSY” IS THE NEW “LAZY”?

Sometimes I think the reason we have gotten so awfully good at doing ‘til we drop is mostly because busy is easy.

That’s right.  Think about it.

When your days are filled to the overflowing with that incredible To-Do List you’ve constructed that is way longer and much more varied than the ones any other two people you know are toting around, who has time or energy to even think about what it is you’re actually doing or who you are actually being?

The Real is, it’s not like our one True Self is sitting in some dark recess of our minds waiting to be “discovered.”

Getting still and doing interior explorations is a very useful and ultimately beneficial set of skills for all kinds of reasons, but reports from the guys who actually did that are sort of nebulous and unclear.

Most of them seem to end up advocating dumping Self in favor of connecting to the Oneness of it all or something like that.

If that’s what you want to do, that’s great, but if you’re a bit more concerned with trying to get to your own meaning and mana your own way, it might not be satisfactory for you.

The really cool thing about being human is that we can be lots and lots of different selves.

The best thing about that is if we’re not satisfied with the Self we happen to be doing at any given time, we can actually choose to grow into some other Self we like better.

male-b&w
“Male B&W” by Nuuna Nitely via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

There’s only one problem.  Growing and changing and transforming ourselves takes time.

As fitness guru Jillian Michaels points out, “Transformation is not five minutes from now, it’s a present activity.  In this moment you can make a different choice, and it’s these small choices and successes that build up over time to help cultivate a healthy self-image and self-esteem.”

beauty-of-time
“Beauty of Time” by Hartwig HKD via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Michaels is right.  It takes time to build a new body.  Every wise guy there ever was all say it takes time to build a new self.  It very often takes a lot of hard choices, all made one at a time.

Our “busy” may be just a convoluted, very tiring way to avoid making the changes we need to get to the life of meaning and mana we want.

GETTING TO NOT-BUSY

So what does it take to get to not-busy?

One of the simplest and best ways to get free from busy is a thing ordinary folks can understand and do quite handily.  It’s called “selectivity.”  Its other name is “making choices.”

It’s an old and simple truth:  Time is the ultimate resource.  Time is your life.  In fact, time is all that life is.

The price tag for whatever activity you are doing is time.  That means that for each thing you do, you are paying for it with your life.

time-goes
“Time Goes” by giulia gasparro via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The question then becomes:  Is it worth it?

I listened once to a conversation among a group of old friends – unconventional outliers all – as they shared story after story of their many and varied adventures.  Laughter and heartful moments piled up and we were all feeling well-pleased with each other.

Then one guy, in a pensive moment, said, “You know what I’d like?  I’d like to buy back all the time I was paid to work for someone else.  I wonder what I would have done with all that time.”

Another put in that he’d buy back the time he had wasted on frivolous distractions that have little meaning for him now.

A third said she would take back the years she had spent following a path someone else had set for her.

The evening ended with an explosion of laughter when another said, “But, guys, look at where we are now!  Hasn’t it been a great life?  If I ever get the chance, I know I’d do it all again!”

And I had to think, as I looked at this madcap crew of adventurers and makers and smarty-pants oddballs and quirky spirits, that every one of them had grown into a marvelous human of one sort or another by choosing again and again to follow their own hearts.

bliss-with-a-sunshine-eclipse-heart
“bliss with a sunshine eclipse heart: marco cochrane’s work, treasure island (2014)” by torbakhopper via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

DE-CLUTTERING YOUR TIME

Getting free of meaningless “busy” means cutting down and weeding out the extraneous stuff in order to focus time and energy on the people we love and the things we want to do.  Actually, it’s an advanced level of de-cluttering.

Instead of organizing your desk, your room, your house and the rest of your environment, using selectivity you can shovel all the detritus out of your time and your life-doings.  (Coincidentally all the other stuff tends to get re-organized too.)

shovel
“Shovel” by Tom Rydquist via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
All selectivity requires is noticing.  Take a look at what you are doing during your day.  (You may even want to start one more list.)

When you’ve got some breathing space, take a look at your list and choose one activity.  Think about it.  Then start asking yourself some questions.

The two most important ones are these:

  • What do you give to this thing you’re doing?
  • What does it give back?

Other things that might be worth asking are:

  • How does this activity feed you?
  • Does it help?
  • Is it inspiring?

Or:..

  • Does it stoke your fears?
  • Does it bring you down, distorting your worldview or negatively impacting your disposition?

Asking these questions, especially about the things that have become habits or routines, and revisiting the things you sort of take for granted, can help you see what your life is made of.

If you’re satisfied with the results that a particular activity brings into your life then, by all means, keep on doing it.  If not, maybe you want to send it to the recycling bin.

Sometimes as you remove one activity, you’ll notice that a whole chunk of related activities end up in the recycling bin as well.  That’s a bonus.

After a while of doing this you’ll notice that you’re starting to breathe easier.  You’ve got more time to do the things you’ve decided to keep.  Life gets more interesting and more fun.  You can enjoy yourself and savor the life you’ve built.

the-world-around-me
“The World Around Me” by Akhilesh Ravishankar [CC BY-ND 3.0 Unported]
Give it a shot.  What do you want to lose?

Here’s a poem:


DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

There’s a thing going ’round these days;

The Do-Bug is its name.

If you don’t watch out, it’ll get you too

And you’ll never be the same.

 

Your eyes get red from the strain

And tics make your face twitch.

Your ears are blocked by a roaring

And you start acting like a witch.

 

Your body moves in fits and starts

Your stomach will lurch and roll,

And your heart will shrink to a peanut

As it drains your innermost soul.

 

Your hands reach out like claws

That hold on to things real tight,

And your legs can’t keep still…

You want to run out of sight.

 

You hurry-scurry in a flurry,

Rushing here and there,

And you never stop to ask yourself

The how, the why, the where.

 

It attacks all your nerve endings.

It festers in your brain.

And as it progresses,

You frequently go insane.

 

Do this!  Do that!  Do the other!

Do it for this cause or for that!

Do it now or lose forever!

Why’d you do it, you dirty rat?

 

The Do-Bug latches onto you

And shakes your fundament,

Makes you think you’ll get to Heaven

And it’ll use you until you’re spent.

 

The cure is very simple.

There’s no need for pills or booze.

Just stop whatever you’re doing,

Let be, and take a snooze.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Hurry” by Christer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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

Get Social....
THAW THE FREEZE

THAW THE FREEZE

It’s famous…the Fight or Flight reaction dichotomy that happens  every time the adrenaline starts pumping through your system as you’re facing yet another new crisis or unfamiliar situation.

It’s a human thing.  I mean, look at us:  Bad eyes, really limited smelling ability, can’t hear well, small teeth, no claws, weak muscles, can’t run, bad at climbing, and on and on.  In a world of predators, we tend to be a lot wary.  We’ve got good reasons.

Depending on your own propensities, you may want to believe that you’ll stand firm and fight your way through whatever obstacles and challenges you must.

Courage and perseverance and never say die…all the full-blown, pump-’em-up motivational stuff plays in your mind as you keep on trucking on.  Forward, forward, always forward.  A valuable and viable option.

Or maybe you want to believe that you will be wily and smart enough to pull a dig and peel on outa there when the odds are overwhelmingly against you.

Retreat and you’ll live to fight another day.  You’ll be able to choose your battleground and marshal your resources more effectively.  Fall back, regroup, and try again.  Another valuable and viable option.

AND THEN THERE’S THE FREEZE

Then there’s the third reaction that doesn’t get quite as much show-time.  It’s called the Freeze.  Think deer in the middle of the road, caught in the headlights of an oncoming sixteen-wheeler.  Few people want to emulate the soon-to-be street pizza, but very often they do.

deer-in-the-headlights
“Deer In the Headlights” by Shena Tschofen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The Freeze arises from the fact that we think…a lot.  It’s another very human trait — the one, in fact, that has put us at the top of the food chain and made our species the biggest, baddest predators of all.

THE FREEZE HAS A FANCY NAME

The Freeze is such a prevalent behavior pattern that the smarty-pants scientists even have a name for its extreme form — “tropophobia.”  It’s a genuine, actual condition that can be extremely debilitating and cause all kinds of problems for you.

“Tropophobia,” it says here, is “the fear of moving or making changes.”  People who suffer from it don’t handle surprises well.  They suck at dancing with change.  Even minor changes can cause a complete breakdown.

Tropophobia can be triggered by things like moving to another country, state, city, or even another house in the same neighborhood.  Changing schools or jobs are major obstacles.  Relationships that are changing are excruciating for these folks.

Getting a different vehicle, changing doctors or insurance companies, having new neighbors move in next door, making small changes in set routines, changing your mind or entertaining a new idea….anything that’s different, anything “new and improved” can throw you into a tailspin when the Freeze is your default response.

This is not good.  It’s hard to do your dance when your head’s whirling around and around and you’re feeling dizzy and nauseous.

hurricane-season
“Hurricane Season” by jamelah e. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

ANATOMY OF THE FREEZE

To some extent, every one of us humans can get overwhelmed by changes that keep coming and coming.  Most of us develop work-arounds and strategies for it that allow us to keep on moving through the changes in outward circumstances or changes in our own feelings and internal landscapes.  Some of us just can’t.

One of the most common traits of people who are affected badly by the Freeze is extreme stubbornness.  Their “Yes-Book” is very small; their “No-Book,” very large.  Things are supposed to happen a certain way and no other way is going to work.  Rigidity is their middle name.

The general anxiety that happens when faced by any change gets blown up into major crisis proportions.  If the anxiety level gets too high a panic attack may set in.

Your heart beats faster and faster.  You have difficulty breathing.  Weakness, fainting, dizziness, tingling or numbness are common occurrences.  You start sweating a lot and may experience chest pains.  Extreme terror grabs you and you spin out.  ACK!

One cause for the condition that stands above the rest, according to the smart guys, is trauma.  Something happened to the sufferer that convinced them that moving made them a target somehow.

Any kind of movement that calls attention to their presence feels dangerous.  For them, it feels better to hide out in the bushes or behind masks rather than to risk an attack that might cause some kind of harm or suffering.

Just the possibility of future suffering or the repeat of suffering that previously occurred gets magnified so badly that they become unsettled and very wobbly.  Who wants to move when the ground under your feet is rocking and rolling and cracks are opening up in front of you?

cracked-earth
“Cracked Earth” by Gerry Thomasen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
An extreme need for consistency makes people who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder prone to getting driven into a frenzy by any change in daily routines.

Others may just be terrified for no real reason at all.  You don’t need a reason to be scared.  Sometimes you just are.

Hey…let’s face it.  Despite our current status as top dog of the world as we know it, humans are basically descended from a long line of brainy runners and cringing scaredy-cats.

The ones who were brave (and unlucky) didn’t survive long enough to HAVE descendants.  Freeze-genes are part of our DNA.

We honor the fearless ones mostly because the majority of us know that inside our own selves there is a terrified heart prone to a heck of a lot of trembling and moaning.

hikers-at-pilot-rock
“Hikers at Pilot Rock” by Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington [CC BY-2.0]

SO, HOW DO WE DEAL?

Therapy is one solution touted by the smart guys.  Cognitive-behavior therapy can be helpful.  This type of therapy changes the way you react to a feared stimulus by helping you sort through the options available to you when you are confronted with whatever scares you.

Often, by using these techniques, you can even get some insights into what causes you to freeze up like that.  You use your mind to calm your mind by developing routines and workarounds that help you cope with some feared change or other.

Things like shock or exposure therapy have also been used to treat tropophobia as well, but that just sounds like a refined sort of torture.  (The kid’s scared of the water?  Easy solution:  throw him into the middle of a deep pond.  Watch him drown.  End of problem.)

Medication’s another solution.  Specially designed anxiety medication and/or anti-depressants can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.  They can also help with the physical symptoms of panic attacks like difficulty in breathing.

However, the side-effects of the drugs can be gnarly and, for real, popping a pill every time you get scared just shoves the fear under the rug for a while.  You’re going to keep tripping over it…again and again and again.

Relaxation techniques, including the beginning stages of meditation and yoga, listening to music and various breathing exercises have been found to be very effective at alleviating anxiety and other symptoms.  Many people choose these as quick and easy methods for coping with various situations as well.

The problem with all of these methods, practices and techniques is that they are coping devices.  When you use them, you relieve and mitigate the assorted symptoms of the problem, but you are still stuck with the basic problem, which is your fear.

It sits there, a raging stream that cuts across your path and the dream you’re chasing is on the other side of the stream.  Treading water in the middle of the stream just doesn’t get you to the other side.

raging-river
“Raging River” by Szoki Adams via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

WHAT ELSE?

Marketing maven Seth Godin had an interesting take on this whole issue in his book, POKE THE BOX.    He points out that things are always moving and flowing.  He calls that flow “flux” and says that engineers can measure the flux of heat or molecular change by measuring movement.

One example he uses is putting an ice cube in a cup of hot tea.  The heat moves from the water into the ice.  The ice melts.  That’s flux.  That’s movement.

iced-tea
“Iced Tea” by EmberEyes via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The problem is that people often confuse the natural flux and movement of the evolving world around us with risk, and, for real, “risk” is just a state of mind.

The feeling of “risk” is the result when we put some value on a particular outcome.  We want that outcome very badly.  If we don’t get to that particular outcome then we feel we have lost something somehow.

Risk always involves winning and losing.  And risk always brings with it the possibility of failure.  Chances are, the more risks you take the more likely it will be that you will fail at some point.

If you’ve been trained to avoid failure, Godin says, you will be especially averse to taking risks.  Your wonderfully agile mind starts in, showing you all the ways this move or that move could lead to failure.  Not only that, the people around you, who probably don’t like change any more than you do, are likely to chime in as well.

You start getting anxious.  You’re going to lose, Lose,LOSE…oh, no!  So you don’t move.

Anxiety, according to Godin, is “experiencing failure in advance.”  Your mind is doing a ju-jitsu number on you, throwing you for a loop.

Godin likens the reactions of the risk-averse to acting like a rock in the middle of a flowing river.  He says, “People act as though flux – the movement of people or ideas or anything else that’s unpredictable – exposes us to risk and exposes us to failure.  The fearful try to avoid collisions so they avoid movement….”

He tells us, “Like a rock in a flowing river, you might be standing still, but given the movement around you, collisions are inevitable.”

He points out that a log floating down that same river is in the flow of movement and change, but that log is likely to experience a heck of a lot more calm around it when compared to that rock.  Moving with the flow it doesn’t get banged up so much by the floating debris and it can land in a pretty cool place eventually.

its-too-cold-to-jump-in
“It’s Too Cold To Jump In” by Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Godin’s solution to thawing the Freeze is this:  Flex with the flux.  Move.  You are more likely to get to somewhere else pretty much intact.

ANOTHER TAKE

This YouTube video, “Numbing Pain and Joy” presents an important concept:  when you numb pain (or discomfort or fear) you numb joy.

The video was published by KirstyTV, the You-Tube channel for internationally known motivational speaker Kirsty Spraggon whose main focus in her talks and as an interview talk-show host is vulnerability and working through the issues connected with being a bonafide, genuine human being.

Here’s a poem:


PAY ATTENTION

Pay attention!

This is SERIOUS!

Here you are lollygagging down this road

on your way to your Doom.

 

You are ignoring all the smarty-pants prophets.

They tell you how foolish it is to be

refusing to be ruled by inevitability,

refusing to heed their fingers pointing at your fate,

ignoring their gloomy and direful predictions of your predicament.

 

So what happens?

 

This road of yours takes a left.

then it takes a right…

an unexpected corner – OOPS!

pothole here, mud bog there,

mist and shadows,

caves and heights.

 

You move one more jot

along your meandering trail

going hither and yon along yet another cliff edge,

then down some rocky beach,

under the pretty trees,

totally unaware of that stupendous bunch of heavy coconuts

that just misses your head because

YOU stopped to watch some hyperactive orange-and-black butterfly

zigzag-zipping along through the zinnias.

 

Ya know…

This is not so bad.

 

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Glacier” by Douglas Scortegagna via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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

Get Social....
POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone.  We’re good there.  We know where we are.  We know what we’re supposed to do about it all.

the-bell-jar
The Bell Jar by melingo wagamama via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
There are two problems with hanging in the comfort-zone, however.  Life doesn’t often let us stay there, and we don’t grow as much there.

 

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

“Post-traumatic growth” is a term coined by Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, two of the pioneering experts on the subject.  They say PTG is the “positive change that occurs as a result of struggle with highly challenging life crises.”

In this YouTube video, History of Post Traumatic Growth, Calhoun tells a bit about how their concept of studying “growth through stress” developed.

The scientists and their teams interviewed people who had endured hardship. They wanted to know why some people grow after trauma and others don’t.   What they found surprised them.

Calhoun put together their findings in a 2006 book, HANDBOOK OF POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH: Research and Practice.

Just like the wise guys keep telling us, it seems suffering can help people transform in fundamental, positive ways.  The transformations in the people who were interviewed were more profound (and more common) than the researchers expected.

They tell us that there are five ways people can grow after a crisis:

  • Their relationships can strengthen.
  • They can discover new paths and purposes in life. Sometimes these are related to a particular survival mission.  Other times the crisis becomes the catalyst for a more general reconsideration of priorities.
  • Trauma allows them to find their inner strength.
  • Their spiritual life can deepen.
  • They can feel a renewed appreciation for life.

 

HUH?  HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

“Deliberate rumination,”  (spending lots of time trying to make sense out of painful experiences and reflecting on how these circumstances have changed you), the psychologists say, helps to foster post-traumatic growth.

Tedeschi and Calhoun use the metaphor of an earthquake to explain how we grow in the wake of crisis.  Just as a city has certain structure before major earthquake so too do we have fundamental beliefs about our lives and the world.  Trauma shatters those assumptions.

Out of the rubble comes the opportunity to rebuild.  In the aftermath of an earthquake, cities aim to erect buildings and infrastructure that are stronger and more resilient than what now lies in ruins.

Those who are able to rebuild psychologically, spiritually and otherwise after a crisis are better equipped to deal with future adversity, and they ultimately lead more meaningful lives.

windswept-coco-palm
“Windswept Tree” by ptross via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
As Anne M. Mulcahy, the former chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corp, once advised, “When you have that window of opportunity called a crisis, move as quickly as you can, get as much done as you can.  There’s a momentum for change that’s very compelling.”

 

WHAT PTG CAN MEAN FOR YOU

Personal coach-mentor Robin Amos Kahn gave a short talk about this phenomenon which was published in this YouTube video, Post-Traumatic  Growth by OwnTheRoom in 2014.  In it she shares her personal story of personal adversity and how she grew from it.

Own The Room is an organization of skillful communicators  based in New Jersey who provide leadership training and work with corporations around the world.  They say they help “empower high performance cultures that enable people to actually have fun while doing the best work of their lives.”

 

OKAY….HOW DO I DO IT?

The following collection of six life-hacks are take-aways from these guys and others who have continued to figure out how to use the findings on post-traumatic growth and their ramifications to help other people survive and thrive after a crisis.

windswept-trees-at-slope-point
“Windswept Trees at Slope Point” by Marcus Holland-Moritz [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The ideas for these life-hacks were iterated by psychologist Stephen Joseph in his book, WHAT DOESN’T KILL US:  The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth. 

I’ve thrown in asides from psychologist Fredrike Bannink whose book, POST TRAUMATIC SUCCESS:  Positive Psychology and Solution-Focused Strategies to Help Clients Survive and Thrive, was written for other psychologists working with trauma survivors.

(Stephen Joseph spent over 20 years working with survivors of trauma and is a professor at the University of Nottingham.  Fredrike Bannink, who among other things is the Mental Health Trainer for Doctors Without Borders, is an internationally known clinical psychologist based in Amsterdam.)

TAKE STOCK

  • Figure out where you are now.
  • Acknowledgement and validation are important, the guys in lab coats say.  You have to understand and accept the changes that have happened.  You have to cop  to the fact that you are smack-dab in the middle of it all
  • F’r real, your problems don’t need to be analyzed to death. They are there; they are in your face.  See them.  Know where you’re standing.  If you can just see the challenges, you can actually face them and maybe do something about them.
  • Focus on what already works – assess your strengths, competencies and resources:  How do you cope?  How do you keep your head above water?   Do more of that.  What have you got?  Use it.

VALUE CHANGE ITSELF

You know what the best thing about change is?  It is happening all the time.  If you’re stuck in suck, it helps to remember that old and hoary reminder:  “This, too, shall pass.”

Obstructions and adversity do not go on forever.  Mostly that’s ’cause we don’t last that long.  Also, we always have the option to choose to step out of the bog our own selves.

One way to do that is to try to get past looking at just the negatives of a situation.  Check out how things may have improved as well.  Even a small change for the better counts.  Count them all.

BUILD ON HOPE

  • Learn to be hopeful about the future, these guys tell you. Look for inspirational stories about people who have overcome similar obstacles and start looking at how you, your own self, still have a future, one that can be good anyhow.
  • Focus on your personal goals. Seeing yourself as you want to be is the key to personal growth.   What are your best hopes?
  • The scientists, seekers and practitioners all say building hope and optimism is very important for transcending whatever 2 x 4 has hit you upside the head.  They are the antidotes to the hopelessness and pessimism that keep you in the muck.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude. Yup.  Count your blessings.  They are on the other side of all the wo-wo-woes.

RE-AUTHORING

Re-write your own story.  You can do this literally by using expressive writing techniques to find new perspectives.  As Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “I am not what happened to me.  I am what I choose to become.”

So…tell the story about who you are choosing to become.  Make up your own happy endings.

After a while you’ll start to understand that it doesn’t matter who hurt you or what broke you down.  What is going to matter to you is who and what made you smile again and why.

NOTICE NEW GROWTH

  • Ask yourself: When have you felt better lately?
  • Put on your own lab coat and use “scaling questions” to assess your progress, motivations, hopes and confidence.  On a scale from 10 to 0, where would you say you are today?  How come it’s not lower?
  • Notice the progress you’ve made. Don’t discount them just because they’re teeny.  One step is still one step.
  • Call your shots – What will be the next signs of progress?
  • Celebrate success.

CONCRETE EXPRESSIONS

The scientists who study post-traumatic growth all say that if you can get through the painful process of dealing with trauma and change, you will get to the point when you will make something that is your very own unique expression of self.

It is worthwhile to remember, I think, that one old meaning of the word “suffering” is “to undergo.”  When you “suffer,” you are undergoing something.  What you’re doing is just all about going on through it.  You can choose to suffer over your suffering, or not.

Once you’ve made it to the other side, you’ll be able to make something, the guys in the lab coats say.  Maybe it’ll be a marvelous thing the world has never before seen.

 

windswept-tree-at-bow-fall
“Windswept Tree at Bow Falls, Banff, Alberta, Canada” by davebloggs007 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

FINAL THOUGHT

The poets, the artists, and the wise guys got there before the scientists again, I am thinking.

They know, those poets and artists.   Through all of the ouches and angst and all the confusion and chaos, there’s a golden thread that leads you back to your Highest Self.  And when you get there, oh…the thoughts you can think and the things you can do….

All this other stuff is about finding that thread.

 

golden-threads
“Golden Threads” by David Pilbrow via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Here’s a poem:


LOOKING FOR THE GOD THREAD

Looking for the God Thread…

Where the heck did it go?

It’s buried under all this other stuff.

Tangled up in all this blustering blow.

 

Looking for the God Thread…

Do you see a shiny fine gold wire

Wandering through this mass of

Fuzz-ball thoughts, messed-up desire?

 

Looking for the God Thread…

It’s in here, I know.

I’m picking through all these old bits,

Growling ’cause the going’s so slow.

 

Looking for the God Thread…

Where the heck can it be?

It’s all my fault!  I got distracted, a bit refracted,

Now that God Thread’s LOST somewhere in me.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Windswept” by Maciej via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....
POEM POWER

POEM POWER

Ever since people started talking to one another, they’ve explored the power of words.  The power of LOGOS (the Word) has been the fundamental foundation for building a religion, a culture, a movement, a life.

Words can move you.  Words can move other people.  That’s probably why everybody talks so much.

A MOST EFFECTIVE PUNISHMENT

Remember the Biblical Tower of Babel?  According to the story, the people on earth got together and decided to build this great tower that would reach into Heaven itself.  They figured they could be like little gods if they did that.

They were planning to invade and trespass into God-country.  The Big Guy got mad that they even dared to make that attempt.

tower-of-babel
“Tower of Babel” by ellenm1 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
So, how did the Dude punish them?  He made it so they began to speak in all kinds of different languages.  All of a sudden, there was a major obstacle to collaboration and cooperation.  You can’t work together if you don’t understand what the other person is saying.  The project was abandoned.

Of course, that also meant that folks had a harder time just living together peacefully, but that’s another story….

DISTILLING THE WORDS

Poems are an especially powerful form of word-use.  Poets distill their thoughts down to their essence, throwing away all the parts that interfere with their dance with the words.

Poems are like the essential oils of the Word World.  It takes an incredible number of rose petals to make an essential oil.  Imagine.  It takes 10,000 POUNDS of petals to make one pound of rose oil.  Each little 5mL bottle contains the essence of 105 pounds of petals.

a-rose
“a rose” by Hans Splinter via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Whew!

Have you ever tried opening one of those teeny bottles of essential rose oil?  Wow!  One sniff and your nose transports you into the best enclosed rose garden there ever was.

POEMS AS A BUSINESS TOOL

In this 2013 TEDxMarin video, “The Power of Poetry”, leadership coach and teacher Dale Biron, who combines poetry with martial arts, leadership, and life-strategy, in his speaking, coaching and workshop sessions for business conferences, organizational retreats and university classes, talks about how great poems are like powerful “apps” for the mind.

Biron says poems can be “good stories with the boring parts removed.”  He believes in the power of poems to get you to a life worth living.

POEMS IN MAXIMUM PRISON

Touring spoken word poet Phil Kaye has won many awards in his career so far.  He’s currently a co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression).  The Project, it says here, is “a national movement that celebrates youth self-expression through Spoken Word Poetry.”  They aspire to encourage young people to use Spoken Word Poetry as a tool “to explore and better understand their culture, their society, and ultimately themselves.”

When Kaye was still a student at Brown University, he participated in and eventually  became the coordinator for the college’s S.P.A.C.E. (Space in Prisons for the Arts and Creative Expression) prison initiative program.  The University students, unpaid volunteers all, offer a variety of weekly art workshops at the Rhode Island Adult Correction Institutions (ACI).  Phil did workshops about spoken poetry.

(S.P.A.C.E. also facilitates workshops in the Providence Center, a residential recovery service provider located on the campus of the ACI.)

Kaye developed a keen appreciation for the power of poems during the time he taught weekly poetry workshops in maximum-security prisons.  In this TEDxFoggy Bottom video, “Poetry in Maximum Security Prison,” he talks about that time in his life and how it has influenced his life-direction.

Kaye’s journey has led him to venues all over the world from the Lincoln Center in New York City to the Malthouse Theater in Melbourne Australia.  His work has been viewed online over five million times and has been featured in media outlets ranging from National Public Radio to Al Jazeera America and Upworthy.com.

In 2011, Kaye published a well-received book of his poetry, A LIGHT BULB SYMPHONY.

One of Kaye’s favorite life high-points was being asked to perform alongside His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama during the beloved teacher’s 80th birthday celebration at the 2015 Global Compassion Summit conference in Anaheim.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In my own life, poems have been my way to get back to clarity about a life-situation or about my own self.  Writing down and recording all the moving parts is like taking a step back from them so I can get a better handle on the whole mish-mash of chaos and confusion.

Sometimes, a hole opens up in the clouds and a light shines through.  Sometimes not.

clouds
“clouds” by Daniel Boyd via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
I keep working on it.  Sometimes I get a whole bunch of poems.  Sometimes nothing.

It’s all process….

Here’s a poem:


UNPLAYFUL WORDS

Nothing comes together.

This poem is not going well.

The words keep turning pale.

They fade, they float away.

They stumble around looking confused.

 

Hmmm.

 

I let loose my Sergeant Major

Who growls at these clueless bo-bo recruits.

They keep stacking themselves this way, that way.

They keep falling over, all in a heap.

A horrible mess.

 

These words have forgotten how to weave, it seems.

They’ve lost the knack of bending and turning themselves

Into a shapeliness that lightly dances.

All they’re doing now is tripping all over themselves,

Faltering and flailing wildly.

 

Maybe they’ve contracted some runical laxness…

A touch of lyrical amnesia, perhaps,

Or maybe some versical repression.

They are limp, they are flawed.

They are a bunch of lazy bums!

 

Maybe I’ve stumbled upon a stash of leftover bits —

Just coagulated lumps of airhead thoughts,

Neither highly expressive nor particularly rhymical.

A deadly dud-ness.

 

(Sigh!)

Ah well…maybe they just need to rest.

See ya later, guys.

I’m gone….

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “garden poem” by Julie Gibbons via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....
BE A MARTIAL ARTIST OF THE MIND

BE A MARTIAL ARTIST OF THE MIND

It seems to me that no matter how you walk, you are always going to be stumbling over other people’s concerns, other people’s desires, and other people’s understandings.

There is no getting around it:  The World is full of other people and every one of those guys have their own world-views and their own agendas.  They get in your way and you could spend a lot of time struggling with them…or not.

crowd
“Crowd” by James Cridland via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
One lifelong project for me has been putting together a bunch of strategies for dealing with other people.  These strategies were taken from my years of studying the thoughts in a mountain or two of business books and how-to manuals and scientific studies about the human mind as well as in the I Ching and more esoteric studies, and the musings from martial artist practitioners and from crazy wisdom masters.

My professional practice as a residential property manager has been a testing ground for these things and I’ve had many opportunities to try my hand at getting to pono, what Hawaiians call “balanced and righteous actions and behavior.”

I’ve worked hard at learning how to move through the travails of my (basically contentious) trade gracefully and learning how to be a proper go-between so that everyone involved can get where they want to go.

It’s been a fun exploration – often ARGH-making, and sometimes sublime.

for-rent-sign
“For Rent Sign by Mark Moz via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

ASKING, “HOW CAN I GET TO MINE?”

I’ve noticed that, very often, touted hacks for getting your own way tend to be war-like (where you bash other people out of your way, using the force of your persona to bull your way through) or manipulative (where you basically trick someone into doing what you want).

Either way of walking may get you the crown and let you be king (or queen) of the mountain, but then there’s the problem of being there all by yourself because nobody wants to hang with such a bully or trickster.

Some of my friends have gone that route.  They don’t seem very happy with it.

So, it seemed to me that it might be a better thing to become a martial artist of the mind instead – to understand and practice forms that are made up of many smaller moves that evoke certain responses from the other person which you can use to get to where you want to go.

It’s not about using force and strength.  It’s not about making tricky moves.  It’s about using your own mind’s balance, leverage, and focus to affect another person’s way of moving.

How do you get to that?

THE SEVEN HACKS

Over the years I’ve tried and discarded many so-called sure-fire techniques and tactics and distilled the ones that seemed to work every time into seven all-purpose hacks.  These strategies (with appropriate martial artist-type names) are as follows:

 

springtime-in-malibu
“Springtime in Malibu” by Pacheco via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
STILLNESS OF THE MOUNTAIN.  In this one, you become silent and you quietly observe.  You let the other person talk and you listen.

What do you see?  Does the other person’s point of view have validity?  Or is the other person wanting to do the waltz when you were thinking you were going to be doing the tango together?

Just taking the time to be still can bring a lot of things into view that perhaps your concentrated focus on your desired outcome has obscured.

You may be ignoring some big pothole because you have not looked down.  A boulder may be on its way to squishing you because you’re standing there and you haven’t looked up.

Other people may be seeing the things you’re ignoring.   Pay attention.


the-mirror-houses-of-laerdal
“The Mirror Houses of Laerdal” by Caruba via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
REFLECTION OF THE LAKE.  You can reflect back the other person’s concerns or resistance to your idea using his or her own language.  Tell them back what you think you are hearing and check that what you are hearing is what they are actually saying.

Ask them to clarify their point of view in a very non-aggressive way.  Listen.  Pay attention.


willow-silhouette
“Willow Silhouette” by mattharvey1 via Flickr [CC By-NC-ND 2.0]
SUPPLENESS OF THE WILLOW.  You can agree with another person’s demand in principle.  Say, “I suppose we could do that.  How would we handle this or that negative consequence, do you think?”

Perhaps the other person has not thought through the consequences of some move they are proposing.  Perhaps they are short-sighted.

Or, maybe, they’ve done their homework and might be able to point out workarounds that you can’t see.  Pay attention.


stone-lion-silk-ribbon
“Stone Lion, Silk Ribbon” by Can Pac Swire via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
THE STONE WRAPPED IN SILK.  You can calmly state solid fact (the stone) in as supportive a manner as possible:  “Are you aware that this is true?  What do we do about that?”  Listen.  Pay attention.


st-nectan-glen-waterfalls
“St. Nectan’s Glen Waterfall, Cornwall, UK” by ukgardenphotos via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
MOVING LIKE THE RIVER.  You can acknowledge a proposal you don’t want to accept and then invite the other person to think of another way to solve a problem you can see with it.

“Hmmm.  That’s an interesting idea, but I do not think it is the way I want to go.  Can you think of another way that we might be able to do this, that would meet your needs at least partway and help me meet mine?”


sky-with-clouds
“Sky With Clouds” by elycefeliz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
DISPERSING THE CLOUDS.  When you see that the other person is caught up in beliefs, assumptions and fears and has boxed himself (or herself) into a corner, you can acknowledge all of the perhaps-legitimate concerns and then ask what he or she might do if the perceived obstacles did NOT exist.

Use their concerns as a springboard for further movement.


fire
“Fire” by Brenna Cade via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
ACCEPTING THE FIRE.  Name the major sticking point for the other person, the one main thing that he or she cannot accept about your proposal.

If that thing is an absolutely important, non-negotiable issue with them and you are not able to deal with it in a way that would be equitable for your own self, then you will have to accept that you and this other person cannot dance together.

Say, “thank you.”  Walk away.


FINAL THOUGHTS

I have found that it’s important to remember that a lot of struggle results from your emotional investment in any one dance.  The thing is this, there are many ways of dancing and many, many other dances.

If you can step back from the emotions involved in working towards a desired outcome  and remember that it’s all just dancing, then it can make the whole thing a lot smoother.

Here’s a poem:


STUCK IN THE BOG

When you focus on the outside,

Bringing all your strength to bear

On some damnable situation or other,

You are stuck in a quagmire.

 

The more you struggle,

The more effort you expend,

The deeper you sink.

 

If you can be still,

Let your feet rise up,

And lie down on top of the sticky,

Maybe you can float to where

You can pull yourself out.

 

Think light.

Let go.

Float and reserve your strength

For when you can do something

To help yourself.

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  “Be As Mount Fuji…” by Timothy Takemoto via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)