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skills and tools for developing mastery and fostering creativity

PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

I’ve been noticing that much of the advice being bandied about by the guys trying to help us ordinary folks improve our dud-ly selves is to reach for innovation, to grab onto the Creativity Rocket and hang on for the sure-to-be-exciting but sometimes silly (and possibly dangerous) ride.

For example, vlogger John Spencer published this YouTube video in 2016 that tells us, “We Need a Bigger Definition of Creativity.”

Everyone who studies on these things will tell you that the world-in-all-its-glory is capable of extraordinary change.

Us humans, as the pushiest parts of this world and the ones most likely to move things around and tinker and build and re-purpose stuff, are all nascent agents of change, they tell us.

And they are right.

BUT, ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO BE A CHANGE-AGENT?

There’s just one problem with all that:  Change-agents are very often disruptive sorts.

They don’t mean to be.  They’re just exploring their own fascinations and pursuing their own obsessions.

However, they do tend to confuse and upset and irritate people who are just going along and getting by.  They rock the boats of the ones who are liking the way the world is already set up just the way it is.

Change-agents can be especially unpopular with people whose power is based on the world being how it is.

Change-agents are likely to be the guys who get ridiculed and vilified and stomped down by their peers and the others around them.

If their ideas are particularly change-making, change-agents are the ones who end up getting denounced from assorted pulpits and beat up by fearful mobs of folks or burned at the stake by the ones who don’t like the possibilities to which the new ideas point.

This may make you uneasy.

fear-of-the-dark
“Fear of the Dark” by stuart anthony via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
It is also why people who are inclined to be innovative are admonished that they do need to learn how to connect better with the people around them.

This helps them find other people for whom the fascination of where the next new idea will take them is exciting.

Being a change-agent is lot more fun when you hang out with others who are also looking to change the world…or who are at least willing to change their mind.

WHEN AN IDEA IS “AHEAD OF ITS TIME”

Ideas and ways of walking and doing things that are very much more “advanced” or just very different than what has gone before are likely to meet resistance of every kind.

Infant ideas that are “ahead of their time” often get killed off before they can turn into anything tangible.

Either the necessary supporting technology is not yet part of the agreed-upon consensus-world that the change-agents share with the other people around them or else the prevailing, existing mindsets just can’t take in (much less digest) these new baby ideas and squishes them flat.

When these very good change-inducing ideas get re-discovered by innovative sorts living in friendlier times, the things take off running, dragging the whole reluctant, resistant world along.

This happens in science and technology; in art, music, literature, theater, fashion, design, and the rest of the creative milieu; in the business and working world; and in the lifestyles of people who work on transforming themselves into something other than what they used to be.

The whole point of knowing this is that you can aim yourself at looking for the “ideas whose time is now, ideas that excite many other people in the world.

Perhaps one of those ideas will take you to the new places that will ring the world’s chimes.

so-it-begins
“So it begins” by Phototropy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

In 2002, physician and theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman (a free-thinker who has a tendency to confuse the heck out of a lot of his more mundane colleagues) figured out and developed a mind-map of the way real change works in the natural world.

Kauffman’s work was so esoteric and bound up in the evolutionary changes that occur in his unique mash-up, interdisciplinary world of biology, physics and astronomy that it had to be explained to us ordinary folks by science writer Steven Johnson in his 2010 book, WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM:  The Natural History of Innovation.

As Johnson explains, Kauffman discovered a theory that he called the “Adjacent Possible.”

Basically, what the thing says is that at any given moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only CERTAIN changes can actually happen.

What determines which changes CAN happen is the fact that other, supporting changes to a particular situation have already happened.

And then, if new changes happen because of the work the change-agent puts into making his or her new idea tangible and if others continue iterating and developing the idea, then other “adjacent possible” changes become available and so on.

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore these boundaries.  Each new combination ushers new combinations into the adjacent possible,” says Johnson.

Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open.

You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room you have not visited yet.  These four rooms contain what Kauffman calls “the adjacent possible.”

room-with-doors-2
“Room with Doors (2060-2)” by Brent Eckly [CC BY 2.0]
Okay.

So you open one of those four magic doors.

You stroll (or possibly sneak) into the new room that appears when you open that door and you notice that in that room there are three or more other new doors you can open.

room-with-doors
“Room with Doors (IMG_8881)” by David Bramhall [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Repeat the process and you come to another room with more doors.

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“Exploration” by Flavio Spugna [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Each of these doors is way the heck and gone across this very large room and each one of those doors leads to yet another brand-new room….and so on.

The mind-boggle is that you would not have been able to reach any of the possible brand-new rooms from your original starting point.

If you keep opening doors, who knows where you might end up?

urban-exploration
“Urban Exploration” by Patrick BAUDUIN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
One interesting riff on the way the world has been disrupted by all the ones who are busily exploring the adjacent possible was published by Heidrick and Struggles International.

The company says they are “a premier provider of senior level Executive Search, Culture Shaping and Leadership Consulting services.”  (The capitals are all theirs.)

The factoids they present in their video, “A Disrupted World,” are amazing.

This video is particularly interesting because it shows the mindset of one of the top headhunter companies in the world….a definite indication that exploring the adjacent possible is an especially valuable way of walking.

CHANGE HAPPENS STEP BY STEP

The thing to remember in all this door-opening and wandering around in the weird places you discover behind all those doors is that most real changes are a gradual process.

The thing just keeps trundling along:  If this happens, then that can happen.  When that happens, then this next thing becomes possible and can happen.

All you have to add is water – your blood, your sweat, and your tears.  (The changes you’d like to see probably doesn’t come with zippy high-velocity elevators and escalators.)

You can, of course, choose to step off a very high cliff, figuring that you’ll build wings on the way down.  After all, that looks like a great short-cut and you’re creative, right?  Sure….

gentle-journey
Gentle Journey” by Domy Kamsyah via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND]
I have to tell you, though, this is not a really good survival strategy — especially if you have the mechanical know-how of a toad and no floating workshop or friendly flying dragon or roc who will rescue you from your Stupid.

HACKING THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE STARTS AT THE THRESHOLD

Unlocking a new door and bravely going where nobody has gone before (and surviving to tell the tale) is tricky.  Ask any Trekkie.  They’ll tell ya.

continued-exploration
“Continued Exploration by skagitrenee via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Basically, you need to figure out ways to explore the edges of the possibilities that now surround you once you get the durned door open.

This can be as simple as changing the physical environment you work in, cultivating a specific kind of social network, or maintaining certain habits in the way you do your work or play your way.

From there you can develop the skills you’ll need to take you to the next level and beyond.

Be aware that you will probably have to shovel out manure and sort through mountains of “nope-doesn’t-work.”

Be aware that there are cliffs and thorns and probably hungry predators in this brave new world of yours.

In the middle of this process of exploring the adjacent possibles you encounter, you may have to re-think your expectations and aspirations and re-vamp your mind-maps yet again in the face of the “not-yet-possible” which is the shadow-side of all this playing around with possibility.

You might also find an utterly amazing adjacent possible that grabs you and everybody else around you by the throat.

As you get good at navigating through the adjacent possibles in your world, you may even figure out how to use those navigational skills to further your dream in more tangible ways.

Here are some cogent thoughts on that by engineer-turned-deep-thinker and skill-development coach Yazan Hijazi in his 2017 video, ‘Innovation vs Creativity Demystified.”

Hijazi explains the difference and the relationship between innovation and creativity beautifully.

Creativity, he says, is getting lots and lots of ideas.  Innovation is about making some of these ideas real and getting people to buy into them or adopt them.

Hijazi tells you innovation comes in two flavors: “incremental” and “disruptive.”  He explains what they are, what they do and what they are for.

In the video he explains how you can use these two types of innovation to explore the edges of the adjacent possibles that surround you (and how to survive and thrive while doing it).

THE DOING IS ALL THERE IS

One of my favorite books is A PATH OF MASTERY:  Lessons on Wing Chun and Life from Sifu Francis Fong by Jim Brault.

In it, Brault reminds us, “In nature growth is gradual.  It takes time, it can’t be forced.”

He asks, “Why are you in such a hurry anyway.  Don’t worry if it takes a long time to learn.  The longer it takes to learn, the longer it will stay with you.”

When you’re playing around with possibilities, it’s good to remember that you have to be able to take action, to do things.   More importantly, you need to learn what to do and what not to do and when.

Learning about how you can do what you want to do is what gets you through that magical room you’re facing and how you get to the next door.

A VISION OF WONDER

This next video, published by The Culture Marketing Council in 2015, is a treat.  It features film-maker, public speaker and television personality Jason Silva, who The Atlantic dubbed “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age.”  Enjoy!

Here’s a poem:


LEVELS

It seems to me always

That there are levels

And levels and levels.

And when you’ve slogged

Your way to the top of one,

And mastered every step along the way,

You find that you are standing

On the threshold of yet another

That beckons you to enter into

Other wonders, other nows.

 

Sometimes you stand there

At this next gateway and sigh,

Knowing that again here is the choice:

You can stay where you are

And be a master, strong and whole,

The one on whom others depend,

Or you can step across the line

And lose it all, become an egg,

A useless chick, fresh-hatched,

Peeping and cheeping potentiality.

 

And that next step

Is the hardest one to take.

It’s not easy, sloughing off

The tried, the true.

And it’s a painfulness to lose

The you that you have made,

An impregnable mountain tower,

High above the world,

A beacon shining, beckoning,

And leading the way.

 

It’s through the birth canal again you go,

So it’s no wonder if you take it kind of slow.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Exploration” by Riccardo Cuppini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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CHOOSE YOUR DELUSION WELL (Another IPS)

CHOOSE YOUR DELUSION WELL (Another IPS)

Yeah, I know.  It’s what I tell myself all of the time, echoing the I Ching and assorted other wise guys and smarty-pants, ancient and new:  The goal is getting to clarity.

Right.

The problem with that one, of course, is that I’m such a little thing and the Universe is really, REALLY huge.

What are the odds that I’m ever really going to be able to know enough to make sense out of it all?

How likely is it that I’ll be the know-it-all who can suss out the Whopper Mystery and the All of Everything – even with the help of all these electronic devices and beaucoup-pile of databases and stacks of books and that?

Uh….hmmm….

IT’S A DILEMMA, ALL RIGHT.

As far as I can tell there are just two basic stances you can take when you start dancing your Tao Dance.   There are ongoing, long-standing arguments for either one.

  1. Everybody and everything is against you and they’re all out to get you.
  2. The world all around you is conspiring to do you good.

The first stance is so old it has an established name.  It’s called “paranoia.”

paranoia
“Paranoia” by katie weilbacher via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Google will tell you that “paranoia” is a noun that means, “a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system.”

The entry warns that this “may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.”

The second one has a made-up name that’s slowly making its way into dictionaries and such: “pronoia.”

little-hand
“Little hand” by ePi.Longo via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Wikipedia credits a psychologist, Dr. Fred H. Goldner of Queens College in New York City, as the probable official coiner of the name.  The good doctor wrote an article in 1982 that was published in the academic journal Social Problems. 

That article, titled “Pronoia,” detailed a phenomenon that is the positive mirror-image of the more established social delusion we call paranoia.

Goldner said that there are those among us who take the social complexity and ambiguity we encounter in the modern world and rearrange the events and circumstances that we all encounter in our lives into a story of support, connection, and well-wishing.

They carry this story with them and the actions that arise out of it are very different than the ones engendered by the paranoia paradigm.

The ideas in Goldner’s article resonated (and continues to resonate) with a lot of people.

Just six years later, in 1988, author Paulo Coelho came out with a novel, THE ALCHEMIST.  In it the protagonist, a young Andalusian shepherd boy, dreams about traveling in search of an extravagant worldly treasure that will fulfill his every wish.

From his home in Spain, Santiago journeys to the markets of Tangier and across the Egyptian desert and has a bunch of adventures before encountering an old, wise man called “the Alchemist.”

The wise old magic guy encourages the boy on his quest telling the boy, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 

And so Santiago goes on.

Thirty years later, the book is still going strong.

This YouTube video, “Paulo Coelho on Luck, Coincidence and Faith” was published in   2008 by HarperOne (an imprint of HarperCollins) to celebrate the book as a “modern classic.”

At the time, 22 million copies of the book – two million of which were in English — had been sold worldwide.

Nine years later, in 2017, Jubilee published the next YouTube video entitled, “How the Universe Is On Your Side” as part of their Patreon campaign called Dear Humanity.

The idea continues to gain ground, it seems.

MY OWN THINKING

All of this stuff got me thinking about how each of these two seemingly opposing and (equally delusional) systems of thought-constructs might affect the way you walk through the world.

Which point of view colors your days with rainbows and fills it with bouquets of sweet-smelling flowers?

Which one peoples your world with smiles and laughter and kindness all around?

Which filter would be likely to lead you to view the world with brighter eyes and more joy?

We humans are lucky.  We get to choose the glasses we want to wear.  It is, more than anything else, our birthright – just because we’re human.

In my perambulations through the multi-versal Internet, I ran across yet another YouTube video, just published in 2018 by EntertainHumorousVlooper.  It’s called, “When You Want Something All the Universe Conspires in Helping You Achieve It.

So that’s why I came up with this thing:

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an increasing tendency towards radical trust in the Universe.  [It’s a cool thing to feel that there’s a conspiracy afoot to enhance your well-being.  Hawaiians say, “Akua take care.”]

Here’s a poem:


PUNAHELE

 

Punahele, a precious child of the heart…

That’s me, a favored child of the Universe.

(You are one too.)

We are made of the same stuff as

Rainbows and stars and mighty butterfly wings.

For us, the all-there-is

Opens its arms in welcome,

An invitation to dance

In the abundance that is the Universe.

 

Come on…

We can go

Stomping in all the mud puddles

Down some long dirt road…

We can lie quiet on some hillside

Watching the clouds roll by

In a stately dance. 

We can ride the biggest wave,

Fly so high, delve so deep

That we break into another space

That’s every bit as fine as this one.

 

We can turn our hands

To all the tasks the world requires

And at the end of a long day,

We can rest in the peace

That settles over us,

The peace that comes from Done.

 

We can hug and love and fool around all warm,

Holding hands, all of us together

As we walk each other home.

We can brave the deepest shadows,

Spending our light on

Helping each other see the

Sparkles hidden in the deepest depths,

Clambering over crystals grown

Bigger than the oldest trees.

 

We are punahele,

And all of this…

ALL of this

Is our birthright.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Half the Trouble’s In the Asking,” by Thomas Hawk 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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SET UP YOUR OWN RULES

SET UP YOUR OWN RULES

I am fascinated by rules.  I haven’t run across a rule yet that doesn’t make sense or have some relevance in a particular circumstance or situation.

Rules are always relative.  They depend on who you are, where you are, what you are doing, and how you want to do it.

Rules are, I think, a fundamental part of every structure, every process, every game, and every lifestyle.  Humans have used the power of rules to build religions and construct philosophies and organize sciences.

If you set them up right, rules are a way for you to just do it – whatever it is – without having to re-think every step every time.

Ideally, you should be able to use your rules to remind yourself of the choices you’ve already made so that every time you come to a crossroads the direction you’re going to take has already been predetermined.

rules
“Rules” by Marcin Wichary via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Rules are a kind of shorthand for all the choices you’ve made among the various ways you can (or want) to act when you interact with the world around you.

The biggest benefit to you in having well-defined set of rules connected to a variety of situations is that you don’t have to waste brain power trying to decide which way to go whenever you come across something you’ve done before.

You don’t have to power up your brain neurons.  They’ve been there; they’ve done that.  All you have to do is go.

Look all around you and all you see are rules, rules, and more rules.

Ancient wisdom guys just pile on the rules, assuring us that following this or that set of rules will get us to a good place.  (They know this works, they say, because of all the precedents and traditions and stuff which are just other names for rules.)

The guys in the lab coats will all tell you that making up rules are how us humans make sense of this very confusing world.

If we didn’t make up rules for ourselves — belt ourselves up and box ourselves in — we’d be so overwhelmed by all the incoming data from the world around us that we’d just stand there paralyzed and unable to move.

We are hard-wired to cringe away from uncertainty.  The chance that our very next step is likely to pitch us off a cliff or into some very toothy predator-mouth makes us want some guidelines, some maps…something or somebody telling us what to do.

follow-my-leader
“Follow My Leader” via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
It’s an important survival trait for us humans.

Whether any of the rules we adopt as our own are effective or not will often depend on the people around us (also known as Society or Family or Friends) and how well their sets of rules mesh or interact with our own.

A LEGACY OF RULE-MONGERING

My fascination with rules does not mean that I’m going to follow every durned rule I encounter.  It just means I like looking at them, deconstructing them, seeing the why behind them and watching where following them takes you.

I think this is probably a legacy from my Grandma, the Rebel-Without-A-Pause, who raised me.

It is ironic in a way.

The woman was a force of nature who did what she wanted when she wanted and how she wanted.  There was not a rule made she could not dismantle by using some other rule as a lever.

She was an impossible woman and I loved her dearly.

our-get-along-shirt
“Our Get-Along Shirt” by James H. via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
For me, growing up, she was The Rule Factory.  Mama had more rules on tap than anybody else I knew.  I was the wild child she tried to impose them on.

Her ground rules were very simple.  There were only two.

  1. Stay safe.
  2. Do no harm.

From that foundation flowed an incredible variety and array of rules and sub-rules and precepts and corollaries and such that could make your head spin if you actually stopped to consider them.

Living and dealing with Mama and her rule-making propensities taught me one very important lesson:  In any game, if you set up the rules, you can always win.

THE THING ABOUT RULES

For most people, their life-rules are just a given.  These rules are subconscious — unexamined bits of an assortment of hints and allegations, life-hacks and commandments — often imposed on us (when we are way too young to defend ourselves) by the people around us.

Somebody or other once pointed out that most people live from rules and standards and expectations they received before they were six years old.

These rules are rarely systematic and are often contradictory with little built-in flexibility.    Sometimes these rules can be self-sabotaging and self-defeating.  Sometimes they can be positively toxic.

(Hey, when you’re little, what do YOU know?  Everybody knows better than you, right?)

There’s an old Jesuit maxim that goes, “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.”

follow-me
“Follow Me” by Lestexian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
This saying is widely attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian who founded the Jesuit religious order.

Saint Iggy lived from 1491 to 1556, but the idea that by the time a child is seven he or she has been loaded up with all the rules and such that will pretty much determine how that individual will behave and react to the world is an ancient concept.

Everybody you will ever meet carries around a whole backpack of rules – ideas of how the world works that determine and dictate how they (and you) are supposed to act and how they (and you) are supposed to feel as you make your way through the world.

Few people recognize what most of the rules they live by are.

They hardly remember that many of these hard and fast rules are actually ideas and constructs imposed on them by other people.

They probably don’t even notice whether these rules support or prevent them from experiencing emotions they consider most important or living the life they want to live.

Often, because they don’t even know the rules they are living, these people will do things that are detrimental to how they say they want to be walking.

Even if they are feeling the need to change the way they do things, they keep making the same old moves that they’ve already found to be ineffective over and over again.

After all, they tell themselves, this is the way the world is supposed to be, right?  Acting this way and not that is supposed to work, right?  So, why isn’t it working?

living-in-a-box
“Living in a Box” by cristian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Good questions, huh?

SO, WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

If you feel life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for you, maybe those rules you are following are like a badly fitted pair of shoes.  They may be excellent, high-quality shoes, but they just aren’t right for your feet.

Let’s parse it out….

  • Let’s say the life-rules you are currently following arise from other people’s ways of seeing the world.
  • Now let’s say that the way you see the world is not the same as those other people’s perspectives.
  • Okay, now think about it: How likely is it that all of these rules you were gifted with or that you inherited are going to be the ones that will get you to where you are doing what you most want to do?

Hmmm.

FINDING THE RULES THAT FIT

Maybe it’s time to go take a look at all those rules you’ve been following (probably from early childhood) that have not worked for you.

I do have to issue one caveat:  Nobody else is going to be able to do this part for you.  It’s your rules, after all, just as the stupid shoes that gives you blisters and bunions are your shoes.

A shoe salesman can make suggestions, but you’re the one who puts on those things and checks out how they feel on your feet.  You’re the one who decides whether they look good on you.

shoe-store-in-trinidad
“Shoe Store in Trinidad” by Bud Ellison via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Also, be aware that this rule-finding expedition is an exploratory process that won’t get solved by taking a 15-minute quiz.

You didn’t grow your rules in a day, and there’s probably a whole pile of them in there, all gnarly and tangled-up in a mass.

[Look at that.  Even making your own rules has rules!]

It’ll probably help if you set up a notebook and grab something to write with when you’re doing this.

That way you’ll notice when you start repeating yourself and when you get stuck in yet another tangle of thoughts.

First, just notice the rules you are following.  Look for the default set of actions you take in certain situations.

When you’ve got a pile of them stacked up, start asking yourself why you do this and not that.  Try to find the underlying reasoning behind your actions.

When you start finding a common theme running through several sets of default actions that you take without thinking very much about it, you’ve probably discovered one of your hidden rules.

  1. Do you like how following this rule make you feel?
  2. Are the actions that you take as a result of following this rule congruent with the values and principles that you hold most dear?
  3. Do the results you get from following this rule make you feel good about yourself and the world?
  4. Do you like the places that following this rule are taking you?
  5. Are you satisfied with the life you live when you follow this rule?

If you answer “yes” to these questions about a rule, then the rule that you found is keeper.

If the answer is “no” to each of these questions, dump the rule.  Look for alternative options.

If the answer is, “it depends,” then you have probably found that the rule you are following is layered and nuanced and you’ll need to dig deeper to ferret out all the whys and wherefores for each of the connected pragmatic moves.  It’s a sign that you haven’t reached down to your layer of ground rules yet.

Keep on running each new rule discovery through this process – dump, keep, dump, dump, keep.

Eventually you’ll start to see the shape of the rules that work for you.  You will begin to refine the collection of the ground rules that you want to govern your actions and your life.

explored
“Explored” by Ahladini Alapati via Flickr [CC-NC 2.0]
The funny thing about all this is that as you focus on what works for you and what does not, the process will start to snowball.

You won’t even have to worry about making new rules.  They’ll just show up all on their own without fail.  (Remember my Grandma, the Rule Factory?  Rules are really easy to make up.)

more-rules-for-the-teacher
“More Rules for the Teacher” via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
When these new rules arrive, you’ll be better able to decide whether the newbies might be an effective way for you to move.

Then it’s back to asking the questions and dump, dump, dump, keep, dump, and so on.  After a while it gets to be automatic.

When other people suggest rules to add to your pile, you can just run them through this process and decide for yourself whether the proposed rule would work for you and not against you.

Lori Deschene has an excellent blog about the rules she has developed for her own life walk that she first wrote published in 2009.

Click this button and you can enjoy her thoughts on the subject.  (I agree with them wholeheartedly.)  click-here

FINAL TAKE

This YouTube video, “In Unorganized Baseball Games, Kids Play By Their Own Rules” was a “Sunday Closer” published by TODAY.com in 2017.  It’s a lovely reminder of one of the greatest benefits of playing by your own rules.

Here’s a poem:

__________

RULES FOR ASKING

Ask and it shall be given,

Seek and ye shall find.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Just manifest what’s in your mind.

 

Yeah, right.

Except….

 

When you ask Dad for the keys to the Universe,

It’s good if you already know how to drive.

You have to really mean it, really want it,

‘Cause the old guy just won’t take your shuck and jive.

 

The asking has to be wholehearted,

And the granting of your wish comes at a cost.

Before you ask, be sure you know the price tag.

Is the treasure gained worth the asset lost?

 

You cannot ask for something that’s not righteous,

For something that will harm some other one.

If you’ve given all your heart for a falseness,

Then the Real will eat you up just for fun.

 

Making ultimatums and Or-Elses,

Trying to dictate how and what will be,

You’ll be all misaligned and nothing you will find,

For you guarantee your hands will come up empty.

 

Your arrogance will boomerang back on you

As you watch your dreams evaporate and die.

Without humility, your wants will never be

And every path you take end in a lie.

 

So…

If you really want to see your heart’s desire,

Be kind and stand upright and true.

Talk softly from the heart, and really mean it,

And maybe the Real will listen to you.

by Netta Kanoho

___________

Header photo credit:  “Anne’s Boots Rock” by Mike Baird via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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EMILY FISCHER: Work By Touch

EMILY FISCHER: Work By Touch

I have a fondness for quilting.

My own experiments in crazy-quilting and then sashiko quilting had me going blind doing fancy-stitching with wild and crazy colors and patterns as well as tactile combinations of bumps and lumps that were a heck of a lot of fun for me and for the heart-friends to whom I gifted these bits of silliness.

one-day-quilt
“One Day Quilt” by Rachel via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That may be why this YouTube video, “Constellation Quilt,” (published in 2013 by Public Record) showing work by designer Emily Fischer and her design studio Haptic Lab caught my eye.

The idea, expressed in the video, of wrapping yourself up in stars and time caught at the strings of my imagination.

Then I saw another YouTube video, “Flying Martha Ornithopter.”  This one was published in 2017 by Made Me Look.  It, too, was about an object designed by Emily Fischer and Haptic Lab.

OOH!

Like Fischer, I understand that kites, winged things and even flapping flags can help us humans explore the movements and flow of the invisible forces of wind.  They can help us tap into the tactile joys of flight.

KINDRED SPIRIT FOUND

It seems to me that I have found another person for whom tactile and sensory design – how a thing feels in your hand and on your skin – is as important as what the thing looks like.

Even more importantly (for me anyway), here is a person for whom objects are repositories for the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.

Among the objects Haptic Lab produces are extraordinarily detailed street maps that they call SoftMaps that can be customized and personalized for individual customers to show where their stories have taken place.

haptic-lab-san-francisco-map-blanket
Haptic Lab San Francisco map blanket by Eric Fischer via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
It seems to me that designers like that are a rarity.

BEGINNINGS OF A COMPANY WITH A HUMAN TOUCH

Emily Fischer grew up in rural Wisconsin where she learned how to make such things as quilts and kites as a youngster.  Even as an architect-wannabe, her crafty beginnings continued to find expression.

As an undergraduate student at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in 2002, one of her projects was her first quilted map that she designed as a way-finding tool for the visually impaired.

The inspiration for the project was her mother Peggy who had begun to lose her eyesight through complications from glaucoma.

For these quilts, Emily combined her skill with computer-aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM) rapid prototyping tools, and open-source mapping software as well as her grounding in the old-school, painstaking craft traditions of quilting and needlework with her explorations of haptics (the way humans perceive objects and sensations through touch).

For years, she continued to make these quilts as side-projects while pursuing her career as an architect in New York City.

In 2009, during the extreme depths of the recession, Fischer was laid off from her job at a commercial architectural firm.

One of the first things she did was build a simple website with images of her experimental personal work that included objects exploring her interests in cartography and early flight.

About that time she says: “Almost immediately, design blogs like Cool Hunting started publishing images of my handmade quilts and kites. I was commissioned to construct a kite for an Opening Ceremony video directed by Matt Wolf. I got a message from ID Magazine (RIP). Then the Los Angeles Times. Then the New York Times. Suddenly everyone wanted to buy the quilted maps I was making. So within three weeks of losing my job, I accidentally started my own company.

And so it began.

Fischer operates her accidental company, Haptics Lab, out of a Brooklyn studio with a small, close-knit team.  The company is grounded in values that emphasize fair trade and sustainability.

For thoughts and insights Emily shared in a 2015 article for Design Sponge, “Ten Ways to Bootstrap a Sustainable Business:  How I was able to meet expectations, make a living and not overwhelm myself and others while also respecting fair-trade practices,” click here: click-here

It is an extraordinarily useful compendium of advice from one who has gone down the road a ways on a path that she says makes her happy.

FINAL FISCHER THOUGHTS

This YouTube “How the Founder of Haptic Lab Uses Design to Drive Positive Change” was created by Skiftx contents studio in 2017.

Here’s a poem:


AT THE CROSSROADS

Another crossroads….

 

Do I go straight ahead?

Do I turn left?

Do I turn right?

Do I go back?

 

Standing flatfooted in the middle

Sucks.

Keep standing there and

You’re likely to get run over

By some unheeding vehicle

That keeps on trundling along.

 

The roads in front spread outward

Leading to who-knows-where.

They stretch on to infinity, you know.

And “back” just means more same-old.

 

And here I am,

With my raw and bleeding heart

Pulling me towards

The one road that is so bright and shiny

That it takes my breath away.

 

The caution signs posted

Along that road are intimidating.

They threaten.

They shout.

They jump up and down, even.

 

Loss and devastation, they declaim.

Doom-and-gloom, they promise.

Desperation and despair.

Ah, me….

Watch out!

Beware!

 

Hmmm….

 

Aw, the heck with it, babe!

Shoots!

We go!

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Touching the World” by Joe Szilagyi via Flickr [CC BY-SA 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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UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

Back in the ‘70’s I ran across a small book of distilled teachings taken from talks given by Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki, ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND.

There was this quote in it:

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

It spoke to me, that quote, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to unpack the thing.

I’ll probably do other posts about Beginner Mind, so all I’ll say about it right now is that Beginner Mind is an ancient wisdom teaching that helps you develop what educator Barbara Oakley dubbed a “growth mindset.”

This way of thinking keeps you from locking into fixating on the same-old “shoulds” and “musts” and “that’s-the-way-it-is” that all of us humans tend to create as we experience life.

Beginner Mind is expansive.  It’s not cluttered up by a lot of specious assumptions, expectations and preconceptions.

miksang-level-2-space
“miksang level 2 – space” by V via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
A gear-head analogy for Beginner Mind would be something like attaching a satellite dish to some receptor or other and having access to a whole bunch of channels.

Martial artists wax poetic about standing receptive to whatever comes at them when they talk about Beginner Mind.

Whatever.  Beginner Mind is a very cool tool to have in your Life Toolbox.

That’s been my take on Beginner Mind for a while now.

It may be why the YouTube video, “Nurturing a Beginner’s Mind,” that I’ll be sharing with you towards the end of this post caught my attention.

The video is a production of INKtalk, an off-shoot of the TEDtalk phenomenon.  INKtalk is organized by Lakshmi Pratury, who put together the first TEDIndia talks in Myosore in 2009.

(The reason the video’s at the end of this post is mostly because it introduced me to some other fascinating side-trails that I think are also worth exploring.  Come take a look!)

TALKING ABOUT INK

The video I’m going to share with you (after a bit of dancing around) is an INKtalk published on YouTube in 2013.

It is one of a series of talks that have happened during the annual conferences, mini-conferences and salons coordinated and produced by INK, self-described as “India’s foremost platform for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas and inspiring stories.”

Click here for more information about INK and the talks:

click-here

Pratury wants the world to see INK as “a curator of contemporary oral history.”

The organization, she says, searches the world looking for people with stories and missions that center around innovative solutions for the broad scale problems that plague young economies, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The stories they have gathered together are about innovative, world-changing ideas that address problems in recurring societal issues like education, governance, energy, health, poverty, and infrastructure.

The stories make for very interesting reading.  Check them out.

ANOTHER WAY OF SCHOOLING

In the upcoming INKtalk video, Saba Ghole, a former architectural urban designer who became an education and technology entrepreneur, talks about the work she and the members of her team do at the NuVu Studio at Cambridge University.

Ghole is one of the co-founders of the NuVu Studio, which was a brainchild of fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus Saeed Arida.

As part of his Ph.D. dissertation while at MIT, Arida explored the concept of a learning place modeled on the apprenticeship and project-based learning and hands-on problem-solving that is characteristic of an architectural studio.

Before he graduated, Arida implemented an on-campus pilot program at the Beaver Day Country School in Brookline.  This pilot was so successful that it led to an even larger project.

Arida collaborated with Ghole and another fellow MIT student David Wang, an engineer  and technology enthusiast, to launch NuVu Studio in 2010.

Wang collects degrees, it seems.  He’s got them in aeronautics, astronautics, electrical engineering and computer science.

beginning
Photo credit: “Beginning” by Aftab Uzzaman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The three friends have a penchant for collaboration and they continue to gather people together so they can help other Makers build cool stuff.

NuVu Studio has become an amazing “innovation studio” that is an alternative full-time, trimester-length schooling experience for middle and high school students — baby Makers who want to learn how to grow their spirit of innovation and to experience hands-on, real-world problem-solving of the finest kind.

More than 3,000 students – mostly from the local schools in the Boston area — have gone through the program since it began.

It is a far cry from your regular school experience, as this short video, “What is NuVu,” published by HarvardX in 2017 illustrates:

Capitalizing on the immense resources of MIT and Harvard University, the Studio facilitates the participation of the students in multi-disciplinary collaborations with Studio-trained “coaches” who are themselves architects, engineers, or experts in science, leading-edge technology, music, art, photography, fashion, and more.

Many of the coaches are MIT or Harvard students who are excited about doing hands-on work in their fields as well.

They work in large open-space studios and workshops using state-of-the-art tools that include things like laser cutters, 3D printers, as well as more mundane tools and assorted building materials.

Here, students don’t get grades – they have portfolios showcasing their work and progress. Problems are tackled in weeks-long blocks rather than hour-long classes.

The students are challenged to learn in new ways.

Analytical thinkers are inspired to explore their creative selves while creative students expand their capacity to think and learn analytically.

Whole-brain thinking is nurtured and encouraged.

The goal for these students is to make products that solve real-life problems that the students have defined with the help of their coaches using “themes” selected by the organizers.

In 2017, NuVu Studio received a Core77 “Notable Design Education Initiative Award.” 

AND NOW FOR THE VIDEO (AND SOME THOUGHTS)….

In the video, Ghole presents a collection of wonderfully clear insights about the components that make up the Beginner’s Mind stance.

(By the time she did the talk Ghole had already been working on helping to grow creativity and innovation for a number of years.)

The three big ideas are as follows:

THE POWER OF MIXING

Mixing together people (experts and neophytes), combining assorted themes that relate back to the real world, and tinkering – also known as breaking and re-making (which includes repurposing and reusing, collaboration with other minds and making use of open sourcing platforms to find ideas) – are the foundations that the Studio uses to encourage and support the students in their efforts to produce novel and effective solutions to problems they have chosen to pursue.

WHAT MAKES THE HEART OF A BEGINNER?

Ghole says the Beginner’s heart is an intriguing mix of Trickster, Craftsman and Poet.

Each of these are archetypes that come with sets of behaviors that are often focused on seeing the world in ways that are different from group-mind and consensus.

NOT 2, NOT 1 (BOTH 2 AND 1)

This is the best iteration I’ve ever seen of the concept of wu, a really esoteric and dizzy-making ancient teaching that proposes that when two ideas (or people) come together, the dynamic interaction, relationship and flow between them produces a third idea or concept or way of moving that combines aspects of both.

She explains the three pairings that the Studio uses to try to ignite new thinking among their students:  Process + Product, Mindful + Mindfulness, and Fiction + Reality

I found the whole thing mind-blowing.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Here’s a poem:


WHERE IS THAT KNIFE?

If I rehash the old stuff,

They come alive again,

And I make the threads

Into strings,

Into cords,

Into cables,

Just by adding

Strands of thought –

Little, tiny thoughts –

Like fibers crowded together,

Twisting themselves

Tighter and thicker,

Turning into one heavy-duty rope,

Turning into one huge knot.

 

Hmmm….

 

So…

Where’s that knife?

I had it a minute ago.

I need it to cut through this stupid knot!

 

Back to beginner mind….

Again.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Photography In The Garden” by Olds College via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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REACH FOR TRANSFORMATION

REACH FOR TRANSFORMATION

I’ve been noticing lately that there seems to be a lot of musings going ‘round about transforming your life by getting out of your field of work and trying something else.

When you’re feeling trapped and unfulfilled by the consequences of your previous professional and work choices, thinking about making a change is probably a go-to default.

The numbness in you that grows as your joy-switch keeps tripping off starts reaching epic proportions.  You become one of the multitudes of the Disengaged.

chain
“chain” by Andy Maguire via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Jumping off the conventional well-beaten path and running off down some other forest trail or hitching a ride on a boxcar going someplace else starts sounding mighty good.  This durned road you’re on is not taking you where you want to be and it sucks.

IT’S NOT ABOUT GETTING A DIFFERENT JOB

This career-changing thing is not the same thing as changing jobs – i.e., doing the same thing you have gotten good at doing and moving (or being moved by circumstance or desire) to another company or a different division or some other project.

For that one, you’re just doing the same dance, only in a different place.

The traditional job market has all kinds of practical solutions for making changes if you’re wanting to do more of the same.

kitchen-help
“kitchen help” by Andrew Huff via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
If you’re are an experienced knowledge-worker and a leader of some sort in corporate-world, there are “recruitment consultants” — intrepid headhunters looking for new trophies for their bag – as well as the CV/resume dance and the professional networking thing.

If you’re in the helping or service or sales professions, there are many online jobsites and job alert services and all sorts of folks in your own network that can help you find other places to do the work you’re already doing.

Creative sorts have similar resources in their own worlds as well.

Making a job change can take a tremendous lot of hustle and is likely to rearrange your life in many ways.

However, it is a truism:

Doing the same thing you’ve always done is

likely to get you the same results you’ve always gotten.

That is not a problem if you like the results you’ve been getting.  It does become a problem if you don’t like those results.

WOULD YOU RATHER DO DIFFERENT?

The people to whom the career-change advice is aimed are the ones who may have accomplished some good stuff already.

After working in a field for a while and getting some accomplishments under their belts, they are feeling like their heart has gone missing somehow.

The drag starts getting heavy on them and the “good life” they may have built is just not satisfactory.

The thing that used to excite these folks has gotten stale.  Maybe they are feeling ready to get growing in some other direction, having already explored one slice of the world as thoroughly as they feel they want to.

One lovely example of this mindset (along with some hard-won insights) comes from Felicia Ricci, a self-described “five-trick pony who loves to make creative mischief.”

Ricci is an author, performer, voice teacher and entrepreneur, who presented this lively talk, “How To Change Careers When You’re Lost” at the TEDxYale talk-fest in 2015.

Her writerly point is that your life is always in “draft mode.”  You can revise, revise, and revise until you get it to your kind of “right.”

Ricci’s takeaway tips:

  • Ignore the odds. (If you’re innovative, the odds will never be in your favor.  Do it anyway.)
  • Embrace the fear. (Revisions can be terrifying and stressful and you will freak out.)
  • Don’t decide by thinking, decide by doing.

HELP IS ALL AROUND YOU

Are you one of those who are looking for different?

There are career-change books, articles, and online videos and podcasts by assorted gurus and mavens and academic sorts which are loaded with information about the how of it all if you’re inclined to get into it.

There are numerous profiling tests and lots of systems to help you figure it out as well as lots of people who are willing to help you in your search for the new work-you.

A fairly new profession – career coach – has bloomed in the business jungle within the last couple of decades.  You can buy the services of a native guide to lead you through the tangled, messy landscape of Change and hack your way through all that confusion.

excursion-dress-code
“the excursion dress code” by Linda de Volder via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
There’s a fascinating collection of success stories put together by Careershifters, probably the largest more-than-profit online organization dedicated to helping people who are ready to reach for their own transformation.

This London-based group grew from a brain-seed planted by social entrepreneur Richard Alderson, who is a career-shifter his own self.

Click on this button to access the stories:

click-here

The button also takes you to the Careershifters website that introduces you to a bunch of resources and practical tools that can help you start your own life-meaning revision work.

GO OR NO?

There are, evidently, many ways to reach for transformation and make your own changes happen.  (There sure are a lot of studies and lists and exercises and practices and all of that out there.)

Among all of this information, you’re sure to find moves that will resonate with you as you think and talk and do your way through the process of getting to your transition point.

The only one who can stop you from starting at this point is you.

So…what?  No?  Go?

directions
“Directions” by Russ Allison Loar via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
As a person who is always looking for new wonderments to try, my own suggestion is that you have some fun and play around with various ideas until you find something that hits a major chord in you.

Maybe you’ll be lucky and there will several.  Cool!

You may also want to take another look at all of the fun things or the things you do very, very well in that work you’ve been complaining about.

You can try mashing up all of these bits into something that’s unique to you.

Go forth and play, you!

My other suggestion is that you deliberately do all of this shimmying around as a replacement for that groaning, moaning and whining you’ve been doing.

Whining and acting helpless and hopeless is a habit, you know.  All the smarty-pants guys in lab coats tell us that if you replace one habit with another habit, you’re likely to lose that first habit.

If you replace that old poor-thing-me habit with this career-shift project, you’ll be way too busy trying to make the puzzle pieces fit and then working out (and trying) ways to make them work for you that you’ll have no time left over for beating yourself up or feeling frustrated or put-upon.

Your energy level will probably go up because you’re interested in SOMETHING again and that interest just naturally will call up more energy you can use for more playing.

Once you get started doing this stuff, plans and projects and other moves – big and small — will become evident.  As you work on those, they may even evolve into other things that are particularly intriguing.

You may start to notice opportunities to try out some of those wild and crazy ideas you’ve been growing.  You may even try to do them.

Who knows?  Something wondrous could come of it.

HOW TO FAIL AT TRYING TO TRANSFORM YOURSELF

I found one particularly interesting list in my Google-wanderings on a website, Project Management Hacks, that is put together by career advisor Bruce Harpham.

This list takes a look at the five mistakes people make when they are trying to do a career-shift.  According to Harpham, these moves are most likely to lead to staying in the suck.

DO NOTHING.  Dreaming and fuming in frustration does not get you out of there.

COMPLAIN.  Self-expression and self-pity parties are helpful for pinpointing the problem, but it doesn’t do anything else (and probably turns off a lot of other people or brings them down).

RESIGN IMMEDIATELY.  Taking off for parts unknown without a basic plan or any knowledge of your next steps is a pretty sure recipe for failure.

UNDERESTIMATE THE CHALLENGE.  It’s hard enough trying to find a new place to do the same thing you’ve always done.   Trying to break into another field is a heck of a lot more complicated.

For one thing, there are all of those other guys who have been doing what you want to do quite well, thank you.  What does a wanna-be like you have to offer?  (HINT:  That’s where finding a something that is uniquely you will come in handy.)

THE DO-IT-YOURSELF TRAP.  Why re-invent the wheel when it’s already been done for you?

Go talk to the people who have succeeded in doing what you want to do.  Pick other brains and pay attention to what they say.  Fit the lessons you find into that puzzle you’re building.

There are a heck of a lot of excellent people out there and some of their thoughts can be pretty amazing.  Maybe one of their brainstorms might work for you or spark a good one of your own.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

Philosopher and writer Alain de Botton who founded another interesting online enterprise, “The School of Life,” points out, “When work is not going well, it’s useful to remember that our identities stretch beyond what is on the business card, that we were people long before we became workers – and will continue to be human once we have put down our tools forever.”

kenor
“Kenor” by Dr. Case via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That’s a good thing to keep in mind, I am thinking.

Oh…and I do have one other suggestion:  When you’re looking to do something different, don’t forget to pay attention to the crabby voice inside you that’s been snarking and side-swiping at you as you’ve been busy sinking into the suck.

It is probably the most important voice of all.

Sit your Inner Self down and let it give your Inner Dummy a good talking-to or three.  Listen.  Let the complaints wind down and look for what’s hidden in there underneath all that vinegar and vitriol.

Pay attention.  You may be amazed at what it has to say.

Here’s a poem:


LET THEM HAVE….

Let them have their pie charts and their checklists.

Let them have their numbers two by two.

Let them have their second-guesses and procedures.

Keep the secret thing that makes you you.

 

Let them have their gurus and assistants.

Give them their assistants’ assistants too.

Let them have their politics and issues.

Don’t give up the drive inside of you.

 

Let them have their offices and meetings,

Their naysayers, their oracles, their orators.

All their mavens and spin-meisters too.

Keep your vision and your passion and your promise.

Listen to the heartsong inside of you.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Transformation II by glassghost 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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FIND THE SAVOR

FIND THE SAVOR

One of my favorite Einstein quotes is this:  ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’  Of all his theories, I think, it’s the best one.

Life is either sacred or it isn’t.  Life is either amazing, just as it is, or it’s not.

You don’t even have to be a big brain to figure out that acting as if everything is a miracle and trying to respect and celebrate that premise as a “fact” will probably have different consequences than acting as if nothing is a miracle and, therefore, it doesn’t really matter what you do.

Our moves that arise out of each of these basic premises are very different.  The life that results from making moves predicated on them are also very different.

Of course, most of us are not as “either-or” as Einstein or the assorted wise guys and smarty-pants who offer guidance on these things.  For us, Life-Its-Own-Self mostly runs through a spectrum of “meh” with an occasional off-the-scale event featuring fireworks and other significant joyousness.

perspectives-of-a-waiting-story
“Perspectives of a Waiting Story” by Omar Sharif via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The daily grind and our jam-packed calendars and too-full to-do lists roll right over our days and leave us feeling flatter than street pizza.

We often end up moving faster than the speed of everyday miracles.

It shows.

Our discontents blossom even as we accumulate all the touted “good stuff.” They grow as the pile of accomplishments and achievements increases and sprouts new projects and initiatives and so on and so forth.

It’s like we continue to cultivate the kudzu vines that got away from us and are even now taking over the landscape.  YEEP!

call-me-up
“Call Me Up in Dream Land” by Mike Bitzenhofer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

SAVORING = MOVING AT THE SPEED OF MIRACLES

Countering the ubiquitous Meh Creep is not really hard to do and all of us can do it.  With a minor investment of time and attention we can get so good at it that we can let the miracles in our life catch up with us.

It’s called “savoring,” described by dictionary.com most beautifully as, “giving oneself over to the enjoyment of.”

Fred Bryant, a social psychologist and professor at Loyola University in Chicago,  wrote a very detailed and learned book, SAVORING:  A New Model of Positive Experience in 2006. His co-author, the late Joseph Veroff, was a researcher and a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

That book grew out of his work analyzing a wide range of studies that focus on “being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events”.  It lists the benefits that come to you when you savor (i.e., enjoy) the good things that happen in your life.

The smarty-pants have figured out that paying attention to enjoying yourself helps you build stronger relationships, improve your mental and physical health and find more creative solutions to problems too.  The wise guys always said that as well.

A beautiful illustration of “giving oneself over” is this YouTube video, “Far Leaves Tea:  Slow Down.  Pay Attention.  Savor Life.” was published in 2017 by Far Leaves Tea as an explanation of the company’s mission.

BUT, WHERE DO I FIND THE TIME?

Considered as an abstract concept, “giving oneself over” may seem like an impossibility in the face of that overfull and ever-growing To-do List.

Sure, we’d all love to have huge blocks of time where we can devote ourselves fully to the moment.

A few hours on a quiet beach to gaze into the waves rolling in?  Yes!

A whole weekend devoted to doing whatever we most love to do?  Sure!

How about a sabbatical in the mountains with time enough to spare for exploring and dreaming?  Yum!

And what happens?  The latest crisis/trauma drama whirls us around and we get caught up yet again in the rough-and-tumble.  ACK!

notebook-collection
“Notebook Collection” by Dvortygirl via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I suppose the thing to remember is what Sarah Breathnach says in her book, SIMPLE ABUNDANCE: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.”

While it’s true that you may not have weeks or days or hours of time to focus on the touchy-feely stuff, you do have moments.  You do have spaces between and within the busy bits.

You can use those spaces to help yourself do some very small, very powerful things.

BUILD SOME SAVORING RITUALS INTO YOUR DAY.  Find a few things that you do every day and make them into a special ritual for savoring.

  • You might want to copy the Far Tea guys and build a ritual around your early morning tea or do one in the mid-afternoon. (Coffee works for this as well.)
  • Taking a tub bath can be a ritual to savor.
  • Reading to your child or snuggling with a loved one are others.

SAVOR THE FOODS YOU EAT.  Don’t just cram stuff in your mouth.  Pause for each bite.  Give the food in your mouth space.  Notice the taste and the texture.  Think about where the ingredients of a dish came from, who made it, what went into it.

  • It’s a funny thing. Several studies have shown that speed of eating may be a factor in the problem of being overweight.  Apparently, people who quickly shovel food into their mouths are more likely to overeat.  By taking the time to pay attention to and enjoy what you are eating, there is less of a tendency to speed through a meal, gobbling up more and more and more.
  • Taking the time to taste and feel the foods you eat also allows you to develop a feel for the kinds of foods your body really likes. Very often these foods are good for your body.
  • Also, slowing down and paying attention to how your body reacts to the food you eat allows you to notice when you are full. You stop eating.

SAVOR THE CHORES YOU DO Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing, especially when it’s some task that you dread.  When you’re writing that stupid report, when you’re cleaning the bathroom or doing your taxes, slow down.

  • Ask yourself what is enjoyable about it.
  • Notice how you position your body, how your hands move, how you breathe as you do the task.
  • Enjoy your skill at getting the surfaces you’re working on super-clean. Appreciate your ability to work with words or numbers or the tools you are using.

ENJOY LITTLE PLEASURES The French culture emphasizes the value of little treats, “petits plaisirs.” They understand, the French, that taking the time to indulge in small pleasures add a little bit extra to an ordinary, mundane experience.

  • A scented candle or a single gardenia floating in a dish can add a little bit of richness to the air around you.
  • A special pen or fine papers can make writing a letter to a special friend a pleasure that beats out a post on FB or yet another Tweet.
  • Looking for and indulging in little joys like this consistently can change the pace and the flavor of your days without a lot of huge money outlay or massive planning. Their effects are cumulative; they can add up.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW.  Avoid thinking about what else you could be doing.  Just do what you are doing and when it’s done, enjoy the doneness of it.

  • If you can pay attention and savor what you are doing right now, then eventually you will be able to give many of the moments of your life the space and attention they deserves.
  • No moment cannot be savored. Even the ones when you are stuck in a not-so-pleasing routine can be given your attention and your focus.  Perhaps you might come up with some new ways to make the everyday routine more pleasurable if you do this.
  • Savoring the way you are spending your time and feeling what is happening when it is happening helps you appreciate how you are spending the time of your life. That awareness and appreciation and reveling in the moments of your life can lead you to growth in a direction you find more pleasing.  A good thing.

These are all little things, it is true.  The Real is, however, life is actually made up of little things.

ONE MORE TAKE

This video, “Savor the Coffee Not the Cup” was published in 2017 by Rushabh Dediah.  It presents a little bit of wisdom that I wanted to share.

Here’s a poem:


CHEMISTRY LESSON

There are days when nothing grabs

At the heart and the complexity

Of a life lived large scoots

Around inside your head like

Those quicksilver drops that scatter into

More globs when you poke them.

 

The best way to gather the

Skittering blobs is to poke the

Space next to each one so it

Scoots away from your finger and

Then you can shepherd it to

Another glob and they will stick.

 

Zut, zap – yes, just like that:

They’ll make one tiny bigger blob

And if you keep after them,

You’ll get them all herded together

Into one big shiny, flowing whole.

Poking the middles doesn’t work, though.

 

So, I guess, the spaces next to

Blobs are the key to making

Them move, just as playing with

The spaces between life things like

Duty and responsibility and having fun

Connects them all into one life.

 

And if you slam your way through

The middles of your life things

Then they scatter outward in

All directions like quicksilver and you have

To start all over again, herding

All those silly things back together.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture:  “Wild River With Lighting Effects” by Camille Bouliere via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

Probably every wanna-be Creative has been told (at some point or other) that in order to reach their full potential as a writer, visual artist, musician, performer or whatever, it is imperative to “find your own voice.”

Now, in the Age of Social Media and Self-Branding — when the “Creative Mindset” is supposed to be The Way to $ucce$$ and Happiness — we are told that we must go looking for our individual, unique voices.  Our success depends on it.

I confess, I almost lost it when a pragmatic, more literal-minded friend snarked, “I KNOW where my voice is.  It’s right here in my mouth!”  Gales of laughter came bubbling up.

Explaining this “voice” thing gets confusing because even people who are engaged in developing themselves in a craft or an art or some other skill that doesn’t use words and doesn’t engage the mouth’s ability to make sounds can get all tangled up in trying to figure out how to find their own “voice.”

Now that the business world has turned on to getting creative, it seems that everyone wrestles with the idea of developing a voice.

There are Titans out there – the guys who built empires using their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses by surrounding themselves with people who have other, complementary strengths.  Lots of people admire them and want to be them.

There are Mega-Stars and Rainmakers and Heroes and Idols and Headliners and Leaders and Big Cheeses and High Muckamucks and Household Names and Treasures and Wonders and Leading Lights and so on and so forth, ad nauseum.  

Every one of them will probably tell you that they reached the stratosphere of massive accomplishments because they were successful in finding their own unique “voice.”

WHAT IS YOUR VOICE?

This concept of the elusive “voice” all wanna-be Successes are supposed to be nurturing is the crux of a story I encountered in a blog published by a flamenco dance teacher, Rina Orellana.

She relates how students come to her asking, “How do I find my voice?  How do I allow myself to become the dancer I want to be?”

When dancers ask her this, she says, to her it’s an indication that the dancer is “not quite comfortable in their skin.  They’re thinking too much and not feeling or allowing themselves to be in the movement.”

Her advice to these students is particularly insightful, I think.

Orellana tells them that they “need to allow themselves to be the bad-asses that they are” and she reminds them to “look at themselves in the mirror not to correct any physical part of the dance but to CONNECT with themselves as the person dancing.”

She assures them that looking at themselves in the mirror with acceptance will ultimately lead to their being confident in their movement and in their skin.

flamenco-dancer
“Flamenco Dancer” by Natalia Ba via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Being comfortable in your own skin is how you tell when you are speaking with your own voice.

Your “voice” is how you’re recognized by others.  It’s the “tone” and the themes of your body of work (whatever it is).

Every time you do anything that other people notice, whether you’re an artist, a businessperson, an intellectual, a scientist or a geek, you are also putting your values and the unique perspectives and skills you bring to your work on display.

What is on display is the meaning and the mana that you have developed so far in your life.  Your work shows how you are standing in the world.

Like every other human thing, your “voice” changes as you grow and evolve.  It develops nuances and layers.  It deepens.  It may develop greater clarity or get muddied up by life-induced confusions.

TWO TEACHERS

As an accomplished dancer and teacher, Ornella says, she cannot help passing along her own ways of moving and styling as well as the basic theories and techniques surrounding the craft.

However, in the middle of all that, her aim as a teacher is to encourage each individual dancer to find and focus on the movements that feel “right” for the dancer and to explore the rhythms that resonate.

Kevin Fitz-Gerald, a professor at the USC Thornton School of Music, in this YouTube Video “ARTS: Finding Your Voice,” which was published by the school in 2007, agrees with Ornella.  The video was produced by artistshousemusic.org.

As Fitz-Gerald points out in the video, the things that his students point to as things they don’t like about themselves are very often what sets them apart and makes them unique individuals.  It is those things that can help them move beyond being “average” or “mediocre” and generic.

Both of these teachers advise their students to discover and develop their own natural strengths and make allowances for their inherent weaknesses and limitations by working on improving their techniques and by choosing a framework within which they can reach for their best work.

Both of them say that you will only be able to discover and use your own voice to present a message that is unique to you when you are able to explore and accept the whole package that is you.

VOICE, AUDIENCE AND YOU

All performers (and businesspeople are performers too) need an audience.  It’s part of the dynamic of this self-expression jones Creatives have. They trip out on the reactions they can engender in their audiences.

Every Creative understands that their audience will have an effect on how the artist does what he or she does.  Often the audience will determine whether the artist can continue to do it.

As a performer you want your audience to actually see who you are.  You want them to pay attention to what you have to say.  The audience doesn’t have to like what you say.  They don’t even have to like you.

Getting these others to pay attention to what you need to say can be the most important, life-affirming thing a human can do.

As a young girl who was a victim of sexual abuse by a trusted adult, acclaimed poet Maya Angelou had to choose between going silent and remaining trapped in an untenable situation or finding and using her own voice to get the help she needed to escape and to transcend this soul-shattering thing.

The girl chose to speak, and she kept on speaking and affirming life throughout her long and productive time on this earth.

In this YouTube Video, “Finding My Voice,” published in 2010 by visionaryproject, she tells how she brings herself out of her inherent tendency to go silent and closing herself down by deliberately making herself speak and speak and speak.

As Angelou points out in the video, mutism and freezing when overwhelmed by the circumstances in your life can be a very dangerous thing.  It can become too comfortable.

You become invisible.

Angelou was acclaimed as a poet, story-teller, and writer.  At one point she became an actress, playwright, producer, and director.  She was renowned as an educator and as a civil rights activist.

Angelou died in 2014, at the age of 86.  Throughout her long life, she was not invisible.

THE SHAPE OF THE SELF YOU SHOW

Your audience – anybody who’s watching what you do – will respond to the You that you present to them in your performance.  They can only know what you choose to show.

Maybe you’ve decided to spend your time imitating what those who have become the icons and the “best-of-class” in your field do. Maybe, you think, if you do what they did, then you will glow with their kind of shine.

There’s only one problem with doing this:  The You that you are showing to your audience will never be more than just a copy of somebody else.

For example, there are excellent Elvis imitators out there.  They serve a useful function:  They help keep the legend of that good ole boy alive.  But, really…off the top of your head, can you actually recall the names of these performers?

fat-elvis
“Fat Elvis (#2)” by allison via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The same is also true in any other field of human endeavor.   Imitation is its own reward.  Maybe you win a lot.  Mostly not.

I suppose, “finding your voice” is all about choosing the You that you want the World to know.  And, probably, you do hope that the You that you choose to show will not be ignored, dismissed or mocked.

Let’s be frank here.  You really do want at least some of the other people in this world to like that self you’re showing them because, basically, you do need to win enough support for what you are trying to do so you can keep on doing it.

Part of that is a matter of survival.  You have to eat.  You need a place to lay your head that’s more comfortable than a piece of cardboard under some highway underpass.  You need to take care of the people you love too.

And you have to achieve all that among all these other people (seven billion and counting) who are wanting to do the same thing as well.

However, it seems to me that if you’re any kind of a Maker, what you really want out of all this dancing around is to get to a place where you will have the freedom to get on with doing what you like to do best.

fountain-dance
“Fountain Dance” by Diana Lee Photography via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

HOW DO YOU GET ON THE BUS?

The biggest problem with all this head-scratching and mooning around trying to hear your own voice is, as jazz great Miles Davis once pointed out, often a matter of spending enough time just doing what you want to do.  Miles said, “Sometimes you have to play for a long time to be able to play like yourself.”

For one thing, there are a lot of different “selves” inside every one of us.

All the wise guys and smarty-pants agree.  All of us humans are pretty much assemblages, made up of the bits and pieces we’ve picked up over time from the other people around us as we continue to wander through the world.

These assorted bits get glued onto the basic package. Sometimes all those life-bits turn us into lumpy messes.

To find the self that best encourages other people to respond positively to your spending your days in ways that resonate with that self you actually started out being can be a bitch of a project.

Every hour of every day and night you’re dealing with the pressures and demands of all of your dailynesses.  Work, and the needs of your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, and your stuff eat up your time.

Trying to deal with satisfying other people’s priorities, goals and expectations and maintain the life you’ve become accustomed to is often simply overwhelming.

Now, on top of that, we’re supposed to dig out our true selves and find our own voice as well?  Ri-i-i-ght….

dizzy-wood
“Dizzy Wood” by Marco Nürnberger via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that works with people and companies all over the world to foster creativity, productivity, leadership and passion for work.

His book, LOUDER THAN WORDS: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, is a good one to explore if you choose to accept this latest mission:  finding out who you are and what you want to say and do and then figuring out how to get other people to buy into that.

Besides explaining why finding your voice is important if you are looking for the meaning and mana in your ordinary life and in your work, Henry puts forward questions to ask and ways to find your own answers to them.

Here’s a list that he put together:

  • What angers you? What triggers an urge in you to rectify a great wrong?
  • What makes you cry?
  • What have you mastered? What do you do well?
  • What gives you hope? What do you look forward to?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
  • What would blow your mind?
  • What platform do you own?
  • What change would you like to see in the world?
  • If you had one day left, how would you spend it?

YET ANOTHER 30-DAY CHALLENGE SERIES

It occurred to me that Henry’s question list would make good 30-day challenge material.  Here’s the how-to:

  1. Grab an ordinary small-kid kind of composition notebook and a pen and label it “The Voice Project.” (No need to get fancy with this.)
  2. Now, choose one of those Henry questions or make one up that’s your own, then make a commitment that for just ten minutes every day for the next 30 days, you will think on that one question and write down your answer to it in that notebook you’ve labeled. (If the time you take to answer the question stretches past the five minutes, that’s fine too.)
  3. Do this notebook thing every day for 30 days.   Be honest with yourself.  Nobody else is going to see this thing.  Just you.
  4. If it starts to get boring, you might want to use colors and drawings and other stuff to illustrate the thing. Cut out magazine pictures and stick them in there.    Write a poem.  Whatever.  Have fun with it, but answer the question.
  5. By the end of that time, you’ll at least get some idea about the kinds of thoughts that arise when you ask yourself this one question.
  6. After you finish the first 30-day challenge with the question of your choice, do it again for the next question, then the next, then the next.

Ten minutes a day for thirty days equals 300 minutes – a minimum of 5 hours total in a 720-hour time period.

It’s less than the time spent attending yet another workshop or working your way through one more online course.

It’s less time than the time spent participating in networking events listening to everybody else’s pitches and slinging some your own self.

In between the question-answering sessions, you might want to go back and read over and look at the stuff you’ve produced.  You might ask yourself whether you really agree with all this blather and B.S. you’re shoveling.

That’s when you really start figuring out what you actually think about the thoughts you think.  You find the shape of your own basic self – the one that just sits there waiting for you to notice.

It gets to be quite fascinating after a while.

composing
“Composing – 67/365” by Andreanna Maya via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I notice that the weirdest result of this little exercise is how just answering these questions and others like them affects you in your daily life.

You might start doing things that surprise you:  accepting an invitation to a gathering that you might normally not consider, taking on some project or supporting a cause that resonates strongly with you, or trying something you never tried before just to see whether you might like it.

These things may have some pretty amazing results.  It can be a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


THAT IS THE SAD

Melancholy sits, a knot at the small of my back,

My companion as I walk through sunshine and through rain,

As I do my days,

Charging at windmills,

Taking in the wonderments,

Drinking down the joyousness,

Choking on the tears.

 

Maybe I’m understanding now:

The sadness is only the residue

Left behind as a flood flows

Through my heart cave yet again,

Leaving behind a high-water mark.

 

You know, of course, that all that shiny stuff

Running through all of our heart-caves are

Tributaries that merge together into a great river

Running through this ancient universe,

Pumped out by the jostling masses of living creatures,

Flowing all together like the notes of one grand song.

 

The birds singing their morning hosannas as they greet the sun

Go on through their day with the sound of that

Mighty chorus sounding in their ears,

Content that they’ve established their place in the world.

 

I am thinking we humans are no less connected than they,

But ours is a darker richer song,

Its complexity woven into our days and nights like a subsonic rumble

As we delude ourselves into believing we are immune –

Apart somehow – from the music we are making,

That grandiloquence that touches the edges of our own universe and beyond.

 

We fool ourselves and think we can sidestep the consequences

Of our myriad tiny choices,

That we can stand apart and inviolate, away from the all of everything.

And so we stand uncertain, unsure that this how, this place is righteously ours…

Unlike the bold birds who understand otherwise.

 

That’s the deep sadness, I am thinking,

The “suffering” wise guys ponder – this forgetting that is uniquely human –

The disremembering that, one and all, we are

The favored children of this old universe…

Welcome, gifted and alive,

Swimming in the same golden stream.

 

That willful denial keeps us grabbing at the silly, glittering flotsam,

That awful lostness rasps and scrapes us raw,

Dogging our days and trotting us around all crazy.

That’s the sad, I think.

That’s the suffering.

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit: “Who Is Speaking?” by Daniel Horacio Agostini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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USE YOUR FEAR AS RADAR

USE YOUR FEAR AS RADAR

How many times has THIS happened?

You have a really crazy idea that you absolutely, deep down in the pit of your stomach, KNOW will be totally RIGHT for you.  You want this.  You irrefutably NEED this!

You get a truly awesome limited-time chance to make it happen and it is imperative that you do this thing right now, or else….well, you just keep doing whatever you’re already doing.

Right then fear will rear its ugly head.

You get the shivers running up and down your spine.  All the hair on your body — on your arms and behind your neck — stand up.   Sweat pours out of you.

Your eyes narrow down and your nostrils flare as you get really, really focused and all the Boogey-Man thoughts take over your brain.

Your head aches because all of your internal sirens are wailing and every one of the alarm bells are bonging and clanging.

Maybe you start trembling.  Maybe you want to cry.  Maybe you want to throw up.

You get tense and you are all ready to rabbit away…run-run-RUN!  Or you freeze in place, paralyzed by all the noise in your head.

panic-attack
“Panic Attack” by James Barkman via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
(Yeah, yeah, I know.  I’m exaggerating a bit.

Sometimes you’ll just get a squirmy feeling in the pit of your stomach, nervous foot-shuffling and a really dry throat.

Other times it’s just a teensy twinge of tingly nerve endings rather than a full-blown panic attack.)

WARNING!  WARNING!  WOOT!  WOOT!  WOOT!

I’ll bet that every time you were on the verge of doing something that was different than what you had done before — every time you tried to push the edges of your comfort zone and every time you tried to go somewhere or do something that you really wanted to do or faced something that was new-to-you and most uncertain — all this trauma-drama showed up like a scary pop-up.

It is a given:  Fear will show up EVERY time you’re growing or going in the direction of your dreams and every time you have to face something new or different or other.

Fear always shows up when you are getting ready to undergo any kind of change — anything that disrupts the life you’ve known so far.

It doesn’t matter that the change is going to bring good things into your life or stop bad things from happening.

It’s Change-with-a-capital-C, and with change there will always be that feeling of risk.  There will always be the feeling that you’re stepping out of line somehow.

out-into-the-world
“Out Into the World” by Aaron Hawkins in Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Basically, the smarty-pants who study such things say that all these body-symptoms of fear are like the blip-blip-blip of the standard-issue radar equipment that’s part of your internal early warning system.

As you go through your day, your mind always scans ahead, looking for things that are out of place or different.  When it detects something that is not-the-same, your brain responds by sending out these fear signals throughout your body.

Fear puts you on alert.  This is fear’s job.  It gets you ready to respond to whatever is coming out of the ethers at you.

Fear is a signal that you are moving into a situation that is different than what you’ve experienced so far.

It is invaluable when you are facing situations that are dangerous and/or life-threatening.

(If you’ve survived for a while in the world, you’ll probably be able to recognize those dangerous or dicey situations easily enough and can work on figuring out how to avoid, mitigate or arrest any developing debacles.)

It becomes problematic, however, when the fear-signals trip you up on your way to your own kind of better.

WHEN THERE’S A TIME-LIMIT

The worst thing about this automatic response-readying system we call “fear” is that it can screw up your ability to take an appropriate action at the time when it’s really needed.

There are times when you are one critical choice away from accepting an opportunity to move forward and reach towards whatever goal you’ve set and that choice is in-your-face right NOW.

freedom
“Freedom” by Padraig O’G via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If you let the fear-signals stop you, the chance for change will dissipate.  It just won’t be there anymore.

Maybe that’s okay for you.

But, what if it’s not?

In one of his blog posts, productivity and marketing guru  Seth Godin once pointed out, “By the time the fear subsides, it will be too late. By the time you’re not afraid of what you were planning to start/say/do, someone else will have already done it, it will already be said or it will be irrelevant.”

Godin advises that you can use your fear-signals to guide you in your actions.  Rather than shying away or coming to a dead stop, he suggests that you go towards that thing that’s scaring you.

He says, “The reason you’re afraid is that there’s leverage here, something that might happen. Which is exactly the signal you’re looking for.”

If you can make a practice of moving forward to meet and deal with your fear of the opportunity you have been given to make progress in the direction you want to go and to do what you really want to do, then maybe you’ll be able to find more and more ways to keep on doing that.

Maybe you’ll even grow enough to be able to keep on doing it over and over again until you make your dream become real.

go
“GO” by Ludovic Bertron via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The quintessential go-for-it guy, Richard Branson, once said, “Don’t let fear hold you back from achieving your full potential…I know I’d rather look back on life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I’d done that’.  How about you?”

HOW TO GET MOVING WHEN YOU’RE SCARED

The thing you have to understand, though, is that your body is really lousy at math and logic.

Rational thoughts and piles of paper spreadsheets, goals, schedules, and lists of pros and cons as well as to-do lists constructed in your more lucid moments do not help make the fearful, fearsome blip-blip-blipping stop.

Being all prepared and everything won’t get you moving.

clutching-her-foot
“Clutching Her Foot…” by Christopher via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
This YouTube Video, “The Secret to Stopping Fear and Anxiety (That Actually Works) was published in 2017 by motivational speaker Melanie “Mel” Robbins.  She is an on-air commentator on CNN, a television host and a serial entrepreneur.

Her book, THE 5-SECOND RULE:  Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence With Everyday Courage, goes into detail about the many flavors of fear, anxiety and other negative thoughts.  It presents assorted techniques and strategies that allow you to stop fear and anxiety from tripping you up.

The technique Robbins demonstrates in her video is one she developed to help people understand that the kind of fear you experience when you are trying to do something outside your own comfort zone can actually be reframed as “excitement” and can be used to push yourself forward.

“The secret isn’t knowing what to do – it’s knowing how to make yourself do it,” she says.

Here’s a poem:


CALLING OUT CAMP GIRL

Camp girl, camp girl,

Those tiny, tiny dreams of yours are

Way too small for the wings you’ve grown.

Time to spread those wings out now,

Make the world your own.

 

Camp girl, camp girl,

You’ve been growing big inside.

Playing small won’t cut it now.

There’s no more need to hide.

 

Camp girl, camp girl,

Winds are calling your name, and

The old fears don’t hold sway.

Now is the time…

It’s your turn to play.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Radar Star” by eskwebdesign via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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JUST PAY ATTENTION

JUST PAY ATTENTION

“Pay attention!”  What happens in your head when you hear those words?

Childhood memories of parents, teachers and other Big People ordering you to do it probably aren’t your fondest memories.  It almost always meant, “I’m going to tell you something you probably are not interested in or something you don’t want to hear.  Listen anyway!”

pay-attention
“Pay Attention” by Nigel Goodman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Public address and warning system pronouncements and alerts that begin with “Attention!” are either boring, unintelligible, or scary…stuff that produces sinking feelings in the pit of your belly or a blank-out of white noise in your head.

In the military and other groups, “Attention!” is an order.   There’s even a special, specified way to “stand at attention” that indicates to the leader-person that you are, indeed, alert and ready to receive your next order.

team-moo
“Team Moo” by will_cylist via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I suspect that whenever most of us hear the call for attention, there’s a kind of automatic shut-down.

For many of us, our attitude on being ordered to attend to something is summed up by Quora contributor Josh Manson’s comment in this 2015 thread that centered around defining the meaning of the phrase:

I am too broke to pay attention most of the time.

I’m too broke to pay my respect to anything.

I am ok with paying no mind to things that don’t concern me.

To pay means to give something of yourself to another. It is normally associated with money, so we don’t need to specify anything when it’s money we pay, it will be assumed. But to pay attention or pay respect is still giving something of yourself to another.

One question that springs to mind is this: “Okay, so I pay attention.  What does that buy me?”

THE VALUE OF PAYING ATTENTION

As adults, the value of paying attention is likely to be self-evident.  Somehow, we know, it’s the key to many things related to our lives.

  • We have to pay attention to walk across a busy street.
  • Our self-esteem and the authenticity of the way we walk develop according to the attention we give to our own thoughts and feelings, needs and values, beliefs and ideas.
  • Our happiness and the satisfaction and fulfillment we feel as we meet the goals and aspirations we set for ourselves is enhanced by our attention.
  • Our relationships and the communities we build are a lot more satisfying if we actually pay attention to each other and to the world around us.
  • Our business affairs, our careers, and the work we do to develop various skills require our attention.
  • Learning anything new demands our focused attention.
  • Our finances certainly benefit from our attention.
  • If we have health issues, we need to pay attention to our way of living in order to heal ourselves.

We can miss many of the moments of our life because we are not fully present for them and are moving around on auto-pilot, going through our daily routines, unaware of what we’re doing or experiencing as we ignore the world around us and multi-task our way through our days.

pay-no-attention-to-the-blues-singer-in-the-rear
“pay no attention to the blues singer in the rear” by Mary via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

ATTENTION VS JUDGMENT

Okay.  Now it gets convoluted.

In order to do this “paying attention” thing right – the kind that can change our lives — first we have to understand that there is a difference between “attention” and “judgment.”  Very often the definitions of those two words get mixed up.

Attention is neutral.  We just notice something.  We “pay attention” to it and see that whatever we are noticing is just there and we are there with it.

Judgment, on the other hand, is what comes after the noticing.  We humans are really, REALLY good at doing and fixing and solving stuff.  Because we are bent that way, we tend to look at everything we see as something that needs to be assessed, critiqued, and then probably “fixed” or rejected or enhanced.  We want to do something with this thing we noticed.  We jump right in and start rearranging and moving stuff around.

We even do it to each other, which leads to all kinds of story-making, poetry, tragedy and comedy and such and all sorts of turmoil in our lives.

While “judgment” is certainly useful, it is not “attention.”

Attention is about noticing and being with something without trying to change it.  Attention means taking the time to fully explore, to discover whatever there is to know about something, and to watch as things change by themselves with no interference from us.

everyone-paying-attention
“Everyone paying attention” by André Luís via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Hmmm….

Isn’t that starting to sound familiar?  It’s like that stuff we’ve heard from all kinds of wise guys about “being mindful” doesn’t it?

It’s also a lot like what all those life-coaches and love counselors tell us about the most effective ways to enhance our relationships with others:  Be open.  Notice all those other people without judgment or criticism, welcome them, accept them, be patient, be kind.

The same advice applies to developing your relationship to your own self.  (The best thing about being an adult is that we also have the capacity and the wherewithal to pay attention and to nurture our own selves as well.)

And the key to all of that is just simply to “pay attention.”

YOUR BRAIN ON “PAYING ATTENTION”

It’s an amazing thing.  Numerous studies by neurologists and other smarty-pants scientists keep showing that the way we think and what we pay attention to does physically affect us and have tremendous impact on our lives.  Those wise guys of old were right!

One 2009 best-seller book, BUDDHA’S BRAIN:  The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, PhD with Richard Mendius, mixes neuroscientific breakthroughs with ancient wisdom teachings from thousands of years of contemplative practice and is filled with information about the practical tools and skills that help you deal with life in our complex and complicated modern world.

Hanson, a psychologist and a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley California, is also the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom.  According to him, the scientists have found that “attention shapes the brain.”

What we pay attention to is literally what we will build in our brain tissue.  Whatever we focus on affects how the neurons in our brains develop and wire themselves together.

This YouTube video, “How To Change Your Brain,” was taken at the Greater Good Science Center as part of the “Science of a Meaningful Life” series.  It is a fascinating look at how mindfulness meditation, a way of practicing disciplined attention, is like training your muscles.

The practice, he says, can strengthen our brains as well as help us focus our attention.

ANOTHER TAKE

Emily Fletcher is the founder of Ziva Meditation and the creator of zivaMIND, the world’s first online training (it says here).  She is highly regarded as a leading expert in meditation for high performance.

Her YouTube video, “What You Put Your Attention On Grows,” was published in 2014.  It is a lovely reminder that you do have a choice about what you want to pay attention to.

Here’s a poem:


AW, GOOD GRIEF!

‘Kay.

So I took the road less-traveled

Way-back-when, while in my youth.

I recall it was my “Seeker” phase.

(I remember I was all

“St. George” and “forsooth.”)

That day I stopped in this dark woods,

I don’t think I pondered deep.

I had no previous appointment,

No promises to keep.

 

I took off running like a shot

Past t’s to cross and i’s to dot.

Booking it faster than my fears

I ran on down the faintest track,

Blood all singing in my ears.

I abandoned that clear-cut highway that

Headed right into the tried-and-true,

The Mama-says-not world

That kept making my brown eyes blue.

(I don’t recall one glance back.)

 

I wandered and I wondered

What the heck this thing’s about,

Got tangled up with other folks,

Never did quite figure it out.

I’ve been up and down and sideways

On so many tracks and trails,

Traversed bits of this old mountain side

(Had to run sometimes and sometimes hide).

Puzzles sought and solved,

Conundrums all untied,

Mysteries unveiled,

Companions who lived and died.

 

Those tracks and trails meander on

Through the thick surrounding brush,

Then over the great forest comes

A deep and poignant hush.

 

And me,

I look around and realize:

Dang!

These things are wild pig trails.

 

Ummm….

Where am I?

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Huh?” by Morgan via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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