Browsed by
Category: Walk Your Talk

living pono, congruence, authenticity, presence and mana

SEE THE WHOLE GLASS (AND USE IT)

SEE THE WHOLE GLASS (AND USE IT)

We know the cliché – the glass with the water and the accompanying question delivered by some snot of a snippet:  Is the glass half-full or is it half-empty?

We think we know what the guys in the white coats say about choosing one thing over the other means too.

Over and over we’ve been told that if you say the glass is half-full, then you are probably an optimist.  If you say the glass is half-empty, then you’re a pessimist.

subjektiv
“Subjektiv” by Jan via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
If you don’t care, it is implied, then probably you’re a loser.

My own favorite take on the thing is a joke:

While the optimist and the pessimist were arguing about the glass, the opportunist grabbed it and drank the water.

The Light of My Life remembers one time he found a tiny bright blue bird egg that he had never seen before (or since).

When he showed his find to his grandson Charlie, the little boy immediately grabbed the thing and popped it in his mouth.  He thought it was a candy Easter Egg.

To Charlie’s dismay, the thing turned out to be a rotten old bird egg.  YUCK!

They never did find out what kind of bird laid the egg.  (Hawaii doesn’t have robins.)

It seems that opportunists don’t fare too well either sometimes.

PESSIMISM AND OPTIMISM ARE NOT WORLD-VIEWS

I don’t know how many kazillion words have been written about the joys of being an optimist as opposed to the downer of being a pessimist.

Optimism is touted as the cure for the blues and life-induced funk and a panacea for a hap-hap-happy life.  Pessimism gets a lot less good press.

We get the impression that we can actually choose one over the other and use it exclusively to hammer out our own best way of being.

If only we could repress our pessimistic tendencies and enhance the optimistic ones, then we could all be happy campers, it’s said.

Alternatively, if we could tone down our namby-pamby, airy-fairy optimistic tendencies then we could kill it as bad-ass warrior types and win the world.

The thing of it is, every human alive is a mixture of optimism and pessimism.  We really are not either-or.  We are both.

in-flames
“In Flames” by Bart Hiddink via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Optimism or pessimism is an attitude and a leaning towards one way or another of thinking or feeling.

At most, optimism and pessimism are persistent human character traits that may be at least partly determined by the DNA we inherited from our long-ago caveman ancestors.

Both engender survival strategies that work, but they are somewhat less than a real, complete world-view.

Our ancestors who excelled in either of them were likely to survive Life’s vicissitudes, prosper, and procreate.  Optimism and pessimism both helped the long-ago barbarians who lived long enough to become our ancestors.

Think about it.

In order to survive the fangs and claws of the monsters in the environs as well as the pitfalls and harshness of ordinary savage living, you really needed to tap the wariness and alertness pessimism engenders.

The best warriors and strategists are powerful pessimists.  It’s how they figure out what and who to fight against.  It’s how they determine the best tactics to use when trying to re-order the world.

In order to get all the babes and the boy-toys and to earn the goodwill of your neighbors as well as have the wherewithal to go exploring into the unknown, optimism is surely a good thing to have in your mana (personal power) toolbox too.

SO SAYETH THE GOOD DOCTOR

The late Paul Pearsall was an internationally recognized neuropsychologist, a popular speaker and the author of more than 15 books.

In 2005, while he was an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a member of the board of the Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Health Care, he wrote THE LAST SELF-HELP BOOK YOU’LL EVER NEED:  Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer and Throttle Your Inner Child

In it, he takes on the pop-psychology industry and points out the fallacies inherent in their “scientism” – taking the research results of real scientists and molding and massaging the for-real findings to suit whatever latest flavor of living these “experts” are touting as well as throwing in a whole bunch of “everybody-knows” in there.

Pearsall advises taking it all in with at least a grain of salt.

worth-a-grain-of-salt
“worth a grain of salt” by William Olson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
In the book, Pearsall urges his readers to continue to explore the always-fascinating questions about why we humans do what we do.  (He isn’t opposed to us finding out what makes us tick).

But, he also advises that we step back from the blather and think for our own selves and try to determine what is real and true and right for us.

It’s a cool book.

About optimism and pessimism, Pearsall recommends learning to use both styles of thinking to navigate through the world.

In other words, the guy is telling us to take a look at the whole glass and use the durned thing to quench our thirst.  Fill it up, drink it down…whatever.

He also recommends that you stop beating yourself up because you are not really bent the way the current guru of righteous living says you should be.

The whole reason he wrote the book, Pearsall says, is because so much of the stress of modern living that he had seen seems to arise from a person fighting against his or her own nature and trying to be something they are not.

He starts the introduction to the book with a quote from Ben Wyld, “Life used to be so simple before we all started reading about how to live it.”

Pearsall goes through many of the knee-jerk truisms that self-help “experts” propose about Life and Living Right and deconstructs them one by one.

His advice, always, is to work on figuring out what you think your own self.

the-thinker
“The Thinker” by Iulian Ursu via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

TWO FUNDAMENTAL WORLD VIEWS, ACCORDING TO A MYSTIC

Poet, philosopher and self-confessed mystic Mark Nepo talks about two fundamental world-views in his 2005 book, THE EXQUISITE RISK:  Daring to Live an Authentic Life. 

He says there are only two.  Either one emphasizes the connectedness of all life, or one accepts disconnectedness and isolation as our human fate.

According to Nepo, before the 20th century, all us humans pretty much agreed that everything is related to everything else, that all the parts are connected to each other as well as to the whole and that life is “empowered by actualizing this relatedness.”

a-river-runs
“a river runs” by Sam Shiue via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
(Yeah, he really does write like that, but, hey, he’s a poet.  It’s allowed.)

Most of the old wise guys offered basic variations on that same theme, that we humans are a part of something way, way bigger than our own little selves.

But, then, Nepo says, out of the rubble of a world torn apart by the devastation of two world wars, an alternative world-view rose up in the West that became the foundation of our post-modern sense of disconnectedness and isolation.

This way of thinking was dubbed “existentialism.”

According to its proponents, nothing is connected to anything.  We are all isolated bits bumping around in the meaninglessness of it all and the fact of our existence is all there is.

In other words, we humans live a hard-scrabble life and then we die.

The only meaning that can be found or generated, according to this world-view, is in the moment we are about to enter and in what we want and what we care about and what we do and how we can use the all of everything to make things go our own way.

He says, “…the postwar world dressed itself in unbridled technology and existentialism took a powerful hold on the profit-driven imagination of Westerners.

And he goes on with that grim scenario.

separation
“Separation” by West Peck via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Nepo does confess that his bias as a mystic and a poet is towards believing in “the sea of everything over the sea of nothing” – in connectedness over isolation.

And Nepo defines a mystic as “anyone who believes that there is something larger than themselves.

I, too, am going to plunk my one vote down for connection.

(Otherwise, I find, the world turns into such a cold and lonely place and you get to feeling there’s no point to any of it.)

What do you think?

forever-outlook
“Forever Outlook” by Kirt Edblom via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

HAWAIIAN-STYLE CATEGORIES OF THOUGHT (ACCORDING TO ME)

I am really proud of myself.

I am pretty sure that I finally figured out an ancient Hawaiian way of categorizing the thoughts we humans think.  (The thing has puzzled me all of my life and I finally got it to make sense.)

Hawaiians believe our thoughts arise from three different sources – our po’o (head), our pu’uwai (heart), and our na’au (gut).

Maybe I’m wrong, but the way I figure it is this:

  • Po’o thoughts are our left-brained, pragmatic and rational everyday thoughts and strategy-planning and all that.

It’s about stopping by the store on the way home from work to grab some milk and about figuring out how to launch a new product and stuff like that.

  • Pu’uwai thoughts are about connection – to other people, to the world and to the Divine.

It’s about things like showing respect and taking care of nurturing other people and the world and ourselves and all that stuff…the touchy-feely jazz.

  • Na’au thoughts are the instinctual, survival moves that we do on auto-pilot.

It’s doing the body- and mind-moves that allow us to get away and stay away from danger as best as we can.

It’s about avoiding using the face-block as a default defense move.

I say we need to use all of the different ways of thinking humans have developed to navigate through the world.

Each one has its place and its time, and we need to learn how to work effectively with all of them so we can get to wherever we want to go and arrive there more or less intact.

ride-the-light
“Ride the Light” by Flávio via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem….


THOUGHTS ON DITTY-BOPPING

I get it.

Really.

 

Ditty-bopping along

In a Prozac state-of-mind

Feels GOOD.

Only problem is:

It just does not

Feel Right….

 

The whole deal

About blissing out,

Swanning around,

Laying down

The sweetness and light

Like some hippy-dip

Nutella fairy,

Tripping through the

Corn-pone flowers and all,

Ignoring all the for-real shadows

Is…lovely.

 

It sure doesn’t do

A whole heck of a lot of good

For the truckloads of dead babies

Rolling through the

Jungles and mean streets

Of our neighborhood, does it?

 

I don’t know…

 

Don’t know what anybody

Can do for our cousins

Living in the suburbs of hell.

Don’t know how to turn

The dark tide

Before its time.

Don’t know how to mend

Even one broken heart.

 

There’s a lot I don’t know.

 

I do know

Darkness retreats

Every single time

You fire up just one skinny candle.

 

THAT I can do.

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “In the windmills of your mind,” by Stavros Markopoulous via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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

Get Social....
HOW TO LIVE WISDOM

HOW TO LIVE WISDOM

In 2011, a video of a kid speechifying after learning to ride a bike went viral.  His dad “interviewed” him after his accomplishment, asking him whether he had any “words of wisdom” for all the other kids who wanted to ride a bike.

Thumbs up everybody…for rock ‘n roll!” à la the rock group KTN (Kill the Noise) the little boy says, and the world laughed.

The video above is the “Original,” according to the YouTube posting.  Copies and parodies proliferated for a while.

I thought on all the sometimes-marvelous, oftentimes moving sermons and speeches and lectures and blogs and videos and books and courses and such put out by assorted and varied people.

It seems to me that if you know how to play with words, work your voice, and move your body with conviction and sincerity radiating out of your every pore, it’s not that hard to come up with stuff that at least gets people on their feet and cheering, rarin’ to go off and conquer the world.

There are even courses that will teach you how to induce that effect on other people, and on yourself, I suppose.

The problem is the word-induced enthusiasms and zeal sort of fade away when those people in the audience go back to their ordinary, regular lives.

The fervor and the fire dies down, drowning in the wake of the unending same-old.  The audience members come down off the high and it all turns to meh again.

Wisdom words seem to have a short shelf life.

The viral video made us laugh at ourselves because we know that space, all of us.

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO INSPIRE “THE MASSES”

Master Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson once said, “What is respected by the masses is action; you can inspire someone for a day with your words, but you can inspire someone for a lifetime by what you do.”

And that’s a truth.  Thompson lives it.

He is famed as the first Native Hawaiian in 600 years to practice the ancient Hawaiian art of navigation on long distance ocean voyages using only the stars, the wind and the waves, the flight of birds and the power of focused intent.

It has been his life-work to guide the Hōkūle’a, (“Star of Gladness” or Arcturus), a modern-day iteration of the double-hulled sailing canoes used by the ancients to sail across the Paciific.

Nainoa has also helped to further the work of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a nonprofit research and education organization that grew out of the effort to build the canoe and to sail her.

[For more information about the Polynesian Voyaging Society, click on the button below.]

click-here

The society has developed many ways to explore the deeper meanings of voyaging and wayfinding and they continue to reconnect the island peoples of Oceania with the old ways, with each other, and with the world.

In their growing, they’ve helped to revitalize a number of cultural practices that hold great meaning and mana for the ones who live it.

These practices include art, language, music, dance, ways of thinking and ways of cooperation that are a counter to the homogenizing and narrowing effects of our post-modern dependence on machines and straight-line thinking.

OF COURSE THERE IS A BOOK….

There’s a book, HAWAIKI RISING:  Hōkūle’a, Nainoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Resistance by Sam Low, a photographer and film-maker who documented the origin tale as it happened.

The book tells the story of the vessel’s making and her first voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.  It captures the images of the people who made her and sailed her.

The saga is a remarkable tale of high adventure and great derring-do, a chronicle of the beginnings of one of the sparks that ignited the rebirth of a culture and a people that was languishing in defeat and despair.

(The author also made an award-winning film, “The Navigators – Pathfinders of the Pacific”.)

In 1978, the Hōkūle’a embarked from Oahu’s Magic Island, once again headed toward Tahiti on another cultural expedition. This time the dream was to have a Hawaiian navigate the canoe on the trip to Tahiti.

The canoe capsized in treacherous seas outside the Hawaiian islands and the crew spent the night adrift.

Eddie Aikau, an internationally acclaimed surfer and waterman, who was a member of the crew, set off on his surfboard to find help.  He was never seen again.

The crew was rescued, but the loss of Eddie which was compounded by the departure of their teacher, master navigator Mau Piailug, left the leadership of the voyaging group in disarray.

(Mau had returned to his home, disgusted at the contentious infighting and lack of consensus among the Hawaiians, before the trip began.)

Nainoa’s father and other leaders in the Hawaiian community helped the young people work through their disheartenment.

The old guys, who were experienced group leaders, told the younger ones that they had not “earned” the trip.  They had not learned enough of what they needed to know to make the run.

Any great endeavor requires extraordinary preparation and forethought and a great deal of hard work.  Until you’ve done the work and developed the backlog of skills that you need to deal with the inevitable emergencies, you are likely to meet with failure.

The elders spoke from experience gained over lifetimes of trying and failing and trying again.

With the sharing of their life-knowledge they helped to foster the understanding that there could be a deeper purpose for the voyaging than just playing around and having a good time on the open sea.

Thompson went to Micronesia to bring Mau back.

strings-of-life
“Strings of Life” (banyan tree roots) by Paul Oka via Flickr. [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The group learned.  Thompson learned.  They earned that trip to Tahiti and then planned and worked and did others.

They continued to venture out on voyages throughout the Pacific, to build their community, and to build canoes.

They kept extending the circle of connection outward.

AN ICON RIDING THE WAVES THROUGH TIME

Hōkūle’a, which was designed by artist and historian Herb Kawainui Kane, has become a symbol of the ancient indigenous arts of wayfinding and sailing off into the unknown and for the power of human connection and cooperation.

hokulea
Hōkūle’a” by Steve Judd [CC BY-NC-ND 2]
Other canoes have since been built, but she was the start.

Her greatest voyage was a three-year circumnavigation of the earth that began in March, 2014.  Hōkūle’a docked at 150 ports, stopping in 23 countries including Tahiti, Brazil, South Africa and Cuba and came home in June, 2017.

The world watched.  The children learned.

An interesting thing.

The around-the-world voyage began with many of the oldest surviving members of the past canoe crews who had a hand in sailing the vessel over the years of going out and then returning.

The crew that brought her home were from among the best and newest voyagers who had been trained by their elders.

And the procession continues, from the old ones to the young ones, from the past to the future.

THE POWER OF REMEMBERING YOUR TEACHERS

In 2015, as Hōkūle’a was making the world-encircling voyage, PBS Hawaii’s Leslie Wilcox presented an episode in their Long Story Short series that featured Wilcox’s interview of Nainoa Thompson.

The talk-story meanders through Thompson’s life and includes his childhood and his history with wayfaring and the cultural renaissance of the Hawaiian people, touching on turning points and highlights of his life-journey.

It elucidates Nainoa’s thoughts on how one develops into a worthy leader, the importance of building community, and the value of teachers and mentors in this process.

Even more importantly, Nainoa explains how he continues to live his life based on the “culture of values” into which he was born.

Here’s the YouTube video of the interview:

About halfway through the video, Thompson talks about the time when he was appointed by the Hawaii Probate Court, in the year 2000, to serve as one of the five trustees for the Bishop Estate, the largest private property owner in the state of Hawaii.

The trust, established by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’s will, funds the Kamehameha Schools, a private school system in the state that the princess founded.

Nainoa’s appointment as a trustee came at a time when the trust was rocked by a scandal centered around gross mismanagement that jeopardized the future of the schools.

The previous board had been dismissed and Thompson was one of the replacement trustees, recommended by many community leaders.

Nainoa said that he felt absolutely inadequate for the job at hand. He was a fisherman, he said.

…I didn’t feel like I had the tools, I didn’t have the background. But you were asked; right? You were asked to do this.”

Maybe it’s a Hawaiian “thing” – one of those values that are a given:  When your community asks you to do something because they believe that you are the one who can help, then you have to respond to that trust and say yes.

Once you do that, you have obligated yourself to try to do the best you know how and to learn how to do better than you already know.

maui-love
“Maui Love” by Roozbeh Rokni via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Thompson tells how he countered his own self-doubt during that time by having his assistant hang in his office pictures of all of his life-teachers, those who he defined as “leaders that navigated” – the ones who had set the course for him for his whole life.  There were more than sixty pictures on the walls of the room.

The pictures included Pius Mau Piailug, one of the last traditional navigators from Micronesia; Thompson’s father Myron “Pinky” Thompson; NASA Space Shuttle astronaut and teacher Charles Lacy Veach; and waterman Eddie Aikau.

Whenever he faced uncertainty and overwhelming pressure to make some complex decision that involved balancing the often-conflicting needs of the people involved in an issue or situation, Nainoa would take a time-out and go sit in the room, surrounded by his teachers.

He would remember their stories, how they acted, how they thought, and the way they lived. He would ponder on what they would do in the situation he was facing.

Their ways of walking became the foundation for building and developing his own.

He says, “…that was the smartest thing I ever did, was to get all my teachers and my leaders in the room with me, and I could sit with them in counsel by myself.  Then, go back inside and deal with the rough decisions that you’re never, ever feeling that it’s one hundred percent the correct thing to do….”

At one point in the interview, he calls the fear of moving forward into ambiguity and uncertainty and taking the next action his “best friend.”

Thompson likens that fear to a door you don’t want to open– the one that requires you to be honest about all of your inadequacies and your-less-than-perfect self and to go on anyhow.

For that lesson, he credits his friend, Eddie Aikau, the big-wave surfer who always would go, who always wanted to take action.

Eddie said, Open the door.”

doorknob
“Doorknob” by SirSlasher via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Nainoa kept that thought with him as he continued to help to build a legacy for the ones who followed after him.

Once his term as a Bishop Estate trustee ended, Thompson went back to the sea.

The voyages and the wayfinding continues still.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As a writer and a poet, I am very much aware of the power (and the limitations) of words.

I do know that one elegant and beautiful way of walking through the world is more valuable than all the words and words and words that are meant to move the hearts around you.

It’s a good thing to remember when you are working towards some dream or other.  It really does not matter whether the walker becomes famous or remains obscure.  It’s glorious to succeed, but what are you succeeding at?

It seems to me that what is important is whether the way the walker walks helps to make the world a better place for everybody else.

It’s probably the most effective way to make friends and influence people as well.

tree-fern-crozier-unfurling
“Tree Fern Crozier Unfurling” by J Brew via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
 Here’s a poem….


WISDOM

Wisdom is simple, they tell me.

It’s just hard to walk easy like that.

Wisdom doesn’t make things or break things.

Wisdom just knows when to move,

When to be still.

And if you follow wisdom,

Maybe so will you.

 

Go…Stop…Start…Finish.

 

You make this turn, not that.

You dance a jig and spin a spin,

And, sometimes, that’s wisdom.

 

You talk, you shout,

You stare, you glare,

You take a dare,

You throw it all down

On one roll of the dice,

Or walk away, whistling.

And, sometimes, that’s wisdom.

 

You look and see what’s really there,

Join in the spectator crowd,

Or maybe hide your head in the sand,

Or you pull out some ‘scope –

Micro-,

Tele-,

Kaleido-,

And, sometimes, that’s wisdom.

 

You play or not,

You pass or plot

Or maybe you cheat at cards.

You take a stand,

Gather a band,

Or run like hell’s coming after.

And, sometimes, that’s wisdom.

 

The trick of it all is in knowing when

And you really can’t buy that

From some magic man.

 

Time’s what you need

And stepping real slow…

And, always, always, that is wisdom.

By Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  “A Place In the Sun” by Chie Gondo in 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.

Get Social....
PICK YOUR GAME (Another IPS)

PICK YOUR GAME (Another IPS)

ANOTHER IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  An understanding that Life is an opportunity to play.  [What you play (and how and why and when you move) often makes for a lot of difference in the results you get.]

Playing and helping other people play is my greatest “happy.”

I still think that one of the best things I ever did was to choose to look at all of the different aspects of Life-Its-Own-Self as play.

The possibilities inherent in that one excite me.   It sure does keep things cheerful in my world.

DEFINING THE GAME THAT IS LIFE

More than 15-some years ago, I stumbled across a book, FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES:  A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse.

By that time the book was already old news.  It had been published in 1986.

It’s one of those books that you either love or you hate.

I mean, what do you do with a book that starts out with, “There are at least two kinds of games.  One could be called finite, the other, infinite.  A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.

It goes on from there, with concept after concept piled up on top of contradictory concept, simultaneously building up and out and in and down towards the final comment (number 101) on the last page of this slim book, “There is but one infinite game.”

The book contains no actionable steps, no five- or ten- or twelve-step programs…or any steps at all.

There are no exercises, no tips, no shortcut life-hacks.

All it has going for it are musings about life and the ways you can play in it by a guy who is a certified deep thinker who thinks big thoughts.

Carse was Professor of Religion at New York University when he wrote the book.  At the time, he had won the University’s “Great Teacher Award.”  He retired in 1996 after thirty years of teaching religion and as head of the department at the University.

Carse wrote other books as well — such scintillating things as DEATH AND EXISTENCE:  A Conceptual History of Human Mortality, BREAKFAST AT THE VICTORY:  The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience, and THE SILENCE OF GOD:  Meditations on Prayer and several others.  Wo!

(I never did feel the urge to explore the guy’s other books so I can’t tell you much about them.)

You’ll find a lot of great takeaways in Carse’s “Game” book (if you happen to be the sort who gets stuck in head-games and are way into thinking about life and meaning and mana).  It’s one of those books that makes you nod and go yes, yes, yes.

The book is a deep dive into the patterns and templates you can look for as you construct your own life-story.

kaleidoscope
“Kaleidoscope” by Nigel Wade via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
It is a reminder that, at any given time, you are intimately involved in a grand and timeless game and it is you who gets to decide whether you will play the thing as a Finite game or as part of the Infinite one.

THIS THING’S A PLAY-BOOK….

Carse describes the ways of playing used in each kind of game and he delineates the underlying patterns of them as well.  It is a bit like a play-book for Life, I think.

He points out the differences in the moves that players in either game – Finite or Infinite – make and what the results of that way of moving is likely to be.

Carse does tell some good stories along the way.

It is a fascinating study, especially if, like me, you are prone to trying to figure out which of the two basic games the other people wandering through your life have chosen to play.

The thing the book is really good at is helping you to focus on whether you are choosing to play in a Finite game or the Infinite game your own self, and it helps you figure out which moves you need to consider making.

strategy
“Strategy” by tylerhoff via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Through the years, Carse’s FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES has been the one constant book that sits on my writing desk among a number of changing titles that I have used to help to nudge my thinking in varied and sometimes helpful directions.

It has often been a starting point when I sit down to examine and consider yet another confusing tangled mess that I’ve somehow either wandered into or precipitated as a result of general dumbness.

The book has been most useful at helping me to suss out the options and directions that possess some modicum of grace from the many possible moves that I could take.

highways-crossing
“Highways Crossing” by Michael Theis via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
I confess that I do prefer to be an Infinite Game player.  I especially like the goal of continuing the play.

I am not particularly fond of “winning.”  (Winning usually means the game stops, and then I just have to go find some other game and start all over again.  Pfui!)

However, I also know that often it is necessary to play in the assorted Finite games that occur within the Infinite one because sometimes that’s the only way to get to a place where you can either continue to help keep the play going or expand it in all kinds of more interesting directions.

(For me, the bonus has always been getting some pretty good poems.)

NOT FOR EVERYBODY

I suppose I do also have to point out that if you are not interested in constructing your own life-story or if you are determined to win (or at least not lose) at whatever game you are playing then you will probably find the book a bore.

You’ve already plunked on playing some Finite game or other. You know your playing field.  You’ve got the rules down.  Your goal is to win the game and that is that.  (Good fortune go with you.  See ya!)

If you have not had practice contemplating paradoxes and playing around with metaphors and analogies and do not see the value of that sort of play, the book will not resonate with you.

It’ll join the pile of other woo-woo nonsense and romantic novels in the used book sale down the street.

karims-used-books
“Karim’s Used Books Nehru Place – Delhi” by Alan Morgan [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If standing in uncertainty gives you the heebie-jeebies, then the thoughts and constructs contained in the book will seem like a major pile of high-browed hoo-hah.

If you have very strong ideas about how the world works that allow no room for wiggling, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to unlock the wonders the book contains.

Instead, you will declare that the assumptions you’ve adopted about the world you see are the only truths for you and you will confidently move forward along the paths they dictate.

And that can be a good thing too.

WHAT THE BOOK IS GOOD FOR

Carse’s book is a magnificent example of a thing that psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg, a noted researcher on the creative process, calls “Janusian thinking.”

The online Wiktionary says the phrase is an adjective that means, “having or relating to the ability to conceive and use multiple antithetical or opposite thoughts simultaneously.”

Rothenberg named it after the Roman god of thresholds and transitions, Janus.  Janus is typically depicted as a guy with two faces each facing in the opposite direction.

Not only does Janus have eyes in the back of his head, he’s got a whole other face.

janus
“Janus” by Mike Scoltock via Flickr [BY-NC 2.0]
Janusian thinking is what you do when you grab two or more contradictory ideas and hold them together in your mind until they stop fighting and start playing nice together.

What you try to do while the ideas are in there duking it out is to look at the captive concepts deeply enough so that you can come up with a third idea that will allow you to unlock the strengths and energies contained in those ideas and combine them in new and novel ways.

Talking about Janusian thinking is not easy, mostly because it is so foundational that it’s like talking about taking your first baby-steps.

baby-steps
“Baby Steps by Kevin Kratka via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
When you were a baby, you tried so very hard to get vertical and to totter forward.

Because you took those brave first steps and kept building up your skill at stepping, all kinds of other interesting things started happening as well.

All of a sudden you could move in all kinds of directions and get into all kinds of mischief.

Janusian thinking’s like those first baby-steps.  Your very first attempts at it are going to feel terribly awkward and clumsy.

Janusian thinking is “counter-intuitive.”  It goes against most people’s automatic gut reactions and often you may not find support for the thoughts you are thinking.

Janusian thinking is also another way of Un-Seeing.

Its function is to take you past your first thoughts and your default settings, your habitual patterns and your carefully built-up life routines.

If you succeed in getting past them, you will reach a space where you can construct new ways of doing and making things.

fluke-story
“Fluke Story (55 Chevy Bel Air Sports Coupe Frame Off Restoration)”

While you’re learning to use this particular style of thinking — until you get the hang of deconstructing your deeply held assumptions, looking at things from every angle as the battling ideas wrestle each other into the ground — the whole process is going to be very effortful and it’s likely to feel sl-o-o-w.

This means you are going to feel really, really stupid doing it.

Keep doing it and it does speed up.  You can reach a place where just sticking the contradictory ideas into the ring starts a whole string of new ideas popping up in your head.

fight
“Fight” by MAZA FIGHT JAPAN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Once you get the hang of deconstructing old preconceptions and letting go of past judgments as well as nurturing a multiplicity of perspectives and learning how to transmute the knowledge you gain from them into new understandings, you’ll be able to choose more effective ways to address whatever situation you might encounter.

That’s just a fancy way of saying you’ll be able to come up with fresh ideas that just might work way better than anything you’ve ever tried has worked before.

(Hey!  You may even be hailed as an innovator-extraordinaire or the next Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet or one of those Nobel Prize winners that Atherton studied or some such thing.)

Janusian thinking is a component of several higher systems of thought-making that have been studied by assorted guys in white lab coats:

  • cognitive thinking – the process by which you transmute the knowledge you get from experience, thought and sensory input and turn it into understandings you can use to solve problems or make stuff
  • design thinking – creative problem-solving that focuses on the people for whom a new product is being created
  • synergistic thinking – a process that blends and balances logical linear thinking and associative non-linear thinking to boost creativity, innovation and Making

It could also be viewed as a simplistic description of the foundations for Taoist and Zen thought processes, for shamanistic or indigenous thought precepts, and for other high-wizard stuff.

Do this and eventually you get to play in Harry-Potter-World…or maybe you’ll get to be the Sorceror’s Apprentice.

the-hat
“the hat” by Camron Flanders via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

AND THEN THERE’S THE DOWNSIDE

The downside of all of the processes that start with Janusian thinking is that they can also multiply the variety, intensity and severity of the mistakes you can make…if they don’t paralyze you with the sheer volume of possibilities.

Sometimes when you are dancing on the edge, you make a mis-step and fall off.  Other times you stand on the edge of chaos and look into the Void and see the Void looking back at you.   (Yeep!)

Those who depend on their world staying concrete and linear and rational won’t go there.  (This thing is not for the faint-hearted nor for those who panic when they are stuck in ambiguity.)

It’s also not for those who are not seriously into examining their underlying motives and intentions.  (Intent gets really important when you play in Harry-Potter-World.)

Janusian thinking is the place where innovative geniuses go. It is also the place where the mad ones stay.

This is the place where the old maps say, “Here there be dragons.”

here-there-be-dragons
“Here there be dragons” by gomagoti via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
And if you choose to go there, it can, as well, make it really hard for you to talk to regular folks who have never left the living room couch.

Those who walk the trails into the Mystic and the serious psychedelic rangers go through initiation rites that require “dying to the world” in some way or other.  So do those whose intense creative, athletic or scientific bent takes them way into the middle of the Zone.

Janusian thinking is exactly like that.

All of the ones who choose to play the Infinite Game are often more than a little strange.

long-road
“La Longue Route” by marcovdz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If you choose, instead, to become a poet or a storyteller, however, then it can all turn into play.

Good poets and storytellers have no problem talking to people.  It’s what they do.

Here’s a poem about a clash between someone playing a Finite game and another who’s more into the Infinite one….


WRONG MOVIE

There she goes, stomping along strong,

Being Godzilla attacking Tokyo.

(I guess I’ve been cast as Tokyo.)

Hmmm….

 

My job, it says here, is to stand there

Getting pounded and ground down

By big, stomping feet,

And pushed and shoved aside

By strong, powerful shoulders,

Pummeled by massive fists all the while.

I’m supposed to bend and break

Before the temper-tantrum wrath

Of riled-up Biggie.

Uh-huh….

 

My role, it says here, is to quake

As roars and growls fill the air.

I get to dash around in panic

Trying to find a place to hide

My own small self.

Right….

 

Oh, and, it says here,

There’s supposed to be

A lot of bleeding with street-pizza decorations

Strewn about in the general mayhem,

All those slash wounds from gy-normous claws

Having taken their toll.

O-ka-a-a-y…..

 

Gee, it says I’m supposed to weep in despair.

AWWW….

This won’t work.

Sorry, babe.

You need to call Central Casting again.

They sent you the wrong character actor, I think.

 

See, mostly I spend my time playing at being Wind.

I’m not sure this Godzilla movie

Has much use for gentle breezes and sweet, soft zephyrs.

I don’t think it can use snazzy updrafts and down-drafts

And slider-currents that support cunning wings.

There are no sails around here I can fill

To push the story forward.

And I’m pretty sure you won’t like

The hurricanes, the tornadoes and the cyclones

I’ve been developing.

 

Ah, well…

So it goes.

See ya….

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “House of the Sun” by David Fulmer via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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

 

Get Social....
PRACTICE THE GIFT YOU WANT TO BE

PRACTICE THE GIFT YOU WANT TO BE

All of us with inclinations for tinkering with our own heads and playing around with the structure of our lives seem to be prone to spending at least some time wandering around “looking for ourselves.”

It’s like somehow, in the press of living, we have lost our own “True Self” (a.k.a. “TS”) and like the person who’s misplaced her glasses, we wander around hoping to notice that TS sitting on a shelf or something.

eyeglasses
“Eyeglasses” by Riveredger via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
There are lots and lots of experts out there who are prepared to help us in our quest.  Everybody, it seems, has some sort of system or other that will help you find that TS you misplaced and left lying around somewhere.

THEORIES AND SYSTEMS AND ALL OF THAT

You could spend several lifetimes and many fortunes testing out all of the different theories and systems and whatnots.  (If you’re lucky, you might find the one you can actually live.)

If you do, you’ll be able to use it to shape yourself into whatever pretzel this person or that feels is an effective, useful, and productive mode of being or, just maybe, you might be able to use what you learn to design your very own mode of being that’s just right for you.

The thought does occur to me sometimes that it really is too bad that few of us have several lifetimes to spare and that most of us are still working on our first fortune.

It does seem, however, that looking for a better fit than the one that happens between our one-of-a-kind self and the just-like-everybody-else sort of life we humans tend to live is an aspiration that can lead to many new and interesting ways of getting to our own kind of happiness.

wheres-all-the-gold
“Where’s All the Gold?” by GollyGForce via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

HERE IS ANOTHER ONE

Sportswriter Daniel Coyle wrote an article for the New York Times “Play” magazine in 2007 that sparked his own explorations and wanderings into places around the world where talent, creativity and excellence are fostered exceptionally well.

You can read Coyle’s initial article, “How to Grow a Super-Athlete” by pressing this button:

click-here

For a couple of years, Coyle wandered around looking at assorted people, places and systems that consistently and reliably produced champions.  He likes calling these places where people’s supposedly innate talents are nurtured and helped to develop and grow “talent hotbeds.”

champion
“Champion” by Mateo Tarenghi via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
As he visited these places Coyle asked questions about how and why these people, places and systems work so well at fostering accelerated learning.  The answers intrigued him.

Then, because he is a writer, Daniel Coyle wrote a book in 2009, THE TALENT CODE: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Everything Else. 

The book was well-received.  There have been several iterations and expansions on it since then by the author.

And why not? It’s a fine example of “pop psychology” – useable, scientifically based, DIY stuff that can be applied to everyday living with good results.

The book is readable and the writing is clear and down-to-earth.  Coyle tells good stories.  And, according to him, the steps that are used in the process of enabling the rapid learning of effective skills well are simple and few.

Coyle even throws in a bit about how your brain works when it’s learning stuff and offers suggestions about how you can help it along.

This video, ‘How to Practice Effectively…For Just About Anything,” a TED-Ed short lesson by Annie Bosler and Don Greene published in 2017, pretty much covers and gives a short explanation about that part.

According to the guys who study such things, getting good at doing something is a lot about myelin building.  (Don’t know what that is?  Watch the video.)

DEEP PRACTICE

My own takeaways from this book were all connected to Coyle’s explanations and life-hacks that surround the concept of “Deep Practice.”

That chapter of the book, “The Three Rules of Deep Practice” is introduced by Samuel Beckett’s advice, “Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.”  (More than a few very successful companies have gotten a lot of mileage out of that bit of advice.)

Coyle’s three “rules” are as follows:

  • Rule One: Chunk it up.  Every learnable skill is made up of smaller bits – ways of doing things that work more effectively than other options for doing the same thing.  You can suss them out if you look at the processes involved.  (If you’re fortunate enough to have a smartypants mentor, it gets even easier.).   You can set yourself to learning how to do each part of the process as effectively as possible.  Then you put all the parts together.
  • Rule Two: Repeat it.  Repetition, as any athlete, performer and Maker will tell you, is the key to doing anything well.
  • Rule Three: Learn to feel it.  This one reminds me of what I learned about “embodying” knowledge from my kung fu si’fu (teacher).  It is the process of sinking down what you are learning – the how to move and the sequencing and timings of the moves and so on – into your bones.  When you do that, the moves eventually become automatic and a part of how you respond to the world.

loggerhead-turtles-mabibi
“Loggerhead Turtles – Mabibi” by Jeroen Looye via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Deep Practice, according to Coyle, is pretty straightforward and eminently do-able.  (The baby turtles in the illustration are role models to emulate as you work with it.)

NOW, THINK ON THIS:  WE ARE ALWAYS PRACTICING SOMETHING

As I was pondering on all this, I stumbled across an affecting TEDxTalk by Santa Barbara mindfulness coach and business consultant Dave Mochel who points to the fact that we are ALWAYS practicing something.

As he says, “practice is how we use our time and energy.”

This is a thought that tends to get ignored in all the how-to’s and tips and hack-notes about getting to a better life and realizing your greatest potential in the books on the self-improvement how-to shelves and blogs like this one.

The video featuring Mochel, “What Are You Practicing Now?,” was published in 2016 by TEDxPasadena Women.

In it Mochel presents a cogent explanation of Deep Practice and he details how consistently combining awareness with deliberate action (even if you’re not so good at it and keep making mistakes and do-overs) can lead to fulfillment, well-being, growth and connection.

At the end of the video, Mochel advises, “Be careful what you practice because you ARE going to get better at it.

Depending on what you’re practicing, this could be a very scary thought.

Mochel does know what he’s talking about.  He spent 25 years as a teacher of neuroscience, physics, human development and leadership in independent schools before becoming a mindfulness coach who works all over the world with individuals, teams and organizations to “develop and maintain healthy and powerful cultures,” it says here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I do spend a lot of time reading and listening to enlightening information and encouraging words about human potential and creativity.   A lot of that stuff is certainly inspiring.

It does occur to me, however, that the topic is such a fascinating one that there are always going to be more and more thoughts generated about it by all kinds of motivational experts, life coaches, guys in white lab coats and storytellers.

All of these thoughts join all the other ones thought up by wise guys down through the ages.

The variations and techniques for developing and using our inherent and often dormant abilities and propensities will continue to proliferate like those mind-boggling fractal figures that spin out and spread out in ever-widening complexity.   (Oy!)

fractal-gift
“Gift” by Linda K via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Somewhere in all of that, there is likely to be something you can use your own self.

My own explorations into Deep Practice have presented me with a glimpse at whole other ways of thinking about human potential.  They lead me to ask some uncommonly intriguing questions, like:

What if it all really is not about the gifts you were “given” when you came into this world?

What if the Real is that YOU are the gift?

What if the human presence in this world is really about how each of us humans can set about building ourselves into the gifts to the world that we each want to be?

left-undone
“Left Undone” by GollyGForce via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Hmmm….

Here’s a poem:


HO’OKUPU (Gift)

 

I dance on the edge of a pit

For a goddess of fire and flame.

The heat of the sun on the stones

Sears through my bones,

And a passion of blood flows

More swiftly in my veins,

Pushed along by the sulfur-tinged

Breath that flows in and out of lungs

Seared by the stopped-time desolation.

 

Honored lady, my hands are empty.

I come with no gift for you

Except for this dance

By an ignorant body that is a legacy from ancestors

Who I can feel behind me, walking

To an age-old chant that

Reverberates, rings in my ears;

Except for this feeble brain

That tries to make sense of a different space and time,

Where magic and mana is paved over

And ringed with “No Trespassing” signs;

Except for this tired heart

That lives in exile, longing for a place lost in time.

 

There, now…

 

I can feel my heart opening wide

Pulsing there in surrender to

The echoes of the radiant chaos that is your beauty.

The pit yawns to my left.

To my right, a cave rises up out of the tortured stone,

Formed by turbulence and time,

It is filled with secret whispers that nudge

The edges of awareness,

Swirling through the molten rock that flows

Through the depths of my na’au like a river of liquid fire.

 

And, look, what is this?

 

Behind me, Dragon watches,

A smug twinkle in her eye.

I hope she is proud of me.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Gift” by Houman Khosrozadeh 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…..

Get Social....
PERSONAL BRANDING JAMMIN’ — TAKE 2

PERSONAL BRANDING JAMMIN’ — TAKE 2

Try it.  Google “personal branding.”

Wo.  See that?  The little search ‘bots retrieve 297 MILLION results!

Since leadership guru Tom Peters first presented the concept of marketing yourself and your career just like a brand in that article, “The Brand Called You” for Fast Company magazine in 1997, the thing has developed some legs and has taken off running in all directions.

Click this button to read the article its own self:click-here

A whole industry has grown up around the idea.  The multitude of human potential advice-mongers keeps telling us that mega-success comes from self-packaging and telling a better, hand-crafted story than the next guy.

FOCUSING ON THE GIFT-WRAPPING

Before Peters dropped the PB-bomb, typical do-it-yourself self-help management techniques that were bandied back and forth were about self-improvement and developing inner qualities of character and all that other old-school, boring stuff.

Now, it seems, it’s all about self-packaging and “controlling” your image and massaging your message.

One of the best YouTube videos I’ve seen about brand strategizing is this one, published in 2011 by BINA LA, featuring veteran marketer and brand promulgator Sasha Strauss, the founder and manager of the consulting firm, Innovation Protocol.  In it, he gives “$100,000 of Brand Strategy Advice” to a roomful of up-and-coming peeps.

It’s a wonderful, rollicking talk.  It touches on all the points about how, you too, can be a brand.  Woo-hoo!

(Notice, especially, that he says the big companies spend a heck of a lot of money and buy up a lot of people’s time and talent to work this thing.  Okay.  Onward.)

WHY “THEY” SAY IT SHOULD MATTER TO YOU

We keep getting bombarded by the same message:  We have to stand out from the crowd.

Repeatedly we are admonished:  We need to create buzz-i-ness.

We need to be seen.  Our ideas must be heard.  The social media – that insta-FB-tweet-post-pin algorithmic meta-dance — will take us to the place where we will be the Center of Attention.

And that, it says here, will get us to being showered by the Big, Big Bucks.

money
“Money” by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
We will be secure in the knowledge that when folks need something done, all this trumpet-blowing and drum-banging is going to mean that they will inevitably think of US.

We’ll be “Top-Of-Mind.”

This is because we are in control of our own story and the image we’ve inserted in other people’s minds.

(Then, of course, we can don our super-hero gear and go get ‘er done.)

PB jammin’ takes time, we are told.  It takes hard work.  It can cost a bunch too.  After all, there’s a heck of a lot of competition out there and they’re all doing the very same thing we are.

The noise level keeps rising.

And all of those stories are clashing and crashing together.  ACK!

REALLY, YOU GUYS?

It really has to make you wonder, though.

When everybody’s talking and trying to make their message louder and stronger and more and it’s all predicated on self-promotion and outshining the other guy, doesn’t that mean that it gets really hard to hold a normal, one-on-one conversation?

And if everybody’s shouting at each other, what do any of us actually hear?

If everybody is trying to “stand out,” doesn’t that mean that we are all sort of blending in?

In the analog world, a crowd of folks, each one trying to be more different and more avant-garde than the other guys probably end up looking sort of like a cosplay convention or maybe a Mardi Gras parade.  Right?

injured-jack
“Injured Jack” by David Morgan via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
I mean, it’s fun and all, but what’s the point?

All those guys in the white lab coats tell us that each of us humans are pretty much made up of the same bundle of needs and wants, strengths and vulnerabilities, patches of assorted bits of sanity and neuroses, and ordinary as well as extraordinary bits as every other human.

They tell us that our individual differences and eccentricities are often less noticeable than our collective similarities.

A punk rocker who “stands out” in a crowd of polka fans would just be a regular sort of guy in a punk rock concert crowd.

Since business and everyday living runs more smoothly where there is a “meeting of the minds,” it is probably a good thing that we are a lot more alike than not.

Still and all, we are not clones of one another.  Even minor differences of mindsets can cause major misses when two minds are trying to intersect.

M…M…M…MAYBE IT’S SORT OF RIGHT

It is certainly true that showcasing the parts of ourselves that we are particularly proud of is more likely to attract the attention of folks who are looking for those very qualities we most want to continue to use and grow.

I’m not saying that the PB-jammin’ dudes are wrong.

I am saying, however, that it isn’t the packaging that brings joy and gladdens the hearts of the recipients of a gift.

It is not the packaging that delivers on the promises made when you ask for somebody’s trust.

The packaging means squat when you are in the middle of the muck trying to knock out a solution to a gnarly problem.

gift-wrapped
“Gift Wrapped” by Matthew Kenwrick via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What your customer wants to know, really, are two things:

  • Can you do the work well?
  • Will it solve their problem so they can get on with doing their own work?

The shiny party paper and pretty bow are nice, but, so what?  How much of your time is it worth?

It seems to me that your time would probably be better spent making sure that you really are doing the work that your customers need done the way they need it done and that you are developing better and better skills at doing it.

HEADS-UP, CONTROL FREAKS

The one thing most guys who are into promoting personal branding sort of gloss over is another truism:  You cannot control any other person’s perceptions of you or your story.

How they put together what you say is not in your control.  Remember that ubiquitous disclaimer, “Individual results may vary.”

You can round up and herd other people’s perceptions.  You can influence them.  Maybe you can even drill an image into someone else’s head.  Whatever.

perceptions
“Points of Perception” by vannio via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Know, however, that if you fail at delivering on your promises, none of the packaging stuff is going to matter one whit to your customers.

You will hear about it, and so will anybody within the reach of that social media thing you’re trying to game.

THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

There are important questions embedded in that Tom Peters’ article, which was meant to be a wake-up call for those of us playing among the ranks of the corporate minion-hordes to break free from the need to conform to and in our workplaces.

questions
“Questions” by elycefeliz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Peters was giving us a heads-up about a basic truism, I think:  Conformity does not promote creativity.

He was trying to get us to understand that as contributors in the “new marketplace,” each of us is responsible for owning who we are on the deepest level.

He told us that we had to “cast aside all the usual descriptions that employees depend on to locate themselves in the company structure.”

Forget job title, he said.  Instead, ask yourself, ‘What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value?”

Forget your job description, he said.  Ask yourself, “What do I do that I am most proud of?”

For me, at least, the personal branding advice Peters was presenting in that article more than a dozen years ago was less about you being noticed by other people and more about what you do, the meaning it has for you, and why it has value for other people.

He tells you to ask yourself “the same questions that brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi or the Body shop ask themselves.”  Look at your product or service (and at your own self) and figure out what makes that product or service (or you) different from the run-of-the-mill in 15 words or less.

What specific features do the product or service (or you) have that benefits your customer better than anything else?

If your answer doesn’t “light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from a satisfied past client, or – worst of all – if it doesn’t grab you,” Peters says, you have got a problem.

Basically, you don’t know why you’re doing what you do.

question-mark
“Question mark” by Kanser via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Applying the “feature-benefit model” to your own self, Peters suggests asking the following questions and he explains the benefits to the customers that arise from that feature:

  • Do you deliver your own work on time, every time? (Your internal or external customer gets dependable, reliable service that meets its strategic needs.)
  • Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises. (Your client saves money and headaches just by having you on the team.)
  • Do you always complete your projects within the allotted budget? (Cost overruns are not a help.)

Put together the answers to the feature-benefit model questions and the earlier ones about what you do that rings your own chimes.

Then, Peters says, ask yourself, “What do I want to be famous for?”

Doing all that helps you screw your head on right.  You will have figured out why your present and your prospective customers will probably like what you do.

You’re on your way to getting your story straight, which makes it a heck of a lot easier to live it.

There is a bunch of stuff in the article about how to call attention to your answers and conclusions once you’ve done the exercises.

Of course, there are.  The guy is a marketer-extraordinaire.

Maybe, though, that part is optional.

AN OLDER KIND OF PERSONAL BRANDING

Whenever I run across another of the “personal branding” motivational rants, I can hear my grandpa grunt, “Only wala’au (talk, talk, talk)…no CAN li’ dat.”

(Papa was a great believer in doing and solving problems.  Talking didn’t cut it for him when the results didn’t match the boasting.)

It was a reminder that wala’au is only air.

What counts, all the old guys said, are the results of the work of your hands and your mind.

these-hard-worked-hands
“These hard worked hands” by Carlos via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
It is an old-fashioned idea.  One that’s been around for a very long time.

Before there was a thing called “personal branding,” everybody worried and gnawed on the concept of “building a good reputation.”

Reputation is what people remember best about you, they said, and other people’s memories and the stories they tell about the way you walked along with them and others they know are what can make it a good one.

The thing that builds your reputation is the way you walk.

walk
“Walk” by Peter Blanchard via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

MEMORIES ARE LONG

Every once in a while, I am reminded of how long other people’s memories are.

The Light of My Life and I stopped into a private craft sale put together one Sunday morning by a group of local craftspeople in an outbuilding at the home of their friend and patron.  There were three painters, a journeyman photographer, a beginner jeweler, a masterly potter and a stone carver.

I knew the stone carver, Ho’aka, who used to hang around the booth at the hotel and festival craft shows that my late husband Fred (a self-taught, traditional Hawaiian stone-carver) and I used to set up to market Fred’s decidedly esoteric and traditional art form.

My part in all of that was to learn the stories of the ways the ancient ones worked with the stones and to explain how and why Fred tried to emulate their ways while he sat on a mat on the ground doing a stone-carving demonstration.

One of my best things was organizing little do-it-yourself stone polishing sessions where kids who visited our booth could take away a small, child hand-sized ‘ulumaika game stone that they had worked on themselves using one of the flat polishing stone boards I set up on mats around our space.

Another activity involved print-making by pressing acrylic paint-covered carved stones onto torn rectangles of crafts paper.

Guided by the pictures in the old books I’d found, Fred carved ancient-style petroglyphs onto those stones. The kids loved the results when they played with the stones.

rainbow-chief-petroglyph-stone
“Rainbow Chief” carved by Fred A. K. Kanoho

I made simple display boards, wrote up the mo’olelo (stories), and wowed the visitors to our booth with cultural tales during a time when the Hawaiian cultural renaissance was just starting to grow.

It was timely, and we sure had a lot of fun with it.

After Fred’s death, Ho’aka went on to find master traditional stone carvers in the islands, apprenticing himself to them.  He got good at working stones.

As the Light of My Life and I were leaving, Ho’aka gave me the highest compliments one local can give another.

He told me, “Netta, I want you to know.  We remember.  We remember how you told the stories.  We remember how you guys kept the stories alive.  We remember….”

Twenty years after that chapter in my life had ended, I was given this gift.

It made me cry…and the funny part was that what he said other people remembered was not what I thought I was doing.

Here’s a poem:


I’M FAMOUS

HEY!

Look-a-me!

I am FAMOUS!

EVERYBODY says so…

All the them that’s in the know.

(If YOU don’t know, then who are you?)

Me, I am famous!

 

HEH-HEH!

Look-a-me!

Watch me twist and twirl,

Gyrating in the swirl

Of Other People’s noticing,

Glowing in the spotlight

Incandescent like a mirror-ball.

I am famous!  Me!

 

HO-WOW!

Look-a-me!

Hey…look-a-me, look-a-me!

Hey, hey…why’d you stop?

Don’t you like me any more?

Gee…don’t you know?

I’m famous!

 

Ummm…where’d you go?

 

Awww….

They’re all gone.

There’s nobody looking.

Guess I’m done, my race all run,

Washed-up, a has-been…

Me…

The formerly famous.

created by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit: “Dying Fire” by Frank Crisanti 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.

Get Social....
MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

I am reading a book by a man I admire greatly, Edward Espe Brown.  He was the first head cook at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center back in the 1960’s and later founded Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

His earliest book, THE TASSAJARA BREAD BOOK is a classic.

More than one dear friend remembers their well-thumbed, flour-coated and oil-stained go-to copy of the book and the loveliness that flowed from their hands and the kitchens of their youth.

Brown’s latest work, NO RECIPE:  Cooking as Spiritual Practice, is a distillation of the wisdom he has gained after more than 50 years of feeding many people, of running large kitchens, and of following the path of Zen Buddhism as a monk, as a teacher, and as a philosopher.

I devoured it in one big gulp and am re-reading it slowly and picking out the best parts to savor.  It will undoubtedly have a place on my bookshelf for a long time…just so I can dip into it again.

The following YouTube video, “Awaken In the Sacred Space” was published in 2018 by the publisher Sounds True just after the book came out.

Try look!  You might like it!

YOU START WITH YOURSELF

Brown’s root teacher was Shunryu Suzuki Rōshi who was the Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States and who founded the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia.

One of my favorite Suzuki Rōshi videos is this one “Sandokai – Sound and Noise,” posted by semillas de bambu in 2007.  It gives you a glimpse of the man and the way he talked and how he thought.

In a 2013 interview for a blog post put up by the San Francisco Zen Center, Brown pointed out, “I still appreciate Suzuki Rōshi saying, ‘When you are you, Zen is Zen.’ He didn’t say when you get to be Zen enough, then you’ll have really gotten somewhere. So much of Suzuki Rōshi’s way was to find out what’s appropriate for the occasion and what works for people.”

It is that practicality – connecting the sacred to the ordinary and grounding it there — that shines throughout Brown’s book.  It takes your head and your heart away into a peaceful place.

brussel-sprouts-before-roasting
“Brussel sprouts before roasting” by John Sullivan [CC BY-SA 2.0]

MUSINGS ON MAKING THE ORDINARY SACRED

As I was thinking on what to share with you in this post and shuffling through notes and jottings and other stuff, I rediscovered an old bit of writing from when I was focusing on developing a “manifesto” – promises to myself of how I wanted to proceed with my life.

more-abundance
“More Abundance” by Netta Kanoho via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I thought I’d share this thing with you.  Maybe you’ll find something useful in it.  (I know I still have a grand time playing with it.)


One of the choices I delineated for myself was this one: I make and maintain room in my life to make the ordinary sacred.

In order to do this, I figured that I had to do the following:

  • I give myself time to play.

Without the time to play, it all sort of mooshes into “gotta, gotta, gotta,” and it starts feeling like one giant treadmill.   Somehow, I can’t feature hamsters being real into “sacred.”

  • I help make the structure of my life a better vehicle for enhancing Creativity.

When I have spaces built in where I can play with making a Little Something out of the Big Nothing, then I start feeling like I can stop to appreciate all the wonder there really is in the world.

Everything’s a little more sparkly, a little more special, because it’s not just ME doing Little Somethings, it’s EVERYBODY doing Little Somethings.

This is a great space to be in when you’re trying to make it all sacred.

  • I ask the hard questions and I develop rituals that remind me what is Real.

Hard questions are like, “What am I doing be-bopping along here on this road to death?”  and “How am I making my space sparkly?” and “Why do I care whether so-and-so is a dorkhead?” and “What can I let go of now?” and “What do I want to keep now?” and so on and so forth.

Making rituals include things like lighting a bit of incense before I work on reconciling my checkbook so that I remember that I am working with the abundance in the universe that is flowing through my life.

It includes cleaning up the stack of the day’s dishes before going to bed so I wake up without leftover messes in my face.

It includes doing my ch’i kung routine every morning so that I feel the energy that’s out there flowing all around, just waiting for me to join in the dance.

It includes moving stuff around and checking out how the feng shui moves helped (or not) as I go through my day.

It includes writing quick notes to heart-people just because it feels good to have them in my life.

  • I make room in my life to focus on Creativity.

I always seem to get caught up in doing, doing, doing.  It is a cool thing to be able to stop and step back from it all and see where it is going.

If I can do that, it seems, that there’s automatically more space to do something that is heartful.

It also helps when I can step back and look at what I am doing and see where I can do it in a way that fosters more creativity.

I want open-ended avenues, not cul-de-sacs, I think.

I want mountain passes rather than ruts and grooves.

I want bridges rather than dead ends.

Working on it.

  • I develop creative projects and products that help other people open their hearts and play.

Part of that process is stopping every so often to see whether what I am doing is still useful or if I need to be doing some other thing.

  • I develop skill and facility in using story, symbolism and metaphor that feed and enhance my communication skills.

There is so much power in the Word, but there is also power in the non-verbal.  I am working on that one a lot right now and seeing where that takes me.


Looking at the thing now, I can see it was still a lot of half-baked ideas.

I also see that through the years since I first wrote this thing, I’ve continued working on and developing these mind-constructs.  It’s turned out okay as I keep on working them through and I’ve been mostly pleased with the results.

The whole of this, I think, is the notion that the Creative IS what is sacred in the ordinary.

Being able to slap together a sandwich or a salad depends on having the space for the fixings and for making what you want to make.  That’s honoring and making room for the Creative.

Being able to dance to your heartsong means you’ve got to have the space to turn around and move your bootie.

And, it seems to me, the only way to get to the Creative is by embracing your own self and how you feel about the way the world is working as well as what you do to recognize and honor the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary.

The best part is this: I’ve found that the more I pursue finding the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary the more my life feels like a wondrous thing.

 Here’s a poem….


SEEKERS

Seekers seek:

It’s what they do….

Looking for what is over there or over there…

just anywhere but Here…

searching for what was then or what will later be,

but never, ever, what is Now.

 

Only one problem –

take it as you choose….

Seekers are always in their Here,

they are always in their Now,

and that eclipses all the rest, ya know,

reveals the fool’s gold of their wanderlust lives and

sets them off…on the road again.

 

I daresay that’s why

Seekers track down some long-lost riddle

or pursue a thing that runs on ahead,

giggling, as it wisps off away into the Unknown –

tantalizingly close…then gone.

 

And, I guess, that’s why

Seekers beat the bushes,

chasing down some truth or other,

leaving no stone unturned,

rooting around in all that detritus and mud,

ferreting out byways and bypasses,

checking out trails and paths,

tracking down yet another cliché

that turns to dross in the sun of their eyes.

 

I suppose that’s why

Seekers quest,

seeking high, looking low,

investigating – delve and dig –

teasing forth yet another wisdom,

finding one more sacred talisman,

throwing out their old dragnets,

pulling them back in,

and then they stand around watching as

their catch (glittery and gleaming when freshly caught)

dries out and morphs into everyday, ordinary pebbles…

over and over again.

 

They say they’re looking for happy, the Seekers,

They say they want to find the Real, the True,

But, it’s a funny thing:

It seems you can only find the Real in your Here

and your Now contains the only True,

and you only get to Happy (or a reasonable facsimile)

when you notice that.

 

I suspect that if your heart is busy yearning

for far-away and some other when —

baubles and bits like a cave full of a dragon’s stash

or the resting-place of a once-and-future king,

like the ancient conundrums of a long-gone people

or the someday-visions of some mystic’s dream —

then, maybe you just cannot see your way to the Here,

maybe you cannot catch the scent of the Now,

and so you’re doomed to keep on looking,

condemned to search, to quest.

 

One day you are old.

The will-o-wisps no longer tantalize and tempt you

and the long road fades off away in the distance

as you sit there in your clown suit watching the sun set,

inventorying your memories, one by one.

And maybe ’cause you’re sitting there all quiet

Your here-and-now comes and sits by you,

Snuggling up against you,

and maybe that’s when Happy has a chance to find you,

and Real and True stop by to have a chat.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:. “Prehistoric Rock Engraving” by Merryjack 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.

Get Social....
A “MOVEMENT” = CONNECTION

A “MOVEMENT” = CONNECTION

For the past few months, the Light of My Life and I have been showing up at the early Saturday-morning Upcountry Farmer’s Market fairly frequently.

It has been some years since either of us visited the market.

For us, the market is a delightful surprise and has become a treasured part of our weekend routine.

Every time we go there are old friends who we haven’t seen for a long time.  We touch base with other friends.  We make new ones as well.

The market has also been a personally poignant reminder that a “movement” is really just people building community and connection and developing ways to share the resources that surround us.

WE SERVE COMMUNITY TO BUILD COMMUNITY

That’s the motto of this home-grown market that is one of the longest running gathering places for farmers, hunter-gatherers, food artisans and creative business folks on Maui — an island where dedicated foodies spend a lot of their time seeking out more variety, better quality, and lovely new taste sensations.

The concept that the people living in the islands need to grow more of our own food, out of which the market and others like it has grown, is a recurring theme for those of us who live here.

“Food security” – the assurance that a person will be able to get food to sustain the people he or she cares about from the place where they live — is a very real concern when the various estimates by all kinds of experts say that 85 to 90 percent of all of the food we consume here is shipped or flown in from other places.

offshore-rainbow-with-barge-and-sailboat
“offshore rainbow with barge and sailboat” by Derek via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The whole system that is now in place is a wonder to behold.

Consider this:  The islands of Hawaii are physically located way-the-hell-and-gone in a very big ocean.

The closest landmass to the Hawaii is a point on the southernmost tip of an unnamed peninsula in Alaska overlooking Ikatan Bay…a whopping 2,259.28 miles from Tunnels Beach on Kauai.

(The second-closest is near Flumeville, California, also more than two thousand miles away from Hakalau on the Big Island.)

And, yet, if you wander through any food store on any island – even the smallest ones – you will find a truly incredible array of food from every part of the planet.

mana
“Mana” by George Arriola via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The whole thing is also a precariously balanced system.

It is not hard to imagine worst-case scenarios where a series of disastrous natural events might stop the flow of ships and aircraft hauling in all that food.

People do like to point out that folks got along quite well in the old days without all that fancy stuff.

The native peoples grew and harvested enough food to get by and live their lives well before the coming of all those tall ships and the new thoughts that flowed in.

Of course, the native systems of land management and ownership were very different than our current ones.

The foods that were available might have been plentiful, but they were limited to a few staple crops and rounded out by some animals that were imported to the islands by early Polynesian settlers as well as the abundance of fish and bird-life back then.

Our ancestors developed an impressive array of survival skills that most modern-day folks replaced with other skills that are better adapted to all of the modern-day systems of “conveniences” we now enjoy.

IT TAKES A TRIBE TO GROW A CHILD AND KEEP ON FEEDING IT

It occurred to me that the survivalist tactics of the self-reliance extremists with apocalyptic visions who live on continents may not be particularly pertinent to people who are stuck on an island.

Yes, you can learn many of the skills you need to optimize the resources available to you, but one person or even one family or smallish group has a limited amount of knowledge and energy to make a life of abundance all by themselves.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of having to deal with the hungry neighbors.  Yipes!

One of the most important considerations the ones who are all “me-for-myself-and-mine” is the fact that without planes or ships when you pack up and leave, you won’t get very far on a relatively small island.

(Maybe that’s why Oceanic ancestors did a lot of sailing around.)

hokulea
“Hokule’a” by Burt Lum via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Whatever.

Setting up a survivalist camp that’s off the grid in the bushes is not a real option for many of the people on an island.

(For one thing, it does cost a lot of money and requires all kinds of technological knowledge and skills to set up something that is actually sustainable in the long run.)

Bumbling along and working as a community of people of good will to help each other survive on a day-to-day basis seems a more viable option to more moderate sorts.

With this in mind, many people on all of the islands have banded together to work on trying to produce more of our own food and on developing networks that will be able to sustain us if things go very bad.

This video, “Farmer’s Perspective” was published in 2016 by GoFarm Hawaii, a University of Hawaii program.  It contains a number of different viewpoints from several farmers who’ve been involved with the program and is an interesting look at the agricultural efforts and mindsets of small, diversified farmers in the islands.

It’s been happening for a long time now.

LOCAVORES “BUY LOCAL”

The “Buy Local,It Matters” campaign, a joint project of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, encourages residents of Hawaii to purchase local produce.

(Click on the campaign name for more information about it.  It is the latest in a long line of government efforts to address the problem.)

The button below takes you to an open data portal put up by the State of Hawaii Ag guys that presents some solid measurements and facts about food production in Hawaii and more information about the effort to keep on expanding our capacity to grow our own food.

click-here

The goal of all of this measuring effort that started in 1997 is to double local food production.

It continues.

As consumers, our choice to “buy local” even when the imported stuff in the very next bin or shelf at a supermarket is quite a bit less expensive (in terms of money) is definitely a way to help our neighbors and our own selves work towards a more sustainable life, it seems to me.

BACK TO THE MARKET

Mat and I remember when the Upcountry Farmers Market was held at Makawao’s St. Joseph’s Church.  (Has it really been more than 40 years ago?)

Some young “back-to-the-land” advocates and tree-huggers (many of them friends of ours) started the thing.

It grew as backyard gardeners, small local farmers, hunter-gatherers and fishing folks as well as crafters and artisans joined in, sharing the food they grew and the products they created from island offerings with their neighbors in trade for other things they needed or for some extra side-money.

fruits
“Fruits” by Blake Handley via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
onions
Onions” by Sue Salisbury via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
unwrapping-a-box
“Unwrapping a box…” by Jen Russo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The Upcountry Farmers Market migrated to the Eddie Tam Community Center in Makawao after it got too big for the church space.

The market vendors and their aficionados continued to meet there for 31 years, braving weather and fickle or clueless customers and the confusing convolutions of red-tape and other bureaucratic busy-ness to keep on doing what they did.

By the time the rules and regs for the use of the popular and much-used public facility became too cumbersome and restrictive for the market vendors, a new place opened up down the road in Pukalani.

The market moved once again in 2010 to an out-of-the-way part of the parking lot at the still-under-construction Kula Malu town center.

It has grown from a core group of a dozen or so die-hard folks who fervently believe in producing and providing food and other locally made products that are, as they say, “thousands of miles fresher” to an ever-evolving and growing group of more than fifty-plus regular vendors.

They set up their tables and tents at the market every weekend to sell their fresh produce, plants and flowers, their “grinds,” and other wares to hundreds of devoted fans and other folks.

Smiles and hugs are standard greetings there.  Talking story is a favored pastime as well.

“Talking Story” shared by Megan Powers

THE MARKET AS A SLICE OF HISTORY

Checking out what the market offers has been an eye-opener for me.

It got me thinking that, for real, a heck of a lot of the foods we consider “native” or “Hawaiian” or “local” fare were imported to the islands at some point in history.

Almost all of our foodstuffs are pretty much “foreign” species.  Many of them might even be considered “invasive.”

Think about it.

When Polynesians first touched ground on the islands, the only indigenous edible plants were some ferns, ‘ohelo berries, and a panoply of seaweed.

hoio
“Ho’i’o” by Rosa Say via Flickr [CC-NC-ND 2.0]
Maybe some palm seeds and nuts floated in on the tides and took root, but the chances were pretty slim.

The animal life on the island back then included assorted birds (now mostly extinct) and bugs, the fish and sea life in the ocean surrounding the islands, and some small critters in the streams.

Remember that these islands are located thousands of miles away from anyplace else.

That’s a long way to go when you’re clinging to a piece of driftwood.  Few plants and probably no land animals from the continents made it here on their own.

Polynesian voyagers brought kalo (taro), niu (coconut), ʻulu (breadfruit), ʻuala (sweet potato), maiʻa (banana) and ko (sugarcane) on their canoes, as well as chickens, pigs and dogs for meat.

harvesting-taro
“Harvesting taro” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
coconut
“fresh, fresh, fresh” by Karen via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
breadfruit
“Breadfruit” by Neil DeMaster via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Starting in the 18th century, European explorers dropped off cattle and goats.

Later American missionaries and other plant dudes and entrepreneurs imported macadamia nuts, coffee, and a wide variety of tropical fruits including the pineapple that has come to symbolize the idea of “Hawaii.”

pineapples-and-bananas
“Pineapples and Bananas” by Shihmei Barger via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
real-coffee
“Real Coffee” by olle svensson via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
macadamia-nuts
“Macadamia Nuts” by Richard Ashurst via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
mango
“i love you like a mango” by Janine via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Sheep showed up.  So did assorted game birds and beasts suitable for fans of the hunt.

When the sugar and pineapple industries arose in the late 19th century, they precipitated waves of immigrants from China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Korea, and the Philippines, as well as various other parts of the Americas, Europe and Asia and the rest of Oceania to work in the fields and to participate in the diverse and constantly evolving island lifestyle.

Every one of them brought foods from home.

rambutan
“rambutaaaaan!” by Karen via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
moringa
“Moringa (The Miracle Tree in Brisbane)” by Tatters via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
star-fruit
“Star Fruit” by jennconspiracy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
squash
“Squash” by Mark Goebel via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
They shared their food with their neighbors who learned to like all kinds of ways of cooking and learned to grow a lot of different kinds of plants and animals.

Some things thrived.  Others – like apples and other foods that grow well in temperate places — did not.

A lot of that food shows up in many of the farmers’ markets around the state.

The sense of abundance gets mind-boggling as you walk around.

broccoli
“Romanesco broccoli” by troy mckaskle via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
pink-oyster-mushroom
“pink oyster mushroom” by jennconspiracy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
avocado
“Look at the size of the avocados they have here” by Mitzi Young via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
greens
“greens” by Kanu Hawaii via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

FURTHER DISCOVERIES

What I’m noticing about being a frequent shopper at the farmers market is that it adds a whole other dimension to the way we cook and the way we think about food.

  • I’m noticing that the foodstuffs and value-added products we’ve discovered during our forays into the market can determine what we are going to be cooking and eating for our next few meals.
  • Rather than just automatically grabbing this or that vegetable, fruit or meat and preparing the same old stuff we always make, we are reaching for new-to-us things to try.
  • We are beginning to combine our finds in different ways than usual.  We are learning to substitute new-to-us cousins of foods we already know in old familiar recipes to make a whole other taste sensation.
  • Since we’re never sure what is available at the market on any given day, it’s likely that we will become even more ready to remain receptive to the possibilities the market’s offerings present and allow ourselves to be guided by what we choose to get.
  • The produce and products we like at the market are all grown or made by the people who are selling them, so we have a chance to ask the sellers about where and how the plants are grown and how a thing is made.
  • It’s a chance to find out where the food we are eating comes from and what it takes to produce and process the ingredients we’re planning to use.
  • I notice that I am likely to get tips about how to turn the fruits and vegetables that are new to me into meals I can enjoy.  (Very often, passersby weigh in with advice as well.)

The whole thing has been a fun-filled, enlivening learning experience.

I expect that as we become more aware of the foods that are commonly available at a certain time of the year, we’ll be able to start planning meals.

Recipes I’ve never tried may become new favorites.

Different styles of cooking that I’ve been meaning to explore may become more do-able and I may even learn some new skills.

Because the mix of vendors changes from week to week, there will always be that element of surprise.

A good thing….

Here’s a poem:


KILLING WINDS GO LEFT

The killing winds turned left.

 

After a handful of days

Of semi-hysterical predictions

Of impending calamity,

Of urgings to beware, prepare, take care,

 

After hours and days of making up

Contingency plans that are fading

As the sun comes out from

Behind the clouds,

 

After watching the wake of

The massive storm devour

The hapless ones who ran out of luck

Stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time,

 

After watching the valiant ones and the dutiful

Trying so hard to help mitigate

The woes of the disasters

Trailing after the now-gone Chaos-Beast,

 

The only feeling left in this aftermath

Is a gratitude that seems impossibly inadequate.

 

We go on, all of us, as we sink back into

The gentleness of everyday

Where breezes and mists are not

Harbingers of awful destruction and death

 

And petty annoyances are the norm.

 by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Community of Petals” by Rosa Say via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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

Get Social....
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]

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

Get Social....
GET TIME-RICH

GET TIME-RICH

We don’t usually think about poverty in terms of time.  After all, each one of us has the same 24 hours every day, right?  How can one person be “time richer” or “time poorer” than another person?

And yet there is this notion of “time famine” that’s been around since the 1990’s.  It’s an epidemic, those guys who look at population trends tell us.

In this brave new post-modern fast-paced world, more and more of us are wandering around moaning about how we don’t have enough time to do all the everything we have to do.

One eye-opening YouTube video is “The Time You Have (In Jellybeans)” published in 2013 by zefrank, a funny-guy philosopher I like.

The video graphically illustrates the ways an average American uses time.  It also asks a very important question at the end.  This video has been viewed by millions of people since it was posted.

LOOKING AT THE SIGNS

Time-starved people spend endless hours trying to tweak the inflexible, immutable time supply.  They live in a constant state of rolling personal crisis.

Over and over they try to squeeze just a little bit more productivity out of their daily time allotment. The result often is a mountain of paper charts, large collections of time-saving devices, systems and apps…and not much relief, it seems.

The symptoms of time starvation include the feeling of being rushed, of time “getting away” from us, of always playing catch-up, and of trying to “make do” and “do more” with our available time, an inherently finite and immutable resource-turned-commodity.

[Small pause for definitions.  “Resource” is something you use.  “Commodity” is something you sell.]

Researchers who study the “time-starved” say time-poor people report being more stressed and less satisfied with their lives than other folks.

They often feel overwhelmed by their everyday lives.  They report a constant feeling that they have no time for the things that matter most to them.

hurry
“Hurry” by Matthias Weinberger via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Somehow, they feel as though they are being squashed flat and are turning into extras in a zombie apocalypse movie.

STARVATION IS BAD FOR YOUR BODY AND MIND

Time starvation has very real physical and psychological effects.  It plays havoc on your state of well-being.

One groundbreaking national study of more than 10,000 employees in the United Kingdom found that employees with a sense of time poverty called in sick three times more often.

Even more disturbing, the study found that the mortality rate of those who felt chronically pressed for time was also three times higher at the same age.

Apparently, more money doesn’t seem to help.  In fact, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 2011, the more money you have, the more likely you are to suffer from time-starvation.  The poll concluded, “The more cash-rich working Americans are, the more time-poor they feel.”

take-your-time-hurry-up
“Take Your Time, Hurry Up” by Thomas Hawk via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Hmmm….

WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

The thing is, all of the wise guys since ancient times have told us that “time” is actually an illusion.

Events happen — one after the other.  Period.

We see and experience these events.  We make up stories that help us make sense out of them.  Our feelings arise out of the stories we tell ourselves and each other.

And the stories we make are how we perceive time.

Time, like space, is just there.

How we feel about the whole megillah is what we use to build the world we make for ourselves.

The studies by smarty-pants dressed in lab coats keep on validating and confirming this.

The following YouTube video, “How To Have the Time of Your Life”, is a TEDxTotnes talk featuring Martin Boroson, the creator of One-Moment Meditation, which is a type of meditation training that helps people get to one moment of focused attention by “breaking through the time barrier” (it says here).

Boroson wrote a book about this meditation training he developed, ONE-MOMENT MEDITATION:  Stillness for People on the Go, that is now available in 12 languages and that Oprah featured as a thirty-day series on stress relief.

Boroson is an interesting man.  He studied philosophy at Yale and earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management as well.  A Zen practitioner, he’s worked as a psychotherapist and theater producer, among other things, applying ancient wisdoms to modern day life.

THOUGHTS ON “FREE TIME”

In 2008, the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American fact tank based in Washington, DC, asked middle-class Americans to prioritize what was important to them in their lives.

Sixty-eight percent of people responded that having free time was very important — outpacing the importance of having children (62 percent), a successful career (59 percent), being married (55 percent), or being wealthy (12 percent).

Upper- and lower-class respondents essentially gave the same answers, the Pew study noted.

There were a slew of studies done around this factoid too, of course.

Anybody who’s old enough to spend time working for somebody else has probably noticed that some people have more control over their own 24 hours than others.  A bunch of them even have control over YOUR time.  Some of the researchers locked in on that.

It turns out that it’s not how much “free time” away from work or other obligations we have that affects our psychological and physical health.  It’s the amount of control we perceive over our own time that counts.

Anybody who says, “Other people make the decisions about when I work,” and “I can’t decide for myself when I take a break” is likely to consider themselves time-poor.

A fairly new concept, “time affluence,” has risen up as a result of these studies, and a new category of lab-coat dudes and dudettes was born.

Tim Kasser, the researcher credited with coining the name, is the author of a book, THE HIGH PRICE OF MATERIALISM, which details how various studies say our well-being is adversely impacted when we organize our lives around material results.

The book goes on to propose assorted changes we can make in ourselves, our families and our society that could correct that.

Kasser also published a separate paper on the results of four empirical studies that documented the positive effects of feeling time-rich.

In it Kasser pointed out that these four studies showed that time affluence relieves stress, improves physical health and leads to greater involvement in the community, more positive ecological behavior and increased well-being, including job and family satisfaction – all at rates significantly higher than just making more money and getting more stuff.

My favorite thought on all this comes from Woody Tasch, the author of INQUIRIES INTO THE NATURE OF SLOW MONEY.  He says,

The economics of time are changing. I don’t think we need a new generation of economists who study time. I think we just need a bunch of people who come to their senses. Coming to our senses would be something like this: recognizing that we have a choice. We need the gumption to slow down with a portion of our lives and do what we know we need to do.”

walking-in-heaven
“Walking In Heaven” by moonjazz via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
One of the best bits of advice about it all comes from science writer Stefan Klein, in his book, THE SECRET PULSE OF TIME:  Making Sense of Life’s Scarcest CommodityKlein says, “We can stop seeing calendar dates and times as a corset we have to squeeze into and consider them simply resources for organizing our lives within the larger community.”

MY OWN  THOUGHTS

I tend to agree.  The one-size-fits-all model of time doesn’t make sense.  Each person has their own natural rhythm and their own sense of inner time.

Whenever a bunch of us humans get together, we do need to sort of all move in the same direction in order to accomplish major things together, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve got to walk in lock-step to somebody else’s drum.

(Myself, I prefer thinking about Mardi Gras, Rose Bowl, and Aloha Festival parades rather than the ones displaying military might — everybody walking in lockstep with heads and eyes all front-and-center.)

“Aloha Festivals Floral Parade” by Thomas Tunsch; via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
As social change-maker and facilitator Shilpa Jain said, when she was the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Other Worlds (a non-profit organization affiliated with the United Nations):

I think a core aspect of being able to be affluent with our time has to do with having a sense that our time is our own, and our stuff—and our limits around our stuff—is also our own. We can actually get a clear sense of how much I need, how much you need, and what is it we really can share together, and how we can pool our resources to be able to live the life we want.”

That one makes sense to me.

ONE LAST THOUGHT

This YouTube video, “Life Is Ticking Away – Time to Smile” featuring Sadhguru was published in 2016.  It sure does make me smile.  Enjoy!

Here’s a poem:


GETTING TO MINE

I have mine to do.

I’m not doing it and

It gets me riled at me.

 

I tell myself

I refuse to be

Some replaceable clog

In someone else’s clockworks.

I tell myself

I want to make mine.

 

I want to be

Building my worlds

That invite and entice,

Casting out lures to the Creative,

Making beauty,

Shining up the place.

 

Come, come, come.

Be peace.

Be joy.

Let go of struggle, of strife.

Come.

 

There it is,

In a pile all over the floor.

Mine.

It needs to be sorted out.

It needs to be worked and re-worked.

It needs to be dreamed on and refined.

It sits.

Waiting.

 

I am called to play.

I am called to help other people play.

That doesn’t seem so hard….

And yet,

I keep getting side-tracked.

I keep getting distracted.

 

This one’s imperative,

That one’s over-amping needy,

They tug at me,

Pulling me away from mine.

 

Mine only whispers at me.

The heartfelt shouts,

The moans and groans,

The fascinating puzzles

Begging to be unraveled and resolved

Pull me away from mine,

Drown out the whispers.

 

It’s a different kind of play, that,

Playing with other people.

I am good at it.

I like it when it works.

But, mine is languishing,

Piled up, all aglay, in heaps,

Begging for me to hear.

 

Wise guys say

You have to give up the good

In order to reach for the better.

So here I sit,

Looking at the stacks

Of mine still piled up

In the corners of my life.

 

I wonder if there’s a 12-step program for this stuff….

Maybe I need to de-clutter or something?

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Where’s the Pot of Gold?” by Beckywithasmile via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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

 

Get Social....
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]

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

Get Social....

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)