Friday, February 17, 2017

Work or Play: Focus on What You Want

Some people say I work too hard. They're the people who know the difference between work and play. Play is supposed to be easy and light and fun and work is supposed to be serious and require an effort.

But it's easier to work too hard if you think you're playing. Imagine that someone at work told you to get down on the floor next to the closet and make art on a paper bag. You'd think the demand was preposterous.

I don't work too hard. It's possible I don't work hard enough. But I sometimes play on the floor until I get stiff and sore. It happens when I am playing with fascinating people making real a vision I can almost bring into focus. Like the best learners I know, I play until my eyes won't stay open.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Begin with the end in mind: choose a state and work toward it

This is how I would like every day to wind down. It's a late afternoon on a beautiful summer day in PEI. It's one of my favourite times in one of my favourite places. I like the curve of the rocks, the movement of the water, and the peaceful fall of the light on the water.

To be able to experience this at the end of the day takes more than the drive to PEI or the wait for mid-summer. It takes showing up for the rest of the day knowing that whatever bumps I hit or waves I make will wind down by the end of the day. It takes remembering this as I am clobbered by an unusually big wave or turning my ankle on rocky ground.

The same movement around you can be unsettling or calming. The same light can be failing or falling as gently as a blanket. On a beautiful late summer afternoon it's easy to see the beauty in rocks and waves and fading light. It's not easy on a grey February day as yet more snow clogs the roads and tax time looms.

If you want your day to end peacefully, you have to spend it preparing for peace. Every bump, every wave, every shadow that flits across your day can blend into something calm and lovely. You don't have to figure out how it happens to clear space to notice it.

As you count your rocks tonight, arrange them like this and you'll find that the movements of your thought come in gentler waves.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Leadership begins with a shared direction

Photo Credit: fishhawk
There are two kinds of people: the ones who want to be the leader and the ones who don't want to be the leader. Sadly, there's not always a correlation between the ones who want to lead and the ones who are the best fit to lead.

Whether or not you think of yourself as a leader, think about this. Leadership requires that the person leading and the people following all want to move in the same direction. Often, this will mean that they share a goal or purpose. Sometimes it will mean that they share a problem or a belief. But they have to want to move and they have to want to move in the same direction before conditions are right for someone to become a leader.

If you're trying to take the lead, begin by checking what you know about where people want to go and what makes them want to move.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to grow through conversation

When was the last time you sat down for a really great conversation with someone you didn't know well?

We know that conversations help people find the ideas that lead to innovation. There are examples in every field of people coming together to talk about ideas and information and then going away to make change happen. While you might spend lots of time locked away alone to develop an idea, ideas are generated in connections and conversations.

Here are three things I think are critical if you want to have the kind of conversations that grow new and useful ideas:

  1. Listen more than you talk. The value is not in hearing your own ideas, but in allowing ideas to form as you connect with new ideas and new people. 
  2. Engage difference. This means finding people you can't predict because you don't already know what and how they think. 
  3. Follow your curiosity. Most people want to get to the point too quickly: if you want to have new thoughts, you won't recognize the "point" until later. Your curiosity is your best guide to generating something through conversation that you wouldn't find sitting alone at your computer.
I love good conversation and I love that my work includes developing events and structures which allow good conversations to happen. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A picture can remind you who you want to be

This is a picture of Long Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It reminds me of who I want to be when I am tired or stressed or muddled. As I look at it, I begin to feel the sand under my shoes (it's too cold for bare feet) and hear the waves and to breath with the movement of the water and the mist. When I want my thinking to be cool and clear and full of movement, this picture reminds me that I know how to think that way.

It's easy to connect what we see to what we feel because that's how we experience vision. We look at something outside us and the feeling lands in our bones and our breath. If I looked at a picture of me on the beach, I would see the self on the beach as different than the self looking at the picture. When I was on the beach, I wasn't seeing me so seeing me doesn't take me back into the moment as clearly as this picture does. This is what I was seeing when my breath was deep and my stride was comfortable and curious.

The same thing is true of the pictures we draw with our words. We are seldom able to move into a memory by describing ourselves in the way a picture describes us. Instead, we move back into an experience by describing what we were noticing when it happened. Our attention leads us back into the perceptions and feelings of that earlier self. When we you want to recapture an experience from your past, describe it to yourself the way you lived it, not the way you labelled yourself later.

When you need clarity, don't tell yourself to be clear. Tell yourself the story of the time you walked on a cool, windy beach, curious about the way the mist moved to the water.