Showing posts from February, 2006

Calculating differences

In grade two, students begin to learn the art of calculating differences. They are told that two take away one always leaves one. As long as the model is number systems, this is true.

Later, we discover that calculating difference is more complicated than this suggest. We cannot always accurately predict what difference it will make when we take just one element out of a process or system. Sometimes, the results are not incremental, but exponential. At other times, they are merely different than we expect.

Imagine a party where the one person you most want to see is absent. Imagine a box of chocolates, complete except for the space where your favourite should be waiting. Imagine waiting for the phone to ring.

And now, for something completely different, imagine just the opposite: the evening spent with the person whose company you crave, the taste of a favourite treat on your tongue, the sound of the voice you are waiting to hear. And then let your mind move forward to notice what come…

Four ways to cast your mind

I started a sentence today that read "cast your mind". . . and then stopped. And wondered.

Cast your mind back to a time when life felt balanced to you. . . I might have said. As though there were feelings swimming in some metaphysical waters and you could catch the appropriate one with a cast of your mind. The results would be unpredictable - skill counts in fishing and yet does not guarantee results. You would move slowly, deliberately, gracefully. And your mind would arc out over the waters and sink and wait until a time when life felt balanced was enticed onto the sharp prong and you could reel your mind in again. Maybe what you took off the hook would be the time you were seeking, or maybe a similar time. . . or maybe a time with the right weight and nothing else in common with what you expected.

Cast your mind back to a time when life felt balanced.


Cast your mind forward . . . that would be forecasting. You'll notice right away that to forecast - …

Models, edges, and change

A model is a complex of a multiple, integrated systems. A person also consists of multiple, integrated systems. What we call identity depends on the web formed by the composite qualities of these integrated and interacting systems. Who we are depends on the model we live.

The model changes when we find its limits. Either we recognize ourselves as having hit the limit (and so become stable and therefore different) or we defy those limits (and grow a different model). We find the limits of our model either because we go looking for them or because we run into them while trying to do something else.

How do we know when we are at the edge of the model and how do we make a choice to change models or retreat within the one we have? We recognize the edge of the model by the impact that edge has on physiology and perception. The edge represents the boundary that divides and connects two elements: inside and outside touch at the edge. This is as disorienting as being turned upside down: we recei…

Seeing the box

The only way to think outside the box is to know where its edges are. You can think inside the box without being aware of the box: you can only make a choice to stay inside the box when you know what comprises the box, the materials of which it is made and its limits.

Imagine a box. The box has a top painted like the sky, and a bottom that rests on the ground. The sides are painted to show a reasonable facsimile of the horizon in all directions. You can live inside the box indefinitely as long as you do not explore its limits. All the choices you make will be based on assumptions about the world that are based on what it is like inside the box.

Everything is fine until you come to the end of your world. In most stories, there is water at the end of the world, a way of saying metaphorically that the edges are more fluid than they look and it is possible to flow over them and into something bigger than the box we thought was the whole of the world. Sometimes things flow into the box f…

Scary agreement

In an email this week, I recommended developing a pattern of 'yes' responses to build agreement. One person wrote to call me 'scary' and another (in a training session) associated the technique with telemarketers. It's an interesting dilemna. If we naturally encourage agreement, we are scary and manipulative. If we do not encourage agreement, we are unable to fully connect.

Evolution has clearly weighed in on the side of connecting. It is widely accepted that the human brain has evolved to develop our abilities to 'mind read' - to guess at someone else's experience by interpreting their tone, gestures, facial expression, postures, actions and language. Through this mind reading, we have been able to form incredibly complex systems for living and building and generally developing capabilities far beyond what one could predict from an animal that is not fast, or strong, or ferocious. Connection only works because we use it as a test for saying '…

Happy Valentine's Day

What happens when you think about romance? Are you a romantic who loves the notion or someone who can't quite imagine themselves in that picture? Think back to the time when you first knew that romance was or was not really for you.

Some of you will have no memory of when or where your attitudes to romance formed. In the eternal present in which we all live, the rules of use it or lose it often apply. If you missed out on romance when you were young and impressionable, you will not have any anchors to stabilize the experience. There will be nothing to use, and so romance itself is lost. It's possible there is even a critical period for romance, some point in human development where we are either captured by the notion of aesthetically pleasing passions or we miss it altogether.

If you are not a romantic, there is no way of explaining its appeal. Freud tried to link the urge for sex with the urge to die - but his ideas are out of fashion. Still, the great romances, from Guinev…

Comfort levels and productivity

As a writer, I have developed a toolkit of tricks to make me comfortable enough to write. I know how to introduce distraction, when to make coffee, when to sneak a treat. The tricks are necessary because writing is inherently uncomfortable. To distill the amorphous complexity of life into words on a screen requires an input of significant energy.

Yesterday, I was reminded again that productivity grows out of an uneasy integration of comfort and tension. Chris and I had a meeting. We consider the chance to work together a rare treat; the nature of this stage of our development is that we most often grab moments when we can out of too-busy days. Motivation is not a problem for us. We are only frustrated that we cannot work more.

Yesterday's meeting might at any point have looked like a disaster. It was not fun. It was pretty brutal. We uncovered weak spots and prodded them with sticks. We uncovered leverage points and pushed - hard. Our shared commitment and trust meant that we had…

Talking about training

It is interesting to observe different people as they recognize that something has made a difference in their lives in ways they cannot entirely explain. We often watch this unfold over months (and even years) as people integrate the effects of coaching and training and decide what they will tell other people about their experience. At first, most people are excited about what they are discovering about themselves and about communication.

Afterwards, people evaluate what they are willing to discuss in their personal and professional lives. Is it a good thing to develop new awareness of unconscious processes? If it is a good thing, is it something to be shared, or something to be guarded as an edge?

It is both a marketing issue (for companies like ours) and an ethical issue (for us and for our clients). While we share with them a belief that progress can be ecological and ethical, we also understand that new learning is a risk, and learning in a way that sits outside academic conven…

Hockey as the Great Canadian reframe

It occurred to me today that our national sport is a brilliant reframe of our collective past. I have studied Canadian history, and read Canadian literature (almost the same thing), and stood at the edge of a forest and wondered at people so determined and so driven that they looked at forests and saw farm fields.

No one who has read any amount of Canadian literature is unaware of what winter meant to the settlers who left Europe to make homes here. What did winter leave them except rocks and snow and the bare bones of the trees?

What kind of courage and imagination does it take to turn that bleak prospect into a game? What is hockey but a field of ice on which men hit a rock with sticks? Our people - sturdy, brave, and given to conflict - turned struggle into a game about fighting and flying and more than a little camaraderie.

No one cheered for settlers in the bleak Canadian winter. But we cheer now - and raise a beer - and proclaim our heritage through hockey.

Resilience and other mixed blessings

Resilience is the ability to bounce back into shape after being stretched and pulled in different directions. If you know you are resilient, you have experience of being pulled out of shape. You only get to practice bouncing back by being knocked down once in a while.

Even as I write this, I am noticing a warning from Blogger about maintenance tonight. Blogger is resilient: it regularly experiences problems and fixes them. This means it is trustworthy. It also means someone had a really busy weekend discovering problems that could only be fixed by shutting down the system. Resilience comes with a price tag.

The price tag is much higher if we are not resilient. Resilience does not create the stretch - it merely presupposes it. Once we have been knocked down, we definitely benefit from the ability to bounce back up and keep moving. Before we have been knocked down, thinking about it will not necessarily make it more likely to happen. Or will it?

So we are left back with a choice that…

Asking great questions

I have been talking to people who are thinking about taking the training we offer. They ask, "What will this do for me?" The real answer to that question is "How would I know enough about you to know how this will change the intricate system of your life?" The real answer is not very satisfying, so I explain how the work we do will be related to some of the things they are willing to say they want (which is only tenuously related to why they will take the training or what they really do want).

Other people ask me: "How has NLP changed your life?" I think a little, and give them answers that are true to my experience, although not always precisely what they want to hear. My life has changed a little, and it has changed radically (right down at the roots). Yet my life was rich and full and curious and challenging before I found NLP. So NLP has not made sweeping changes in my life, and I am very glad of that.

The question no one asks, and I wish someone w…

Slumps, Blocks and Dry Spells

Writers are stopped cold by writer's block. Big hitters and sales professionals go into slumps. Creative types hit dry spells. It is a universal truth that high performers run into walls from time to time. Whether it's the star executive moving between high profile companies or the grade four teacher who suddenly finds it takes all her energy to go through the motions, everything that goes up comes back down. Unless we are working with the wrong metaphors.

One of the perks of integrated thinking is the ability to keep a part out of the integration so that I can observe my own thinking as it unfolds. As I do, I become aware that a 'block' or 'dry spell' is frequently a period when I am processing so much that information is not quite able to struggle towards the light of conscious awareness and language. A pregnancy is not a dry spell, although it takes nine months to show productive results.

The tension of the block might not be an irritable reaching for som…