Showing posts from August, 2006

the end of summer

It's almost that time. Tonight I went to Shakespeare in the park. It was cozy under the blanket, and just a little chilly walking back to the car. Unmistakably, summer is coming to an end. In my house, that means back to school (for three of us this year as I will be taking on some college courses as instructor this season). Even without that transition, I would know it is time for a change.

Another change came into my awareness as my son and I were driving home tonight. Something made me recall the song "Little Bunny Foo Foo". . . and after we laughed about it, my son said, "what little kids don't realize is that really just tells you to listen to your parents. It's very manipulative." Hmmm. Good catch. Or at least a good indication of where the "us/them" metre is running with him as he thinks about his final year of high school.

Stories work that way - even silly ones reinforce patterns, and the patterns they reinforce depend on the commo…

stories can evaluate complex change

Just read a fascinating blog on a project that used choice and stories to build an evaluation of the impact of an aid program in Bangladesh. Here's an excerpt:

Assessing hard facts alone is insufficient in helping stakeholders appreciate the impact of a program designed to change behaviours. Qualitative perspectives are essential. . . .Rick needed to engage the stakeholders, primarily the region's decision-makers and the ultimate project funders, in a process that would help them see (and maybe even feel) the change. His solution was to get groups of people at different levels of the project's hierarchy to select the stories which they thought was most significant and explain why they made that selection.

You'll find the rest of the blog at

The point is twofold. First, stories are the way we make sense of complex webs of information. Second, in thinking about the stories we hear, we make choices. Those cho…

why are you here?

To me, problems are like dust: they're everywhere and as soon as you've cleaned up one problem, you'll find more somewhere else. Problems are part of an abundance economy - they are in infinite supply and they are never far away. That's why I am a little surprised to find that Seth Godin's remarkable idea for the day is that problems are our reason for being. Here's what he says:

"Here's the good news: the fact that it's difficult and unpredictable is the best thing that's happened to you all day. Because if it were any other way, there'd be no profit in it. The reason people bother to go windsurfing is that the challenge makes it interesting. The driving force that gets people to pay a specialist is because their disease is unpredictable or hard to diagnose. The reason we're here is to solve the hard problems."

Solving the hard problems is not why I am here. As a matter of faith, I am here to love God and love others. I am comforta…
commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

how do you say goodbye

Good bye - it's an interesting concept. We don't have as many words for it as some other languages. We say "good bye" (from God be with you) or farewell, without specifying when or whether we might meet again. In English, every separation is indeterminate.

Summer is close to its end. Young people are saying goodbyes - to home friends if they are going away to school, to camp friends if they are still in school where they live. They are saying goodbyes to people with whom they have shared a short, intense experience (summer love, perhaps) and other people whom they have known all their lives (or so it seems to them). We look at them and wonder at their courage and nonchalance.

Saying goodbye is a life skill that doesn't get easier with age. Somehow we assume that one of the perks of being an adult is saying fewer goodbyes. We find, to our shock, that people continue to move and get sick and change jobs and change aspirations and expectations. They move. Without u…

so what's your story?

We all have stories, and fall is the time we tell many of them. In the days when people depended on harvest, this was a time for work and winter was the time for stories. Now, we come back from summer hiatus and everyone asks where we have been and what we have done.

It's a lot of pressure. What if we haven't done anything except lie on a lawn chair in the sun (possible with a nice cold bottle of beer)? How does that compare with road trips and cottages and flights to Europe? That depends on your story.

There are many folktales about 'the man who had no story.' In each of them, supernatural forces intervene so that the man in question will never again be left without a story to tell. Generally, the experiences are funny - for the people who hear them. They are less funny for the man who has to survive them in order to tell about them.

So start to work. What's your story? If you make the beer sound cool enough, the sun warm enough, and the lawnchair utterly comfort…

talk to a friend today

What would happen if we all admitted that we care - often deeply - about the work we do?

Make time today to talk to a friend. When you do, tell your friend about your work in a way that reveals why the work is important to you and how it makes a connection to your friend.

It doesn't matter if you are having a good day, a bad day, a routine day, a day of meetings. As you think about how to explain what you do to your friend (in more detail if s/he already knows or works with you, in less detail if you've never talked about what you do at work before) discover that element in the day that represents value. Consider the way you hold this value, and then think about what this value will represent to your friend.

Then talk to a friend. When you have his/her attention, share what you have done today that has value. Then allow him/her to respond, and focus your attention on noticing the response (not judging it!). Whether or not what you said seems to connect, notice what happens ne…

productive thinking

What is the difference between the thinking that drives your productivity and the time you spend "just thinking?"

There is no right answer: people think differently and they use thinking differently. Some people learn by doing (you take action and then think about it) and others think and then act (look before you leap). Since thinking is a co-production of our conscious attention and unconscious (or automatic or instinctual) processes, we can make decisions with or without "thinking."

Thinking first is not always better - although it does make it easier to communicate (or justify!) your actions to other people.

If you want to make better use of your thinking, you need to consider times when you have been successful, and notice not just what you were thinking, but when and how you were thinking. Did you notice something that was working and then think about it? Did you notice a problem and think about a solution, and then take action? Did you engage people in what y…

think about presuppositions

Presuppositions - assumptions - underlying beliefs. Any of these terms will do if it describes for you the wealth of decision making that goes on before you become conscious of making a decision. Sometimes we use terms like instinct, experience or knowledge to cover much the same ground. They all amount to saying something like "I didn't have to think about it. I just knew" or "I don't have to think about that because everyone knows that."

It won't take you long to notice that these underlying decisions are based on context: it's remarkably hard to generate a statement that is true across all contexts (even that one can be challenged, for instance by people who will argue that 2 + 2 is always equal to 4). Try it now. Make a completely obvious general statement and then notice the contexts where it does not apply.

When everything is going well, we do not need to think about presuppositions - that's more or less the point. When we hit a snag, it&…

story for the day

Once upon a time there was boy. He was adventurous and full of energy and curiosity. Every day, his mother looked at him and wondered how she would survive his adventures. He was always climbing too high and riding too far and, what was worse, inventing new uses for previously safe pieces of household equipment.

For a long time, it seemed that the boy had not heard his mother's voice. He grew up, and he grew away from convention. He learned to take other people on adventures. He learned to talk about risk. He learned to listen to the voice inside his head.

Then one day, he realized that the voice inside his head was his own, and it told him wonderful stories. But the pictures inside his head came from a different part of him, the part that had heard his mother's voice telling him to be careful. And so when his words filled him with excitement about infinite possibilities, his pictures reminded him to be home before dark and shut the door. And when his words led him into intricat…

what's up?

You looked at the title of this post, and immediately understood the question. You didn't have to look up to find out what's up - because you knew the question was not really about space.

Most of the time, most of the people reply something like "not much." They think the question means something like "what's going on?" or "what's new?"

If they looked up, they would see that there is lots going on above them. If they were lucky, they would see someone climbing above them who would offer a model of how to get up. Or maybe they would see that the rocky patch they are climbing leads to some wide, carved stairs and a glorious view.

What's up? Are you?

begin with the end in mind

You've heard this before. The best way to start something is to know how you want it to finish. It's good advice, but not sufficient. Let's think about a fairly common situation. Someone comes to your office so that you can provide help or advice. You want them to leave with advice they will use.

The obvious path is to begin with the problem. Find out what is wrong. When the problem is solved, you will have reached the end. Beginning with the problem is one way to begin with the end in mind.

Except that version creates so many problems. How much do you like confessing your flaws, inadequacy and incomprehension? Me, neither. Once I've gone through everything that's wrong, I barely have the energy to lift my head and walk from the room. And the person to whom I've confessed? No longer my favourite person. No matter how wonderful his/her solution is, the next time I think of him/her, I'll droop. He/she might be wonderful, but I cannot be wonderful in …

what does integration mean?

To integrate two things is to put them together to form something new. What this definition leaves out is that integration normally means that each of the two things retains integrity: in integration the parts remain themselves and become part of a whole.

When we integrate sensory information with intuition and reason, we do blur the lines between thinking and sensing, or between real and imagined. What we do is to take what we know through our senses, what we know through our reasoning, what we know without knowing why we know it, and the information itself and put them all together. Each kind of knowing remains intact, and something is also formed that becomes our response to the information.

Each of us is the product of integration: we are made up of numerous 'selves' that exist in time and through time. This is not wildly metaphysical: we have eyes that see in particular ways and we add to them the ability to use language in particular ways, and certain kinds of skills and …

in the moment

if you listened to one conversation today as though it were interesting and important and the only thing on your mind. . .

if you tasted one bite of food as though taste were a gift you had just opened. . .

if you looked at one person until you became aware of just one quality you really admire - beauty or strength or intelligence or humour - and saw the traces of that quality in his/her face. . .

there is just one

in the moment

news for friends of NLP Canada Training Inc.

We are in the process of a major overhaul of our product offerings and schedule. Check out the first signs of this redesign on our website - notice the new course descriptions, and the download of a calendar for 2006/2007 courses. Much more to come throughout the next month or so!

have you heard the back to school ads yet?

We wait so long for summer, and then start looking to the fall as soon as we pass the halfway point. Hang on for awhile. One of the things we know about making change is that it is important to gather all the necessary resources without continually pulling back into problem mode. If you do not need to be thinking abou fall right now, don't. Stay with summer and enjoy the light, the warmth, and the shared excitement of outdoor events.

If you do need to look ahead to the fall, you can still be aware of separating the state in which you plan for the fall from the state in which you enjoy the summer. Think, for instance, of a choice you need to make in order to move your career forward. When you have thoroughly focused your attention on that choice, shake it off.

Now play hard. Play with all your attention. Play as if you had nothing else on your mind. Have nothing else on your mind but enjoying the long weekend. Allow yourself to connect with the people around you and give those co…

anchors, submodalities and formulas

Do you like to know what you should wear each day or do you hate having limits put on your choice of clothes? Have you ever complimented someone on a strength only to get a reaction that suggests you have said something vaguely insulting? Did you ever wonder why people often defy conventional wisdom about the right thing to do?

All of these situations are examples of two, related functions of the human mind. The first is called anchoring in NLP: it's the fact that the brain "wires" together all the stimuli it experiences at a given moment, and in some circumstances, any one of those stimuli can come to represent the whole experience. In combination with the way language creates generalizations, it means that we can associate one particular stimulus with something that has no logical connection to it. A word like "analytical" for instance, might mean "intelligent and effective" when applied to one person. To another, it might mean "blunt and unli…

strategic thinking for parents

I have enjoyed reading Strategy Bites Back (Henry Mintzberg et. al.) largely because it recognizes that strategy is not something one does but a way that one thinks. Strategy means developing a mental pattern of what you want and what will contribute to getting there, and then continually revising the pattern as new information becomes available. Notice this is quite different than continually changing what you want and also quite different than making a plan.

Imagine making a strategic plan for parenting your first child. The first stretch is that the plan will have to extend far beyond five years: you will be working on this same strategy for at least 25 years, and then revise it for the next 50 or so. You would have to be able to make the plan knowing that the resources, personnel, allies, partners and markets crucial to your success will change from one year to the next in thoroughly unpredictable ways. You would also have to have a process for making a new plan when it turned o…