Showing posts from October, 2006

learning by failing faster

Of all the truths I teach, this is the one I believe and hate the most. Human beings are meant to be active and to be wrong more often than they are right. As a control freak, perfectionist I am not fond at all of this as a presupposition much less an absolute truth.

Of all the people I have learned from, the poet Milton and his doctrine of the fortunate fall got under my skin in the sneakiest way. Long after I have forgotten most of what I once knew about his poetry, I find it lurking about in my mind, pulling at the corners of new ideas. I believe that we are meant to be wrong and that's okay. I hate being wrong.

This morning I explained to a second year class of college business students that the world would require them to fail faster and, in order to prepare them for that, I was prepared to mark on one (safe!) scheme while providing feedback on a harsher, more real model. Their job as students should be to reach beyond their level of competency - to try stuff they cannot …

the quality of your attention

I recently read the latest book by one of the wisest men I have ever known: Prof. Ted Chamberlin. The book is Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilization. If you, like me, grew up reading endless novels about beautiful horses, you will probably enjoy this wonderful conversation about the relationship between people and horses over millenia.

In the book, Ted comments (and I can't quote exactly because my copy is already out on loan!) that the best horse trainers use 'the quality of their attention' to get horses to do what they want. It is an intriguing concept, mostly because horses pay attention (and therefore notice attention) differently than people do. It is possible that it is the quality of the horse's attention that enables the trainer to pay attention in a way that results in behavioural change.

Or not. It is my work and my passion to pay attention to how people pay attention. At the moment, my biggest lab is a college classroom frequented by dozens of …

the neuroscience of change

In a recent article in strategy+business, (issue 43) David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz explore "The Neuroscience of Leadership." Their conclusions on why and how people change their minds (and their brains!) explain much of the effectiveness of the practice of strengthening attention and intention through integrated thinking. Here's what they say about why insight is more important than information:

"For insights to be useful, they need to be generated from within, not given to individuals as conclusions. That's true for several reasons. First, people will experience the adrenaline-like rush of insight only if they go through the process of making connections themselves. The moment of insight is well-known to be a positive and energizing experience."

You cannot always set up the moment of insight for yourself: a teacher or guide can engineer experiences that allow you to focus your attention and enjoy the rush of insight. In between, the process is the antithe…

Integration, Integrity and Getting Things Done

It's been a long week away from the blog, a week of highs and lows. The highs came early in a weekend training that was overflowing with energy and commitment and an unusual willingness to focus on both personal and group strengths. As I think about that weekend now, I find it remarkable to notice what strength and energy resonate from integrity.

Too often, integrity is talked about as if it is merely a reaction to other things. It is true that integrity is often noticed when it is challenged: we see the buildings that hold together through the storm of the century. We see the people who emerge from illness or controversy with their values and personality intact, and notice that they have integrity. It is true that integrity has the power to resist and sustain. What we miss, sometimes, is the power of integrity to impel us forward. Integrity holds us together: it also allows us to reach outwards.

In our training, we say that integrity is the force that creates and supports cong…

what is integrated thinking?

You know that you are part of lots of different worlds. In each one, there are roles you play, roles others fill for you, and combinations that make your heart sing. In each one, there is also the potential to be pulled in different directions, to be crowded or pressured, to be forced into roles that just don't fit. Sometimes you feel that you are in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you feel out of step. What makes the difference?

You know that you are made up of many different roles. There is more than one voice in your head. Sometimes this diversity makes you feel strong, flexible, aware of your all-but super powers. You know the strength that comes from connecting different experiences, different dreams, different points of view. Sometimes you see things from so many perspectives that your vision splinters like a kaleidoscope. Sometimes your dreams seem to cancel each other out. Sometimes you know the exhaustion of expending strength in multiple directions. You ar…

what is NLP?

Neuro-linguistic programming is a collection of practices that allow individuals to make changes in themselves and to influence change in other people. The name is rooted in what has since proven a faulty assumption that the human mind works like a computer. Neuroscience has since proven convincingly that the human brain is not a computer (the mind even less so), but the brain does run on patterns. These patterns are shaped whole at each moment: what fires together wires together in the neural webs that give us our experience of states of being.

The second fault in the name, less commonly noted, is the separation of language from neurology. Language, like other forms of thinking, is a neurological process. Despite this confusion, it is true that thinking that has an impact on the world combines three elements: neurology, language and physiology: NLP. The practices of NLP (not the label) are in line with much of current thinking in the neurosciences (like current thinking in most field…

giving your attention is a gift

It is the weekend in Canada when we are all reminded: give thanks.

As I think of the many, many things for which I am filled with thanks, the one that leaps forward today is the gift of attention. I am thankful that attention is a currency in which we are all rich: every waking moment, each of us has the opportunity to spend an equal amount of attention. As we do, we are rewarded with discovery, connection, invention, and more often than seems reasonable, different kinds of love.

And I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for the attention that other people give to me. Whenever someone holds me in their thoughts, or stops the voice inside their head to listen to my voice instead, they entrust me with a piece of their lives, a moment they cannot get back or reinvest. This is true of the friends that send an email when I most need to read it, the family who listen, the students who focus on my thoughts instead of their own. It is possible to imagine life without words: to imagine life withou…

developing resiliency

Apparently it was Benjamin Franklin who first said that the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance. We could rephrase it as the only thing that costs more than thinking is not thinking. It provides the negative frame for all kinds of education: in the long run, not knowing costs the most. Whatever you spend on training or education is a form of insurance.

Insurance is a form of resiliency: the ability to bounce back after failure or adversity. Resiliency is a big seller in fields like child welfare, where everyone admits that adversity is an inevitable consequence of being alive. It's a more difficult sell in fields like self development, where everyone hopes that adversity can be made obsolete by something that sounds suspiciously like magic.

No happy person wants to believe s/he will need to be resilient: when we are happy we want to believe that happiness can persist. No unhappy person finds it easy to imagine resilience: when we are down, we lose our belief in bo…

get ready for grey

Grey is coming. Not in your hair: that is now a choice, not a fact of life. The grey that is coming will soak through your days as fall begins, and settles in, and turns into winter. There will be days of bright autumn colours; days of deep blue skies; days of dazzling white snow. And, before the world turns green again, there will be lots and lots of grey.

How do you prepare for days that begin and end in darkness, and never become brighter than a dull grey? Two kinds of people do well with the onset of this weather: people so immersed in ideas that they never notice their surroundings, and people who make an effort to achieve brightness in a grey world.

As I write, I am reminded that it is past time to connect my speakers and let music change the rhythm of my day. It takes an act of will to counter the rhythm of the rain, an intention to live in the sunlight whatever the weather is doing. I turn on the music, and I turn on the lights, and I invite those influences to soak into me as …

when the week starts badly

One of my favourite children's books is by Judith Viorst. It's called Alexander and theTerrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. I thought about it a lot yesterday; it was not a good start to the week, and today has not been much better. Some days are like that.

What do you do when a day goes bad on you? I announced it to the class I was teaching - and they actually shuddered. Then I smiled, and we all agreed my day was about to get better. And it did: the class went better than the rest of the day had. I started where I was (without sugar coating - in fact, without eating sugar which is occasionally a reasonable response to a bad day) and I engaged the support of a room full of young people who temporarily made me one of "us" instead of one of "them."

In the book, Alexander plans to move to Australia - or to send other people there. It's as far away as you can get. And that's a good strategy for dealing with bad days: to remove yourself as far away…