Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Asking great questions

I get asked a lot of questions. It's an occupational hazard as a teacher and trainer.  Some people are curious; some are trying to get to some missing piece of a puzzle; some want a kind of power. 

Much of our communication is transactional: we want questions to get a job done but not to do more than that. We don't always want to be influenced or even to have much influence; often we just want what we want.  If what we want is influence - either to sell or to manage or to teach - then we have to move to a new kind of question.

Great questions are not about information; they are about creating a channel through which information will flow. When someone asks a great question, we begin to connect in new ways, sometimes with the person who asked and sometimes with ideas or experiences that we had not connected before. That new thinking - that learning - can create it's own momenturm.

Think about that.  There is somewhere in your experience someone who asked you a question that made you think - and that made a difference.  It continues to make a difference, even if you no longer see that person who asked.  I remember the interviewer on a scholarship panel who asked me "If you can do math, why do you want to study English?"  I remember because I am still answering that question thirty years later.

That's a great question.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Before content there was contentment

Before content was king, before the web was a giant vessel waiting to be filled, before advertising. . . content described a state of satisfaction.

We often say we wish that we were more content, more capable of being satisfied or happy. Sometimes we mean it. We mean that we are tired of chasing things that don't satisfy us while we are chasing them or even when we catch them. We mean that we are tired of trying harder and reaching farther. Sometimes we wish we could slow down and simply be. . . content.

We are the content of our lives, but we are seldom content. Into each life a little hope does fall, an intimation that something better, brighter, more satisfying is just out of reach. Because we reach for that something hoped-for, we reach beyond the boundaries of what is true today. We push the envelope - at least a little.

Paradoxically, we push it hardest when the hoped-for situation, the thing just beyond our reach, is contentment. When we feel closest to achieving a status quo that would satisfy us, then we work with passion and with energy and with imagination to make it real.

We hope. Then we do. Then we test. Then, when we fall short, we decide whether to hope again.

For those of you who, like me, love the sound and the flow and the shape of words, I am attaching a poem. It says that the poet has done all his best work because he hoped that he could explain himself to the woman he loves. If she had understood, he would not have needed to write.

Find the place where you want most to succeed and see how much stronger/wiser/more creative you have become because you could not be content.

By William Butler Yeats
I had this thought a while ago,
"My darling cannot understand
What I have done, or what would do
In this blind bitter land."
And I grew weary of the sun
Until my thoughts cleared up again,
Remembering that the best I have done
Was done to make it plain;
That every year I have cried, "At length
My darling understands it all,
Because I have come into my strength,
And words obey my call;"
That had she done so who can say
What would have shaken from the sieve?
I might have thrown poor words away
And been content to live.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I teach NLP

Obviously, I have given much thought to why I do what I do. Running a small training company might happen by chance if one started with a prosperous career in corporate training. It hasn't happened by chance for me. I made an unlikely choice. I continue to wake up most mornings knowing how many other ways I could work that would pay better and require less effort. I also wake up knowing that the one and only reason I teach NLP is that I love what I do.

There is probably no "real" reason for love of anything - there are explanations that inevitably fall short of the whole story. Love seems to be a quality that emerges from tangible benefits and then grows beyond them. That being said, here are three of the reasons I love what I do.

3. The opportunity to make it new every day. I am sometimes accused of being a control freak. It's more accurate to say that I am a freedom freak - I believe that I am at my best when I am making choices and I love situations that wake me up to the choices I make and offer me new choices. NLP does that. It's sufficiently edgy and sufficiently open that I am forced to invent it in new ways - by the "market," by my clients, by my own curiosity. As a teacher, I am required to open myself to my material and my students and find the best match - to follow a learning contract rather than a textbook. I never have to do something knowing it's a compromise. I get to choose the best option every time out.

2. The chance to cross lines and mix metaphors and pull information from different streams. As an NLP teacher, I am an artist (I craft raw materials to produce something elegant that opens new possibilities in the way people interact) and a scientist (I am interested in replicable results) and a merchant (I sell stuff). Sometimes, it seems impossibly hard to balance and blend the streams. More often, it seems to me that the the mixing of the models is what keeps my work grounded. It allows me to meet my students in their models of what works, and to stay focused on the results they get when they permit me to influence them. At a university, I might make the material more important than the results. Working in NLP, I have to test the material by the results it gets.

1. I am crazy in love with people who are fully awake and engaged. I would have said "passionate" but "passion" is a word that seems to be losing steam. I don't want to be elegantly observing my own experience: I want to jump in and live it and I want to connect with other people who are wide awake. This happens when I teach NLP. I wake people up. They become more curious, more engaged, more interesting. They begin to feel the restlessness of hope. They show themselves to be cool and funny and effective and sharp and compassionate and courageous. They learn that the people around them have amazing qualities waiting to be invited into the conversation and amazing things happen when they make the invitation. And I am crazy in love with the whole process - the hope, the awakening, the connection, and the results.

I really love to teach NLP. That's why I do it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Hope Symposium has a home

On September 19 and 20, 2009, members of the NLP Canada Training community will welcome participants to The HOPE Symposium, two days featuring 20 NLP-trained speakers making TED-style presentations on how they are promoting, encouraging, developing and creating hope in their lives and work. We'll be meeting in a fabulous room with beautiful high ceilings & windows at Emmanuel College, one of the University of Toronto's most beautiful buildings.

It's going to be an amazing way to launch the fall. NLP is a set of practices that creates, supports and develops hope. The practitioners we have trained are working in fields as diverse as sales, coaching, fertility, organizational development, training, IT and small business. Some of them use NLP consciously and explicitly to get results for themselves and others. Some of them have simply learned NLP lessons on how to elicit, maintain or develop rapport or high performance states and are busy creating results.

We will have a chance to learn how the model of NLP supports the belief that good things are possible. We'll hear how people trained in NLP have been brave and hopeful in their own work and have inspired others to hope for good things, too. We will play: during presentations, between presentations, and walking on the beautiful grounds around Emmanuel (and maybe, in our much-loved Queen's Park).

In anticipation of the Symposium (we decided to call it a symposium since the word's roots go back to combining good food and good conversation - an NLP Canada Training tradition!), I'll be blogging about hope at least once a week between now and September 19. Visit regularly, and watch for news on speakers, topics and new web resources as they unfold. You'll also be able to register to attend the Hope Symposium, beginning August 15.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NLP and the Meaning of Your Life

It seems to me that much of the controversy about NLP and its effectiveness is generated by a misunderstanding of NLP. Sometimes it is the trainers and advocates who misunderstand; sometimes it is the critics. They both try to make NLP into a distortion of what it is.

At its core, NLP is a model of how human beings connect in order to change or replicate behaviours. That's all it is. It is not a religion, a philosophy or an art. It aims to get results, not to make meaning. While it can be a useful part of the quest for truth or purpose or meaning, that quest is outside the model of NLP.

If you want to make the most of NLP, you need to begin with a strong, pre-existing model of identity and purpose. People who know who they are and why they are pick up the tools of NLP quickly and use them effectively. People who take NLP courses in the hopes of finding out who they are (and why they are) may learn the tools and use them in their pursuit of answers. They will not find answers in an NLP course.

Meaning is slippery. We may have a sense of our life's meaning, and then lose it, and then find it again, transformed. Whether we find answers in religion or community or philosophy, those answers take time and discipline and perseverance before they are stable enough to stand up through the storms and changes of life. We need to be active in our pursuit of those answers.

It's unfortunate that much of NLP talks so easily of changing beliefs. It's true that we have thoughts that determine our actions and some of those thoughts are not useful. It's also true that we are cautious about changing beliefs. They hold our thoughts into a meaningful pattern in a world where patterns are always threatening to change or dissolve. We know when our beliefs work together and when they pull us in different directions. Sometimes we have a sense of what we need to change in order to support some beliefs and let go of others. It is reasonable to proceed with caution.

NLP does not try (and inevitably fail) to be true: it works to be useful. It offers practices that are often helpful to people in connecting better with the people around them and in noticing what they actually feel and think in the presence of those people. This is not a small thing. Whole branches of psychology now describe how difficult it is for human beings to know what we think or how we make choices.

NLP can provide tools for exploring change with caution. Sometimes this will mean identifying a leverage point where a small change will lead to much different results. Sometimes this will mean using NLP techniques to open ourselves to new information and waiting to see how that new information changes who we are and what we think. Descartes famously declared, "I think, therefore I am." NLP practices are not a challenge to thinking: they are a way of building acuity and responsiveness so that people become more aware of what thinking is. What thinking means is outside the model.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Laughter, Hope and Getting it Done

I am blessed with a business partner who has a great big laugh. It starts so deep that sometimes the only signs of it are a few bubbles on the surface. But when it bursts all the way through, everyone in the vicinity gets soaked through the skin with laughter.

To be able to laugh like that is a gift. We live in a world where we spend too much time allowing ourselves only the bubbles on the surface of that laugh. We are polite and professional and we are living on the fumes of real laughter. We need the good stuff, the deep stuff, the stuff that pulls all of our attention into the serious task of laughing really, really hard. We all need a good belly laugh - and then another one.

Laughter is not precisely joy. It comes from a place where joy is possible and shakes up our perceptions so that joy might be possible here, too. It comes from a place where energy and connection and desire are alive and abundant. It comes from a place of hope.

On September 19 and 20, 2009, NLP Canada Training Inc. will be throwing a party: for two days, we will indulge in a feast of stories about what hope is and how it grows and how much of it we can discover in ourselves and in other people. We will dream big dreams - and laugh from the belly. Mark your calendars and watch for more information on the HOPE Symposium, coming soon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's not true that I like everybody

Occasionally, I meet people who are abrasive or argumentative or who ask too many questions with too little interest in the answers. Sometimes I meet people who let me know immediately that there is something about me that they don't like. Sometimes they have a long list of things about a situation that don't measure up to their standards. I might think (or say) "I'm really not liking this person."

It's not true that I like everybody. But I do end up liking everybody with soft eyes. And part of my quest as a trainer is to find the moment when other people's eyes will soften.

Soft eyes came up in recent training as a concept that meant looking at a person or a situation with a non-judgmental, open curiosity. It comes from the world of NLP that probably borrowed it from the world of Aikido.

It's true that looking with soft eyes lets you see people differently. It also lets other people see you differently. Soft eyes are the eyes of children who are wide awake in a world that has been good to them. Soft eyes are the eyes of positive expectancy - the eyes of hope and of trust.

People always want to know what NLP is and how I know it works. I know it works because it allows people to look with soft eyes. And people who are looking with soft eyes are really easy to like.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Help Owen meet his goal

If you scroll down past the list of links on the left side of this page, you'll find a youtube video that you will recognize as an imaginative way to interrupt patterns and make room for fresh thinking. Help Owen meet his goal by rating it with lots of stars!

Then take a minute and notice what would be more fun in your own work if you could turn your preconceptions upside down and walk on the ceiling for a few minutes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I really do hate goodbye's... so....


We just finished another practitioner training. We have found a really cool way of enhancing the training experience. I am sure there are other companies out there that do this and we have a tremendous amount of fun doing it.

In the summer we normally run two simultaneous trainings. One is scheduled on Weekends and one is an intensive that runs the full week prior to the final weekend. Then we ntgr8 the two groups and what richness we have found doing this.

Today we wrapped up our double summer course and it gets to that terrible time. For me it's usually in the last five minutes of the course. In that time, it becomes almost painfully unbearable to see that the course has come to an end and we have bonded so incredibly tight with you that it's hard to imagine there won't be another day we meet again in this circumstance.

Linda and I work very hard and those of you who have NLP companies know how hard this business is, to find the right mix of people to train with. We always do and we are always delighted when we discover who next will walk through our doors and join or community of committed learners and high achievers.

This weekend there was a lot of reflecting on NLP Canada and many of you were intensely curious about our journey of being. This caused me to take a trip down memory lane.

I was standing on the front porch of our training center, across from Queens Park. The African drumming vibrating through the air from the festival in park.

Then upstairs in the trainging room I was asked how long has NLP Canada been around?

Well NLP Canada has been training in this building since 1979 the first years was with Derek Balmer and then after he passed away, by me and then luckily joined by Linda.

Together we have seen and experienced many of you as you come through those beautiful Victorian doors and walk into the front hall with that look of curiosity and excitement.

Our journey continues and yours begins the next leg with us.

So I hate goodbyes and those of you who know me, know I will go through great lengths to never say it.... just see you soon.

Our NLP Canada community is strong. It has grown strong over the years and we often meet and play and focus and continue to learn together.

So to those of you today, I will not say good bye, just see you soon.

Linda and I are preparing for the next intensive training in August. Also we are incredibly excited about the hope symposium we are planning this fall.

So many of you that are coming are as pumped about it as we are and we have a beautiful room booked just up the street from our office.

Stay tuned and stay pumped, all of us are journeying together and our paths are forever crossing and merging and inspiring....

See you soon

Chris and Linda

Another Sleepless night

Insomnia is a funny thing... I used to work with a lot of different clients of the years who would say they just can't get to sleep tonight.

I have to say that rarely happens to me in such a way that I would consider myself an insomniac. However I used to wonder and get quite excited about the sense of possibility I would experience if I couldn't sleep then I could really use that time to be more productive in other areas of my life. I would use that re-frame on my clients and as simple as that sounds it would often work. When faced with the idea of having to work all night, most of my clients would rather just sleep.

So here I sit writing to our blog. I rarely have time to write to it, more often you would find Linda on here championing our last quest, stirring you with thoughtful ways to think and live and be happy. And I sit here cause I can't sleep.

You see I am in the middle of working with a client who is so "productive" that they actually have embraced the idea of not sleeping. A funny thing happened to me when working with them. In this situation, as many I suspect, the idea of not sleeping to be productive in reality is actually quite crazy. It's crazy because if you don't stop and rest and slow down, you end actually becoming how they say in a nut shell, burned out.

When this happens, as you know, productivity drops dramatically.

So as I write this....... I feel as though....................... I have been able.................. to say ......................... something.................. useful........................... enough...................... I have become............... very ........... very ............. sleepy...........

Friday, July 10, 2009

When everything comes together

How do you react when everything comes together? When it all just works?

There are times when we do what we do with confidence and with competence and with joy. Our teams come together and turn diversity into a strength and, often, a reason to laugh. Our thoughts come together and connect old ideas in new ways. Our senses notice more and our minds seek out new ideas and new experiences. We connect with more of ourselves and feel good. We connect more productively with others and feel good.

Stop right there. Notice what is happening. Appreciate it.


ap⋅pre⋅ci⋅ate  [uh-pree-shee-eyt] Show IPA verb, -at⋅ed, -at⋅ing.
1. to be grateful or thankful for: They appreciated his thoughtfulness.
–verb (used with object)
2. to value or regard highly; place a high estimate on: to appreciate good wine.
3. to be fully conscious of; be aware of; detect: to appreciate the dangers of a situation.

Appreciate the moments where everything is working. Notice them in detail. Value them. Say thank you for them.