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Showing posts from March, 2010

Stories turn up in the strangest places

I am have been an English teacher, a writer, and a storyteller. There has never been a time when I was not enchanted by stories. When I tell people that they need to tell stories because stories have power, they often think I say that from my own, peculiar, not-particularly-to-be-trusted perspective.
It's true that stories have shaped much of my life and that I am unusually sensitive to the stories around me.
It's also true that stories have power.
Today I opened my April Harvard Business Review. The final page is an interview with Jane Goodall (yes - that Jane Goodall, the chimp lady) and the final lines of the interview are these:
". . . people say you can't change somebody who's older than such and such an age, because they're set in their ways. It's not true. If you can find a story, if you can make them think and not be defensive, sometimes the toughest person can change."
Such clear words. But how do we shape our thoughts and ideas and identities …

Gathering your thoughts

Language patterns can wake us up to the way we really think. For instance, have you ever said you're "gathering your thoughts?" When I thought about why I haven't posted for two weeks, the answer was not just that I have been very busy. It was also that I am in a period where I am 'gathering my thoughts' for a burst of productivity scheduled to begin in May.
Let's think about it for a moment. What does it mean to gather? The dictionary in my Mac says "it means to bring together and take in from scattered places or sources." That's very precise in one sense. I've been reading and experiencing and observing in different places and all of that information will be integrated in my thinking.
But.
That's a process for gathering what I will think - not for gathering what I have already thought at least once. How can my thoughts need gathering? They're already all stored in the same brain.
We all know the sense that our brains are sma…

Doing better than your best

When we watch the top athletes at the Olympics, we take it for granted that they all have coaches. We see so many pictures of the athlete leaving the field and walking straight into the arms of a coach that we stop seeing them. We don't take the message that people who have reached the very top levels of performance at relatively simple activities still need a coach (when you compare even the most complicated sports to teaching a classroom or running a company, you'll find that the sports involve many fewer variables).
Coaches provide two things that the athlete cannot have in the same way: experience and perspective. If it is not practical for you to have a coach available to you whenever you need to hit your best performance, then you need to think about how to reach the best resources in your own experience and how to stretch your perspective.
Here's the rub: when you have looked with "a colder eye" at your own performance state, you will suspect that it …