spontaneity and originality (and the creation of choice)

eric had just decided to ..

Words of recommendation on the cover of Keith Johnstone’s Impro, from a Daily Telegraph journalist, catching my eye this morning.

Whatever you value and produce, I’m guessing it’ll be better for more spontaneity and originality.

The improvising actor or comedian practices more.  It doesn’t sound right, does it?

It’s the hours of hard work and practice in the background which makes all the difference when it comes to improvisation on stage.

It got me thinking about three practices or exercises which can lead to greater spontaneity and originality in life.  They may seem strange places to begin, but bear with me.

The first is Humility: we know who we are, what we can do, where we can make a difference; we are increasing in awareness as we develop skills and  grow passions – impro exercises include, finding out more about our passions and talents from all the resources we can lay our hands on, including talking to and learning from others who exhibit similar and complementary talents, and looking to play with these things daily.

When you do, you are opening up choice because you are connecting with your world, with others and with your future Self.

Then there’s Gratitude: to be aware of all the resources you have in your life, from the basics – shelter, food, modest finances – to the more sophisticated: education, circle of relationships, curiosity in particular things which set your pulse racing.

When you do, you are opening up choice because you know you can begin with because you have so much.

Thirdly, there’s Faithfulness: fulfilling the simple basics which are necessary for the things you value – like turning up to read what you need to page by page, staying in touch with friends and those influential in your life, and learning more about your field of interest – I can never become a driving instructor if I never learn to drive.

When you do, you are opening up choice because you are honouring the small, repeated steps which take you further.

The reason these three practices of choice are so effective is because they  exist in a world of choices – a creative response to a world more open  to us than we imagine.

One of the on-workings of exercising choice in this way is to increase choice around others and within others.  It’s a great gift to make.  It has no expectation than to say to another, Go, live your life as you know you must.

And the world needs more people who MUST.

now what?

on the edge 2

Here is not there.

When we get there, the t drops off and it becomes here.

So now what?

We have to find a new there.  Not too far – too far is chaotic – but beyond our comfort zone and before chaos lies the edge of chaos – the sweet spot for development and growth.

There opportunities are everywhere.

Today I ran a little farther at a slower pace.  Next time, I might run this distance faster.  To train up, I know I need to keep pushing the boundaries, extending what I’m comfortable with, and next time a little farther again.

The receptionist has been very polite and helpful to a customer – how can he take it further?  The investor has been moving her funds more towards the ethical – how to go further?  The bus driver has been smoothing out his driving technique so not to throw passengers around – can he take this up another notch?   The lab technician has been working on how to be more focused and attentive working through samples – is it possible to connect more with these samples being from real people?

Achieving something extends your comfort zone,  but this is a dangerous place to stay.  To now stay here threatens your connectedness to the world, to others, and to our greater Self.

More!  Magis!  One group of adventurers held up this word to encourage themselves and each other on: to give everything they could and then more.  To go as far as they could and then further still.

Keep moving, keep growing, keep contributing.

We just don’t know how far we can go  until we go.


can you smell that?

the extending the reach of smell 1

It’s the leftovers of my early morning espresso.  Powerful.  It’s all I can smell.

Not everything that we need to find smells as strongly as my coffee, though – like the direction we ought to go in our lives, the decision we need to make, the next step to take.

We wish all of these things “smelt” stronger, but what we have to do is trust our sense of smell.  What we have  to do is trust what we already have: our curiosity and passions and skills.

If the “smell” is strong, there’s probably already a whole load of people who’ve found it.  But the faint, the hidden, the obscure, the needing-to-be-found-for-the-future-to-emerge kinds of smell, these require people with a developed sense of smell.

And , if I may put it this way, be the nose, not the smell.


for permission look inside

The name of a small village in Namibia, which, in 2008 and 2009, became the first place on Earth to experiment with basic income grants (BIGs).  Putting into practice the concept that basic income is a universal human right, every person received a monthly grant of 100 Namibian dollars (around £10) regardless of their income.

After the first year, child nutrition had gone down from 42% to 10%, household poverty from 76% to 37%, school dropout rates from 42% to 0%, and crime went down by 42%.

If these facts aren’t intriguing enough, over this period, entrepreneurial activity and self-employment went up 300%.*

This post is about motivation.

We don’t have to pay or reward children to play or learn – their reward is intrinsic to the activity and the learning.

Over time this gets covered up.  We get to thinking we need to reward people to produce their best work.  (How many of us thought to reward our children with some many pounds for this exam grade and so many for this grade?)  We swallow this line – more money, promotion, shorter hours … .**  But the story of Otjivero-Omitara isn’t about external rewards, it’t about making it possible for people to connect with the thing they really want to do.

The greatest reward is doing the stuff you love.

Inside you there is still a deep curiosity.   The pursuit of this brings a great reward.  I don’t know what this is for you – it’s  nothing short of amazing how each everyone is curious about something different to the next person.   It’s a wonderful thing.

And don’t wait for anyone to give you permission.  Give yourself permission.  What is your life saying to you?

I’m curious.

(*The cost to roll this out to every Namibian?  No more than 3% of GDP.)

(**By all means get paid well for what you are curious and most rewarded by, but sometimes this can turn what you love into a job.)

more ready than you think

the latest technology for connecting

What kind of world do you want to see created?

Are you waiting for instructions, or permission, or a great pep-talk?

We’ve all heard Mohandas Gandhi’s encouragement to be the change we want to see.

Many blame others for the way things are.  True, it’s hard to see a better world when many are living destructively, but this doesn’t alter the fact that we each have the capacity to create the world of our choosing, even if it’s in some small way.

It all begins inside each of us.  We wait to be motivated by others when self-motivation is what we need.

When working with others on their Strengths (“superpowers”), I remind myself, I ‘m not trying to motivate them, rather, I’m aiming to provide a space in which they can find their inner motivation – what their life has been whispering to them all along.

I need this space too.  Each morning I reconnect with my own motivation.  Generally, this involves connecting with what I can and cannot do and my passions (a better understanding of humility), gratitude for what I have already for achieving this, and a willingness to do the small things, the small steps which take me from here to there (faithfulness).

Specifically, these provided the growing conditions I need.  Biomimicry – how we can mimic nature’s design in our lives – provides a lens for seeing how this is about the opposite to self-sufficiency in three ways:

Zero Waste means no experience is useless and I can use it to learn and grow;

Solar Energy is required for everything on Earth to live; I need help from outside in the form of people, resources (ideas, input …); and …

Diversity and Symbiosis: encouraging me to do many things with many others.

Seth Godin tells us we are now living in a connection economy ‘where people who care find others who care and they all end up caring about something even more than they did before they met.’

It’s already begun inside you: connect to this and then to others.

want to know more?

celia is curious about a lot of things 1

Last night,  each person in group I’m a member of was selecting a key word to use as a focus for 2014 – the intention being to carry us beyond New Year’s resolutions.

From a table-top of different words, I picked up a number which have resonated with me for a long while or have buzzed with me recently.

I found myself with five and wondered which one to choose as my number one.  I fell upon CURIOUS, as I know without this I cannot make any progress.

Every one is curious about something.

Humans try to understand their world and everything within it to find meaning if not Meaning – the big M kind.  Some say, our brains are designed to look edges and patterns everywhere.  These edges and patterns, once identified, tend to shape the way we think and see for a long while – and lead us to our personal and corporate understandings of meaning and Meaning.

This can lead is to the problem of WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is), and we’re blind to the dar more than we see: “Each thing we see hides something else we want to see,” says Rene Magritte.

Curiosity takes me outside or beyond my present way of seeing and understanding.  It may carry me to another book – especially one I would not have imagined reading, or to listen to how someone else sees and understands the world, or try out a skill in a different field, or try giving philanthropically and watch to see how useful it might be to people.

Curiosity, though, is tiring for Humans.  We can’t be aware of everything all at once – we’d be overwhelmed, so we use what’s been termed selective sensory perception, and is the reason why Magritte can say what he does.  I realise, in choosing the word CURIOUS I’ve decided to do some hard work.

We have help built in.  We’re all interested in something, so everything in life for us is subjective and with this comes energy.  Nothing is objective, and just as well.  We can all begin by pushing the boundaries of what already interests us, leading to crossover experiences with sources, with people, with places.  (The scientist who believes she is involved in some objective piece of work has chosen the subject or field for a reason which is, directly or indirectly, subjective; even if she is arbitrarily provided with an area for research, she’ll need to find ways of attaching to it, to be motivated by the work, to have the energy to complete.)

Curious to know where you might begin.  I am.

which way now?

the real struggle ...

Carlos Castaneda counsels us to choose a path with a heart.

If the path we are on does not have a heart, then we must choose another.

Robert Greene tells us we can choose a path for the wrong reasons: money or fame or such.

It might take some time to find a path with a heart.  I was in my mid-forties.

(I was reading something from Erwin McManus on potential: basically, if you’re 45 years old and people are still talking about your potential, excuse yourself from the conversation, enter a closet and weep.  I was forty-five.  Longer story: before I was forty-six, Erwin had helped me find my path with a heart.  Whatever, your age, if you’re still trying to turn potential into potency, get in touch.)

An industrial view of the path is that we choose it as we leave formal education and we remain on it for the rest of our lives – straight and linear.   This view worked reasonably well if you had an eye for the product m0re than people.  It does not work very well now.

Now we search for a path with a heart.  Anything but straight and linear.  It’s got a lot of bends and dips and blind corners.  Admittedly, this can be scary.  It’s our choice, for all the right reasons – no one else to blame.

Your path is found by being true to your self, but I think one point of origin isn’t enough, you need to be true to others, and you need to be true to world you are a part of, too.

what do you see?

bring another perspective

Your perspective on the world is unique and never to be repeated.

As my friend Alex has underlined for me, when we pass from this world, our perspective passes from this world with us – forever.

Except, we don’t value our perspective in this way.  We think other people have way more important and valuable perspectives and contributions to make.

Except, a lot of that important thinking and important perceiving of things has got us into a big mess and a load of trouble.

Maybe this is your time, when your different perspective, your unconventional approach – that thing you do – is better than anything else on offer.

We cannot decide who are our parents are, where we are born, and a whole host of things which come with the accident of birth, but we can choose what we do with all of that, now.

Perhaps, more than any other time in Human history, the world is inclining towards you and what you offer.  I certainly am.

here is not there

are we nearly there?

That’s because we’re a journeying species.

The design and innovation company Ideo is said to ask the question Why? five times of the thing it’s working on.

Why?  (Sorry!)

Because here is not there.

There’s still further to go.  And when we arrive there, it becomes here, and there is something in us which has to journey again.

Is Why? the most Human of all questions?

Some ask why we have to do things the way we also have.  Others ask we we should change what we’ve always done.  Some initiate journeys, but just about everyone embraces them.  I don’t know of anyone who still uses their Smith Corona typewriter with carbon paper and Tipp-Ex to capture their art, and most people would feel it near impossible to give up their laptop; we love our Dysons and no-one takes carpets outside to beat them anymore.

To know something is one thing, to feel it deeply is to go further still, but to do it is to go even further.  And once we’ve done it, we can see more, feel more, and do more.  We are not there yet.

before you begin …

what people seek is ...

For today to be an experience of life which is meaningful to you may well depend on the stories you tell yourself at the beginning of the day.

I don’t mean made-up stories.

Before you rush in, reconnect with the truths of who you are, especially your talents and passions.  These are the things which connect you with others, with the world, and help you do the courageous things you must do.

To be grateful for what you have and who you are, allows you to see that the pain and doubt are a part of something whole, out of which you can be generous to others.

Turning up at the beginning of the day and taking a few moments to connect to these things in a way which works for you, not only makes it possible to accomplish more, but you will be an encouragement to others to live their stories.

The other possibility: ignore who you are, what you have, and drift through another day.

You are the storywriter.