the excuses keep piling up

I’m not ready.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

People won’t understand.

I haven’t got the time this requires.

I haven’t got the go-ahead.

It’s raining (well, it might be sunny now, but it will rain).

We’re frightened, and that’s okay. We’re all frightened.

Creativity, enjoyment, and generosity lie on the far side of our excuses.

When we see our excuses as the things we have to overcome – because the love for our art is greater than our fears – we can move forward.

time to think (about shadows)

shadow rule ...

Something we are short of.

And the title of Nancy Kline’s book.

To think is really about having time to listen to our lives and what they are saying to us.  (It is also about listening to others and to our world, especially how these other voices are heard by, or play upon, our life.)

This gift of seeing the future is something available to all, though often we do not see how close we are to the edge of an incredible dance or venture, in which we interact and collaborate with others.  I love the subtitle of the Domino Project‘s End Malaria: “Bold Innovation, Limitless Generosity, and the Opportunity to Save a Life.”

So, we listen because we want to discern our emerging future – which is to say, Humans have the capability to shape the future.  And we listen to discern what prevents us living towards the life we are seeking.

Carl Jung proffered, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”  This shadow side of our lives is the one we do not prefer – for example, the active one will not be still, the still one will not act – but the shadow is still us and needs feeding and attention, else it will find its (often) unhealthy ways of meeting needs.

Time to think, to listen, allows the conscious me to lead, rather than be led by, the unconscious me* – which is always distracted by and hungry for something else.

Listening to our lives – wherever and however we choose to** – is what sets us free for the fuller and richer life, which has been described as autonomy, mastery of skills, and living for a purpose greater than ourselves, within a connected world.

(*Some doubt we’ll ever be able to say we have mastered or understood ourselves completely – I’m inclined to believe they’re correct, though I still pursue this because of the benefits I have so far known.)
(**An adventure in itself, figuring out how this might happen for us as opposed to someone else.)

next question?

so many (more) possibilities

Because there always is one.

You have identified what it is you must do, have experimented, and have come to deliver this in a repeatable way, so what’s next?

It’s time to ask some questions, but we like answers.

Answers become fixed, immovable, with a “permanent address.”

A question recognises you’ve only reached another position on a course, but it’s not a destination.  Questions help us identify the adjacent possible,* which requires us to be open to input from many domains and fields and cultures, to live at the intersection of many things.**

The adjacent possible is different to incremental improvements – Should I use mid-grey or light-grey?  Nor is it trapped in blue-sky thinking – Should I apply for an astronaut programme?  The adjacent possible allows for a leap – How would someone taste this, or wear it?^

What are you going to read?  Who are you going to meet?  Where are you going to visit?  What are you going to do?  What will you watch?

Next question?
(*Originally a scientific term from Stuart Kauffman, “The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” – Steven Johnson)
(**Our lives also have adjacent possibilities; we can reconfigure all we are to live a different future.)
(^See TOMs story which has moved them from shoes to opthalmics to coffee.)



life in overdrive, multiplied

pondering life's biggest questions

Being Human is to develop.

Humans keep developing things.

Being Human is changing.

In this post, I’m exploring some of the thinking behind the posts of the last eight days (from this one).

In the 21st Century we ask the dominant question: What does it mean to be Human?

But some ask, Is life itself about becoming Human?

Our journey is one of opening our minds, our hearts, our wills, identifying what we must  contribute as our art, experimenting towards a sustainable delivery of what it is we love to do.  There has never been a time like the one we live in for pursuing these things – we cannot think as our grandparents or parents did, nor even as we ourselves thought ten or fifteen years ago.  We have the opportunity to bring together artefacts from many places and times and dimensions, and create something new from these.  Frans Johansson encourages us forward in this direction when he writes:

‘The intersection of fields, cultures, and disciplines generates
combinations of different ideas, yes; but it also generates a
massive number of those combinations.  People at the
Intersection, then, can pursue more ideas in search of the right ones.

Johansson’s intersection refers to is the place our journey takes us to, where we identify and begin to craft our art.

We just don’t know where al of this might lead, how far we can go.  To begin to find out, though, all we need is permission, as Tina Seelig testifies to on noting the comment on a paper she was having marked at college:

‘When I got the paper back a week or so later a note written
on the top said, “Tina, you think like a scientist.”  I was just
waiting for something to acknowledge my enthusiasm and
to give permission to pursue my interests.’

What we are hoping for, is for this journey to meet our needs, of which some we know and some we do not.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tells us there are two tendencies found in Humans, the conservative and the expansive.  James McQuivey offers more detail to these when he writes about how each has a conscious and unconscious element: the conservative seeks comfort (unconscious) and connection (conscious), whilst the expansive seeks variety (unconscious) and uniqueness (conscious).  Csikszentmihalyi suggests the conservative tendency needs no help, but the expansive does.*

If we’re blind to these dynamics, then we can end up going around in circles – the unconscious leading us into comfort and variety going nowhere, whilst connection and uniqueness can drive us towards a purpose greater than ourselves.

This is what it means to be Human, what we’re discovering more and more about.  We are not just driven along by unconscious needs but we have the capacity to direct our lives – becoming more Human.

We do not always know why we do the things we do,** but we are becoming more aware and, perhaps, when technology and genetics are added – as they already are^ – then we will be able to explore the outer limits of being Human even more.  McQuivery offers:

‘Today’s brains have shifted into overdrive.  Thanks to digital,
we have the ability to meet more of our needs more often and to
a greater degree than our grandparents, our parents or even
ourselves from just ten years ago.’

Knowing these things, you have permission to do that thing you do: your art of rightness and goodness you long to unleash in a needy world.

(*Check out Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch, which looks at the unconscious as an elephant and the conscious as the rider – you’ll already have noticed the difference in size!)
(**Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and Edward Deci’s Why We Do What We Do are all insightful reads when it comes to this.)
(^Ramez Naam’s More Than Human and Jeffrey Scott Coker’s Reinventing Life offer a useful glimpse at what is already happening and what may.)

time to deliver

time to fly

Here’s the journey we’ve been on.

We’ve identified the rightness and goodness we want to contribute to the world, we have been developing our art, practicing it and experimenting with it.*

But you’re not sure this is the right time, that the conditions are good enough.  They could better.  You put it off.  Something fades.  (I am speaking to myself first of all.)

The sprinter positions himself on the blocks, leaning forward so that when he takes his arms away he falls forward and has to run or stumble.  It’s all or nothing.  Let go.  Boom.  (Again, I am saying this to myself firstly.)

This is not the dream, not yet.  When we deliver, the realisation of the dream will come into view.

And just as we’re about to hesitate, deciding to wait for the ideal conditions which will never come, Seth Godin whispers to us: ‘real victories come when you have the guts to launch the untestable.’

How did I ever think that something which mattered so much to me would avoid doubts and sleepless nights?

Time to deliver.

(*Befriending people, making cakes as gifts, solving problems, decorating homes with precision, colliding ideas, crafting good brews at the drop-in, designing new code, making the clothing alteration and adding a little more … all of these are examples of our art when they combine talents and passions.)



This is what you are, when you bring your art into the world.*

You offer it as something beautiful and good and right, hardly knowing what reaction you’ll provoke.

You don’t want people to get by a little better; you want them to prosper, to thrive, to flourish.

You provide people with something they don’t even know they want, don’t know exists – until you turn up disruptively.

Some say, you’re overreaching yourself – not settling for the lesser dream so many others do.  The greater dream, the one others give up on, is disruptive.  When you pursue it, you are disruptive.

But your are simply living what Humans are made for or are capable of within the universe – to live with foresight, intention, and love towards a bigger dream.

Corey Ford offers us three marks of the disruptor: she embraces imperfection (not waiting for or expecting perfect – so she does something now); she has a lean-in attitude (turning up with high focus, intent, and energy); and, she connects with the larger world (quickly moving ideas into real-life action, connecting with people where they are).**

(An extra thought: we will disrupt where and when our talents and passions align – otherwise we’ll just be a pain.)

Go.  Disrupt.  Enjoy.


(*Here is an overview of the journey we’re exploring.)
(**The bracketed descriptions are my interpretations of these three marks.)

focus and abstraction and innovation

dan practiced his steely ...

Focus, because we don’t want to lose our way now that we’ve got this far.

Abstraction, because we want to make the art we do available to more people and places and purposes.

Innovation, because focus and abstraction makes it possible to continually develop what we do.  Check out the development of Picasso’s art and the thinking behind it (and, for that matter, any influential artist).

Here’s our journey towards the future so far:
We have opened our minds to see more.
We opened our hearts so we can let go of what cannot be for what can be.
We have opened our  wills, actioning the future we dream of.
We have imagined personal possibilities for contributing goodness and rightness in our world.
We know we must be merciful often because we will fail many times as we experiment and prototype.

We have come a long way and it’s important to hold on to the values of our personal visions and art.  I have to do this several times a day.  Some have tried to hold this in mind from minute to minute, abstracting and experimenting their art many times a day.

When we remain focused on what matters we can be highly adaptive.  We are able to keep our eyes on the right things and change or develop or lose or add whatever else is necessary.  What we’re on the lookout for are signs of keeping the ways and means, and losing the values – I could never understand why the Royal Mail was blind to the fact it was really in the communication business rather than the letter and parcel business – it’s never got into delivering email and more.

Abstraction and innovation are most anchored when we are are connected to others, our world, and our future Self, and we have identified our talents and passions, resisting what threatens to make impure and contaminate.


mercy beaucoup

joy is the experience ...

Because we’ll need lots of mercy.

A little bit of a recap: we’re making a journey from opening our minds to what we can and cannot do; opening our hearts and leaving behind the dreams we’ll never fulfil; open our wills in order to make something happen together; then identifying what this precisely must be – our contribution of goodness and rightness into the world.  And, guess what!

We’ll fail.  Lots of times.  You’ll fail.  The people around you will fail.  They’ll need mercy from you and you’ll need to accept mercy from them.

When it comes to our unique goodness and rightness, we won’t craft the finished article in our first attempt.   We’ll experiment, we’ll prototype.  The aim is to try and fail fast, to learn and try again, and through this process, we’ll each create something amazing.  Living mercifully creates the space and encouragement to do this, to try again.

And then there are all the people around you who won’t try to bring anything to the future, and those who are critical of you and your efforts.  Being merciful to them, allowing them to be where they are, sets us free from their expectations and attitudes to keep moving forward ourselves.

Keep going, be merciful lots: you’re going to do something amazing.

go flourish^


In the movie Just Like Heaven,* the bookshop assistant Darryl (played by Jon Heder) declares “Righteous” something he sees as good and right – a pretty cool way to use this word.

I’m exploring a number of more unusual words to help us open our minds, open our hearts, and open ou r wills.   From our small worlds (I in me), we’re moving towards a larger world shared with others (I in us).  One in which everyone has the opportunity to flourish – to find their way of creating and crafting through which they bring some goodness and rightness into the world.

Our journey leads us to be present to others, to our world, and to our future Self, but if we are to flourish we need to identify what Otto Scharmer names our crystallising intent – our life-art, the contribution we each must make.  Then we will be satisfied – between creativity and generosity enjoying life.

I just love supporting people to find what it is they must do; this satisfies me**  It will be something different for each of us.

I can only imagine Darryl’s response to each of us identifying our creativity and generosity.  As something right and good in the universe, he would say, “Righteous.”

(^I hope today’s post make sense; I’ve been practicing on an iPad so I can blog whilst on holiday.)

(*You’ll recall that I enjoy cheesey movies.)

(**Philosopher Mark Rowlands believes just like his running, life has intrinsic rather than instrumental value.  Like a game, we enjoy it for what it is rather than it having some other purpose.  This makes me wonder about identifying our particular creative and generous contribution as being something which has intrinsic value to us and instrumental value to someone else – meaning, when we do what we do, others will be encouraged and enabled to do what they do, and this is why it is satisfying and enjoyable.  Frederick Buechner spoke of finding our life purpose where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.)

the meek have it made

the meek make it happen 1

Sometimes we underestimate a word.  Meek is an old word, but it’s a powerful one.*

Meekness isn’t about faux modesty or being a doormat.

The meek are sharp and ready.  They know their Strengths and Weaknesses, they know what they must do and what they need to avoid.**  They know what they have in way of resources.  And they know that all of these things come together in a centred and focused way through them.

What our poverty makes possible in way of opening our minds, and mourning makes possible in way of opening our hearts, meekness actions through the opening of wills, doing what we MUST do. Meekness enacts our future hopes in the present.

Another word for meekness is presence.

The meek have it all because they are present to life in a fuller and richer way.  It’s not the same as having lots of things, but a way of appreciating what is all around, in people and places and experiences – moments filled with infinity.

As I write this, I know I’ve got a long way to go.  There are the present moments we all experience – but we wonder how to create more. This is the art of meekness – presence expressed in courage and generosity towards others.

Some smirk at meekness, thinking it to be weakness.  All I know is, in the presence of the meek, I feel very small.

(*I like playing with unexpected words because they can offer breakthroughs in our seeing and understanding.)
(**Strengths being those things which energise us and Weaknesses being those which de-energise.)