what do you see?

21 don't look at the rain ...

Probably what you believe in.

This is good when it means we look at the things which fill us with energy.  (One of the things about my work with different people is I catch a glimpse of what they love and how they can be creative through the things they see.  I wonder how they can push this even farther.)

But it’s not so good if it means we deny there’s a bigger world than we know.  (And it’s always bigger than we know.)

What we see is very important for how we’ll engage and shape the future.

All around us, there are strong signals and weak signals from the future.  Strong signals come in the forms of trends suggested by verifiable research and scientific data.  Weak signals, though, lie beneath the surface of what we normally see: perhaps an event waiting to happen, a movement of people rising up, or new technologies being developed.

You are more likely to see the weak signals in the fields, interests, and domains you are looking at, but you can also develop the ability to see more in all kinds of areas.  (Curiosity, once stirred up in us, tends not to notice silos.)

New things are possible when the barriers between fields and interests and domains are removed.  Some would suggest we are in a new Renaissance.*

Alex McManus refers to this as horizon scanning, developing our ability to see weak signals from both within and without our areas of interest.  This has encouraged me to connect to future-orientated organisations and people.  When I’ve tweeted the link to this post, I’ll leave Twitter open and scan tweets for weak signals in a number of areas: one organisation frames exploring through the template of TESA: technology, entrepreneurship, society, and arts; I add an extra E in the form of environment – TEESA.  You can use this acronym or create your own for the things you’re inquisitive about.

Seeing more provides opportunities for changing this into that:

‘Are you stuck with the way things were,
instead of busy turning things into
what they could be?’**

Albert Espinosa knows we look at some things and we are filled with energy, exhorting us to, ‘Find what your are looking at and look at it.’  All I’d add is, follow your curiosity.

(*Check out Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect.)
(**Seth Godin from Tribes.)


grace is yellow

20 everyday, opportunities …

Recap: Yellow is the colour of the world in which Albert Espinosa finds himself thriving, despite the most difficult of circumstances:

‘The yellow world is the name
I’ve given to a way of
living, of
seeing life, of nourishing yourself
with the
lessons that you learn
from good moments as well as

bad one.  The yellow world is
made out of discoveries,

above all, yellow discoveries,
which are those that

give it its name.’*

Today’s discovery?  Don’t be afraid to accept the person you have become as a result of making good and bad decisions.

This is who I am.  I’m here, not there.  

And this means I have a place to begin again.

Grace is yellow because it makes it possible for us to embrace and inhabit this life of good and bad decisions without them destroying us, and to start over again and again and again.

What destroys is denying, blaming, regretting.

Grace allows us to find aliveness, to thrive, and to bring these to others.**

Now to your future – it’s always on my mind.

Your future is coming towards you at a pace unimaginable to previous generations, yet, when you inhabit and embrace the person you have become you with grace,^ finding yourself learning and growing – or as Espinosa says, been nourished with these lessons – you find yourself in a place of being able to see more.

Alex McManus likens change to a river, and in the 21st century we’ve hit the whitewater.  Whitewater rafters scout ahead, looking for signals of what lies ahead.

Scouts are leaders through the whitewater experiences of change.  Grace makes it possible for you to accept who you have become and to lead.

‘Every day we get the opportunity
to give others the
benefit of the doubt.  
Every day we get the opportunity

to give others our support, our confidence
and our
trust.  And yet most days we hesitate.’**

(*Albert Espinosa lost a leg, a lung, and part of his liver as part of cancer treatment between the ages of fourteen and twenty four.
(**Check out Seth Godin’s lovely little ebook Graceful.)
(^We can be more grace-full with others than we are with ourselves.)

don’t blow it, blow it

19 i never said ...

There are different ways to look at your future.  (Of course, this isn’t about just your future but the future of everyone.)

The first way is to see it as an extension of your present existence, or some variation of this.  This way of thinking answers the question, What are my probable futures?  We see and understand and then project certain trends in our lives which lead us to expect or predict certain futures.  This is our standard way of thinking about the future.

For these probable futures to happen, nothing must change, yet there’s nothing more certain than change.  In a recent post I offered Nassim Taleb’s list of of volatility: uncertainty, variability, imperfect, incomplete knowledge, chance, chaos, volatility, disorder, entropy, time (because more time allows for more of everything on the list), the unknown, randomness, turmoil, stressors, errors, dispersion of outcomes, and, unknowledge.

The second way of looking at your future is to open your imagination to possible futures which might result from unexpected events: redundancy, a new treatment, a “Limitless” pill.  I know many people don’t enjoy science fiction, but oftentimes sci-fi writers are trying to understand where Humanity is going, or understand the present through the lens of the future.  Mad Max, Star Trek, Alien, Avatar, The Forbidden Planet are all takes on different Human futures.  Now we’re opening our minds to the possibility of there being more to our futures, more than What You See Is All There Is.

A third way of looking at your future is to consider your preferred futures.  Now you’re taking a lead because of who you are, the energy you have for certain things and not for others, the special skills you have – which don’t necessarily match up with the educational curriculum you went through or the role you have in work.  The preferred future opens through your choice and creativity, and whilst it’s waiting for you, it is one lived in connection with others.  It’s difficult to identify a brighter future and not attract, or be attracted to, others.

Albert Espinosa shares how he learnt to make a wish when he would blow out – such as when he would have an injection – he reckons he had more than one thousand of these: ‘all these wishes, all this blowing accumulates inside us and we have to let it out, we have to extract these desires.’  Between being more open to possible futures, and the choosing of our preferred futures, lies the need to share our dreams (wishes) with each other, to gently blow and be blown upon by the things people hope for and dream of.  This not only fosters our own dreams, it makes it possible for us to collaborate in dreams, because the future is connected, it is with and not against.*

‘Most people think of the future as the end and
the present as the means whereas, in fact, the
present is the end and the future is the means.’**

(*Throughout this post I’ve dropped in words from Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire, alluding to three questions Alex asks of the future.  I’ve also set this out in a way which recognises Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.  I’m find myself increasingly using the imagining of the future to help people live more in the present.)
(**Late Harvard professor Fritz Roethlisberger, quoted in Surfing the Edge of Chaos.)
(Cartoon today: Check out Hugh MacLeod and gapingvoid: he’s why I started cartooning, and his writing’s not half bad: Evil Plans, Ignore Everybody, Freedom is Blogging in Your Underwear – all highly recommended.)


18 introducing the two ...

If not now, then when?  If not us, then who?

These words have been used by many people in many places.

Now is an uncomfortable word, we’re happy with a lot of things until they become now and it involves us.

None of us begin empty-handed, though.  We live with the things and thoughts (artefacts) of those who have gone before us; we have an opportunities to be innovative and different, leaving new things and thoughts for those who follow.

We live in an unfinished world and – the thing which really interests me – we live an unfinished life.  You might say, I love the smaller future, that is the future of people.

There’s no such thing as the future, as I’ve mentioned several times, and this includes there being no personal futures.  There are predicted futures – if everything remains the same.  There are possible futures – when certain, presently-unseen events take place.  And there are preferred futures – the outcome of looking at all the artefacts in and around our lives, and beginning to innovate (what I’ve also named, adjacent futures).

Perhaps we feel trapped, thinking everything must be perfect or complete before we can begin something different.  And maybe we think everybody else must have done everything that can be possibly done with the things and thoughts available.  Not so, as Alex McManus points out:

‘Constraints are the womb of creativity.’*

This is about entering the yellow zone: where hope and possibility find reality and limitation to be the soil to thrive in: ‘Freedom is the possibility to choose within our bounds.’*  And we’ll be surprised at just how much freedom imagination and creativity can make possible.

At the heart of each of us is a uniqueness and specialness Albert Espinosa names our secret:

‘Enjoy keeping them hidden, but enjoy it more when you show them.’**

Which I take to mean, “Firstly, value what makes you special, and then you can enjoy gifting it to others more and more.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to know what people’s secrets are and how they’ll create a preferred future by sharing their secrets with others.  Curiosity is something you may have to carefully rekindle – it wasn’t encouraged when you attended school, neither in your workplace or church or community, but it connects your secret with what lies beyond the curriculum and job description.

So, if not now, then when?  If not you, then whom?

(*From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(**From Albert Espinosa’s The Yellow World.)


mr fermin and the future

17 no

Mr Fermin was seventy six years old and was dying of cancer.

He shared a room in the hospital with two young cancer patients and he was going to share the seven secrets to happiness with them over seven nights, and then he died.

Mr Fermin told his two young room-mates they were not to tell anyone these secrets until they were going to die.

Albert Espinosa was one of those young cancer patients and shares one of the secrets: “In this life,” Mr Fermin told them, “you’ve got to learn how to say no.”*

Mr Fermin was right.  We have to learn to say no to the wrong things so we can say yes to the right ones in life.

When it comes to the Human future, there are many things which will hold us back from what we can become if we are not able to say no.  Closed minds (which will not allow a bigger world in), closed hearts (which will not allow one another in), and closed wills (which will not allow new actions and behaviours in) cover many of the things which hold us back.

Nassim Taleb offers quite a list of things offered as expressions of volatility, which I borrow as a list of what we must overcome if we are to move towards our emerging Human future; these are: uncertainty, variability, imperfect, incomplete knowledge, chance, chaos, volatility, disorder, entropy, time (because more time allows for more of everything on the list), the unknown, randomness, turmoil, stressors, errors, dispersion of outcomes, and, unknowledge.

My friend Alex McManus identifies three journeys Humans appear to be making in the early 21st Century: from outsider to insider (in Human relationships), from above to within (into the natural world), and from against to with (how we’re exploring working with each other rather than against).

The world is seeking those who are learning to say no to what prevents the emerging, brighter future to appear.

(*The other young cancer patient shared the seven secrets with three other people before he died.)

how will you know what I love?

16 if people like ...

Create a record of all the things I’ve done which have made me happy, every day, and gift it to someone at the end of my life, advises Albert Espinosa.   He set out to create a record which would rival his thick hospital record.

It’s a great idea.

Here’s another way.

Notice the uncomfortable things I do, the uncomfortable journeys I make, the uncomfortable facing of cynicism from others towards what I am doing, the uncomfortable experience of failure (repeated), and the uncomfortable thing no one else is prepared to do because they don’t love it the way I do – all because it’s worth it.

Two ways to know what I love.

what if?

15 you might win the race ...

Is a great question.  Or, should that be, is a great question?

What if we could genetically remove anger and violence from the Human experience, would we do it?

As we follow the news, it is tempting, but are there things we might unknowingly undo about what it is to be Human if we chose this step?

I think about how it’s been the most difficult things which have both provoked a reaction from me, and also have framed my positive action.  This has been my choice and I have grown as a result.

When I look at Human history, I see that some of the bravest souls who inspire and challenge me have emerged in response to things which are not good.  We see the beautiful possibilities of Human life in the darkest places.

So, do we have a dilemma?

Our questions are our ways of imagining a better future so we might shape a better now.

Are the solutions “out there” or are they “in here,” inside me, the things I choose?

What if we could change ourselves to be people creating a better future without altering the Human genome?

What if Albert Espinosa‘s right to suggest that breathing and walking and laughter are interconnected and each can be changed by a different way of breathing and walking and laughing?*  What he’s really saying is, this, this me, isn’t all there is, and who can we choose to be?

We’re just asking some What if? questions.

What’s your What if? question?

(*Albert Espinosa discovered his breathing and walking changed after he had a leg amputated and he had to learn to walk on different kinds of legs as he recovered and grew older – and he found that walking on these legs – mechanical, hydraulic, electronic – made him laugh.  He recommends we change the ways we breathe and walk and laugh every so often!)

life beyond functional

14 instead of giving your best ...

The yellow life, or world, involves asking questions.

‘Answers cure you; answers help you. Asking
questions makes you feel alive.’*

As a species, Humans have been given an opportunity to step outside natural selection.  How will we use this possibility?

Alex McManus observes whilst we are not the only species on the planet which develops culture,** ‘the power of [Human] cultural creativity has brought us even farther faster.’

Other species may be capable of culture, however, their day-to-day reality appears to be one of surviving and procreating (which is itself still an extended form of surviving).  Humans are different.

We are makers and inventors to the extent that we couldn’t live in the way we want to without our technology.^  Behind this lies free will and choice, and whilst some question whether free will exists, choice certainly does,^^  and it makes sense when it comes to Human creativity and innovation.⁺

We consider our world and the stars and we ask questions, within a great Human conversation spanning tens of thousands of years.  There appears to be no end to the questions we can think of asking, and perhaps our asking of questions and the kind of questions we ask are the only way we can comprehend the enigma that is being Human.

We are asking questions of life at the levels of the genome and creating life and  not only are we replicating life, but we are developing technological life which increasingly can exist without us – it’s not Human life but it is arguably life.  And we are increasingly integrating these technological, genetical, and pharmaceutical advancements into our bodies because we see how they can take us to places we can only reach in our imaginations at the moment..

Beyond the functional, get by life, it seems there is a bigger, more Human life available.  It’s been made available to every Human – though we have to work hard to spread it to our global tribe – and there are some big questions being asked about what tomorrow’s Humans will look like.

(*From Albert Espinosa’s The Yellow World.)
(**Some Orca pods develop hunting techniques not common to the entire species; some chimpanzees have begun wearing grass in their ears, copying a member of their troop.)
(^From our flint scrapers and bone needles, to our homes and clothes, to our timepieces and spectacles, to our phones and books, we are a species that has always lived with technology.)
(^^Many who do believe in the (more abstract concept of )free will see it as something primarily as moral but don’t tend to mention creativity, so Alex McManus’s take that the more concrete choice is about both creativity and morality makes an intriguing course of exploration in Humanness.)
(⁺Nassim Taleb see technology as the result of anti fragility, ‘exploited by risk takers in the form of tinkering and trial and error.’ – people who seize the opportunity, then, to go farther.)


grace is yellow

13 watch out for the distractions ...

I hope you have a source of grace.

Grace offers us hope but doesn’t shy away from truth.  If a yellow world outlook makes it possible for us to grow through good moments and bad then grace is yellow.

Grace makes it possible for new connections to be made, our sense of being to develop, and offers encouragement to begin again.

We all need grace: we need it from others and we especially need it from ourselves.

As far as we know, we are the only species on Earth with such a high level of mindfulness or consciousness.  As designers and shapers of life – our own life first (and then we try to shape the lives of others) –  this can all be too much.  We can try and control this unfathomable ability to create by “sticking rather than twisting.”  I have caught myself using the language of delegation and even abdication when it comes to decisions I make.  I had to do this, I had no other option, when I couldn’t face saying, I chose to do this.

Bruce Hood points out our very Human tendency to ‘fear losses greater than we welcome gains.’  We’d rather stay where we are but Erich Fromm provides the dilemma of this in that which will not leave us alone: ‘there is no limit to the knowledge of oneself.’

Alex McManus embraces the Human desire to journey into space, but wonders about the kind of Humanity we’ll be exporting,* questioning whether landing Humans on Mars by 2026 (the aim of Elon Musk) will be easier than ‘the quest to make humanity human.’

I think we’ll need to both find and share a lot of grace as we confront the truths of who we are and seek to overcome the voices of criticism, judgement and fear.**

I read again this phrase from Nassim Taleb which seems to fit today with our need for grace in a yellow world:

‘I want to live happily in a world I don’t understand.’

We can explore through grace.

(*We have not got a great track record in caring for each other, our planet, and even ourselves.)
(**I’ve borrowed these three voices from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U – another exploration of becoming more Human which understands there will be voices which would stop us opening our minds, our hearts, and our wills.)
(^My friend Charlotte sent me this vidlink which connects with today’s thoughts.)

surthrive (something very yellow)

12 surthrivors

We can survive really difficult things, but is it possible to surthrive – meaning, to thrive even in difficult circumstances?

I was reminded of a conversation I had three years ago with my friend and mentor Alex McManus I read in his new book that thriving is the metric by which we measure Human rulership.  As I remember, Alex was testing out some thoughts on me he was exploring; we ended up imagining what the world would look like if we find ourselves part of a Human mission to make all things thrive – all life, and our planet and universe?

If the quality of a Human life is best measured by how much it thrives, if our actions are measured by how they enable everything we touch to thrive, then it will have to be in an imperfect world.  Is it hard to posit such a world?

‘A world that works for everyone does not exist in the
imagination.  So we must feed the imagination.’*

Albert Espinosa shares how he came to believe the word “pain” doesn’t exist.  When younger he had to undergo painful injection after painful injection, but then a friend suggested pain doesn’t exist, he decided to try it out.  This time the needle puncturing his skin didn’t feel like pain but something else, and he concludes:

The secret is not to be unfeeling or made of iron, but
to allow yourself to be penetrated, to be touched,
and then to rename whatever it is you feel.’

I think the reason I’m including this is because it’s about using our imaginations to look on what lies behind what is happening to us, to know it for what it is,** and then to bring love and imagination to bear – to move beyond “It’s not possible.”

Which is what makes this yellow.

It leaves me pondering whether our ability to thrive in difficult circumstances is dependent upon or “structural integrity” – the degree to which we are open to and connected with others, our world, and our future Self – from which we derive a sense of increasing wholeness and move forward rather than simply standing still.

(*From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(**Albert Espinosa goes on to share: ‘Physical pain – an aching heart – all of these really conceal other sensations, other feelings.  And these can be overcome.  When you know what you’re feeling, it’s easier to get over it.  Nassim Taleb suggests in the opening lines of Antifragile: ‘Antifragility is beyond resilience and robustness.  The resilient resists and remains the same; the anti fragile gets better.’)