keep moving

20 while we have breath ...

One day we won’t be able to.

One day, there’ll be a final “moving on” to make space for someone else here – maybe death is an ultimate act of humility, gratitude, and faithfulness offered to others.

Until then, though, we must keep moving.

Implicit to moving is letting go: sometimes this will mean moving from what we know to what we do not know, and from who we know to who we do not know, and from what we are doing to what we are not doing.

Our personal world views are made up of what we hold on to and what let go of, as Seth Godin puts it, ‘the set of expectations and biases you bring to a situation before any new data appear.’

Alex McManus suggests four things to let go of and four things to take hold of, when it comes to shaping the future; these appear relevant for people, institutions, organisations, regimes, religions, and more: Letting go of truth to take hold of trust,
Letting go of doctrine to take hold of direction,
Letting go of certainty to take hold of faith,
Letting go of cultural power to take hold of spirit.

Truth, doctrine, certainty, and cultural power imply arrival.

Trust, direction, faith, and spirit are future-orientated and imply movement, journey.*

I know I have to keep moving.

Can this be a trap?  This need to keep moving?  Sometimes, but I prefer this risk to keep moving from the smaller to the larger.

Every day, we’re moving into the noise** and clutter of modern-day life, but trust, direction, faith, and spirit help us to distinguish the weak signals of what might be.  They are perhaps what Daniel Coyle calls soft skills – different to the hard skills built by repeating the same actions.  Soft skills are the abilities needed to innovate and adapt again and again in response to the diversity and complexity of our environments, developed by ‘playing and exploring inside challenging, and ever-changing environments’.

While we can, we keep moving.

(*Here’s a little more thinking around this: as hard skills, truth, doctrine, cultural power, and certainty at their best they can take us so far, at their worst, they imprison us.   They only make any sense if they lead to trust, direction, spirit, and faith.  These will always bring us back to the “best” of truth, doctrine, cultural power, and certainty – but we may be surprised by how much has vanished whilst we’ve let go.)
(**When I google noise I get almost 55 million results.)


19 to get her

I’m sitting in The Bridge Restaurant in South Queensferry, looking across a foggy Forth and can just see the Kingdom of Fife.  Over there, the Fife artist Jack Vettriano remembers being told as a child, “Everyone is equal and no-one is special.”


I don’t use together in this way, the kind which cannot handle everyone having something to bring to the party – many different things from many different people, the hope I have for any society.

Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright share some mindsets from the world of work in their useful Tribal Leadership.  They identify five different tribes, each summed up in a different mantra: Life sucks!, My life sucks!, I’m great!, We’re great!, and, Life is great!.  What they’re tracking is a development in people’s understanding of who they are, towards seeing how each has something to contribute to the good of all.  I’m great! is a significant step forward but carries the corollary, But you’re not great.  Even the tribe declaring, We’re great! adds, But your tribe isn’t.  It’s those in the fifth tribe who get how we’re all together against some of the greatest threats and evils facing our world: disease, poverty, injustice, violence, illiteracy.

Allowing for these categories being sharp-edged, they do line up with what Otto Scharmer describes as the society which is emerging from the future, one shaped through opening our minds, our hearts, and our wills, in which, ‘others of us who thought ourselves nothing special will be surprised in a positive way,’ as Brian McLaren has it.

To take hold of this hopeful future, we will need to let other things go.  Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright believe people can only proceed by passing through each tribe; we cannot skip the hard work of opening our understanding, our hearts, and our wills – for some, slowly, for others, faster, but never easily.*

When it comes to a world together in this way, McNair Wilson‘s assertion, ‘More is more’ fits critically – as many as possible to participate in the shaping of the future, which is a future for as many as possible.

I love this from Seth Godin and had wanted to include it yesterday; he’s offering his A-Z new words (often new ways for using words – beginning with artist):

A is for Artist: an artist is someone who
brings humanity to a problem, who changes
someone else for the better, who does work
that can’t be written down in a manual. …
it’s about bringing creativity an insight to
work, instead of deciding to be  a compliant cog.’

We are artists together.

(*Humility is not about having a low opinion of ourselves, rather, it is about having an accurate opinion; a low opinion is just as harmful as too great an opinion.  In this accuracy of who we are lived out, we find our equality together.)


18 openhandedness

Hands are so important to how we express ourselves.

When a hand is closed, clenched, fisted, it not only cannot give, it also cannot receive.

I guess most of us don’t choose to live this way, it creeps up on us.

A clenched life may be protecting itself, angry, or ready to fight back.

Openhandedness describes a way of living which consciously, and with much effort, prises ourselves open to know more, to connect more, and to do more.

There are always plenty of things which try to force our hands closed again, but the very nature and content of being openhanded makes us stronger.

I came upon three small examples about how openhanded living leads to more.

The language we use changes things:

‘New times demand new words,
because the old words don’t help
us see the world differently.’*

As a new word, humbleness used in a powerful way:

‘Simple, humble spaces, help focus
attention on the deep practice task at
hand: reaching and repeating and struggling.’**

Everyone brings something:

‘Never once have I heard one big, fully
formed, complete idea arrive full-blown
in a single comment.  Not at Disney, Apple,
Chick-fil-A, or John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.’^

(*From Seth Godin’s Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck.)
(**From Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent.)
(^From McNair Wilson’s Hatch.)
(Cartoon: I used a Sharpie to “tattoo” “Openhandedness” on my palm today; the only way I could see it was by opening my hand.)


life is hard

17 easy can be a wall ... 1

Here’s the first of five elemental truths gathered by Richard Rohr from traditional initiation rites for males.  (I think the five stand for everyone, mind.)*

It’s an important message for a culture which hopes life will be easy.**   Significant and satisfying things seem to come to us through effort.^  (Easy can be a dead end and its outworkings may be the hardest thing of all to face.)

We have to let go of easy.

Seth Godin refers to speed and wow marketing, how we need to use the medium for something deep and meaningful:

‘What works to change mindsets, to
spread important ideas, and to create
an audience for work that matters.’

Speed and wow could describe many aspects of our life today, getting in the way of the discovery of our deepest gladness can meet the world’s deepest needs.

Life is hard, but …

We get to complete this sentence in a plethora of ways.  It can become a doorway.

There’s more to us than we know – personally and collectively – and we seem to thrive in the hardest places and times, producing meaningful work, adapting when things fail and go wrong, discovering, learning, and trying again.

I find myself intrigued by how integrity, wholeness, and perseverance are developed in people.  Daniel Coyle offers a glimpse of what’s happening behind the scenes of struggling with the hard when he writes, ‘The only way [improvement] happens is to build new connections in the brain -which involves reaching, failing, and, yes, looking stupid.’

It’s hard, but through hard, we are literally rewiring ourselves to live larger – more imaginative and creative, more amazed and grateful, more generous and enjoyable – lives.

(*I won’t give them all just yet.)
(**Although there is a hardness to life – sickness, natural and Human events, etc. – which are real for everyone, in the West we are insulated from many of the hard things of life like building our own home, growing our own food, making our own technology.)
(^I’ve just completed Albert Espinosa’s The Yellow World in which he encourages us to think and talk about our deaths.)


process or event?

16 i live to organise 1

Which are you?

Trick question.  The problem arises when we see and understand ourselves to be purely one or the other, or seeing one as the other.

Process is not an event.  Some live in the process, step-by-step getting things done so everything works well – personally they can be doing quite well, feel satisfied, but the danger lies in never stimulating or initiating art for others.  At their best, events tell us where things are working or not.

Event is not a process.  Some live for the action, the stuff in-between is boring, empty, a waste.  The events can be pretty darn good, but with nothing being developed, an opportunity is missed to ramp up, innovate, to be awesome.  Processes, at best, incubate purpose and trajectory.

We can be more process people or more event people, but process people creating events, and events people developing process would lead to amazing world.

I speak as a process person who discovered events.

the johari tribe

15 what do you know worth knowing?

Not found in some far flung place.

The Johari tribe are those who know many things.

They know they know things about themselves no one else knows.

They know there are things they know about themselves which others know too.

They know there are things others know about them and they don’t know about themselves.

They know there are things they don’t know about themselves, and others don’t now about them.

And they know, knowing there are things unknown to them and to others about them is the most important thing they know.*

The Johari are a tribe drawn from many places and peoples, who have found themselves shunned or distrusted or ridiculed or devalued because they are always questioning and pushing beliefs and behaviours, because they know the ‘”unknown unknowns” [have] proven to be a major force in shaping futurity.’**

The Johari continually develop tools and arts and environments and journeys which allow them to move from the known to the unknown, and to move the definitely unknown into the possibly unknown.  They scan their horizons, constantly moving, to see what might be known and understood.  How else do you come across what no-one knows?

Anyone is welcome into the tribe.  Any who struggle within the parameters of their own tribe, who struggle to use only the permitted language, struggle to compromise, to to put their imaginations on hold.  Many times someone has found and joined the Johari and found helpto stay in their own tribe too.  Others have found their road opening up and calling them on.

This is all the unknown unknown.

(*I believe the Johari tribe exists, though there are few documents about them,  but here’s one aboutthe Johari Window which does exist.)
(**I’ve changed the tense in this closing line from Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(Here’s an oblique look at the same thing from Seth Godin.)


on yellowness

14 everyone can choose …

Yellow can be blue … or hyacinth … or vermillion.*

It’s really something we love and something we give away, and this looks different for each of us.

It hopes for everyone to flourish and thrive.

Nourished in the deepest places of our lives through self-awareness and mindfulness, yellowness develops through deep inquiry, and surprises us in its imperfect, incomplete beauty.  We’d been afraid of what we might find when we looked so closely, but we’ve come to see what we can be – our future self – and we know we love this.

Yellow is a no-blocking, no-outsiders, “yes, and …” way of living.  Everybody adds something, can add something, and  Yellows know this.  It is, possibly, the most courageous and generous way to live our lives, and wise too, because it comes from the future, as does wisdom.

When I think of all these things, yellow seems to sum them up, but may be another colour, smell, or object for you.  The most important thing is …

Yellow is a choice.

(*Yellows are those who inhabit Albert Espinosa’s Yellow World, helping people to grow and develop through good and bad experiences.)

seasons with yellow

13 in a complex world ...

Of the seasons, I prefer Spring and Summer, but I know I am a part of all the seasons and the seasons are part of me: my life has Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter experiences.

Brian McLaren suggests four seasons of experience: simplicity (where most things begin); complexity (when we realise this is harder than we thought); perplexity (when things are really tough, unjust, not right); and, harmony (when all things come together in spite of).

There are Yellows for each of these times in our lives.

Yellows are those people identified by Albert Espinosa who make a deep difference in the lives of others – more than friends. more than lovers, they may be around for a little or a  long while.

There are Yellows who help others begin things; Yellows who help us work through the bemusing complexity of life; Yellows who are their for the worst of times; Yellows who help us to bring and keep everything together in a way which flourishes and thrives.

In these ways Yellows are Makers of Fire.

Makers of Fire are people who bring heat (passion and skill and innovation and commitment) to the fuel and oxygen of individuals, institutions, cultures, tribes, and societies.*

Where there’s fire, things change, something new emerges from the flames.

We can all be Yellows, Makers of Fire, for someone.

Which Yellow are you?

(*Fuel comprises the artifacts we have inherited made up of things and ideas and people – we’re surrounded by them; the oxygen is the cultural thinking, beliefs, and worldviews.)

a world which works for everyone

12 work at its smartest ...

What would this world look like?

We know we haven’t arrived yet, for all our development and advancement as a species.  When these have been less than holistic we have made a dysfunctional world; here’s one example offered by Ori and Rom Brafman:

‘In country after country, where a society becomes
industrialised, depression and suicide rates shoot
up.  Something about the process of industrialisation
is making people very unhappy.’

If Bruce Hood is correct then our environments affect our biology.  The environments we create need to work for everyone not just a few.

Something happens in us when we identify the Why? question for our lives, the purpose we want to pursue.  This isn’t something others can work our for us, so a world which works for everyone needs to provide choice: then we can develop particular skills and live towards a purpose greater than ourselves – these three things are important for Human happiness.

When the why is found, the how will appear.

Our minds may run, and rightly, to the billions of poor in the world who must overcome poverty, illiteracy, disease, conflict, and hunger in order to have more choice, but there is an “ailment” closer to home which prevents us from identifying the Why? (and may be key to opening up choice for more).  Daniel Kahneman highlights how, in a loss-averse world (environment), even a gain can be seen as a loss, so we stay where we are.  Alex McManus claims, ‘We must awaken the human spirit to a future worth surviving for, worth living in, and worth working towards.’*

What if the world were a “Yes and …” world?

The improv game doesn’t allow you to say “No way” or “It’ll never work” or “Yes, maybe …”.  You have to say “Yes and …” to the imagining of people, adding to what we can be about together.  Not in a “Yes Man” kind of way, but in a way which allows the world we hope for, which works for everyone, to begin to appear.

We each have the opportunity to shape our lives into holistic environments for others, even if it’s one other, to make it possible for others to pursue what it is they choose to be and do, so they touch the lives of others.

(*From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(Today’s cartoon: The quote from Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, comes from End Malaria, which has the awesome subtitle of “Bold Innovation, Limitless Generosity, and the Opportunity to Save a Life.”)


11 funny world

What do leaders have in common?

This question from Seth Godin.

His first response?  Nothing.

His second response?

‘Actually they do have one thing in
common … the decision to lead.’*

Without undoing Godin’s important point of  there not being a stereotypical leader with a core set of skills, here are some things behind the decision being the common factor.

Leaders know the status quo is a dangerous place to live.

It breeds complacency, quashes imagination, outcasts people who are different, suggests safety when safety no longer resides there, is in direct conflict with how the universe is energy and movement.  It’s also where our dissatisfactions prey on us, eating away at us whilst we stay where we are.

Daniel Kahneman refers to a study of some two-and-a-half million golf putts which confirm how golfers, including Tiger Woods, are more intent on obtaining par and avoiding a bogey, than they are on obtaining an eagle.  This plays out in study after study referred to by Kahneman.  Humans can choose the loss-averse option even when they think they’re not.**

At the same time, there is what Alex McManus calls an ember in the mind, longing to begin a fire, to make a difference, to identify a purpose: not so much “where are we going?” but “why am I making this journey?.”

This is a question that scrutinises characters and personalities.  Changemakers (another name for leader) are made from the inside out.  This cultivation of character and personality in connection with others and the world and the future Self we long to be,  allows for improvisation and spontaneity when opportunities arise, to act now and not wait for tomorrow.

So we can say changemakers care for all kinds of things; they are made up of different skills and talents; they go about things in a plethora of ways.  They have nothing in common.

And we can say, changemakers care deeply for people and the world they live in, they want to make their contribution in the Human journey while they can; they know they must develop who they are at the deepest levels to be able to do more than react, but to respond and initiate too.  To move from the status quo into action is what they have in common with all leaders.

And everyone can make the decision

(*From Seth’s book Tribes.)
(**And I’m with them more times than I want to count.)