23 when we free our art ...

We are made of earth and we return to earth, and, in between, we get to do some amazing things: “fearfully and wonderfully made” reflects one voice, a “mystery wrapped in a question,” another.

There has never been such a time as this, for a person’s individuality, value, and genius to be expressed and received.  Even difficult times do not appear to exclude a person, rather, making their contribution stronger, as they help others in similar situations.

We may or may not get paid for this, but it is clear, every day offers the opportunity to do what we love for free – no permission required, we can research, practise, prototype, and create.  What daily, free expression of what we love does – whether executing some action, influencing others, building relationships, or, coming up with new ideas – is hone it into something powerful.

There’s a lot of information in the the world these days, and it’s certain people know a lot of things, but it’s the putting of all of this together in some meaningful, alchemistic way which is the real magic.  Every day we get to practise amazing skills.

Who knows?  One day someone may want to pay us for our skills.  One thing for sure is we don’t have to wait, wasting the gift each day provides to do the things we love to do for free.

When you know what it is you do and what you have have to do it with, you can take it further and further – every day.

You don’t have to call it free; you can say, it’s gifted.

And one more thought: find others to join with.


gatekeepers and wild ideas

22 he's not noticed ...

These don’t usually go together.

Gatekeepers stand at the thresholds of communities and organisations and bodies of all kinds.

They’re the ones who usually decide who is in and who is out, by interpreting the rules of entrance and acceptance written by their executives – often interpreting in narrow ways because they have not been allowed any creative breadth.  They are powerful people, or maybe we should take a second look.

Here are a couple of thoughts.

The gate and world behind the gatekeeper is moving.
What if the gatekeeper of the future focuses on seeing many people in, rather than keeping many people out?

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book David and Goliath takes another look at what lies behind the famous saying applied to business and sport and politics and much more.  He’s suggesting we’ve seen this all wrong.  While we might perceive Goliath in his armour as being powerful in this tale, he’s actually severely disadvantaged when he comes up against David, who is, in the ancient world’s military set-up, a projectile warrior.*  Gladwell further surmises, the size of Goliath possibly lay in his suffering acromegaly, an over-productive pituitary gland – which, as well as accounting for Goliath’s size, can cause poor sight (Goliath sees David too late, sees the game has changed – this isn’t another infantryman taking him on in “single combat” but a slinger).

Yes, the powerful ones appear extremely big and powerful but carry a great disadvantage; they struggle or cannot see the signals coming from the horizons – signals increasingly important to the world we live in today.

But what if gatekeepers are those who see as people into the game as possible?  McNair Wilson includes seven agreements towards hatching new ideas, and even by number six, he’s still encouraging wild ideas to be brought to the game: ‘outrageous, impossible, untamed notions that probably make no sense at first … The alternative to wild is “good” ideas, instantly acceptable-by-all ideas that fail to stimulate, inspire, or motivate.’  We can’t have too many people, too many ideas, too many possibilities.  The good ideas don’t seem to be working in our world of violence, injustice, poverty, and disease.

Yes, bring your wild ideas, but how about becoming a doorkeeper to others?

(*In the world of David and Goliath there is cavalry, infantry (which would be where Goliath fits in), and projectile warriors (the slingers on the battlefield).  Like a military paper-scissors-rock scenario, slingers take out infantrymen: apparently, the Romans even had a special set of tongs to remove projectiles from the bodies of unfortunate infantrymen.)




21 if not now ...

Today is a natural environment provided by life in which you can shape the future now.

Your life is just such an environment too, for others, now.

We might think this means some people and not others, but we’d be wrong.

On a personal level, we all can train and practise around our curiosities and skills and passions.  Together, we can shape these natural environments even more through intentional meetings exploring future possibilities.

‘We were all told too young, to colour
inside the creativity crushing lines.  The
child you once were – and might yet be
again – will not be careful, but sloppy and
more than a bit reckless, because it
genuinely doesn’t matter.’*

Today, I’ve been exploring future possibilities with a number of others for an hour or so; we didn’t know exactly what would happen, and still don’t – maybe something valuable we can give to others.  It was intentionally a now environment, not a wait environment.  (Whatever comes out of this will be helpful for making something else happen, as we learn what does not work as well as what does.)

library of awesomeness1

In his novel Invisible Cities, Italo Cavalo describes the city of Irene, about which there is only conjecture because no one has visited it, only observing it from a distance: ‘Irene is the name for a city in the distance, and if you approach, it changes.’  Now-environments change this.

Now we can step inside places of creativity.

library of awesomeness2

(*From McNair Wilson’s Hatch.)
(Cartoon: A take on Hugh MacLeod‘s blog Neither do I – here’s a little of this: “There’s a famous British story about two well-known authors who meet at a cocktail party (I tried to find the exact reference on Google, sorry, I failed).  
Having been asked by the first author what he does for the living, the second author says, “I write!”  “Really?” says the first author, “Neither do I!”  The story is a little quip about how little writing authors actually write every day, the rest of the time they’re just staring out of windows.”)



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.)