in-between people

21 between this and that

In-between people avoid self-reinforcing arguments.

They search for better ways of relating to what they find around them – describing their exploring and discovering in words and pictures and metaphors and theories and paradigms, yet knowing how all of these are limited: knowing the something they describe is always something else.

In-between people suspect the best way to explore and experience their world and universe is playfully.

In their infinite game everyone has something to bring and should be allowed to play; they never recover from having the opportunity to participate in the greatest of Human adventures; and daily play with as many as possible for as long as possible.

Their experience is, when they give more to the game they get more from the game, but, when they hold back, they receive less.

The infinite gamer finds continents for exploration between finite gamers and games:* positions taken by at least two people, parties, or nations.

These in-between people try to see things which do not exist yet or are invisible, knowing imagination is our best path into the future.

And all the time, they know they must not be blind to where their questioning, imagining, or leading comes from, finding themselves wrestling to be more present to and mindful of who they are.  There is a great seriousness to their play.

Each new day, though, brings a new opportunity to play.

(*Finite games exclude, have a certain lifespan, and have to be played by the rules.)

storytellers of the universe

20 as someone fanous said  1

Every so often I like to zoom out and see a bigger picture.

As we look out on this amazing universe in which we find ourselves we get to record and remember what we see unfolding around us: we get to tell an incredible story.

Maybe it is in the spaces in-between the real wonder lies, in the relationships between ourselves and the vastness of space where stories are born and shaped.

In the spaces in-between, our questions form – we are the questioners in the universe.  As far as we know, there are no other questions being asked.

To ask a question is to make ourselves responsible. Who else will ask it?  No-one and no-thing?  Then, we will ask the question.

Perhaps the universe something very important when we stop asking questions, when we stop living in the “in-betweenness”?

There are three prime questions of responsibility:

Who am I?*
What do I have?
(Therefore) what will I do?

The more personal it gets, the more questions we will want to ask.  When it matters to us, we will not be satisfied with the first answer.**

You become the storyteller you must be when you answer the three prime questions.

Please, make sure your storytelling stands out as it will never be repeated.^

‘What happens when you’re afraid to
stand out is that you unconsciously
make sure you blend in.’^^

(*Some have suggested the better question, recognising the identity we find in relationships, is “Whose am I?”  There is certainly the need to understand ourselves in relation to others.)
(**In the organisation I am a part of, I’ve found myself asking more and more questions as I’ve been taking more responsibility for what I must do.) 
(^This is what I the next event I’m planning with others will be about: stories and superpowers.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s Make Your Idea Matter.)

lost in space?

19 ellen was ready

There are those who believe Humans will colonise the planets.

Others believe we’re already on an incredible spaceship hurtling through space with all the life-supports we need.

Some still believe the sun moves around the earth, at least in terms of Humans being the creatures everything else ought to bow before.

Still others believe Humans are significantly insignificant, bothering a great deal to tell us we ought not to bother.

We struggle to come to terms with Humans being truly amazing creatures in the universe – perhaps the only species to look and question and think about the universe in the way we do.


All I know is I need to push on into better understanding my place within a universe of such size and complexity, unable to deny my difference to everything else whilst understanding I am made of the same “stuff,” to be grateful for the possibility of life I have and to make the most of this, and to somehow  live this out faithfully every day as long as I live to delve more deeply.

Maybe we find ourselves to be the gardener-poets of our planet, solar system and beyond: in an symbiotic relationship with our world and all inhabiting it, whilst speaking out words of wonder and amazement, but also words of love and hope and creativity, and more and more still, within it.

A tree-hugging friend helped me to see this more when she invited me to be one of many hundreds of people hugging another inhabitant of our planet – I highly recommend hugging a tree as well as hugging friends.  After the heavy handedness and footedness of industrialisation* we need people who walk in creative, interdependent and innovative ways: those who are curious about and present to the world in which we find ourselves as gardener/artist-poets.

Maybe then we’ll not be quite so lost in space.

(*Poet and Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins captures this well when in ‘God’s Grandeur’ when he looks on the industrial landscape of his time : “Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; /And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; ?And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil /Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.”)

unlikely heroes

18 trust the process

You’re included.

Courage is not the lack of fear.  It is acting in spite of fear.  Courage has also been defined as a lack of self.

Fear is the third voice of resistance to be overcome, says Otto Scharmer.*

Psychiatrist JT MacCurdy writes, ”We are all of us not merely liable to fear, we are also prone to being afraid of being afraid.”**

Seth Godin adds to this short list of thoughts on fear by taking us inside how we or others make compliance work:

‘The shortcut to compliance, then,
isn’t to reason with someone, to outline
the options, and to sell a solution.  No,
the shortcut is to induce dear, to activate
the amygdala.’

Well meaning people, including those who love us, can unknowingly use this tool of fear, being concerned for what might happen if we take the wrong path.  Of course, there are times when we must listen to fear for good reason, but these are fewer than we think in the 21st Century.

When we connect with what we must do and pursue it, we find the terrible things we think may happen are not so terrible after all.^  We’ll be most heroic around the things which matter most to us and the people who matter most.

You have something to bring to the world, something never to be repeated because it’s about your skills, your experiences, your passions.

Please, don’t hide it.

And another thought: people with a mission like yours need to find others: a company of heroes.^^

(*The other voices are judgement and cynicism.)
(**Quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in David and Goliath.  Seth Godin describes fear in this way too: ‘Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance.’)
(^Gladwell explores three different kinds of terrible thing – a direct hit (which takes us out completely), a near miss (which wounds us but doesn’t wipe us out), and a remote miss (which doesn’t affect us at all).  Most terrible things come in the remote miss category, and, when we discover how ineffective these are, cause us to act more courageously.)
(^^Band of Brothers makes a great tale of a company of heroes (communitas) being formed in liminal experiences – when Lieutenant Dick Winters is asked by his grandson if he was a hero in the Second World War, he tells him, no, but he belonged to a company of heroes.)

a city of dreams (2)

17 in conversations

For hundreds of years scarcity and competition appeared to be the only ways of advancing and succeeding.

Today, abundance and cooperation through connection are how to move forward.

A city of dreamers is about the latter: skills and passions and experiences.

Such a city epitomises the infinite game: a game includes as many as possible for as long as possible, and when these things are threatened, changes the rules.

What the dreamers discover in the city is, the connecting and openness leads to more, not fewer, ideas.  They are generative places because they are filled with increasingly generative people.

None of this just happens.  You can’t walk into a city and all this connection and creation just happens.

It comes through the hard slog and sweat of opening up our minds to perspectives and ideas which are strange or alien to us, opening our hearts to people who are unlike us or we don’t instantly spark with, and. opening our wills to take the most frightening journey: from thinking about something to doing something.

A city of dreams does not exist apart from these three taking place.


a city of dreams

16 cities of dreamers

A group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope.

Flamingoes group together as a flamboyant.

Owls are a parliament.

Rhinos are a crash.

A group of dreamers are a city.

Single dreamers and their dreams can be picked off.  Dreamers need to work together

“Daydreamer.”  “Get your head out of the clouds.”  “Show me a dreamer and I’ll show you someone who is no earthly use.”

A number of things happen when dreamers come together:

They know the smallest city comprises two people.
No exploration is off-limits.
There’s no such thing as a dumb question.
The first answer is not good enough – neither is the sixth or the sixteenth.
Cities are personally transformative spaces.
Everyone has something someone else needs.
Dreamers want to hear what other dreamers are thinking about – they’re like good vampires in this way.
This mixing of different people’s dreams mean more and more dreams are born.
Dreamers encourage one another to ruthlessly pursue and test out their dreams; they will not allow each other to have an idea and do nothing with it – it’s important to make it fail fast so it can become stronger.*
Dreamers are constantly making their environments more orgathetic,** so dreams are fed from many sources.**
They know the world needs to become more imaginative, so the city is never thought of as a sanctuary but rather a launchpad; dreamers are dangerous people.
They know the city is a library and a university too.  Everything they need comes through the people who inhabit it.
Their conversations are full of playful purpose, and to the observer it appears grossly wasteful because so may ideas are produced and shed.
Many of the dreamers become anam cara – soul friends.
They know they belong here – a different response to one they usually encounter.
They do not believe anyone to be beyond imagination.
Their conversations move ideas from System 1 to System 2 thinking^ – slower, more observant and deeply reflective – and they know in writing or journaling when they’re on their own proffers something similar as a tool to use.

“People continually had their perspective
expanded by everyone’s else’s.  And
invariably people would say, ‘There’s
more to this than I thought.'”^

(*The dreamer is also becoming stronger.)
(**Orgathetic is a term my friend Alex McManus coined to describe future life which is organic and technology, the synthetic – I use it here to include environments and societies.)
(From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution: an example of people who wouldn’t think of themselves as dreamers discovering cities can come together anywhere with anyone.)
(These are Daniel Kahneman’s terms for the different kinds of thinking we involve ourselves in: intuitive and reflective.)

multiple-choice life


Tick a box.


Except it’s not.

One hundred years ago, Frederick Kelly came up with the multiple-choice test.  He later disowned it but the damage was done.  The industrial educationalists took it to heart and discarded Kelly instead.

What about all the great answers and thinking between the boxes?  Lost!

Whilst some education was better than no education, and industrialism in its various forms improved the life of the majority of people in many ways, its limitations are not able to lead us forward today.  There are many great answers and educations and careers between the boxes.

Seth Godin suggests, ‘Traditionally society assumed that artists, singers, artisans, writers, and scientists, and alchemists would find their calling, then find a mentor, and then learn the craft.’

Clearly there were limits to this system* – the child probably followed a parent into their line of work – but today we’re capable of improving on this with wider choice and greater mobility, making all those spaces between the boxes or the multiple-choice possibilities ripe for exploration.

In my own organisation, I’ve found innumerable possibilities of calling or flow or element which don’t fit pre-formed boxes or possibilities – but they’re there to add their genius if called on.  Systems-thinker Peter Senge is adamant we have to see the whole system, only then can we find our place to make our contribution within it.**

(*Many have been able to swim in the system, though, arguably, many more sink.)
(**In one example Senge offers – the building industry’s need to build greener houses, all the people in the industry needed to be brought together to work on the issue, but then, ‘people focused on areas in which they had most interest, expertise, and energy’.  Life is not multiple-choice, it’s about people expressing interest, expertise, and energy in a multiplicity of ways.)


14 humans are at their best

Easy isn’t what it used to be.

Easy used to mean you would leave school and find a job you’d be in for maybe the rest of your working life.  Society both led, fed, and reinforced this.  You fitted in and it took care of you.  No need to fret or push it.  Easy.

There were always those who did a more than this, who engaged in a set of disciplines and toiling towards realising their dreams, but the opportunities were fewer: astronauts, adventurers, artists of all kinds.  It was never easy for these.

Easy now means what you do can be outsourced to another part of the world where they do easier cheaper: who wants to win the race to the bottom?*  The world is changing so quickly, what I’ve written may be out of date by this time next week.  Easy is no longer a solid or sound choice.  Unfortunately, psychologist Daniel Kahneman has noticed how people go shallow rather than deep, substituting difficult questions for easier ones, willing to believe What You See Is All There Is.**

The alternative – the possibilities for people to pursue and realise their dreams – isn’t the new easy: it’s still about disciplined hard slog, but there’s more of it, asking us to change the way we usually assess or reflect on our lives, and train them.

Now there are fewer jobs for life but many more possibilities for people to explore and realise their dreams.

Many would like change to be easy, reality is, change is hard work – but worth it.

(*As Seth Godin names it.)
(**Kahneman writes, ‘We can infer from the speed with which people respond to questions about their life, and from the effects of current mood on their responses, that they do not engage in a careful examination when they evaluate their life.  They must be using heuristics, which are examples of both
substitution and WYSIATI.’


compliance and brilliance

13 wherever you are

Compliance* is what our education systems are still set up for.

A hundred and fifty years ago, Industrialists were convinced if they allowed a child go to school rather than work in their factory, they would, in a few years time, receive a more compliant adult.**

Brilliance is what we can assume every Human has and it needs to be allowed to shine in some way or other.  Whatever our nature provides us with – the result of the couplings of parents and grandparents and beyond – positive environments and encouragements can help any Human develop in multitudinous ways.^

Seth Godin‘s thesis on education challenges the compliant systems we do not question, whilst McNair Wilson way assumes brilliance in everyone he meets.

More often than not, demanding compliance inhibits the possibilities for a person’s development, whilst assuming brilliance allows people space – from small to big – to become more of who they are and can be.

The problem is, compliance is the loud, bullying voice supported by the system, and has been for too many years.  This means we have to prioritise assuming brilliance wherever we can, until it becomes the norm.

We have a long way to go but if you happen to be in Edinburgh in November you’ll be very welcome to come along to one or both of a couple of happenings.^^

(*Compliance as I write about it today is a negative expression.  Of course, there are times when compliance can be a positive expression, though we tend to overestimate the cases for positive compliance and underestimate negative compliance.)
(**Education has a double edge, of course, offering a child skills to be developed, if, say, they went along to the public library and began reading whatever they could lay their hands on.)
(^Malcolm Gladwell shares the story of litigation lawyer David Boies who overcame dyslexia to become one of the best,  having developed the skills of listening and memorising way beyond his peers.)
(^^There’s #libraryofawesome on the 9th November – developing the idea of the library of the future being a transformative space for people – and VOXedinburgh on the 28th November – an evening of creativity on many levels only made possible through music, story, crafts, and generosity.)

h is for babit

12 henri was determined

Everyone has the same number of minutes to live through each day – those who seem to have more time are those who use more or better habits.

Minutes are “flat”: not able to hold an activity, a thought, an idea, a feeling until we mould so they can hold significant things.

This moulding activity is what we call shaping a habit: habits of working, of meeting, of training, of sleeping, to name a few.

Habits make it possible for us to find valuable and significant things in unlikely places, missed by others.

When Nassim Taleb talks about flâneurs and tinkerers being those who uncover options in our world, he’s not describing habit-less living, rather, the opposite.  These are people who’ve developed an art of seeing what others do not, and ruthlessly questioning what they see.

The flâneur knows she must not rush into everything a day requires of her: to wash, to eat, to work, to eat, to work, to eat, to collapse, but must mould habits of watchfulness and reflection – to see herself, others, her world differently.

‘When engaging in tinkering you incur
a lot of small losses, then once in a while
you find something rather significant.’*

There are many more moments in and around the things which fill our days: flat moments to be moulded and filled with significant things.

(*From Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile.)