curiouser and curiouser

10 be curious

It’s hard to remain curious when it takes us outside our comfort bubble.

And it usually does.

Like a holiday, it’s great to explore some new country or city, but eventually we want to go home.

Yet some of the most astonishing stuff we get up to as a species is when we make this journey, leaving the familiar behind in order to explore.

When we are prepared to do this, we find we are able to travel further, faster.

“‘Yes and’ isn’t a technique.  It’s a way of life.”*

The familiar can include our ideas and thinking and roles and positions, as well as our possessions

Old lizard brain (our amygdala) tells us we can’t live without these things, but, if we can connect with our more developed brain, we realise we can imagine and produce some awesomeness with the people we meet: those waiting to encounter people like us.

There is an art to learn here, disciplines to adhere to, a way to walk: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi warns:

‘The rebirth of creativity doesn’t last long, unless we enjoy begin curious.’**

We must continually invent ways to be curiously persevering and perseveringly curious.

Which is, of course, what it means to be Human.

(*Cathy Salit, quoted in Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human.)
(**From Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity.)

the super hero’s cape

9 on a mission

I’ve just learned, the clerical clothing the Pope and Roman Catholic archbishops wear on their shoulders is a pallium; it’s made of lambswool and is intended to remind the wearer to carry the weak lambs.

Which made me think about the superhero’s cape.

Not the one Superman or Batman wears, but yours, the one representing the difference you’re wanting to make in the world – even if this is one person’s world.

A close up of the cape will show how it’s comprised of your values and dreams: the things which drive you to be the person you are and do the things you do, but look closer and you’ll see your hurts and failures and disappointments woven in there.

‘When you rewrite your values you rewrite your destiny.’

I thought I’d include this line from Michael Heppell’s The Edge because it adds the all-important element of choice.

Sometimes we know what we must do because it’s something we’ve gone through and we want to help others going through the same thing – the wounded healer – and sometimes we know what we must do because we choose it from everything which matters to us.

The important thing is to do something.

You can’t buy your cape off the shelf, it takes form as you act.


are you usefully wrong?

8 the upside-downness

Edward de Bono writes about hunting questions and fishing questions.

Hunting questions are after a particular answer, so they’re closed.

Fishing questions are open: who knows what they’ll catch.

Closed questions lead to closed solutions.

Open questions lead to being usefully wrong, wrestling with questions for which the answer can’t be googled.

Usefully wrong is a phrase Seth Godin uses.  He once caught my attention with a great sentence of encouragement I’d love to use as a book title: Fail and fail and fail again.*

We need questions and practices which take us to the edges, to the cracks and gaps and liminalities in culture and society, meaning we have to be prepared to be usefully wrong, to fail purposefully.

(*I can’t remember which of his books this comes in.)

where’s the library?

7 be a library

It isn’t where it used to be.

The library used to be found in monasteries, and then in aristocratic homes and universities.

If you wanted to read what these books contained then you needed to be a member of these exclusive communities.

Later, the public library democratised access for many.*

Libraries now contain computer terminals, recognising there’s far more information and knowledge available than can be housed on the shelves.

The computer provides a tipping point in a revolution which has been gaining momentum for centuries.

It isn’t in the technology, but in what the technology has been making us aware of and available to us.

We’re realising every Human is an amazing library, able to connect with books, experiences, people, and more, towards creating some wisdom** in the world through our individual ways of crafting ideas, information, and knowledge.

Each person becomes a librarian or curator permissioning others to do something awesome with who they are and what they can lay their hands on.

‘ordinary people like you and me can launch each other.  In fact, I wonder if we can launch people better … because we’re ordinary’^

What do you know about yourself?  Your values and skills and experience and dreams and love?  Whatever the list you come up with there’s more.

How can you make these available as a library to others.

If you’re in Edinburgh on Sunday morning, it would be great to have you share in an experiment of “librariness.”

The library is everywhere, beginning in you.

Be the library.

(*Check out The Library Book for the importance of the public library for many people.
(**Knowledge in action through courage and generosity?  How would you describe wisdom?)
(^From Bob Goff’s Love Does.)

beyond average

6 did you know

Degrees use to be a way to get ahead of average.

Employers now want degrees and more: another kind of average has been created.

The solution to the problem of average lies within us.

‘I must know that I am, at least in part, the very thing I am seeking.’*

You are not who and what you see yourself to be in this moment.

Even if you sense you are more, and point to a cornucopia of values and skills and dreams, this is not enough.

So you go deeper, to how these things feel – how you experience their energy.  Now you’re becoming present to the source of what awaits discovery.  It’s a place of generation for your art through your passions and skills, and when you find this you know there can be no average for you.

Or for anyone else.

Suggestions of who’s average at this level is a nonsense.

(From Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love.)


reading and riting

5 being a reader

I was almost 40 when I started too read.

Like so many others, after my schooldays I maybe only picked up and read a few books each year – it felt the right thing to do.  There was no love in it.  It had been something I had to do in order to get the marks or pass a test.

Around sixteen years ago, something happened.

You might say, I fell in love with reading.

Someone presented a bigger picture of the world to me and of my life within it, and I was hungry to see how I could get there.  Reading provided me with a means to make the journey, a journey I’m still on.

Then there’s writing:

‘Writing is organised, permanent talking, it is the brave way to express an idea.’*

This may be one for the introverts, but I’m finding, writing is where I can talk.

I’ve never been someone who’s enjoyed standing up and making a speech;** I much prefer a conversation: I say something, someone else says something, I respond (I love conversations with purpose).

My attempts at writing is driven by a passion: to see people living their ever-growing potential, towards making the world a better place, even if this is one person’s world.

We need dreaming to be added to reading and riting^ to help us move from the requirements for competence and rote obedience, towards imagining a different life and a different world.  Reading an riting become a means to turning us around, helping us to see there is always more, and to ask the all-important questions.^^

(*And to work upon an idea.  From Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams in Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)
(**I admire and try to learn from those who do; check out How to Deliver a TED Talk by Jeremey Donovan.)
(The third “r” is rithmetic, which has always been a mystery to me, but mathematicians with imagination are amazing people who change the world.)
(^^Three “motions” offered by Otto Scharmer for the movement from downloading to presencing.  He imagines a facing into a cave, then turning around to see out of the cave there’s a bigger world to explore.)
(Cartoon: The quote from Val McDermid comes from The Library Book.)



4 not this kind of dream

I call my work dreamwhispering.

This may sound ethereal and unreal, but it’s the opposite.

It’s grittily real.

It can be too real.

It’s about dreams which can be developed and delivered – with ‘stepwise progress’, as Seth Godin puts it.*

These are achievable dreams because they’re made up of things which matter to you, which you have developed skills towards crating.  Step by step, you move towards them.

The other kind of dream, requires a mighty leap because whilst you may like the idea of it, you haven’t developed skills in this direction or taken any steps and are likely to be waiting for something to happen.

These are safe dreams.

Because they are unlikely to happen, you can hide in them.

The first kind are the scary ones, because if you keep moving forward step-by-step, they’re possible.

We can honestly say our dreams lie within us.

Of course, if the dream is within us, then we – not someone else or some organisation – must do something about it.

Whether you see this as good news or bad news will decide whether you now do something.

(*From Stop Stealing Dreams in Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)

potential or achievement

3the cycle of life

Which would you choose?

When it comes to others?

When it is you?

Many are hired for achievement: What are your qualifications?  What have you done?

It makes sense, doesn’t it.  A proven track record.  How many people have been described as having great potential, only for this not to be realised?

Then again, how many have achieved something special, only to get stuck and find themselves unable to go further, or repeat the success?

Of course, potential and achievement are not mutually exclusive.

The important question is, how can potential be turned into achievement, and how can achievement be turned into more potential?

It’s about perseverance.

Seth Godin highlights how, ‘Persistence in the face of a sceptical authority figure is a powerful ability.’*

The engine-house for persistence or perseverance is integrity (becoming a more integrated person isn’t just about ourselves, but also includes others and the world we live in) and wholeness (realising just how much to begin with or call upon right now); these drive us so powerfully because our integrity is never perfect and our wholeness is never complete, we’re always pushing on for more.**

Potential needs to be realised in achievement, and, achievement needs to produce greater potential, so there personal growth consequences.

Neither potential nor achievement can be copied or formatted:

‘I have done what was mine to do, now you must do yours.’^

(*From Godin’s thesis on education Stop Stealing Dreams (this link will take you to a free download), also included in Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?)
(**Carol Dweck covers important elements of this in her exploration of fixed and growth mindsets, in Mindset.)
(^Saint Francis, quoted by Richard Rohr in Eager to Love.)


hacking and beauty and truth and listening

2 what do you hear

The industrialised system for schooling, which develops into the industrialised system of work, is not too interested in the slow starter.

The antidote is to become a hacker – to passionately pursue something until it changes our way of thinking, especially when it comes to boundaries, especially boundaries between the seen and the unseen.

We each have the opportunity to bring something beautiful into the world, but it doesn’t always comes straight away.  My friend Leah Robb, when speaking of art, offers this:

‘Beautiful art is not the goal.  Truth is, and not all truth is beautiful.  Truth can hurt.  Truth can rip at your heart, and art must have the ability to do the same.’

Art here is the hard work we undertake towards the beautiful.  I don’t want to leave truth as I find it but to see if it can be transformed.

I happened to read these words at the same time, spoken by Atlas in Jeanette Winterson’s delighting retelling of the Greek myth.  Atlas has taken the weight of the world upon his shoulders, at first crouching “petrified and motionless,” then:

‘At last I began to hear something.  I found that where the world was close to my ears, I could hear everything.  A girl with a limp takes the pails over her shoulders.  I know she limps by the irregular clank of the buckets. … I can hear the world beginning.  Time plays itself back for me.  I can hear the ferns uncurling from their tight rest.  I can hear pools bubbling with life.  I realise I am carrying not only this world, but all possible worlds. … I am carrying the world’s mistakes and its glories.’*

Wherever we are, we can listen; we can hear the truth and respond.  Which brings us back to our hacking: following what we are so passionate about, in the pursuit of which our thinking changes and we can imagine and work for things others cannot.

(From Jeanette Winterson’s Weight.)


1 if you are reading this

Dedicated to all those waiting for someone or some organisation to say, “You’re the one we want.”

The most important choosing has already happened.

We’re here: the universe has made this possible: now what are we going to do?

Rather than waiting for someone to choose us we get to choose ourselves.

Then we get to be choosers of others.

We can choose to be curious about and enjoy that thing we do, and questioning how we might use these.

We can choose not to do things too – this is also important when it helps us identify what we do want to choose – as Steve Jobs witnesses:

“You have to pick carefully.  I’m
actually as proud of the things we
haven’t done as the things I have
done.  Innovation is saying no
to a 1,000 things.”*

Being chosen is about consciousness: being more present to already being chosen.

(*Quoted by Nassim Taleb in Antifragile.)