of fires and questions

24 be

I’m intrigued by Stephen Pyne‘s anthology of fires.  Great fires have been given names, such as the 1950 Chanchaga Fire in Canada which burnt through 1.4 million hectares (mostly forestry), or the 1987 Black Dragon Fire in China which burnt for twenty five days, killing more 200 people and making 33,000 homeless.  Both fires were started by Human activity.

The earth will recover from these fires, and will often be the better for it; not so for the families involved.

I realise, I have my own fires which have brought benefit to me, although they were uncomfortable at the time: the Great Sabbatical Fire of 1998, radically altered the trajectory I was on, and the 2005 Strengths Fire altered my way of thinking in a life-transforming way.  This one still burns beneath the surface of everything I do, and recently erupted on the surface leading to me stepping out of the work I’ve done for more than thirty years.  I also set small fires each day, as I seek to burn away anything prideful or greedy or foolish – often taking the form of being controlling, demanding, and unrealistic.

Questions are great fire-sparks.

Historian David Hackett Fischer describes questions as “cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.”*  Imagine a world in which questions didn’t exist or were banned.  Many live as though they wished this were so.  Questions threaten the status quo – the deadening build-up of unimaginative and inactive culture and society; Polly LaBarre suggests the best sparking questions are “subversive, disruptive, and playful.”*

Here’s a question I’ve been pondering over the last year:

What would the world be like if we debunked the myth of only a few are creative, the myth of creativity being a solo occupation, and the myth of finding answers being better than asking questions?

(*From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)

what a feeling

23 we imprison 1

It’s 1983 and Flashdance’s Irene Cara is powering out the lyrics, ‘Take your passion and make it happen.’

Some wait for the feeling before they move.  Sometimes the feeling never comes.

Others, though, know, when they move, the feeling follows.

Here’s something sent by Andrew and Pete,* two energetic and enthusiastic marketing guys I enjoyed meeting recently; they say:

‘We … wondered if you might be interested on your blog about a subject close to our hearts and millions of others. … We see a lot of micro businesses struggling to see that future that they could make for themselves, yet held back by their beliefs that they will never be a great success, it’s a distant dream, a joke even. … Anyway we just thought that as a topic it might be of interest to you, a business spin on things?’

I thought to pull this in here because, whether you need to earn some money for that thing you do, or find some space and time to contribute it in a gifted way,  the important thing for your future to emerge is for you to turn up.

Every day, turn up with their passion – identified by the thing or things you’re curious about, your skills and do something to change the world.  Even if it’s one person’s world (if you can change one person’s world, you can change more).

When you turn up and do what you must do, your feelings will change (you will also change the feelings of others who share your space).**

One thing for sure is to do nothing, or to hold back, will result in nothing.

I went out for a run earlier.  I’m feeling good about it now.  After injury, I’m getting good signals my body is doing okay.  But in the winter, I never really feel like running – I only know I love running.  So I turned up, pulled on my shoes and went out into wind strong enough to almost stop me in my tracks a few times as I ran up one of the  hills.  At times like this, I remind myself I must respect the miles,which break down into steps.

When you turn up with what it is you must do, then you are developing mastery of something no-one else does.  Chris Anderson brings encouragement to see the market has many more niches than it has had before:

‘What we will see is simply more.  More innovation, in more places, from more people, focused on more narrow niches.^

When I first read these words from Robert Greene, it was as if he was speaking directly to me:

‘You push yourself to learn from every possible source.  You read more books than those who have a formal education, developing this into a lifelong habit … . You try to apply your knowledge in some sort of experiment or practice.  You find yourself second-degree mentors … . You try and make their ideas come to life … .’^^

The future will not be a progression of what already is.  It is unlikely to find you.  But when you increasingly clarify and develop your passion and your skills, you will see your future.  And you will know what you must do now to arrive at your future.

If you struggle with either of these, get in touch because it’s what I do – I imagine people’s futures.

(*Check out Andrew and Pete’s site.)
(**I’m learning this the hard way.  I’ve been in some pretty dreich meetings, where I’ve waited for someone else to lift the mood, and, often, it never happens.  I must do this.)
(^From Chris Anderson”s Makers.)
(^^From Robert Greene’s Mastery.)

bursting bubbles

22 there's no such thing 2

When I was a child I would watch adults and wonder whether I could ever live like they were.

In many choices. I had to become an adult.  Even now I marvel at how I manage to live in this adult world.

I realise now, the journey is more accurately about becoming Human than it is about becoming adult.

Even in the 21st century, our destination is elusive.  It appears, the journey is everything, promising more discoveries.

22 there's no such thing

Adults still want assurances everything will be fine, everything will work, and there won’t be any pain.  Yet, it appears, the journey is all about risk.

Since I was at my primary school, when adults appeared like creatures from a different planet to me, the world has changed greatly and rapidly and the degree and speed are only going to increase: ‘The shape of the future is fast.’*

We’re being rushed along and don’t know what lies around the next bend  Our lizard-brain demands we find some safe bubble in which we might journey safely towards death.

We cannot become Human by living in bubbles, though.  And the maelstrom of change will increasingly burst bubbles.

I am told, if I ever find myself thrown out of a kayak or raft in a white-water river, I need to travel downstream feet first.

For those who choose to leave their bubbles behind, or who find themselves burst out from their bubbles, feet-firstness – the ability to anticipate and respond to whatever’s ahead – will be aided by three movements in our lives:

From answers to questions
From comfort to discomfort
From arriving to journeying.

(*From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)
(There’ll be more added to the cartoon for today; what would you put inside the lines?)

a no-blame culture

21 wrong

Maybe there’s no-one to blame for what just happened.

Maybe it’s an opportunity for feedback and mentoring and coaching, so all can learn together,

Maybe it’s all a consequence of being physical beings in a physical universe, requiring vulnerability on our part if we are to interact with the natural world, understand ourselves to be the individuals we are, live in time which we cannot control, and, appreciate that our short span comes with a sense of destiny – our opportunity to take a little of the weight of Earth from the shoulders of Atlas.*

Of course, sometimes it is our fault, and, rather than blaming someone or something else, we can use this as a learning experience and grow stronger.  (At a point of burn out in my life, I chose not to blame anyone or anything, but take responsibility myself for what had happened, and, more importantly, what would happen; it’s been quite a journey since then.)

Brené Brown believes we have  to counter the blame culture with one which normalises discomfort.  I always carry with me, five elemental truths: life is hard, I am not as special as I think, my life is not about me, I am not in control, and I am going to die.

We live in a physical universe which is uncomfortable and unpredictable, whilst also being beautiful and sustaining.  This universe, though, has offered us the opportunity to have our turn at life.

Those who give in to the uncomfortable and run for cover, lose.  Those who blame others, never taking responsibility for the almost-incomprehensible opportunity they have been given, will lose.

‘The rule is simple: the person who fails the most will win.’**

Something happens when we recognise how we’ve been proffered an amazing opportunity to live and contribute something beautiful, and then, turning up, every day, imperfect, incomplete, and shocked-by-it-all as we are.

When you pass it on, you’re helping to create a non-blame culture.

(*These four dimensions of vulnerability are borrowed from John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.  And the reference to Atlas refers to Jeanette Winterson’s story of Atlas in Weight.)
**From Seth Godin’s It’s Your Turn.)

into the darkness

20 to tell the truth about

We’re entering a new world of light.

In terms of new ways of seeing, understanding, and living.*

My friend Alex McManus suggests there are three undercurrents to this: from “outsider” to “insider,” “from “above” to “within,” and, from “against” to “with.”**

Humans are increasingly defined by connectiveness going beyond family and tribe and nation and religion.^  We understand ourselves to be part of the natural world rather than above it.  Instead of competing against one another, we are joining together against those things which threaten all Humans, all species, and our planet.

This new light ‘sees the world as its polis, its city, and all peoples as kindred spirits on journey together.’**

For the light to be purer, we’ll need to descend into the darkness of what we do not see or know about ourselves, which source and control our lives.  There are many things we’re blind to, aspects of who we are which are good and others which are bad.  When we identify the truth about ourselves we’re learning to be truth-tellers, and, as it comes from making ourselves vulnerable, we ensure we carry only the best of who we are into the new world of light – it is a more powerful Self we bring to others.

‘Many powerful organisations fear a truth-teller … who sees the world as it is … a person who cares enough to change it.’^^

Entering into our own darkness, then, enables us to accompany others into their darkness.  (It’s likely someone’s honest telling of their story has helped you to begin your own journey.)

These good things we discover about ourselves in the darkness must be dreamt into the light, often involving connecting with those we do not know just yet, and doing something which feels very much like leaping into the light: “Notice, dream, connect, do” encourages Monika Hardy.^

Questions through accompanied inquiry are often our means of venturing into the darkness.

(*I’m not suggesting this is our destination; future generations will add more and make the light brighter still.)
(**From Alex McManus’s Makers of Fire.)

(^There are always those pushing against and reacting to positive Human movements, and we see these around our globe.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s It’s Your Turn.)

shape-shifters (or, into the squiggliness)

19 what's in

You are more than who you are in this moment.  Your future as a Human Becoming will prove this.

Life, at its best is squiggly.  As we seek to become, we’ll find our lives to be ‘bumpy, weird, strange, funky, and all-round fascinating.’*

As a result, those who make the most of this are shape-shifters.

Who you are can never be defined in the confinement of a word or sentence or metaphor.

Some of this squiggliness comes from realising we’re not complete without others bring to us.  When we connect we’re opening to help coming from beyond us, and then help will come from within us towards others.

Shape-shifters also emphasise questions over answers: inquiry is squiggly.  Answers provide us with straight(-ish) lines of certainty; questions can take us off in a totally different direction.

‘Truth isn’t something you conclude; truth is something you become.’*

Futurist John Seely Brown captures this when he offers how, “We’ve transitioned into always transitioning.”^

The status quo demands, “Stay still!”  You’ll be criticised and shamed because of your lack of linearity.  But you know, the status quo is not what it means to be Human and there is more shape-shifting to be done.  We discover more of what we are becoming in the squiggliness.

Your mission for today, should you choose to accept, is to find and connect with more shape-shifters.^^

Another thing you can have a play with is creating your personal world cloud of values, skills, and metaphors which are important to you.  Today’s cartoon is a play at mine.

(*A word used by Mitch Joel in Ctrl Alt Delete.)
(*From Erwin McManus’s Soul Cravings.)

(^Quoted by Warren Berger in A More Beautiful Question.)
(^^I’ve just spent the afternoon with a group of shape-shifters around exploring ULabs.  We recognised there are more and more people who are entering the squiggliness.)


disruptive questions

18 the most disruptive

Our most disruptive questions emerge out of the territories of vulnerability we’re willing to explore.

Some ask questions to show you how much they know or to get something more for themselves.

But others ask questions, admitting what they do not know, and they ask if there is anything they have they can give to you.

Some ask questions which seek out reasons not to connect and trust, proving a cynical point.

But, others ask questions which expose their willingness to grow and connect, which move them beyond truth to trust, and which proffer their less-than perfect resources because they know they’re enough.

Some ask questions to put us off their trail,so they’re not held to account, questions to hide behind so their world remains the same.

But, others ask questions which cross the lines and borders others respect, allowing you to mine their inspiration, brightness, and beauty.

When we ask disruptive questions we’re awakening our ancient memory comprising curiosity towards creativity.    Digging deep, they expose the questioner in their vulnerability, knowing the alternative is often fear, limitation, negativity, bitterness, and disappointment.