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.


endless possibilities

17 create more

Apparently, the average British four-year-old girl asks 390 questions a day, and the boys aren’t far behind.  (I’m reminded of my youngest son at five, following me around the garden asking one question after another.)

Warren Berger asks, ‘Why does that four-year-old girl begin to question less at age five or six?,’ and, ‘Why do others keep questioning …?’*

Curiosity and inquiry have not only driven the rapid development of Human culture and our understanding of what it is to be Human – and there’s more to come for Human Becomings.  Change may well be the only way we get to really answer the question. What does it mean to be Human?

Good questions are like fires reinvigorating life which has stifled and made stale by a few answers made mediocre by time.**

Our questions have to come from deep within us.

We have to find and connect to this place of curiosity and questioning within.  Edward Deci claims it isn’t about whether we can motivate others, but, ‘how can people create the conditions within which others will motivate themselves?’^

All of this has helped me realise I’ve been creating an environment for myself towards recovering curiosity and the ability to ask many questions, rather than reinforcing a few answers.  We’ll all do it differently.  I happen to mix reading, journaling, having many conversations with amazing people, and exploring and experimenting in the work I do with people.

I read with the acronym TEESA in mind: Technology, Environment, Entrepreneurship, Society,  and Arts.  I thought to list all the books I’m exploring and mixing ideas from at the moment:^

It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin (not available in the UK just yet)
The Particle at the End of the Universe by Sean Carroll
Quantum by Manjit Kumar
Makers of Fire by Alex McManus

The Necessary Revolution by Peter Senge
Fire by Stephen Pyne

Makers by Chris Anderson
Make Your Mark edited by Jocelyn Glei
Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder by Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Bharadwaj
A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
With the Grain of the Universe by Stanley Hauerwas
The Next 100 Years by George Friedman
The Power of Maps by Denis Wood
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Eternal Echoes by John O’Donohue
Flourish by Martin Seligman

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown

(*From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(**And great answers stand the test of time.)
(From Edward Deci’s Why We Do What We Do.)
(^Having so many on the go at the same time is something of an experiment for this year.)





16 youcan't hurry

A word I like the sound of.  It feels like being at home, at ease, comfortable.

I’m imagining repose in this way:

The life your life is telling you you’ve got to live, cannot be put on like a layer of clothing.  It must be grown from your interior until it reposes as DNA in every cell of who you are.

Know-how is no substitute, the knowledge offered by self-help books and programmes.  Perhaps these help you to get started, maybe they offer things you can absorb and make a part of you, but the truth of who we are and what we have has its own natural curiosity.

Life then becomes way more squiggly, Mitch Joel pointing ou, in his experience: ‘The most successful and interesting entrepreneurs and business people don’t have a very linear career path.  In fact, it’s very squiggly. Always bear that in mind.  Embrace the squiggle.’*

I think this is wisdom for us all.

Life at it’s best is squiggly, because everything we want to see hides something else we want to see.  We then must ask more questions because living with our natural curiosity means there’s always another question: a more beautiful question.**  I’ve mentioned before how Humans swap the important question for an easier one, such as, What is my life saying I must do? is exchanged for “What tips can you give me so I can make a quicker choice?

16 there's always

‘On the big questions of finding meaning, fulfilment, and happiness, we’re deluged with answers – in the form of off-the-shelf advice, tips, strategies from experts and gurus.  It shouldn’t be any wonder if those generic solutions don’t quite fit.’**

Chip and Dan Heath highlight the need for natural growth of what it is we must do with our lives: ‘in almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYSE – THINK – CHANGE, but rather SEE – FEEL – CHANGE.’^

‘Art isn’t a result, it’s a journey’^^ with a squiggle in it.

(*From Mitch Joel’s Ctrl Alt Dlt.)
(**From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.  One I spotted the title of this book, I knew I had to read it.)
(^From Dan and Chip Heath’s Switch.  This insight aligns with Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, which states we must open our minds, then our hearts, and then our wills.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception.)



15 aaaggghhh

The love of words.

Not being able to find the right word to describe something can be frustrating.  It happens to me more than I feel … (erm).

The words we use for things are not what they really are (and the words we describe people with do not adequately describe who they are).  Words are metaphors and mirrors which help us to grasp, utilise, and communicate the something or someone.

It’s hard to imagine what would happen to our thinking and consciousness if our words dissolved away, and we lost thinking and speaking language.

What we do know is how thinking and consciousness increases the more new words we have (even old words used in new contexts).

Thinking about this, I realise what I’m always trying to do is provide more words and new words to the people I work with – for who they are and what they can do.  This also provides more words to describe others and what they do.

You’ll probably have noticed I like using words like humility in new ways and places.  Humility is not, as often thought, having fewer words to describe oneself, rather, it is about having more.  And new words open up new terrain for exploring and discovery.

The means by which we encounter and gather new words come through reading and viewing (like TED), people, and experiences (including producing things).

When you can’t find the word you need, make one up.  All the words we use come from someone at sometime making them up.

‘The real struggle is not in knowing the world beyond us, but with knowing the world within us.’*

If we don’t know who we are, we’re exposed to what others think about us and suggest for us.  Another word I enjoy exploring is integrity; Edward Deci offers this definition of integrity: ‘acting in accord with one’s inner self.’

If you, or your community, find the words and language you use are frustrating what you want to do, why not find some new ones?

(*From Erwin McManus’s Soul Cravings.)

habits and habitats

14 habits

There are all kinds of habits, from the ones we fall into through repetition, to those we mindfully shape (what needs to be done, our ability to do this, and, our desire to do this.

Habits are basically ways of thinking, relating, and acting which allow us to do things.

John O’Donohue focuses more on the emptiness of habits which rob a person of the wonder of their life:

‘We confine our mystery within the prison of routine and repetition.”*

I appreciate his sentiment, but I love habits with creativity and purpose, providing habitats for the new to be grown and developed and sustained.

Whether religious or not, we all realise there is something different about Humans.  This can feel like a blessing and a curse at the same time.  We can look out on and wonder at the vastness of universe, and at the same time struggle with the enormity of it and hide away in mundaneness.

We see Humans to be at their best when they are making all things thrive: the lives of others, the lives of other species, the habitation we share, and ourselves.  Thriving is about the future, and the future requires we bring our best imagining, and imagining is a habit which can be developed.

Habits, then, ought to serve the future rather than trap us in the past. We need habits which will bring us to places of reflection, new learning, new connections, new experimenting, and new creating.

This responsibility to make all things thrive is our common spirituality.  A person’s sense of wholeness, it seems, comes from accepting this mantle borne of awe and wonder in life.

Each person must create their own habits or habitats for creativity, generosity, and enjoyment.  We can gain ideas from one another, but when we create our own, they are intrinsic to us.

There are public demonstrations of habit (organisations and institutions) which can give provide us with support and ideas, allowing us to explore together, but, being extrinsic, these will never substitute for our daily habitats for exploring: reflecting, learning, connecting, experimenting, creating.

(From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)

potential memories

13 everyone starts

I remember things differently as I grow older.

I don’t mean inaccurately.  Once upon a time, there were certain memories I might have remembered with embarrassment at best and shame at worst.  Now, I remember them as lessons, as points of growth.  They have become fuel for a creative life: memories are artefacts to combine, juxtapose, reimagine and alchemise.

‘If we move even the smallest step out of our limitations, life comes to embrace us and lead us out into the pastures of possibility.’*

In reality, our skills and talents are memories we call upon in service of the work or cause we pursue: practices, behaviours, activities, complete with all their failures and triumphs.  The skills and talents of others are memories we can borrow and include. Sometimes this means we don’t have to make the mistakes of others, or, better still, we open up new possibilities because others have accomplished what we’ve not begun to understand and do.

We are “mining the past” in order to create the future.

Working with people on their talents and passions,** has given me opportunities to wonder about how different skills and talents may have developed through people’s experiences.  They may not even know this is what they’ve been doing.  Even the negative experiences may provide them with special insights and skills, and, when used positively,  may well make a significant difference in the world for others: ‘every blush or flow of tears that’s ever touched you in a movie results from a performer who’s learned to mine the past.’^

None of us can make something from nothing.  We can only take something which already exists and re-imagine and form it.  I wonder about how many potential memories exist in every person.

(*From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)
(**It might be argued passions are also memories: what we have found ourselves energised by we have repeated.)
(^Twyla Tharp in The Creative Habit.)

i want to break free

12 breakout


Just checking to see if you mean business.

Many of our prisons are mental ones.  We’re incarcerated by guilt or shame or the images projected by others or our sense we should-be-better.  Brené Brown tells us, these feed upon ‘the darkest areas of our lives: disconnection, disengagement, and our struggle for worthiness.’*

Our thinking is often lazy, which means it’s faulty:

‘Our conscious information processing circuits get easily overloaded by detail complexity, forcing us to evolve simplifying heuristics to figure things out.’**

Otto Scharmer would say this leads to downloading: believing what you see is all there is – passing and failing everything else by our downloading standard.

We need to employ new ways of thinking in order to break out of our imprisoning thoughts.  It can be hard to imagine there’s another ways of seeing and understanding people and things when we’ve seen and understood ourselves in a certain way for a long time.

But, there are ways to break free.

One way is to write out your thoughts to purposeful questions.  If we don’t find it easier to write things out, try doodling them down, or use some combination.

For starters, write out all your skills as specifically as you can.

Do you get things done (maybe you love “to do” lists)?  
Do you enjoy speaking and demonstrating things (perhaps succeeding in a difficult sale, or coaching a football team)?  
Do you find yourself energised by working closely with people (supporting them, solving problems, growing connections)?  
Do you love ideas or learning new things (viewing documentaries, taking another course, or wearing out search engines in pursuit of information)?

It doesn’t matter how small or large your examples are, make sure you write or doodle it down (analogue wins over digital).  Keep on with this for a week or so; whenever you find yourself energised by something, record it.  You’ll be astonished at the number and type of things you’ve written out.^

If you’re already doing this, great.  If you don’t do anything, well, it’s why I ask if you really want to break free.

(*From Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline.  Also see Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.)
(^You can build on this by expressing gratitude for each of the things you’ve recorded – whether to the universe, to another, or to your god.)