11 when we compare

Erich Fromm observed how all great teachers ‘have arrived at essentially the same norms of living, the essence of these norms being that the overcoming of greed, illusions, and hate, and the attainment of love and compassion, rare the conditions for obtaining optimal living.’*

When we compare ourselves to others, when we see ourselves as better or worse and act accordingly, we all lose.

When we compare ourselves with our future selves, when we see the potential we have to keep improving and developing until the day we die, and when we follow this path, everyone wins.

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Being.)


10 he found himself  1

Choreographer Twyla Tharp caught my attention when she described how her work has a spin:’It keeps me on message, but is not the message itself.’*

This got me thinking about a couple of things “spinefulness” keeps us in touch with.

Specifically, we are able to stay connected to coordinating our skills and experiences and passions towards a preferred future which offers hope.

Also, as the spine is hidden from view, so is the courage of sacrifice, or selflessness, which is necessary for every endeavour worth doing.

When we identify this way of sacrifice, and also our purpose,we have something powerful.

(*From Twyla Tharps’s The Creative Habit.)


9 he's been like that

‘Values are the nervous system of a brilliant life.  They connect everything to everything.  Put simply, values are right up there with oxygen’*

There are many interfaces before the one we share with others.

“The movement that started complexity looks in the other direction.  It’s asking: How do things assemble themselves?  How do patterns emerge from these interacting elements?”**

You and me, we’re  a tiny part of the universe, yet the universe exists in us – we’re made of the same stuff as everything else in the cosmos – just held together in different patterns which make us organic life forms rather than part of an asteroid belt around Saturn.

How do we participate in assembling our lives?

Peter Senge points to a trail of assembly – many interfaces.  Our actions are the result of our beliefs, which have emerged from conclusions we have drawn, from assumptions we have made to meaning extracted from selected data from observable information and experiences.^

Quite a journey.  At each interface, the possibility of something bigger or smaller, hopeful or hopeless, beautiful or ugly.

(*From Michael Heppell’s How To Be Brilliant.)
(**Brian Arthur, quoted in Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)
(^From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)

is imagination imagined?

8 we are partners

There exists objectivity, subjectivity, and inter-subjectivity.

There is the objective nature of the universe.  Then there are stories and myths we tell ourselves and our place within it are subjective – imagined orders as Yuval Noah Harari* names them.  Inter-subjectivity covers our agreements towards shaping bigger myths and stories, like Spain, and Virgin.

I think of imagination as objective, though: a product of the universe, found in Humans, (and maybe other species on different planets).  It wasn’t our idea to be here, but now we are here, we’ve interesting choices to make, beyond meeting basic needs, and around the world Humans are exploring beauty and love and meaning.

Maybe this isn’t imagination as the universe intended, and, as some add, as god intended.  It seems to be up to us to use our curiosity, imagination, and make some things.  And maybe it will change Human life on earth again, in a dynamically different way.

‘Learning journeys are expeditions taken in search of new understanding of an issue or a set of issues.  Learning journeys mean leaving the familiar behind and going to see unfamiliar aspects of a system firsthand.’**

‘We are partners in the evolution of the universe.’

(*See Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(^From Joseph Jawarski’s Source.)



i have seen the light

7 let your light shine again

Who are the people who have helped turn the light on for you?

Claudia Altucher suggests naming the people we’d like to meet be and be mentored by: ‘Who are your ten proposed mentors and what is the one question you would ask?’*

There’s so much I don’t know yet, and much more I will never know.  I keep this in mind every day.

Others know the things I don’t know.  If I am open to the light they bring me then my life changes for the better.

I know I can do better than this.

If I thought I was doing well enough, I wouldn’t try harder.  If we think our society is good enough, we won’t try for something better.

If we think we nailed that interaction with someone, we won’t try harder next time we meet.  If we’re content with how we look after employees, we won’t ask questions about how we can make a bigger investment in them.

Beware someone praising your performance: you may stick when you need to twist.

You don’t want dispraise, but someone’s presence is best.  I love being asked a question. I love asking questions.  Let the light in.

(*From Claudia Altucher’s Become an Idea Machine.)

the cat ate my yogurt

6 cats dreaming

Smudge was licking his lips but felt something was wrong because he skulked away guilty-like when I ordered him out of the kitchen.

But he couldn’t help himself: he was only doing what cats do.

On the other hand, Humans have a choice about whether to eat my breakfast or not.

Yuval Noah Harari picks over the American constitution from an evolutionary perspective, rewriting the following passage:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

When rewritten in biological terms, Harari suggests these words:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men evolved differently, that they are born with certain mutable characteristics, and that among these are life and the pursuit of pleasure.’*

For tens of thousands of years we’ve been living in contradiction to our biology and evolution because we are capable of choosing a story we prefer more.  Whether a person believes this is simply the best way for people to live, or whether they believe people are made in God’s image and likeness, they’re providing themselves with choices about how they think and act.

Everyone can be part of the better story.  Everyone ought to have the opportunity to choose a better story.  

I appreciate, this is how I choose to see life.  Have a go, though, and see what you come up with to this critical question: What does it mean to you to be Human?

We need more ways for helping people to live their answer.

‘Familiarity is one of the most subtle and pervasive forms of human alienation.’**

‘One of the keys to how to be brilliant is to find mentors who will push you, advise you, coach and encourage you.’^

(*From Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.)
(^From Michael Heppell’s How To Be Brilliant.)


(Smudge dreaming of having opposable thumbs
which would allow him to get his own yogurt)


cities of genius

5 everyone has

“What the numbers clearly show … is that when people come together they become much more productive per capita.  They exchange more ideas and generate more innovations.  What’s amazing is how predictable this is.  It happens automatically in city after city.”*

Geoffrey West has calculated just how the size of a city directly relates to its capacity to deliver innovation.

What intrigues me is how goodness and love and service might become creative with these automatic mechanisms found in a city, leading to more possibilities for people to flourish and thrive – especially those the powerbrokers deem to be worthless and unimportant.

That people can become is the most important thing of all.  So what would cities be like to live in which aimed to enable its residents to become.

Though it may look as though people who connect more with others in their cities are being given something, a closer look shows that what is really happening is the opportunity for people to bring and develop their genius through combining theirs with the genius of others.**  It’s why I’m a member of transformative space shaping group called Cities That Listen.^

You may not live in a city, but knowing that more happens when people get together means you can create your own cities of genius.

(*Geoffrey West, quoted in Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine.)
(**There is homework to be done, though.  Once we know what we are capable of, we develop this on our own and connect with others – then something astonishing happens.)
(^Cities That Listen lives and breathes a way of listening and encouraging and activating innovative thinking, relating, and behaving.  We’d love to share and spread the stories and processes we’ve been employing, so they can be used in more places.  Get in touch to find out more.)


4 this isn't

Maps are iconic as representations of ‘objects, places, relations, and events.’*

Traditionally icons are windows or portals to some deeper truth or experience.

Our lives can be iconic too.

When we live our lives in an iconic way, we make all we are and know and have available to one another.

As I write, in about an hour, I’m going to meet with others to imagine an iconic experience, something we hope will make available deeper possibilities for personal and community development in and of a complex world.  (We’re always happy to share what we’ve been up to.**)

(*From Denis Wood’s The Power of Maps.)
Cities That Listen lives and breathes a way of listening and encouraging and activating innovative thinking, relating, and behaving.  We’d love to share and spread the stories and processes we’ve been employing so they can be used in more places.  Drop me a line to find out more.)

an aggregation of marginal gains

3 look how small

The means by which the British Cycling Team won so many medals at the Beijing and London Olympics.

Break all practices and behaviours down to their smallest components, then seek to improve each of these by 1%, and collectively you have something better.

This kind of plan for improvement doesn’t come from our instincts but from our imaginations: what if it’s possible to ride a bike cleverer and faster than anyone else and win a medal.

Yuval Noah Harari suggests Humans do not live together in such large numbers by instinct but by imagination, through our shared myths.*

Stephen Pyne points out how the last 200 years of Human history using fire has accomplished more than two million Pleistocene years and 200 million Mesozoic years.  It has led to the identifying of another geologic epoch: the Anthropocene.**

What will not be easily identifiable in this geologic strata will be our “soft” developments: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and more.  Yet these come with our development of imaginations linking mind and heart and will – all made possible through the aggregation of marginal gains.

(*Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.)
(**Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)

good eyes

2 we value

“Our task is to make music with what remains.”*

We must take the chance we have.  The good news is, nothing is static or rigid.

‘The leading edge thinkers in physics … suggest that nature is not a collection of objects in interaction but is a flux of processes.  The whole notion of flux and process is fundamental to the indigenous sciences.’**

You and me, we’re included in this flux and can guide the processes with foresight, intention, and love.

It all begins with good eyes.  To be those who open our eyes to more: more paradigms and world views, more people, more possibilities.  Edgar Schein’s encouragement is, “Observe, observe, observe,”^ so:

Read a book.
Watch a documentary and follow the subject up with googling.
Ask someone to tell you their story.
Ask questions, lots of questions.
Reflect, starting with five minutes a day – writing and doodling.
Learn something new.
Accept the invitation you weren’t going to.
Walk slower.
Listen deeper.
Close your eyes (what can you see with eyes closed?).

Nothing is static.  Amazing things can happen with what remains.

(*Violinist Itzhak Perlman, speaking after performing with only three strings – and getting a standing ovation: quoted in Steve Chalke’s Being Human.)
(**From Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)
(^From Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry.)