running with rosie

31 i prepared for this moment

Rosie Ruiz won the 1980 Boston Marathon.

Except she didn’t:

“I saw a woman coming out of the crowd on the south side of Comm Ave and start running. I thought it was a hoax or someone running just for the fun of it. She did not run with an elite runner’s style or form.”*

Rosie had run about a mile.

She never admitted to the fraud and even said that she would run another marathon to prove her running ability, though it’s unlikely she ever did. One reporter concluded that Rosie really believed she’d run the marathon; it seems she was trapped inside her own lies.**  Rosie was not an elite runner, but if she’d trained, she may have become really very good.

Running with Rosie is about being tempted to take shortcuts in life; we try to be something on the outside without being that something on the inside.  It’s about how we can fool even ourselves into thinking this life is normal.

It’s also about everyone being able to build their unique kind of capacity, whatever their age.  The kind of capacity that’s able to take the things that life brings and make something beautiful out of them.

Learn to do for yourself.  It’s the only way to broaden your skills.’^^

(*John Faulkner, friend of reporter Alice Cook.)
(**Eugene Peterson tells Rosie’s story in Run with the Horses.)
(^From Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit.)


the inner life

30 why not begin

It sounds positively monastic, but it’s just life.  To live without veneer.

‘Why try to recover someone else’s originality? … Servitude through admiration or tradition must be cast off.’*

Richard Sennett tells of how luthiers have tried to uncover the secrets of Stradiveri and del Gèsu, but without success.  In truth, the way these men crafted their instruments was made up of millions of nuances comprising their uniqueness.

To try and disguise who we are with a more impressive persona is to live beneath a veneer, but so too is the copying of others, no matter how great such an aspiration in this may be.

Inspiration is more liberating.  Be inspired.  Develop your own uniqueness.  Inspire others.

The best workshop a craftsperson has is their own life.

(*From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)

blue steel

29 purpose

[P]erhaps, the wild ones amongst us are our only hope in calling us back to our true nature.’*

‘The only way to fix a broken story is to embed it in a larger story, that begins and ends well.’**

Model Derek Zoolander‘s names his eponymous pose Blue Steel.

Your Blue Steel, though, is a heart thing, not a face thing.  it is the intensity you feel deep down inside to do something which may place you out of step with many others. When others seek safety, you know safety is a place to venture out from and return to, but not to live permanently.

It begins with how you connect to who or what we must be about at the beginning of each day – perhaps a ritual or habit that makes this possible and you would painfully miss if it were somehow not available.  It says, “I am armed and dangerous for something purposeful and wonderful.”

Often unnoticed, you make a difference in the fabric of someone’s universe.

(*Joel McKerrow, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)

helping in the other direction

28 don't be

‘Pure inquiry biases the interaction toward going with the flow, and that must be balanced by constructive opportunism.’*

‘A waker is someone who is very good at waking other people from their metaphorical slumber, temporary or otherwise.’**

We’ve all experienced it.  The person who tries to help us and they’re not helping at all.

Unless this is exactly the help we need.

When the last thing we need is help in the present direction of our lives.  When help in the opposite direction is exactly what we need because we’d never find our way to this place unless we were helped from beyond.

In a world where we can still aspire to get by without any help – “I did it my way” – the real divide isn’t between those who need help and those who get on by themselves, but between those who know being human is about giving and receiving help and those who refuse to give and receive.

We all need help from beyond ourselves.

(*From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)
(**From Hugh Macleod’s Evil Plans.)

and we are flawed

27 need a t shirt

A hopeful future requires that we find some way of opening to and being present to one another in our imperfections and incompleteness.

Yet, even with these things, we have more than we know, and bringing them together provides the future with an advantage.

It’s more dangerous when we make out that everything is okay with us, or with some situation, because our covering and protecting ourselves with okay makes us incapable of being fully present in the new possibilities which come along.

Something magical happens when we admit we make mistakes, we don’t know everything, we’re not the answer: we become new people.


seek, ask, knock

26 a friend is

‘Old age offers the opportunity to integrate and bring together the multiplicity of directions that you have travelled.  It is a time when you can bring the circle of your life together to where your longing can be awakened and new possibilities come alive for you.’*

‘[T]he confrontational question introduces new ideas, concepts, hypotheses, options, etc. that clients must now deal with.’**

Novo Nordisk decided there wasn’t a lot of room for improvement when it came to insulin quality.  Instead, the company turned its attention to improving the experience of the insulin user, including introducing the novopen, and so ‘transformed the company from an insulin producer to a diabetes care company.’^

Apparently, there was lots more improvement to seek out, different questions to be asked, and new doors to walk through.

It’s the same for all of us – we just sometimes need another person, or a group of people, to help us

We are at our best, and life is bigger, when we’re seeking, asking, and knocking, towards creating the future rather than repeating the past.

Though, if it was this simple, everyone would be doing it, but they’re not – because it’s hard.  Daniel Kahneman highlights what goes wrong when we give up seeking, asking, or knocking towards what we do not know:

‘The familiar [thinking] processes of WYSIATI [what you see is all there is] and substitution [with an easier question] produce both competition neglect and the above average effect.’^^

In other words, “We don’t have to improve; we’re doing better than most.”

This is a choice, of course.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We’re more capable than we know of becoming ‘creative nonconformists, … difference makers, aliveness activists, catalysts for change.’*^

(*From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.)
(**From Edgar Schein’s Helping.)
(^From Chan Kim and Renée Maugborne’s Blue Ocean Strategy.)
(^^From Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.)
(*^From Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking.)

to keep moving

25 trust yourself

Can be hard at times.

Once you were not ready, but now you are.  You stopped waiting for someone to notice you and picked yourself.   You gave yourself permission.

Now you have to keep moving.  Today.  Tomorrow.  And the day after tomorrow.

You hold onto my discontent.  This is what caused you to stop and notice something that really matters to you – you do it  ‘because the world needs me to do it.’*

The discontent has become a doorway to move through.  Others misunderstand when you don’t want to do what everyone else is doing – “personal enthusiasms” they say, but there is a reason you must do what you do.

‘The toll of making change is that you will be changed.’**

You are becoming what you must do, and what you must do emerges from who you are becoming.  Something is happening, something is working: today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow.

“Trust the process; don’t try to recreate what you’re doing normally.  The goal is to get something new and fresh.”^

So take another step, get something out there for others to react to, and we keep moving.

(*From Frank Laubach’s Letters by a Modern Mystic.)
(**From Seth Godin’s Graceful.)
(^James DeJulio, quoted in Peter 
Diamonds and Steven Kotler’s Bold.  DeJulio is describing crowdsourcing, but he could be describing the things that happen in the journey  that takes us from the self to others.)
(Doodle: William Kamkwamba was fourteen when he built his first windmill from scrap and a library book.  He went on to build a larger windmill for irrigation.)

in/between and/or both/and

24 life is found

Life is more this and that, rather than this or that.

In the end, life is “all of these things,” though we draw copious lines around different dynamics, elements and aspects of life, separating this from that and these from those.  Then we ask people to choose which side of the line they want to stand on, or worse, tell people which side they’re on.

Eugene Peterson imagines the time when a piece of pottery – an incredible invention – was both necessary and beautiful.

As it is for clay, so it is for people:

‘Everywhere.  Functionally necessary and artistically elegant at one and the same time with no thought that the two elements could be separated.’*

Everyone is necessary and beautiful.

This is where we can choose to live, where in ordinary lives there exists the beauty of everything:

‘The ordinary moments of life – from grocery shopping to games of squash – are shown to contain all of life.’**

We may draw our lines, but, in the end, everything is one.  Mind and body.  Me and you.  One.   Perhaps we are on our way to discovering this.

Jonah Lehrer, contemplates a fourth culture in which relationships between humanities and science will be sought and explored, which will ‘ignore arbitrary intellectual boundaries, seeking instead to blur the lines that separate.’^

Sometimes we find ourselves in this fourth space, which is neither mine nor yours, but ours; perhaps one day we will stay and live there?

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses.)
(**From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist. Lehrer is referring to Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday.)
(^Froom Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.  Science and humanities form the first two culture; the third culture being attempts to bridge the gap between science and the general public, although, originally, it was intended to be a space both scientists and artists inhabited.)

prototypes of self

23 getting it together

‘The most mysterious thing about the human brain is that the more we know about it, the deeper our own mystery becomes. … Our reality seems to depend upon a miracle.’*

Our consciousness in more than the sum total of our neuronal parts.  We can choose whether we see ourselves as trapped in the self, or we can see ourselves as possessing an incredible “vehicle” for exploring the universe.

Though, this is always our universe, never the universe:

‘But that reality – the world seen without self – is exactly what we an never see.’*

There can be no truly objective view of the universe – everything we see and know comes through who we are.

We may reduce the brain to its function as we search for and seek to understand the self – we understand the self not to be a place in the brain, but a process (I’ll come back to this) – but the exciting things begin when we increase rather than reduce, when we bring together (integrity from integer, to be intact) rather than separate.

Embedding and embodiment become important practices of this process of self.  And whilst some might be disappointed to find that the self is not a place, like  the Arkillian prince in Men in Black, this is way more exciting for those who believe we can exponentially change, grow, and develop.  Embedding makes what we see and understand part of our intimate self, then embodying by prototyping gets us moving, from spectating to participating:

‘Prototyping is all about building momentum.’**

(*From Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)

then let us strive

22 imagine

It’s not about whether we have to strive or not strive in life.

Beyond, “Is this far enough?” and “Can I take it easy now?”, we wonder “How far can I go?” and “Is there more?”

It’s not long before we’re asking, “What, then, are we capable of?”

It’s about what we strive for.

‘This is completion at its best, reminding us that the word compete comes from the Latin competere, meaning striving together.’*

We are helpers of one another towards this, the relationship between being an individual and yet undivided so critical:

‘Somebody said that what the world needs is not more geniuses but more genius makers, people who enhance and don’t diminish the gifts of those around them.’**

Each day we reconnect inwardly to our source, and refocusing outwardly for what lies ahead.  In Olympic parlance, every day provides us with opportunities to post personal bests, and although sometimes this unravels badly, as it did for diver Tom Daley, there’ll always be the possibility of better to come.

(*From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(**From John Ortberg’s All the Places.)