Eighty feet per second

It is honest, spontaneoous curiosity that best conveys my interest  and concern for the client.*
(Edgar Schein)

That is was a traffic of love is sufficiently clear; but love pursued with fervour is one of the roads to knowledge.**
(Nan Shepherd)

We are increasingly adept at sharing information and knowledge but lag behind at caring.

Edgar Schein catches my eye with his connecting of curiosity, interest and care because he exposes a different kind of knowledge.  In his work with one company, Schein reflects:

‘They did not need a common marketing programme; they first need get to know one another at a more fundamental, personal level.’*

Connecting knowing and caring may be one of the greatest breakthroughs we are able to accomplish as a species.

To know something may be a portal to caring.  Nan Shepherd spins this around, saying that our love for something opens up knowledge that is worth having.

Allowing relationships to guide matters of efficiency may appear to be a recipe for trouble but Schein’s experience suggests the opposite:

‘Having outsiders engage in a diagnostic process and analysing data often turns out to be much slower than building a personal relationship with a client and other members of a system and together figuring out what is going on and what needs to be done.’*

When people are engaged and empowered through the building of relationships we engage the most powerful means of change we possibly can: people.

Erwin McManus suggests:

‘Your best future is waiting in your deepest relationships.’^

He has just asked the question:

‘Who are the people you have bound your life to whom you have declared “I am with you”?’^

What if it were possible to affect change wherever we are at eighty feet per second?

In 1852, Hermann von Helmholtz managed to measure the speed of nerve conduction.  Eighty feet per second, then, is the speed of our emotions and feelings – one might argue, it is the speed of a relationship working well.^^

In this way of working, everyone benefits, as Seth Godin points out, though he wasn’t imagining nerve conduction when he wrote these words:

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

(*From Edgar Schein’s Humble Consulting.)
(**From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(^^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Emily Dickinson’s Electric Love Letters to Susan Gilbert.)
(*^From Seth Godin’s Graceful.)

More than a utilitarian life

Conversation is the heart of the new inquiry.  It is perhaps the core human skill for facing the tremendous challenges we face.*
(Institute for the Future)

I realised these brains were participating in the beauty of the cosmos.**

Some of us are all down to earth.  Others of us can be all in their dreams.  The wonder is to be found in both, the thing that happens when these are brought together:

‘May your soul beautify
The desire of your
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.’^

These words from John O’Donohue come from his book To Bless the Space Between Us.  This space between two people, often unnoticed, is the conversation, a wonderful place.  We never speak directly.  In our conversations with one another, we are creating anything from a wasteland to a verdant garden.

When we begin to see how we never meet each other directly but are creating this space then the possibilities increase

I often refer to the process of my work with others as being a journey of converations.  I learn many things about myself and my work as well as about others in these conversations; we help each other to be more fully ourselves:

‘Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.’^^

Conversations can be both functional and elegant, both down to earth and dreamlike.

(*Institute for the Future, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(**The character “Nephew” from Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For the Senses.)
(^^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For Presence.)

Commodity or gift?

Humble inquiry maximises my curiosity and interest in the other person and minimises bias and preconceptions about the other person.*
(Edgar Schein)

If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.**
(African saying)

We want to bring everything we are to what we do.  It’s hard, though, when we work within systems that treat us more like “It” rather than “You” or “Thou,” as Martin Buber has it – even if this is not the intention; Buber holds out for something more:

‘Inscrutably involved, we live in the currents of universal reciprocity.’^

Our employees want us to bring heart to work, to be fully engaged, yet don’t dream of giving heart back to us.  They may pay well, but when they fail to listen, when they are suspicious about imagination and play and exploration, when they drop crushing expectations on their people, they are replacing “You” with “It.”    When heartfulness is seen as a commodity then they also fail to see what could be:

‘The It is the chrysalis, the You the butterfly.’^

A human is never a commodity, a human is always a gift.

A commodity is what it is.

A gift is the gift, the spirit of the gift (which is where our heart is especially found) and the community of the gift – the connection we bring.

(*From Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry.)
(**African saying, quoted in Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(^From Martin Buber’s I and Thou.)

Backwards or forwards?

Intelligence, awareness, mindfulness are going to connect the pieces of the universe in a way inanimate matter never could.*
(“Uncle Deva”)

If you were given the choice of going backwards in time, in order to sort out the messes and regrets of your life, or to go forward in time and see how you used the learnings from the same messes and regrets to make something beautiful happen, which would you choose?

There is the infinite to each of these.

How far back would you have to go to keep un-messing and un-regretting?  How far forward could you move in time when you see what can become of the learnings and what they open in possibility?

Perhaps these very generous words from Anne Lamott will help you make your decision:

“The lesson here is that there is no fix.  There is, however, forgiveness.  To forgive yourselves and others constantly is necessary.  Not only is everyone screwed up, but everyone screws up.

How can we know all this, yet somehow experience joy?  Because that’s how we’re designed – for awareness and curiosity.  We are hardwired with curiosity inside us, because life knew that this would keep us going even in bad sailing … Life feeds anyone who is open to taste its food, wonder, and glee – its immediacy.”**

(*The character Uncle Deva, in Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(**Anne Lamott, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Against Self-Righteousness.)

Don’t write it off

Wouldn’t the beauty have more meaning with other minds to admire it?  Wouldn’t it be transformed by other minds?  I’m not talking about a passive admiration of beauty but a participation in that beauty, in which everyone is enlarged.*
(“Uncle Deva”)

Narrative is not just a useful device we found along the way to keep ourselves amused, it is core to the human experience.**
(Hugh Macleod)

Handwriting has the power to shape who we are and how we live.

Handwriting is personal, connecting us to ourselves.  It’s also a means for exploring how we connect to others and bring our contribution.

There are many digital journals but then we’re using someone else’s fonts, and every letter we form feels the same.  When we use a pen, however, we create our own fonts, every letter requires our hands to move differently.  In the feeling of this there’s also a different kind of flow of thoughts onto a page.  We feel the resistance of nib on paper, we are able to lose some of the thoughts in our heads that mingle with what I need to ponder – the food shop, not having enough Christmas cards, the place we have to be this afternoon.  We’ll come back to these but for a few moments, there’s something special or beautiful or difficult or painful to explore.

The earliest forms of writing were for making lists and inventories but were s useful beyond the functional.  Stories and and thoughts on life and grand philosophies were captured alongside lists of the number of wine casks and sacks of grain in a ship’s hold.

Barbara Bash writes about this in a lovely short piece on the art of handwriting.  Here she comments on the early Phoenician alphabet:

‘It […] remained a magical portal linking the inner voice with the outer world, bringing thoughts into form through the movement of the head and stylus on the page.’^

It opens up what Joseph Campbell described as the beauty of being alive expressed in an incalculable number of ways, allowing us to explore the big question:

‘How much is the beauty of our own lives is about the beauty of being alive?  How much of it is conscious and intentional.  That is the big question.’

Bash suggests that with the different forms of writing we have today, it leaves handwriting in a new and ancient place:

‘Precisely because it is no longer essential for communication, handwriting can now be free to express its true nature as an embodied practice of creative expression, a synchronisation of mind and body.’^

(*The character Uncle Deva in Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: It’s about the stories we tell.)
(^From Barbara Bash’s article The Simple Joy of Writing by Hand; Mindful magazine.)

I am wrong but in a different way to last time

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?*
(Thomas Merton)

Seek out people who aren’t afraid of making mistakes and who, therefore, do make mistakes […] they are precisely the kind of people who change the world.**
(Paulo Coelho)

As Seth Godin brings his Bootstrappers Workshop to a close, he offers the advice “always be wrong.”  Godin is saying, be willing to look at the things you get wrong because this will lead you to getting things right.  When we don’t pay attention then we’ll keep getting the same things wrong.  It becomes an endemic condition.

These are a few words about looking at what’s wrong in us and what’s right.  The two go together, strangely.

Anne Lamott ‘s candour sets us free on this journey as she reminds us that when it comes to being human, there’ll always be something broken:

‘Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. Even (or especially) people who seem to have it more or less together are more like the rest of us than you would believe. I try not to compare my insides to their outsides, because this makes me much worse than I already am, and if I get to know them, they turn out to have plenty of irritability and shadow of their own. Besides, those few people who aren’t a mess are probably good for about twenty minutes of dinner conversation.’^

To ignore this, to try and avoid it, to short-cut this leads us in the opposite direction to some of the most interesting and hopeful things we will ever come upon:

‘If you’re merely following [shortcuts], you probably won’t get anywhere interesting.  It’s the detours that pay off.’^^

Which brings me to journaling.  Every journal time is a detour.  I have no idea where my exploring will take me.  Richard Sennett’s description of a flamboyant worker facing their mistakes also describes the person who is willing to look at the worst and the best of who they are; spot the detours in his description:

‘A “flamboyant” worker, exuberant and excited, is willing to risk losing control over his or her work: machines break down when they lost control, whereas people make discoveries, stumble on happy accidents.’*^

See here how the good in us can overcome the bad, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes our engagement in the things which lead to our enjoyment:

“At the moment it is experienced, enjoyment can be both physically painful and mentally taxing; but because it involves a triumph over forces of entropy and decay, it nourishes the spirit.’^*

I thought to include these because we must be honest about how the best in life can be the most difficult to obtain, can demand the most from us.  It’s why Thomas Merton’s words, with which I open this post, ring true for us, yet when we break it down, we find that it can become a number of small things that we can bring our physical and emotional energy to.  Here Albert Espinosa’s character George advises thirteen year old Dani how to stop the world for three days:

“Read good books, watch good movies, and above all, enjoy good conversation with someone who inspires you.”⁺

These are some of the the environments in which detours happen to us.

Eugene Peterson captured my attention in this direction once again when he wrote:

‘As the scholastics used to say: “Homonon proprie humans sed superhumanus est” – which means that to be properly human, you must go beyond the merely human.⁺⁺

This is not possible to only some but to all.

(*Thomas Merton quote in Dan Pallotta’s TEDtalk: The Dream We Haven’t Dared to Dream.)
(**From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Against Self-Righteousness.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Actual shortcuts often appear to be detours.)
(*^From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.)
(^*Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(⁺George in Albert Espinosa’s If You Tell Me to Come, I’ll Drop Everything, Just Tell Me to Come.)
(⁺⁺From Eugene Peterson’s Run With the Horses.)

The school for slow learning

One way to utilise spacing is to change the definition of a learning event to include the connotation that learning takes place over time – real learning doesn’t usually occur in one-time events.*
(Will Thalheimer)

From the early nineteenth century on, the whole and single universes from pre-industrial societies changed to a multiverse, and the pace of change increased continually.’**
(Ursula Le Guin)

Seth Godin writes about how we’re all increasingly winging things in life:

“We’re winging it.  All of us.  The world goes faster and faster, and so people are finding themselves unable to read the bill before they vote on it, listen to the entire album before they review it or keep up with the best in the field before they do their work.’^

It may look like we’re getting lots done, but fast and super-busy for someone means the wrong kind of slow for someone else:

‘On every other occasion that I’d attended [ante-natal] waiting times had been over an hour, often two.  The long wait was accepted as a fact of life.  Doctors just run late.  And yet, that day I was being seen immediately.   The nurse took me into a side room, weighed me, took my blood pressure, tested my urine and documented the time I’d ‘been seen’ in her paperwork.  Then she brought me back into the waiting room where I sat for another two hours before the obstetrician finally called me in.’^^

What are we missing in all the speed?  What is someone else missing because of our speed.

Richard Leider is a “student of the second half of life.”  He found for those living their second half of life there were three things they would do differently if they could live the first half of their life over: they would spend more time in reflection, they would be more courageous in love and work, and they live with more purpose and make a difference in the world.*^

I was around thirty-five when I began wondering what I ought to be doing to live and work in a more focused way, rather than fulfilling a role.  The speed of this was not something on my mind.  It has taken quite some time to figure this out.

I will be sixty years old at my next birthday – definitely in the second half of life – and one of the things I have come to notice, and to value, is the slowness of my learning through these last twenty five or so years.

Every day I get up for school, in the widest possible way, to open my mind, to open my heart, and to open my will:

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.  It’s the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”^*

(*Will Thalheimer, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(**From Ursula Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter.)
(^From Seth Godin’s blog: I didn’t do the reading.)
(^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s blog: What Does Success Look Like?)
(*^From Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
Einstein, quoted in Alan Lightman’s A Sense of the Mysterious.)

Not afraid of needing others

It’s not simply that people have this shared space.  It’s that the shared space becomes the medium through which they are working.*
(Marcia Conner)

Instead of measuring success by numbers, you measure it by the amount of connection and *gratitude* you feel about your ability to do something that matters with people who you genuinely respect.**
(Hugh Macleod)

My hope for the hour I spend with someone in a dreamwhispering conversation is that I’m somehow providing an opportunity for them to explore their strongest and best self.

This is the simplest of spaces we can provide for the flourishing of others – and they are often spaces for mutual flourishing.  This scales up for teams that understand it’s not only what they produce but who they are becoming together on the way.

Roz and Ben Zander see how our individual capacity for imagining and creating are the means for making this possible:

‘With our inventive powers, we can be passionately for the whole living world around us.  We need never nae a human being as the enemy.’^

The world and the universe become larger to us because, through what each person brings, our understanding and our feeling and, ultimately, our doing grow and multiply.

(*Marcia Conner, quoted in Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)
(**From gaping void’s blog: Thank you for being amazing.)
(^From Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of  Possibility.)

Energy, my energy your energy

“We are all made of energy,” he said […].  “And energy is the only thing I see in this world.  Each of us has a different kind of energy.  Each person has a kind of energy that floods into you when you see them, or hear them, or desire them, or tell them you love them.  And their energy can help you to find your path through the world.  You can’t fake energy, it is what it is.  It can help you find your future, it can take you back to your childhood or adolescence.  I’m always looking for energy.”*

George sounds like a dreamwhisperer: noticing the things that really, really energise and the things that really, really de-energise.

These energies lie beyond competencies – the things we’re usually noticing – calling us to go further, to produce and give more.

I find it in these words from Seth Godin that I’ve read again today:

‘To be an artist is to be on the hook, to take your turn, to do the things that might not work, to see connection, to embrace generosity first, to change someone, to be human.’**

To see life as art, to do things that may not work is to move beyond competency in the service of our art, beyond what we can do right now because we have to to make some kind of difference somewhere, in someone’s life.

Our energies are all different but either we’re connecting with it or not.  When we do, things happen that we sometimes can’t explain; when we don’t things just don’t happen beyond the normal, the predictable, the expected and anticipated:

‘Energisers think about both task and relationship; de-energisers are all task driven.’^

What is your energy?

Not your competency, your energy.

(*The character George in Albert Espinosa’s If You Tell Me To Come, I’ll Drop Everything, Just Tell Me To Come.)
(**From Seth Godin’s What To Do When It’s Your Turn.)
(^From Jay Cross’ Informal Learning.)