The gatherer, the alchemist and the producer

it is never too late to discover your inner alchemist*
(Rory Sutherland)

We connect to an inner place of wonder and thus we are open to recognising the spirit of wonder in the world around us.**
(Kelvy Bird)

There are three challenges: the input, the output, and the challenge which lies between these, of making more out of what we have.

They’re everyone’s challenge because the gatherer, the alchemist and the producer are the same person. They’ve just been covered over and confused by our modern ways of working.

Freelancers get closest to recognising this on a daily basis but we can all have a freelance mindset when it comes to the work we do: gather more, produce more, and do that magical thing in the middle.

(*From Rory Sutherland’s Alchemy.)
(**From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)


You can address anything as a “thou” – the trees, the stones, everything. You can address anything as a “though,” and if you do it, you can feel the change in your own psychology. The ego that sees a “thou” is not the same ego that sees an “it.”*
(Joseph Campbell)

No one can play a game alone. One cannot be human by oneself. There is not selfhood where there is no community. We do not relate to others as the persons we are; we are who we are in relating.**
(James Carse)

Allophila is the love or like of the other.

It’s a choice. It’s how we grow.

It’s how we can be at home between two opposing points of view, willing to see them both as true, knowing the creative place to be is in between.

Of course, the challenge is not only thinking this but also doing something.

(*Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(**From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

The art of slack

People are hard to hate close up. Move in.*
(Brené Brown)

Systems with slack are more resilient.**
(Seth Godin)

Seth Godin argues the enemy of slack is efficiency. Efficiency, when pushed to its limits, has no space for things to go wrong.

Watch out for the snap.

When it comes to human relations, getting close produces slack, using grace and mercy, love and compassion – the kind of things that don’t sound very efficient. But also the things can can avoid the snap.

(*From Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Investing in slack.)

What shall we become?

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, joy, trust, intimacy, courage – everything that brings meaning to our life.*
(Brené Brown)

We know that we are evolving as a species, that evolution is not only something that happens to us but is selected by us. We are increasingly understanding that we don’t only get to measure our species by what we’re producing on the outside but also the kind of creatures we are becoming on the inside.

There’s remains, though, a big temptation to put ourselves down or to “big” ourselves up. To be your true self, however, is where we can be most hopeful for the future, hopeful as in, we get to choose. Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester hold that hope is a mark of the people of tomorrow:

they hold open the possibility of hope. Not optimism – which like pessimism rests on an assumption that we have no control over the future – but hope. The future is radically open, and it is shaped by who we choose to be in the present. Persons of tomorrow are remarkably patient and resilient: they are not waiting to achieve a vision, they are living it already.**

Such people understand that they don’t have to find an angle to win and speak things down or speak things up to achieve a win. They live out their care, love, humility, failure and vulnerability as means of navigating an increasingly complex 21st century. It’s why those who seek power as it has been traditionally expressed, will not be able to lead us towards a better future.

Of humility, Iris Murdoch writes:

Humility is not a peculiar habit of self-effacement, rather like having an inaudible voice, it is selfless respect for reality and is one of the most difficult and central of all virtues.^

Instead of sustaining individuality, tomorrow’s people understand the future is connected, relational, empathetic, collaborative – for which humility is very necessary:

persons of tomorrow, though fully alive as individuals, are also at home in their relationships. Capacities such as loyalty, partnership, friendship, altruism, empathy, solidarity, support, nurturance and followership, are necessary ingredients for thriving in the 21st century.**

The people of tomorrow are inside and outside people, with full integration.

(*From Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)
(**From Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)
(^From Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good.)

Anticlockwise people

I can never remember how I lifted the bed mattress last time. Did I flip it over over or did I spin it around?

So I have a reminder under the mattress for when I change it: one side of the reminder tells me to “Spin it” leaving it the same way up, the other “Flip it” which turns it upside down.

Sometimes in life we need to spin, to realign who we are and what we are doing. Basically, we’re doing okay and need only change things a little to stay on track.

Other times, we need to flip it, a radical change because we’re living upside down and we need to turn ourselves the right way up.

Knowing when to do what is what life hinges on. The big problems begin when we need to flip and we only spin.

Here are some “scriptures” to ponder:

Awareness is the greatest agent for change.*

More than ever, more of us have the freedom to care, the freedom to connect, the freedom to choose, the freedom to initiate, the freedom to do what matters.**

The will is the discipline of the heart and soul. The will is the one thing we control, completely, always.^

I was chatting to friends yesterday, about the challenge of creating new possibilities in different fields. Steve happened to mention taking different ways home at the end of the day, sometimes clockwise, sometimes anticlockwise to have time to reflect in busy days. Inma picked up on this and began talking about how we need to come to challenges anticlockwise.

I love this.

Anticlockwise people are those who see the possibilities lying within an “absolute future,” returning to the present to give some expression to these.

It is a “flip” approach to where we are in complex times.^^

(*From Eckart Tolle’s A New Earth.)
(**From Seth Godin’s What To Do When It’s Your Turn.)
(^From Ryan Holliday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)
(^^I was also reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in which he describes a cone of absolute future being formed as a “ripple effect” from an event. Outside of this lies “elsewhere” and “not allowed.” I wonder if it is possible for anticlockwise people to return to the present and create the initiating event?)

Wild heart identity

It’s time to acknowledge the damaging effects that social media has on people’s self-image […] It’s just another reason why we are living in a world of FOMO, sadness, increased anxiety, and Snapchat dysmorphia.*

My ears pricked up to photographer Rankin speaking on the radio about the damage the obsessive selfie culture is having on personal image and identity among the young.

Rankin shares how he took pictures of fifteen teenagers and invited them to modify these for uploading to social media using their phone apps. None of the subjects chose to upload without any enhancement – and these were pictures taken by a professional photographer. You can see their chosen effects by following the link, below: bigger eyes, plumper lips, smaller noses being some of the main alterations.

The work I do is about people’s discovery and embracing of their true self or identity. These are not things to be found on the outside but the inside: passion, talents, purpose, energy. As Joseph Campbell saw, long before anyone had dreamed of smart phones and picture-altering apps:

technology is not going to save us. Our computer, our tools, our machines are not enough. We have to rely on our intuition, our true being’.**

Wild heart identity is about the “intuitive me” to be found within each of us, each “me” being different. It’s what Brené Brown names as our “wilderness”:

Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you made that your goal.^

Selfies, as a way for scouring people’s faces, leads away from each person’s unique wilderness, their true wildness where they find themselves most alive.

Belonging is who we are becoming, our wilderness; fitting in is the dangerous alternative.

The path we each must walk, whether as an alternative to the one we are on, or as our means of continuing, is one marked by humility, gratitude and faithfulness.

Humility in embracing who we truly are and not someone else.

Gratitude through opening our eyes wide to see all that we are and have.

Faithfulness is understanding that it is a path we must walk, through the minutes and hours of each day.

(*John Rankin Waddell, quoted in an ArtnetNews article.
(**From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)

What is wanted is a learner*

There is finally the pride of thinking oneself without teachers. 

The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner. 

In ignorance is hope.

Rely on ignorance. It is ignorance the teachers will come to. 

They are waiting, as they always have, beyond the edge of the light.*
(Wendell Berry)

My experience has been that life has more in mind for us than we imagine for ourselves.

When we’re open to this possibility then we are learners surrounded by teachers:

Opening hearts and minds starts the process of moving beyond our own views and agendas so that we can start to connect with one another and truly work together to create new systems.**

Not all of our teachers will be human, this is the point being made by Wendell Berry. Our greatest enemy, though, is our own pride, pride that prevents us from being lifelong learners, pride that ultimately leads us into despair:

It is despair that sees the work failing in one’s own failure. This despair is the awkwardest pride of all.*

Teachers and learners are really being helpers to one another, exploring the interbeing-ness or interconnectedness of life. Rebecca Solnit includes a story she heard at the Zen Centre in San Francisco, underlining what is the not surprising but often unnoticed element of helping running through all of life:

It’s okay to realise that life has a mysterious quality to it, it has an element of uncertainty, it’s okay to realise that we do need help, that calling our for help is a very generous act because it allows others to help us and allows us to be helped. Sometimes we’re calling for help. Sometimes we’re offering help, and then this hostile world becomes a very different place. It is a world where there is help being received and help being given, and in such a world this compelling determined world loses some of its urgency and desperation. It’s not so necessary to be so adamant about the world according to me.^

Help is a meeting of being and inter-being. When we know who we are and what we have to bring, we can bring our truest helping self to others. Perhaps ironically, this involves solitude, another element in what Berry is sharing:

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness… 

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. 

One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. 

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.*

Whilst these wild places for Berry are Nature’s places, they also speak of the wild places that our our truest lives, places we never tame, thankfully, but where we can always enter into solitude and learning. Discovering this, we also know there exists a collective wild place where we’re curious and imaginative and creative with others, as Jen Hatmaker proffers:

The wilderness is where all creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lives, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.^^

(*Wendell Berry, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair Are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work.)
(**From Peter Senge’s The Necessary Revolution.)
(^Zen monk, quoted in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost.)
(^^Jen Hatmaker, quoted in Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)

What will you see?

Everything changes one you see how the universe is designed for abundance and not for scarcity. It not only changes the condition of your life but it changes you.*
(Erwin McManus)

We may be looking at the same thing but we describe it in quite different ways.

The question is, will we allow each other to help us to see more?

Seeing is not something we simply have, and it’s about more than seeing with our eyes. Seeing is something we learn and develop through life, seeing not only joined up to our brains but also to our hearts and to our actions.

(*From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)

Everything is beautiful in its own way*

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness… 

True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. 

One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources. 

In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.**

We’re not into function alone; if we make something we want it to look good as well. It’s been a part of the human story since the beginning. And every one of us is capable of this.

We can fall into functional living, though. Pushed and rushed, we lose the beauty and don’t know where to find it again.

I can come across people who are not surprised by their talents and abilities, and I’m wondering whether they are seeing them from the perspective of function, when to see them as beautiful would catch their breath and set their heart racing a little faster.

When, in solitude, we identify the beauty that is ours, we’re able to bring this to others in many forms, with an imagination and creativity that swells and soars.

(Everything is Beautiful, written and performed by Ray Stevens.)
(**Wendell Berry quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work.)