The first conversation

Successful companies don’t expect to start out ahead of the game on day one.  They plan to earn an advantage over time, by knowing who they want to serve, and how – then building on their strengths to tell the story that matches their ideal customer’s worldview.*
Bernadette Jiwa)

In many ways, these words are also true for our purposeful lives.

We’re not trying to make a difference for everyone but for some.

Our first conversation, then, finds us noticing, paying attention, observing.

What is our joy and what do people need?

(*From Bernadette Jiwa’s blog The Story of Telling: Earning a Competitive Advantage.)

The difficult but never-ending story?

Storytelling is intrinsic to the human mind, but to achieve excellence, authors must move beyond instinct to experiment and master their craft anew.*
(Robert McKee)

Every creative endeavour becomes a realisation of both how limited and unlimited we are.**
(Erwin McManus)

Our lives are made up of stories.

Even the most mundane and everyday life is a story we have either accepted or made up for ourselves.

There are always better stories in us. The thing is, these require attention, time and effort, which is different to being impossible.

Our best stories emerge where what we can presently do and what we are unable to do meet:

May the work fit the rhythm of your soul,
Enabling you to draw from the invisible
New ideas and vision that will inspire.^

(*From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Why Learning Craft is Essential for Writers.)
(**From Erwin McManus’ The Artisan Soul.)
(^From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us: For a New Position.)

Resistance to think

Whereas screen activity tends to rev kids up, the concrete worlds of modelling clay, finger paints, and building blocks slow them down. The physicality of these materials – the sticky thickness of clay, the hard solidity of blocks – offers a real resistance that gives children time to think, to use their imaginations to making their own worlds.*
(Sherry Turkle)

Fast produces a kind of thinking, slow produces and different kind of thinking. Fast and slow wire our brains in different ways.

Here are some books that I’ve appreciated that come to this from different directions, slowing down my thinking, offering me some resistance to push into:

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow
Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist
Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman
Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor
Keri Smith’s The Wander Society
Nancy Kline’s Time to Think and More Time to Think.

Of course, it’s not just about thinking, it’s about everything we do because of how we think.

(*From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)

It’s about time!

Buddhism. Stoicism. Epicureanism. Christianity. Hinduism. It’s all but impossible to find a philosophical school or religion that does not venerate this inner peace – this stillness – as the highest good, and as the key to elite performance and a happy life. And when basically all the wisdom of the ancient world agrees on something, only a fool would decline to listen.*
Ryan Holiday)

While finite games are externally defined, infinite games are internally defined. The time of an infinite game is not world time, but time created within the play itself. Since each play of an infinite game eliminates boundaries it opens to players a new horizon of time.**
(James Carse)

Developing presence through the exploration of solitude and stillness, to be happy and familiar and comfortable with ourselves, who we are and what our sense of life-purpose, opens up so many possibilities that it’s worth the time spent.

Indeed, as James Carse points out, the normal boundaries begin to alter and even disappear as we see them differently, and time deepens because our personal capacity to deal with complexity is growing.

This is the time of flow, who we are and what we do synchronising. It’s not only to be found in the experience of the one, but also between people who’re engaging in an activity being shaped by their combined capacities for playing with complexity rather than by the demands from without.

(*From Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)
(**From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)

I’ll email you

Hassoun says that she will sometimes imagine that her manager gives her a friendly hug. And sometimes Hassoun says she imagines her manager putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Hassoun understands that she is not permitting herself a conversation so she fantasises a hug.*
(Sherry Turkle)

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.**
(Jesus of Nazerath)

Raven Hassoun is too busy texting, emailing and messaging to have any contact with her work colleagues. In fact she avoids it: “I don’t have the time.” All the messages that come to her arrive with demands but she can control these more from a distance.

Of course, emails beget emails, texts beget texts and messages beget messages. If CEO Stan Hammond is right and emails ‘create a string of misunderstandings,’* then we are not more in control but less.

Face-to-face conversation is best. It’s why companies are beginning to look for ways to reintroduce it.

(*From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)
(**Matthew 11: 28-30.)

There’s a freelancer in all of us

The revelation of plenitude calls for a revelation of mind.*
(Lewis Hyde)

Freelancers show up in the world without a safety net, offering to do their best. Freelancers rarely get the credit they deserve for the work they do. […] But it’s about a pure a craft as most of us can find.**
Seth Godin)

Finding your inner freelancer doesn’t mean you’ll become one.

It does mean that in everyone there is something that could be freelanced, which means that connecting with this will mean there’s more to take to work with us, whatever that is and wherever that may be – it is the thing that makes us exceptional, remarkable.

(*From Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Freelancing is a brave act.)

The more than average life

If you define a spec and work hard to meet it, you can make it so that most things are within a reasonable distance of that spec. Which means that most of what you make is average.*
(Seth Godin)

Content writers don’t write blog posts – they create narratives.**
(Hugh Macleod)

Is it possible for everyone to be above average?

Yes, when we stop thinking of above-average in relation to others and instead use it in relation to ourselves, taking who we are and what we do further.

The best way is not to wait to be invited, just begin.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: “This is mediocre”.)
(**From gapingvoid’s blog: The key to being amazing.)

If it’s not the end …

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

If it isn’t working, or looks like a dead-end or it looks like your out of options, slow down, look inside, and find your world of many possibilities.

I don’t say this flippantly.

In my work with people who have taken the time to take a deeper look at who they are and what they have, I have always been amazed at what is possible to them.

(*From Gerard Manley Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur.)

Ahead of your time

[A] life lived online makes deep attention harder to summon. This happens because the brain is plastic – it is constantly in flux over a lifetime – so it “rewires” itself depending on how attention is allocated. […] if we decide deep attention is a value, we can cultivate it’*
(Sherry Turkle)

Reading about deep attention reminded me of an event I attended earlier this year on developing competence in complexity.

Part of this was spent identifying competencies for the 21st century: deep attention needs to be right up there.

Another is curation, the slow ability of selecting and arranging items, ideas and people in such a way as to add greater value to them and make an impact.

I bring the two together because being online opens us up to far more information than we can possibly deal with. We can know a little about a mighty lot of things. Developing deep attention and curation allows us to know why some are more critical than others and bring them together into an impactful story of the future.

(*From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)

Listening to trees

Or if the root has perished, living seeds are in the soil, ready to begin the cycle of life afresh. Nowhere more than here is life proved invincible. Everything is against it, but it pays no heed.*
Nan Shepherd)

Thoreau took his guests into nature. I think of this as his fourth chair, his most philosophical one. These days, the way things have gotten philosophical causes us to confront how we have used technology to create a second nature, an artificial one.**
(Sherry Turkle)

Yesterday, I had both optician and dentist appointments Although at different times of day and in different directions, I decided to walk to both, reckoning this wouldn’t take me much longer than travelling by bus.

It was a beautiful sunny day, with one walk being by a main road but with plenty of trees around, the other taking me through the grounds of a hospital, grounds still full of the original woodland of the site.

These were simple opportunities to have conversations with nature.

Here are some themes nature would have conversations with us on:

Life is interdependent: everything and everyone is linked to everything and everyone else.

Life is crammed full of seeds, so go forth and multiply.

Life understands the obstacle to be the way, so use it to your advantage.

Life doesn’t waste anything: everything in your life is useful, even if it perhaps isn not useful to you.

Life isn’t a monoculture, but is often a conversation between opposites.

Life is functional, explore your purpose, be fruitful.^

(*From Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)
(^See the biotic principles outlined in Christian Schwarz’s Natural Church Development Handbook.)