Human in motion

The primary markers of physical capacity are strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience. These are precisely the same markers of capacity emotionally, mentally and spiritually.*
(Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz)

Some want their external circumstances to change in order to feel happy, especially the behaviour of others. They miss the wonder of being able to change their happiness from within:

What I want to say is that as our personal universes expand, if we keep drawing ourselves into the centre again and again, everything seems to enhance everything else.**

M. C. Richards is picturing the clay on a potter’s wheel being shaped both in and out, up and down – all in motion. A picture for our lives, Richards encourages the need to avoid becoming fixed, of thinking This is it:

What I mean here is that in poetry, in pottery, in the life of the mind, it seems to me that one must be able to picture before oneself the opposite of what has just been declared in order to keep alive the possibility of freedom, of mobility, of growth.**

Whatever our craft and way of thinking may be, we must keep moving. Never saying This is it or This is me, holding the opposite is a way of pushing ourselves out of settlement into motion.

We are most Human in motion.

Imagine or draw a grid of vertical lines made up of the four capacities of body, emotions, mind and spirit, and horizontal lines made up of the four markers of strength, endurance, resilience and flexibility. What is the significant “motion” taking place at each of the sixteen intersections for you? (There’s perhaps a journaling exercise here for the next sixteen days?)

For instance, mind and flexibility: What are you discovering, changing your mind about, using as exercises for developing openness, developing for listening to others and the world?

Here is a life in motion with four markers which can be maintained until the day we have to return our energy to the universe. When the wheel stops spinning, and not until, our lives are able to be shaped. Only after the clay is removed from the wheel is it allowed to harden and then be fired.

If you’re reading this, the wheel is still spinning. Why live as if it’s stopped?

I leave you with some words from Alan Lightman’s creation novel:

“But surely it has significance for them, I said. Each one of them tries to desperately to find meaning. In a way, it doesn’t matter what particular meaning each of them finds. As long as each creature finds something to give a coherence and harmony to the jumble of existence. Perhaps it might be as simple as a discovery of their own capacities, and a thriving in that discovery. And even if they are mortal, they are part of things. They are part of things larger than their universe, whether they know it or not. Wouldn’t you agree?”^

(*From Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement.)
(**From M. C. Richards’ Centering.)
(The character “Nephew,” in Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)

They’re only words … not

The written word has the magical power of transferring thoughts from one person’s brain into another’s – over distance and time. […] Even people who were dead. […] This felt like a super power. It still does. […] Use your words.*
(Ev Williams)

It’s good that you’re feeling bored. Bored is an actual feeling. Bored can prompt forward motion. Bored is the thing that happens before you choose to entertain yourself. Bored is what empty space feels like, and you can use that empty space to go do something important. […] I’m glad you’re feeling bored, and now we’re excited to see what you’re going to go do about it.**
(Seth Godin)

Our lives are full of words.

Words we have gathered over our lifetimes.

Many of these words we have in common, but some are very special words to us alone. They make us come alive with excitement, provoking our imaginations, forming possibilities we’re then impelled to pursue.

Even though others may use the same words – unless we’ve made up our own – they hold a greater meaning to us because they’re linked to and explain our curiosity, imagining and creativity.

These are our lexicons, the words we need to use.

And if we’re bored – that feeling we have just before we get up and do something challenging – our words can be the means by which we get ourselves moving. We don’t need anybody else to do this for us because the reality of who we are is that we are all able to begin forming something out of nothing.

Why not start gathering your special words into one place, providing each with a short description – the world each word is to you (words are never only words)?

And look out for new ones, play with them, keep some, leave others, like coruscating,^ which I came across today.

(*From Ev Williams‘ letter to young readers in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Thoughts on “I’m bored.”)
(^coruscating/ˈkɒrəskeɪtɪŋ/ 1. flashing; sparkling.”a coruscating kaleidoscope of colours” 2. severely critical; scathing.”his coruscating attack on the Prime Minister”)

Re-entry: reset or recreate?

As an adult, I’ve come to realise that life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself. Books are clay for exactly that. Crazy adventures can be found in non-fiction, and timeless truth can be discovered in fiction. Like an artist, you blend them, and out comes a unique beauty: you.*
(Tim Ferriss)

The industrial era, struggling for the last decade or two, is now officially being replaced by one based on connection and leadership and the opportunity to show up and make a difference.**
(Seth Godin)

Something is coming to an end and something is about to begin.

When we re-enter day-to-day life following the lockdown there’ll be plenty of challenges because the world we return too will have shifted significantly, but there’ll also be opportunities.

One we have full responsibility and control of is recreating ourselves following our experiences and discoveries of the last few weeks, concerning ourselves, one another, the technical world and the natural one.

Tim Ferriss’ words helpfully highlight the questions that are at the heart of my work with others: Who am I? and What is my contribution? These more accurately are Who do I want to be? and What do I want my contribution to be?

In his faux self-help book Lost in the Cosmos, Walker Percy plays with a story set in 2050 when a ship from Earth arrives at the planet PC3 where it has been established there is intelligent life. Communication is established and time taken to work out how different way of communicating and language can be interfaced. When this is accomplished the earth-ship wants to land, but the inhabitants of PC3 want to know what kind of consciousness earthlings have: C1, C2 or C3?

When the occupants of the ship ask for definitions for these, PC3 replies for C1:

Well. something like the consciousness of a child grown mature and sophisticated but maintaining its innocence permanently and avoiding the malformations of self-consciousness, enjoying the beauty of our planet and each other and or science and art without weariness, boredom, guilt, or shame.^

It appears that the C2 person has fallen into the:

pit of itself […] the consciousness becoming self-conscious but not knowing what its self is, and so ending by being that which it is not saying that which is not, and making others what they are not.*

A C3 is a recovered C2, which I think is us, where we find ourselves to be, imagining who we want to become. An ongoing new beginning of self rather than resetting to a norm that no longer exists.

(*From Tim Ferriss’ letter to your readers in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: And now, what’s next?)
(^From Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos.)


Before there’s a great story – a legend, even – for how an individual or a group of people made a breakthrough or triumphed over some great challenge, there was a problem and more than likely a number of crabbit** people ready to revolt.

If it were possible to read this the other way around and, just as we’re about to get frustrated, angry and disagreeable with each other, see how we could move forward and overcome the disruption, interruption, challenge or predicament, with a triumph, then we would be expressing prescience.

It’s not magic, just sheer hard work and skill.

John O’Reilly names three necessary practices for businesses when facing disruption: ideation, incubation and investment.^

We’ll borrow these for our developing of prescience: developing as people of imagination and ideas each according to our leaning, being persistent to see what will work and what will not and willing to give of ourselves in a way that will see it prevail.

We’d be on to something.

(*crabbit. (cra·bit) Dialect, chiefly Scot -adj. 1. ill-tempered, grumpy, curt, disagreeable; in a bad mood [esp. in the morning].)
(**From John O’Reilly’s video: Why Great Businesses Fail.)

Imagine that

What brings out the best in you? What brings out the worst? […] Can you change your posture so that the situations you’re in a lot bring out your best instead of your worst? […] Ideal situations are often rare—now more so than ever. But we can redefine ‘ideal situation’ if we choose.*
(Seth Godin)

We don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on our skills and talents, because we’ve been conditioned to be humble. We largely focus on our ‘areas for improvement’ – the things we lack confidence and competence in, to the detriment of our gifts and our genius.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

We may be waiting for a while if hoping for just the right situation and opportunity to turn up.

What we don’t have to wait for is the wherewithal to make things happen – this by connecting to our values, talents, and the transformative environments these can lead to. Here we find our imagination to be alive and well, with abilities and energy to transcend the imminent. I’ve put a few things together to explore here for connecting to these – doing rather than waiting things.

It’s like your own personal artesian well of refreshment and renewal, opened by reading (or equivalent), reflection, pursuing what interests you most, talking with people doing similar things and experimenting.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: What brings out the best in you?)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling: On Strengths.)

Waiting for something amazing to happen?

Audiences and readers do not go to a storyteller to learn yet again what they already know. They go in hope of discovering a world they’ve never seen before. Like an explorer, they want to part the leaves and discover a time, place and culture they don’t know and could never experience in their own lives—in short, they want the delight of learning.*
(Robert McKee)

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.**
(Albert Einstein)

We need to make ourselves available to possibility.

In The Incredibles, the little boy on his trike is there when Mr Incredible slips on a skateboard, scrunches the door jamb on his car so the door won’t close, loses his temper and lifts his car up above his head.

The next day, the little boy is there, waiting:

Well, what are you waiting for?

I don’t know … something amazing, I guess.

The thing is, this little boy has abilities adults have forgotten they have: wonder, curiosity, imagination, playfulness. Rather than waiting for something to happen, children can make something happen, albeit small things … and sometimes, with the power of the internet and others, really big things.

Yes, we need to turn up and make ourselves available to possibility, but instead of waiting for something to happen, we have long forgotten or developing abilities that we can employ in our creation of wonder and delight. Robert McKee adds a second reason audiences go to a storyteller to discover something new:

As the story-goer explores a new setting and a new cast, she seeks the second pleasure: A discovery of herself. She gazes into principal characters with the hope of finding a shared humanity.*

Martin Amor and Alex Pellew are making the point that it’s how we think that makes the difference, including how we think about ourselves.

(*From Robert McKee‘s email: Parasite.)
(**Albert Einstein, quoted in Martin Amor and Alex Pellew’s The Idea in You.)

Read and do

“You see?” the book said. “We are all strange and wonderful. And whenever you doubt it, just open a book. You will become somebody else – and that somebody else will be a part of you forevermore.*
(Terry Teachout)

I believe that the first step towards becoming a writer is becoming a reader, but the next step is becoming a reader with a pencil.**
(Austin Kleon)

When we read, we enter into the unimaginable.

Before, we could not see the possibility, believing the path we are on to be the only one … or some better, shinier version of it.

But, when we read, our eyes are opened to so many more paths calling out to us.

Sometimes reading will start us itching when we had felt nothing, even numb, before; other times we’ll bring an itch to the pages and discover a scratch.

I read so that I might not only know more but might become more.

Read a little from many books – here’s my selection from today

I had no idea when I started to read this morning: scriptures, books and blogs just what would happen, but I found myself animated and smiling at the thoughts colliding and bringing into view possible contributions I might bring to others.

This includes Austin Kleon’s blog about marginalia – the practice of writing in the margins of books – increasing one’s interaction with the text – and adding illustrations, please.

I picked up my pencil and started straightaway. This may slow reading down, but then, I don’t want to get through books but for books to get through me.

If we read it will come because something happens to us whilst reading so that now we must do something.

(*From Terry Teachout’s letter to young readers, in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)
(**From Austin Kleon’s blog: Reading with a pencil.)

May the works of your hands prosper

If you want to know how to work with new or limited resources, find a population that’s used to not having many alternatives. […] When we have alternatives, we compromise instead of commit.*
(Seth Godin)

You are more than you know,
Having many tools to use
And many ways to develop these:
Read and read,
Source resources and courses online,
Engage in conversations with similar others,
Work with people.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: The Fremen principle.)

The good signifier

Innovation almost always comes from individuals who see a chance to make things better. Instead of waiting, they go first.*
(Seth Godin)

As a consequence of the unprecedented appearance of the triad in the Cosmos, there appeared for the first time in fifteen billion years (as far as we know) a creature which is ashamed of itself and which seeks cover in myriad disguises.**
(Walker Percy)

In his faux self help book, Walker Percy explores the difference between signal and sign, between dyadic and triadic creatures:

We may know what we mean when we say there is a difference between my dog’s understanding of the word ball – to go and look for it – and your understanding of the same utterance – you may say “Ball?” What about it?” […] I propose here to use the word signal for the former and […] the word sign for the latter […].**

Your dog is dyadic, you are triadic. It is our ability to see something as sign rather than signal that also makes it possible for us to innovate as Warren Berger imagines:

a designer must be able to see not just what is, but what might be. And seeing is only the beginning. Designers are also makers.^

This uninvited ability comes at a cost, however. I am still pondering the following words from Percy, but, basically, I take him to be saying that we have a dilemma when we seek to be both the signifier and the sign:

The self of the sign-user can never be grasped, because, once the self locates itself at the dead centre of the world, there is no signified to which a signifier may be joined to make a sign.**

If we were ever to encounter extra-terrestrial intelligence, Percy continues, then:

The first question an earthling should ask of an ETI is not: What is the level of your science? but: Did it also happen to you? Do you have a self? If so, how do you handle it? Did you suffer a catastrophe?**

This is both a terrible and a wonderful place to be:

you [the signifier] have to point to an apple [the signified] and name it [the sign] for me before I know there is such a thing – and the existence of the world of apples outside ourselves. […] In a sign, the sign, the signifier and the signified are interpenetrated so that the signifier becomes, in a sense, transformed by the signified.**

We become alive and present to a larger world, rather than a world of signs – What’s that bird in the tree? It’s a chaffinch – to the inner truth and glory of the signified – It’s a chaffinch and these are it’s nesting, mating, song, feeding habits … and let me tell you about the tree it’s in). That we are transformed through our openness makes it possible to become alchemistic creatures – the designers Berger imagines us to be. When we go beyond the sign to the signified we see new possibilities.

Perhaps when we allow others to be our good signifiers, and vice versa, we ease our malady; we are not the centre of the world and that’s okay. When we ask the question: Who am I?, we need more than a sign, a name, a label, a designation, a title. We need for others to help us.

Then, when we ask the question: What is my contribution?, we see how we have a larger world of wonders to design from.

So, who are you good signifiers and who can you be a good signifier to?

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: The bootstrapper creates value.)
(**From Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos.)
(^From Warren Berger’s Glimmer.)