I was surprised by the generosity of friends and family when I was in the hospital for three weeks last year. Flowers, gifts, offers of help, cards from all over the world, visits – it was overwhelming. My good friend and rowing teammate Beth knows I love flowers and pastry and she was always showing up with deliveries, not just for me but for all the nurses. I returned from treatment one day and a floral arrangement had been delivered. It was from Beth. It was not her typical taste, nor mine, but it was very cute because some dense white flowers had been sculpted into a little white dog’s face. Beth said she told them to deliver whatever was the most fun and uplifting. I checked Central Sq. Florist’s web site and found this image:
There were hospital staff of all levels in and out of my semi-private room. When you’re a patient you’re in the midst of an ever-moving stream of humanity. One of the women who came in regularly, I can’t remember if she brought meals, cleaned or took vital signs but she was very sweet and spoke little English. When she arrived that day she stopped dead in her tracks and I couldn’t understand until I realized she was staring at the floral arrangement. She was speechless. She didn’t move. I don’t speak Spanish but she managed to ask over and over: “Is real? Is real?” I didn’t know if she was asking if the flowers were real or if the dog was real and I was afraid to offend her. She just gazed with the most beautiful smile. In the following days she’d bring her co-workers by and shyly ask if they could come in and look. They had the same reaction. At one point I was getting frustrated with so much stuff piling up in my room and no place to put it. When the ladies came by I asked if they would like to have the arrangement. They looked at me like I was crazy. At first I was afraid I’d offended them, but one managed to say: “you don’t like?” I tried to say I liked very much, that it came from a nice florist and a friend, but I had so many things that I’d run out of space. I don’t know if they understand but I knew they didn’t care. They quietly left, saddened, and I realized they could not believe I was willing to easily part with something so fabulous.
When you’re in the midst of a health crisis you can get so caught up in the technicalities of recovering and self-involvement, that you can miss the little miracles right in front of you. I thought of this one as a gentle, loving nudge by The Field to remind me to stay present, to look, to accept, to connect. That message still comes through 16 months later when I’m disappointed or frustrated. And the messenger looks like a little fluffy white dog with black button eyes, the flowers that looked like a face.
In rowing, one of the calls that coxswains and coaches make is “let it run”. That means the rowers stop rowing and the boat continues to move through the water on its own momentum, until it stops. Pause drills are similar. Rowers stop rowing and start again at different points in the stroke in order to feel balance, synchrony and flow.
Speakers can use these techniques because the need to “run-on” and never, ever pause completely prevents them from connecting with or relating to their listeners.
This stems partly from fear of being interrupted and losing air-time. Interruption is rampant in the attention economy. Politicians interrupt, commentators interrupt and celebrities interrupt each other even if it means hijacking a major award show:
Roger Ross Williams / Elinor Burkett at the 2010 Oscars.
Taylor Swift / Kanye West at the 2009 VMA’s.
Those aren’t the only kinds of interruptions. Others include the streams on listeners’ devices as well as on the backchannels that are now being integrated with talks and presentations. Anonymity gives cover to troll-like, negative behavior that can spread through the audience, sometimes turning it against the speaker.
These changes present new kinds of challenges for facilitators and moderators. But what can a speaker do other than try to outrace, drown out or crowd out interruptions, multi-tasking and waves of unfavorable reaction?
Stop, feel and accept the individual, collective and spatial energy in the room.
Connect with one person at a time on the deepest possible level through the pauses, letting the message resonate. Its better to be in relational presence with a few listeners by holding the space rather than to desperately or forcefully fill it up.
Rowers practice letting the boat do the work for them by allowing it to glide under them as they take their rest. In the collaborative, connected world, the lines between speakers and listeners are blurred and the dynamic has shifted. To attempt to control and resist those changes is a missed opportunity to “let it run”.
It used to be called “getting over” but you don’t hear that expression anymore. You expect it in the public so that’s not getting over. You join the private to get away from it and resent it when it shows up, which it does, more than ever. Some now call it hustle.
- The moderator continually requests that participants keep their comments within the topic, framework and agenda but the hand keeps going up and the interruption is “just this once”.
- The group’s charter includes never using the group for business solicitation or self-promotion and a new member tries to sneak one in that’s barely camouflaged and the interruption is “just this once”.
- The professional service provider provides free, search-able access to ideas, solutions and content but the uncommitted client interrupts to ask for and discuss what’s already easily available “just this once”.
This self-management technique is the best way to discern if you’re the perp or the victim of getting over. Ask yourself “what would this look like if everyone chose to do this just this once?” The key word is choose. Don’t choose or settle for the wrong hustle, unless you’re Superfly.
There’s an infinite amount of things about which to be righteously indignant. The ego loves it when you respond this way and rewards you with a jolt of satisfaction in the form of superiority and anxiety relief. Both are very temporary and you want the next hit which is only a mouse-click, channel-change, phone call, mail delivery, argument or interaction away.
Righteous indignation is a massive time-suck and a creativity killing monster. There’s a lot of advice about how to break the habit. But like diet advice and most resolutions, they’re failure methods because they don’t address the underlying intention: resistance.
I prefer this. When you feel yourself getting hooked have a talk with yourself and write it down, by hand on paper.
Ask yourself, how dare I:
- not give form to my ideas, solutions and content that create a positive experience and energy that spreads
- not reach out to somebody who needs my support and understanding
- not still my mind to allow the creative insight and inspiration that is my birthright to come through me
- not trust that there’s evolution happening and its my choice to be aligned with (leadership) or against it
These are suggestions; you get the idea.
When you hold up a mirror and employ a proprioceptive technique you’re much more likely to dislodge the resistance that shows up as the habit of righteous indignation.
I dare you!
How Dare You
Sankam via deviantArt
I confess. I rarely comment. But since I want to participate more I thought Google Buzz might be a good sharing and discussion platform.
So this is what I’ve observed after a few days experimenting with Buzz: very few tech/business people, often referred to as celebrities, dominate the public discussions. The vast majority of those who follow them race to make comments, agree or disagree, troll, rail against, offend, self-promote, cross-promote, ask for something, spam, praise and sometimes add value. This of course, is nothing new in public discussion groups.
What’s different and dramatic now is the scale…something like 10 million Google Buzz posts the first few days. So I followed a few of the celebrities, and observed how they engaged an almost instantaneous swarm of tens of thousands of followers. My sense: a collective need arises that I can only describe as: “Do You Care About Me?”. And I thought…do they care? How? And what does care even mean?
I can’t think of a better starting point for any brand (including global microbrands) to grow and develop in the Web 2.0 and beyond world, than to ask those questions. This is my first pass at a framework to facilitate that process. I followed a model that I created years ago for knowledge awareness, and its been valuable.
Why do it? Because to care is the natural state and point of power. Its also a state tremendously negatively affected by contradicting and limiting complex belief systems that inhibit growth and development.
“I Care” – is there a better way to change the status quo?
My granddaughters recently gave me a painting embedded with sea glass that we’d collected together. They know I love to get things they created and this was really nice since they’d made it together.
Emily, who is younger was especially intent on pointing out that she was the one who found the light purple piece in the center and that it was “very rare, Nano”. I remember the day we were on the beach searching and collecting. She wasn’t finding as many as me and Sam, her older sister, and she was getting frustrated. Just before we left she found the purple glass and I made a big deal about it. I was so proud of her for remembering and being sure she got the credit a whole year later.
And Samantha was equally impressive. She didn’t try to upstage Emily. As anyone with kids knows, that’s not how it always plays out. She could have just as likely said “you got the purple but look at all the dark blue I got so I’m even better, ha ha weirdo!” But Sam gave, and Emily accepted the credit naturally and with grace.
Since then I think a lot about credit which I’ve concluded is a greatly underrated factor in the probability of personal or cultural change success or failure. Last week, for example, I concluded that the issue of credit was the singly largest block to any kind of political change progress. Thanks to the girls I now accept that credit is part of a complex system of beliefs with which I’d completely, but unconsciously identified..for most of my life! That lack of awareness, of course, drove many of my responses and reactions to challenging job, sport, school, family and team experiences.
I wanted to share what I’d learned. A new model and accompanying presentation that I was developing for solo professionals and content creators interested in WordPress and innovative business models provided the venue.
Art and Idea Credit: Samantha Wynne & Emily Wynne, Artists / Entrepreneurs
“Enough with the content, its action that really matters”.
Content and action aren’t mutually exclusive. Content is directed movement (action) in form: written, audio and video.
I can’t think of any action that doesn’t correspond with content, including:
- communicating – stories
- meeting – recaps
- directing – strategy
- sharing – posts & comments
- teaching – course work
- designing – visuals
- preparing – notes
- helping – feedback
- marketing – web pages
- systematizing & processing – applications
- searching & researching – aggregated information
- presenting – shows
- entertaining – scripts
- playing – toys
I think this is very important for anyone just starting out, or struggling with content creation. Don’t buy into the myth that you’re sacrificing action for content. They’re hand in hand.
Title: hand in hand
Artist: Lumatic on flickr
I took part in an meditation/meetup last night with the Boston Integral Commons (Ken Wilber group) that included an interesting reading of a dialogue between Andrew Cohen & Ken Wilber: Creative Friction – Community and the Utopian Impulse in a Post-postmodern World.
A lively and challenging discussion followed about how we can use the theories and frameworks in practical ways to continually raise our group’s evolutionary consciousness. For me, the biggest challenge was how to not get caught in resistance to hierarchy, inherent to this evolutionary process theory. I wasn’t concerned, though, and left the meeting in high spirits to go along my entrepreneurial, hierarchy-free way.
That lasted exactly 20 minutes.
I checked my email and saw that I was in the midst of a messy conflict triggered by a communication from me to others in a community very important to me. I suddenly realized that most of my conflicts of the past 2 years were tied to my lack of hierarchy sense. Earlier, one of the Integral Group members piqued my interest when he talked to me about how some people excel in hierarchical spaces, and others (like me) don’t because they’ve not lived enough in that space to develop the requisite competencies. It all made perfect sense to me and I enthusiastically agreed with him totally unaware that I was simultaneously protecting my “hierarchy sucks” belief.
No way was this series of events last night a coincidence; it was a test.
So I want to share this learning. If you do something in integrity that results in conflict and you sense a repeating pattern, you may want to examine your beliefs about hierarchy as unnatural, judgmental or even threatening. If so, that’s the ego in you but also an opportunity to build your vigilance (“V”) discipline and to be more mindful of its practical application to inter-personal conflict and most importantly, to internal contradiction blocking the evolution of your own consciousness.
The instant you believe in the evolution of consciousness, you have to accept hierarchy at the level of the self, at the level of the soul, and that backs narcissism right into a corner. – Andrew Cohen
By mid-morning, my conflict resolved. There was no effort or push-back or sacrifice or guilt or doing much of anything at all. In fact, it was almost as it it never happened – but better.
When my granddaughters Sam and Em were little they loved to play “Mrs Meanie” with me. I’d pretend to be the mean school teacher who would not allow freedom, fun, laughter or any frivolity. Of course this would send the girls into paroxysms of giggle fits at which point I’d pretend to go into conniptions and chase them all over the place with threats of dire punishments as they’d yell “ha ha Mrs Meanie!”. It was pure silliness that when on literally for years. The minute I’d walk into the house they’d beg “Nano, do Mrs Meanie pleeeeeeze!”
I think of that character often lately with respect to professional service providers and their client relationships. This accelerated change environment that includes rapid technology and business model innovation, increasingly compressed project time frames and downward pressure on fee structures, beautifully lends itself to the emergence of the consultant version of Mrs. Meanie. The challenge is making it as desirable for clients as it was for the kids.
Clients sometimes need it for the following reason: they don’t know what they don’t know. If that’s the case there’s no straight and clear path from their problem to your solution. Its more like a jungle of unconscious and hidden assumptions and expectations.
Some solo psf’s deal with the jungle by ignoring and denying it. Why? Because they want the work. Others deal with it by trying to manage it with lengthy contracts and processes. There’s even a large body of content addressing “firing the client”. These methods are about setting boundaries and not surprisingly, have a high likelihood of failure because every boundary is a battle line to cross. In the old ways of work boundary protection was built into fees. Forget about that in the new ways of work.
So how can you decrease the likelihood of project breakdown and failure? Through the discipline of rigor (the “R” in DRIVE).
Simply stated, through every step of the project, in real time, you honestly express and inquire about the contradictions and internal conflicts you’re hearing, observing and sensing. These aren’t judgments or things you fix, unless of course you ask permission and the client is willing. They are, however, as much of the truth and rationale for the project as are the desire and need for the project.
Clearly, facilitative skills and your own self-awareness will support your rigor discipline. Clients can react very negatively to your shining a light on what they don’t know they don’t know. Remember that argument, hubris and defensiveness from you will only strengthen the boundary lines of protection. Conversely, your consistency, non-judgment and acceptance create a space for both your clients’ and your own growth and development as well as create the cornerstone of your solo professional “Meanie Manifesto”.
The question probably sounds a bit odd to you, like it should be “what”, not “who”.
But the question phrased as is gets to the heart of living up to popular and famous mantras and quotes for change, including:
You must be the change you want to see in the world. – Gandhi
Typical and well-meaning things we do to this end include revising what we do and say in response to change, setting new visions and goals, breaking old habits, trying new things, moving to different places, making resolutions, ending or beginning relationships or businesses, changing appearances, working harder and faster, etc.
Those are all well and good but often lead to frustration and failure when we place all our bets on some combination of our will, skills and knowledge with timing, luck and conditions. Certain people, serial entrepreneurs for example, claim they’re energized by the highs and lows. Others may feel just the opposite, de-magnetized and dejected. But in both extremes, as well as those in-between, the frustration/failure cycle takes its toll in some form of suffering.
Its so ingrained in us, that this is the way it has to be, that over time we’ve become completely identified with the suffering cycle we choose, seeing ourselves in a dog-eat-dog competitive race to survive in a cold, hard, mean world. And the world, which we create moment to moment, has no choice but to give us exactly that experience. Over and over and over again.
I’m always looking for ways to work with people to help them shift out of this worldview concerning desired change in any of the 4 major experience platforms: health, love, supply and (life and business) direction.
Dustin DiPerna, who recently led an Integral Meetup that I attended, gave an excellent, although highly theoretical talk about vantage points of awareness. I’m now integrating a synthesized and more practical version of his theory with the self-awareness cornerstone of my professional services practice.
My purpose is to galvanize my change model to help clients shift their vantage point from:
I am the one who “can or can’t do” things to change the world.
to the vantage point:
I am the one who “is present and poised” in a world of change.
As we grow and develop we may pay lip services to “let it happen” while our actions prove that we still mistakenly believe we can “make it happen”. This tends to happen when the vantage point is “what” and not “who”. In other words its just another concept or strategy used in attempt to hurry things along so we can get what we want or get rid of what we don’t want. But the world is not fooled and we eventually get the message when our cleverness backfires on us that we’re going about change the wrong way.
You can practice this right away with a problem or challenge that’s got you feeling stuck. Try looking at it from both vantage points: from the one who resists things as they are and from the one who accepts things as they are. The second one is your point of power and natural influence.
Elbert Kennard Gallery
Title: Vantage Point