Make A Pie

Taking  a walk with K.Dot and Dog-Dog

Taking a walk with K.Dot and Dog-Dog

Stay with me. This post is not nearly as curmudgeonly as it might first appear.

Many years ago I was directing a play in Santa Fe. It was the week before Halloween and I went into a coffee house. I was taken aback to find the place decked out for Christmas. Since then I’ve kept a running count of the first day in the fall that I see Christmas appear in the shops. As you might have guessed, it is earlier and earlier every year. This year’s arrival date: October 3rd.

I laughed out loud this Thanksgiving season when I heard an advertiser shout that, this year, Black Friday begins on the Monday before Thanksgiving. The whole week is black! Mark my words, next year Black Friday will begin on the Friday before Black Friday. Soon, the month of November will be decked in black while also decking the halls.

As has become our national custom, the midterm elections began the day after the last Presidential campaign and the new Presidential campaign began the day after the midterms. Are we never out of an election cycle (a rhetorical question)? It is the only example I can cite in which politics is running ahead of the rest of the advertisers.

I’ve not had a television for a few years so I’m a bit behind the wheels of progress. This morning, as we made pies, we turned on the Thanksgiving Day parade and I was wide-eyed with wonder that the entire affair is now a not-so-veiled advertisement for products, television shows, and musicals on Broadway. Along with each float came a cut-away commercial for the sponsoring company (I learned how to bake a lot of new desserts and was prompted more than once to rush out and get the ingredients NOW). Even the shots of Al-in-the-crowd were interviews, not with the crowd, but with celebrities; I heard when their show airs, and learned what their character might eat on this holiday and be grateful for if they were not imaginary. I was also prompted to text the network and tell them what I might be grateful for so that I might feel a sense of participation.

Take a step back. There is so much noise. There are so many competitors for our attention. I read that our attention spans are shrinking and how could they not shrink (or flee into hiding) under such an unceasing assault. Apparently with a shorter attention span it takes longer and longer to get our attention. I can’t help but think it is all stuffing and no bird.

Each year I work with people actively seeking for meaning or purpose. They tell me that something is missing in their lives. The pattern is to purchase-for-fulfillment but commerce makes for a lousy core and inevitably shows its true colors as a temporary numbing agent or distraction. And that’s the point. Seekers cease seeking when they learn where to place their attention. They step out of the noise cycle. Instead of navigating the noise they simply turn it off and take a walk or a nap. Instead of texting the network they look at their loved ones and say, “Let’s make a pie.”

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Get Back On And Ride

Guess what. I'm doing it.

Guess what? I’m doing it.

It is universally true that we must fail to learn. In fact, as absolutes and paradoxes go, the single universal lesson that we must learn is that there is no such thing as failure. To unlearn is, in fact, also to learn. Everything is a step forward when failure is out of the equation. I fell off my bike more than once before I learned to balance and ride. I made some terrifically ugly colors as I learned to paint. That is the nature of learning.

Over the past decade I’ve tried more than once to produce my play, The Lost Boy. And, like learning to ride a bike, I’ve fallen off with each attempt. The latest tumble came with a failed Kickstarter attempt. Sitting on the curb, my metaphoric bike akimbo, I asked, “What is it about this play?” It will not leave me alone and yet it has been more than difficult to produce. And, as it does, the learning followed the fall. And there is nothing to be done but get back up and ride.

And, as is also true, when you decide that you are going to do something, the way opens (note: that does not mean that there are no challenges). When we didn’t meet our Kickstarter goal, I had the option to let it go forever or, I had to decide that I was going to produce this play with bake sales, lemonade stands, or any other whacky idea that would get me to opening night. This play will not leave me alone and, as I learned in the fall, I will not leave it alone. The decision was already made and I needed the failed campaign to see it.

And the way opened. The University of the Pacific decided to donate the theatre and to help with some marketing through alumni networks. I laughed when, given their generous donation, I made my new budget. The amount I need (bare bones) to get to opening night is almost identical to the amount pledged in the failed campaign. So, taking what I’ve learned, I’ve mounted a new campaign and asked the previous pledgers to pledge again. And, since I adore paradoxes and don’t really believe in absolutes, I’m passing this link out in every way possible. Nothing is for sure – except that I will do this play in February in California.

The lesson, of course, is to ask for help and ask again (something I was not good at doing in the first campaign). The other lesson is this: a play that will not let you go is worth doing and it is worth doing whatever it takes to give it life. So help me give it life. Here’s the new Kickstarter campaign. Please support it if you can by pledging or passing the link out through your networks.

I don’t mind falling off my bike again because now I know that I will simply dust myself off and get back on to ride. Join me in California in February for the world premiere of The Lost Boy.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Guess what. I'm doing it.

And, in case you missed it, here’s the link to the new The Lost Boy Kickstarter campaign

Dance With Sherry

A painting from the archives. I call it 'Revelry!'

A painting from the archives. I call it ‘Revelry!’

Sherry was killed in a car wreck many years ago. It was ironic. She had a severe food allergy and was pronounced dead more times than she could count. Every time she went out to eat she rolled the dice. And, because she had been back and forth over that dark line so many times, she never took a day (or a meal) for granted. Death walked with her so she was awash in the appreciation of life. Sherry never missed an opportunity to laugh or dance or shock people. She was a one-person party and her enthusiasm was infectious.

She was a true friend and a colleague and took the plunge with me when I wanted to start a communications academy (teaching core curriculum through experiential processes; with students we made movies, plays, performance art pieces, poetry slams and ran businesses. It was not only a blast but hugely successful. We created things as opposed to studied things. The only trouble I ever had was getting the students to go home). Initially, the academy was a risk but she was quick to throw herself into the chaos and brought her friend Linda kicking and screaming with her. Both were extraordinary English teachers looking for a better way to teach. We were like adventurers in the wilds of education, blowing up old models and exploring new territory. It would be impossible to do today; innovators are nailed to the floor by the standardized master-tests that they must serve.

The last time I saw her she said, “This is the last time you’ll ever see me!” She had a Cheshire grin and I protested, “Why? Are you planning on avoiding me!” She leaned in so no one else might hear and said, “I doubt I’ll be alive when you come back.” I told her not to be stupid but, as usual, she was right. She also asked me to not come back for her funeral. “Let this be our goodbye,” she said.

Kerri and I have been cleaning out the house, purging years and years of boxes, clothes, and…stuff. We are making space for new things. Each load that goes out the door is matched by an opportunity or insight that flows in. Not only are we cleaning out but we are reaching back in time and visiting old friends and extraordinary moments. More than once we’ve sat to share photographs or letters, “This is what I used to look like,” or, “Remember I told you about my friend…., this is us 20 years ago.” For some reason, Sherry has been with me today. I have no photos of her and no letters but I have terrific memories. I’ve been meditating on joy all day and she was the embodiment of joy. She was the queen of mischief and bold leaps of faith. “Life is never sure!” she’d giggle. “You only have today so dance it or get off the floor!” she’d shout, punching me, her Cheshire grin breaking across her face before erupting in gales of laughter.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.


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Pidgeon Pier - acrylic on canvas

Pigeon Pier – acrylic on canvas

It’s been months since I had a good chat with the stained glass window. I hadn’t realized that the conversations had stopped. The summer was a blur of unplanned travel and I suspect during the chaos of coming and going that I simply stopped asking questions.

This morning we awoke to snow, the first of the season. Snow arrives silently and inspires inner silence. Steeped in the snow’s quiet I heard the window’s greeting. “Ah, Welcome back.” And so began our conversation about doubt.

Doubt is a double-edged sword, it has two distinct faces. The first face, unlike the snow, is noisy. Doubt does not arrive in silence. It demands to be heard. In the middle of my conversation with the window I heard P-Tom say, “Fear makes us doubt our belief and believe our doubts.” This face of doubt is a crazy maker. It makes muddy the inner waters. It makes all fears come true.

There is another face of doubt, not born of fear but arising from love. The 5th Agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz is this: doubt everything that you think. To doubt what you think makes little sense without the preceding agreements, the most powerful (to me) is this – Be impeccable to your word: speak your truth and nothing else; do not blame or accuse or make others responsible for your pain (your thoughts and actions); own your thoughts; own your actions. Or, better said, love yourself enough to express your love and nothing else. Don Miguel writes that impeccability to your word requires self-love. In this context, this other face of doubt is a step forward. Coming from love, to doubt what you think is akin to cleaning up the dirty dishes. It is to not take anything too seriously. Thought is nothing more than storytelling and to doubt the story births detachment from investment in the story. Detaching from the story-investment brings quiet, like the snow.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

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Laugh For Warmth

'The Wind' by David Robinson

‘The Wind’ by David Robinson

Someone threw a switch and it’s winter. There was no gentle drop in temperature, no ease into the cold. Monday was balmy. Tuesday was bitter. Today, the pond is frozen and I am watching the front edge of the snowy season dip its toes into the world. Last night we cut short our usual walk; we were shy a few layers of clothing and feeling was leaving all fingers and toes. We laughed for warmth and walked faster.

Life changes fast. We are reminded of that when tragedy strikes. When death comes to the too young or the fire consumes the neighbor’s house and all their treasures, we say, “Remember how precious this life is! Remember to be more grateful for what we have!”

Sometimes that seems to be the single salient point of tragedy: to make the rest of us stop, remember and appreciate what has real value. And, the moment of appreciation, like all moments, is passing. We get caught again in the dull pull of routine and stop seeing the miracle.

I just entered an art competition (note: isn’t it strange that “art” and “competition” can exist in the same sentence?); the theme is peace (note: isn’t it strange that the theme of a competition could be peace?). In my artist statement I wrote that peace is a practice, not an outcome. It is something people bring to the table, not something negotiated at the table. Conflict is at the core of every story and, therefore, is the engine of movement in every story. That is also true in every life story. We tell stories of enmity and we tell stories of amends and, if we are paying attention, we realize that both are a single story told from a different point of view. The story we tell, like peace, is something we bring to the table, not something we find there.

Flip the switch, stand in the others’ shoes, laugh for warmth and walk faster or simply slow down and feel the cold. Life not only changes fast, it passes fast, too. It seems impossible that I moved here a year ago. It seems like last week. Today, looking out the window as big snowflakes float to the ground, watching the Dog-Dog chase them with great delight and snap them out of the sky, I made a conscious decision to see the miracle and forgo the necessity of a thump to wake me from dullness. This winter is like no other.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Possess It

An untitled  watercolor I did years ago

An untitled watercolor I did years ago

Last night P-Tom said, “This is the time of year that everyone is telling us what we need and where we can go to buy it.”

Yesterday I worked on website language. After a year-long hiatus I’m re-visioning what was once a coaching practice. All day I was aware that words like “potential” and “purpose” are abstractions; they are marketing terms. Many years ago, when I was first establishing a coaching practice, I read articles and listened to recordings full of advice about “how to start a coaching business;” the recommendation was unanimous: host free calls, help people see their problem, and end the call. Leave them standing in the mud so they will need you. Create lack (isn’t that a great definition for marketing?).

What does it really mean to fulfill your potential? What does it mean to “find your purpose?” Look to the layer beneath. To fulfill, to find…, these are terms from the canon of outcome and result. No one willingly seeks his or her endpoint. If there is a universal problem it is that we see our existence as something with a bottom line and hire coaches and therapists to help us do the accounting.

(Insert mantra: nothing is broken. You do not need to be fixed).

Good coaches, teachers, mentors, and therapists get you out of the spreadsheet and into the moment. Looking for the fullness of life is usually a process that requires the cessation of looking so we might see what is right in front of us. Stop the search and you will be found. As the old saying goes, life is the thing that is happening while you are running around looking for it.

I’m a world-class note taker and always take notes when I work with people. For me it’s like mapping verbal terrain, capturing inner geography. Lately I’ve been reviewing the maps before I destroy them and I find not seekers of potential and purpose, but people overwhelmed by the experience of 1) feeling lost, 2) feeling that something is missing or they are missing something, 3) feeling that they are pushing on a door that won’t open, or 4) a yearning for a different way of being. These are questions of feeling. These are questions of orientation to life (experiences of life). “Potential” and “purpose” are words of doing. These are questions of being.

What if meaning, value, purpose,… in life was not something found or bought but something that is already possessed?

Go here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.


Be The Fool

The Fool card from The Radiant Rider Waite deck

The Fool card from The Radiant Rider Waite deck

Each day I open The Bible of Mankind (sadly, now out of print) and read a phrase. It’s a form of daily meditation for me akin to throwing the I Ching; I pick from the reading what seems relevant. Some days the phrase is confusing, some days it is curious, some days it is profound. Every day it is significant. Today, the phrase was from the Buddhist tradition and under the subtitle, Foolishness & Wisdom:

“The man who has learned little grows old like an ox. His flesh grows but his knowledge does not.”

I delighted in the pairing of foolishness with wisdom. I suspect there is only one path to wisdom and it requires a good deal of foolishness. I googled the meaning of the Fool card in the tarot because, as I recollect, when upright, the Fool is about beginnings and bold steps into the unknown. From my search I found other words and phrases like unlimited potential, purity, and innocence. The Fool is ever present and has in his (her) bag all the tools and resources necessary for the journey through life. The Fool came to this earth to learn.

Another phrase that caught my attention was this: the Fool is always whole, healthy, and without fear. He is the spirit of who we are, the spirit expressed and experienced as wonder, awe, curiosity, and anticipation.

Recently, Bruce and I had a great talk about how life looks different at 50 than it did at 30. The main difference is that you know without doubt that it is limited. And, because the big death is visible, all the little death passages, the steps into the unknown, take on more import. Yearning is more electric when mortality is undeniable. All of the belief and investment in outcomes and achievements dissipate. This life is an experience, nothing more. It passes. And, it is dealer’s choice whether the experience is expressed and experienced as fear or expressed and experienced as The Fool: wonder, awe, and curiosity.

The wisdom path is the Fool’s path. The ox, to become a fool filled with knowledge, need only step out of its pen, into the unknown, and be filled with new experiences.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Eve, by David Robinson

Eve, by David Robinson

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Change Your Mind

I used this quote by Friedrich Nietzche in The SEER:

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well as the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be a mind.”

A few days ago I asked myself this question: What if I never painted another painting or wrote another word? What would happen? Who would I be?

title_pageThe first question, what would happen, is much less interesting to me than the second question: who would I be if I simply put down my brushes forever? When I was younger, I felt driven, as if I had to paint. I needed it. In asking the question I recognize that now I choose it. I don’t have to paint; I want to and consequently I am a much better artist. It’s a paradox: I am a better artist because I don’t need to be an artist. In other words, I don’t need to be, I am.

I’ve been revisiting The SEER. My initial team of wise-eyes unanimously voted the first draft to be “too much.” The book that I published is comprised of the first three chapters of the original draft. I deconstructed them and broke the steps into smaller bites. There were six more chapters outlined and, in my latest revisit, I recognize that I have a trilogy if I want it. So, book two is in process. I’m going to release the first draft in daily snippets as I write it. Everyone gets to be my wise-eyes this time around.

Here’s the launching pad section for book two from The SEER. It’s from the second cycle (story):

You can change your story. That is the sixth recognition. Doesn’t it sound simple? Say it this way: changing your story is the equivalent of changing who you know yourself to be. Changing your story often requires the loss of your illusion, a lot less armor and nothing left to lose. Who are you when you don’t know who you are or where you are going? This was the heart of Virgil’s question to me. Who are you distinct from your circumstance? Who are you when the mask comes off? More importantly, what are you capable of seeing when you are not looking through a [knight’s] visor? No one is immune to the stuff of life. Everyone lives a unique version of the story cycle. It too is a pattern, a natural process.

Go here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Go here (to Leanpub) for all digital forms of The SEER

Canopy by David Robinson

Canopy by David Robinson

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Mix Better Color

A painting from another time - and also from as as-yet-unfinished exloration

A painting called ‘Sleepers’  from another time – and also from as as-yet-unfinished exploration

The lake was angry. Because it is the fifth largest lake in the world, it packs a punch when enraged. The local news reported that the waves were 14ft high. The force of the waves smacking the shore hurled huge stones from the wall constructed on the banks to protect the land. Although it is an easy walk from our house, the wind was so powerful and cold that we drove the few blocks to see it.

There are days that the lake is glassy smooth and quiet with barely a noticeable ripple. This day the lake was muddy brown and dangerous. Parts of the bank collapsed. A tree close to the shore was consumed. Many years ago I was in a small boat protected by the islands from the force of the ocean’s wrath; for a few moments we had to round a point, exposed to the fury, to get into a bay. The captain pointed the boat directly into waves that towered over us. I’ve rarely felt like such a bug on the arm of an angry world. Had it decided to, the ocean would have smashed us with little or no notice. The lake was like that this day. I was grateful to be on shore. Sometimes awe for the power of nature requires a respectful distance.

Sometimes appreciating the fullness of life also requires a respectful distance. I recently took Bill and Linda down stairs into my current studio. They are elders and I have enormous respect for them. They’d asked to see my paintings. We spent several moments looking at my current work and then began stepping backwards in time. My paintings ring like songs from the past; each represents a specific era of my life and is capable of sparking intense remembering. It was fun to pull pieces for them, answer questions (or not answer them), and to open the doors of time. Like the lake, the doors were varied and unpredictable: some of the doors flooded me with peace, other doors overwhelmed me with grief, and still others brought intense joy. I loved it all because with time, with distance, life ceases to be about good times and bad times, hard times or ease, it’s all one long rich varied walk, all necessary and useful like color on a palette. Some of it goes to mud and that is the only way to learn to mix better color. Just as every forest fire causes renewal and every storm heaves stones and creates a new shoreline, sometimes distance and respect for this powerful messy life reveals the face of continual renewal and necessitates vast, quiet awe.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.


Expose The Value

photo-3We debated our costumes for Brad and Jen’s Halloween extravaganza for months prior to the party. The letter for this year’s costume theme was “T” (with extra credit for using a “Q”). During the long hours of our summer road trips, our conversation sounded something like this:

“We could be Trollops.”

“Trollop is good. We could be Tin men.”

“I like that. What about Tootsie Pops!”

“Someone will come as a Tootsie Pop. How about Tramps.”

“No. I did that when I was twelve. What about tsunami! We could be a tsunami!”

And on and on we’d go. We finally settled on this bit of whimsy: Too-many-ideas & Too-many-questions. Kerri was going to be Too-many-ideas and I was intended to be Too-many-questions – but we changed our minds in the final hours.

At the party you might have asked, as many people asked us, “What is a Tarving Artist?” We wore paint-spattered clothes and artist aprons filled with paint and brushes. On the aprons we wrote: Dying Of Exposure. Between us we carried a donation bucket with a sign that read: Our “S” was repossessed. Please help us buy it back.

In the week prior to the party, Kerri was asked to play for an event. Every artist in the nation is used to hearing the words she hears weekly: “We have no money to pay you but it will be great exposure for you.” She is a consummate, career musician with 15 albums, (going on 16) and needs no help with her exposure. I loved her response: “Let me call my accountant and ask if she accepts exposure for payment.” Her latest encounter with empty exposure started a long hysterical conversation and note-comparison session of all the amazing ways people have asked us to work for anything and everything but money (Yes, it is true. When artists make art they are working as surely as a plumber who plumbs or a doctor who diagnoses. When was the last time you asked your dentist to work for exposure?).

The common mistake at the center of every work-for-exposure offer: it will be good for the artist. It’s never good for the artist. For two reasons it’s a notion that is good for everyone but the artist. First, no artist wants the kind of exposure that reinforces that their work is without real value. Second, no creative artist wants to be defined as a player of background music or drawer of dog portraits (unless, of course, their dream in life is to draw dog portraits). The act of drawing or playing a musical instrument is not what defines the artist or their art. It is a mistake to assume that because I can draw and paint that the act of drawing and painting is what constitutes the art. A carpenter uses a hammer but the hammer does not define their work. It is a tool. The keyboard, the paint and brushes are tools.

People who pay artists with exposure see the tool but not the artist. That is why Kerri and I opted to change our costume. Certainly dressing as a Tarving Artist was a statement but more than that, we realized that only a starving artist would agree to play for exposure; only a starving artist would agree to hammer incessantly to get the attention of people who can’t see them to begin with. It’s never good for the artist and is always a costume or role they assume for the empty promise of exposure. The cost for the artist is always greater than the exposure and at the end of the day, after trading a bit of their integrity, they still aren’t able to pay the bills.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

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