Show Up [on Merely A Thought Monday]

lifebelowzeroJessiequote copy

Sometimes something is so obvious it actually needs to be said. The real difficulty in this life is not arriving at the finish line but showing up to the starting line. This phrase, a quote from our Life Below Zero addiction, encapsulates the essence and great challenge of many of my coaching clients – of most people. There is often a glass wall between yearning and action. I wonder how many times in my life I’ve offered this phrase: the actions you need to take are never the problem; the challenge is the story you wrap around the actions.

It comes down to this, yet another simplicity: starting brings change. Start the race and you will never be the same. Start the race and there’s no guarantee what you will learn or find. You may win or lose or simply not finish. You might learn that you are in the wrong race or that you care nothing for races. But mostly, there is this. If you take another look at the quote you’ll discover the crux of the matter is not about lines, it is never really about beginnings or endings. It’s about showing up. It’s about taking action on the thing that you most yearn to do. Or be. It’s about showing up, being seen. Starting requires a relinquishing of control.

Damn! There’s so much complexity in simplicity!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SHOWING UP

 

shadow bristol woods website copy

Think “And”

a second version, a second point of view of my painting Shared Fatherhood

I suppose it is the great trap in human nature to define life through oppositions. Was your experience good or bad? Are you liberal or conservative? Are you your brother’s keeper or is it every man for himself? Oppositions provide the illusion that there is a right way or a wrong way, that any issue can be reduced to a simplicity, a singular path. One way. Oppositions are great language devices for dictators and the righteous. They remove the grey tones and blunt the grey matter. With an opposition, us or them, “god” can be exclusively on your side (a small god, indeed) which self-grants permission for all manner of abuses enacted by “us” on “them.” The problematic word when employing oppositions is “or.”

“And” is a much more useful (and honest) term to employ when dancing with oppositions. Can you be your brother’s keeper AND take care of yourself? Certainly. Can you survive entirely by yourself without the participation of your brothers and sisters? Certainly not. No one lives in a vacuum; “or” is the great creator of illusory vacuums. “And” guarantees a conversation and perhaps a host of useful, challenging and robust perspectives. Both/And is always more functional than Either/Or.

AND the first version of Shared Fatherhood

The snag in “Or” is that there is very little truth in any reduction that ultimately lands on just One. This or that. All life is movement and all movement stops in One. Creative tension requires at least two points and a desire for someplace place to go. There is no single arrival station in real life. There is no achievement that stops all the presses. Every answer inspires new questions. Each question opens doors to multiple possibilities. Agreement is a fluid target at best and must be nurtured. Compromise is never an end state; it is a relationship imperative. Life is never found in the static “or.”

Do an experiment: go to the grocery store, choose any item and ask yourself how many people it took to bring your chosen item to the shelf at that moment. If you are not astounded by the complexity of participation, how dependent we are on actions of others, your imagination has most certainly failed you. Skip, entrepreneur extraordinaire and mentor to entrepreneurs taught me that a business cannot succeed until it serves its customer’s customer. Note the word “serves.” Businesses serve. Not simply a customer but the complexity of a customer’s customer. Entrepreneurism is a service to the creative genius of a community and multitudes of communities beyond.

Entrepreneurism, like artistry, ….even, yes, like governance…like all things vital, moving, complex and growing, live in service according to the good graces of AND. Anything else is a mirage.

 

 

 

Learn To Question

My best place for asking questions

My best place for asking questions

20 (aka John) tells me that his coworker, Amy, aged 22, will have answered all of life’s questions within the next three years. He assures me that she will share her answers when she has them. “We just need to hang on for another three years,” he quips, “…and it’ll all make sense!”

The admitting nurse at the surgery center feels like a threshold guardian. She said, “People who pass through here learn just how little they actually control in life. Surgery is humbling. I’m here when their illusion of control bursts. That moment is hard.” She was quiet for a moment and added, “What gets me is all these people in the world who think they have all the answers – and they think their answer has to be the answer for everybody. All these rules made up by all these people who think they have the right answer for everybody! That’s why people are killing people everywhere.”

“It sounds like more people ought to have surgery!” I tease.

“You got that right,” she said, handing me my gown, hairnet and blue booties. “Put one of these on and you realize how little control you actually have; in this place none of your answers matter and none of your rules apply!”

It should be a mantra for educators and the only argument necessary to dismantle a test-driven system: Life is always found in the direction of the question. At best, answers are relative – and the best answers, if understood, are simply doors to more questions. Learn to question.

The best art follows the same mantra. It steps into big questions, wanders into unknowns and complexities. It tests and tries, explores and experiments. It leads us to explode our answers and like a good trickster does not allow us to hold our gods too tightly. It begs us to question.

“Shall we tell Amy that there are no answers?” I ask 20.

“Nah. Why spoil the surprise.”

From the archives. This one often calls to me

From the archives. This one often calls to me

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See The Color

857. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Occasionally, for reasons I can’t explain, I become fixated on the words people use to describe their experiences. Language is powerful and we are rarely aware that in using specific language to describe particular experiences we are, in fact, defining ourselves.

Today I was struck by the predominance of phrase polarity I heard in my conversations and travels. People were “effective” or “ineffective.” Experiences were “good” or “bad.” We “liked” or “didn’t like” an idea. I heard, “Are you in or out?” A frustrated pedestrian shouted at a young woman who’d stopped to adjust her ear buds, “Walk or Don’t Walk!”
This or that. Up or Down. Black or white. More or less. Main Street or Wall Street.

It is comfortable to pretend that things are simple and easily defined. It is probably efficient to pretend that there are only two available options. We are, after all, a society of laws and in a legal preset there must always exist a clear line though we learn again and again that the line is never clear. Who honestly believes that Justice is blind? Context complicates even the smallest decision.

Dogma is not spirituality. Data is not knowledge and is miles from approaching wisdom. Wisdom is complex. Data sorts to the simple. There are an infinite number of points between those two poles. The question remains: how is your language defining you. Do you define yourself as data with two points or do you allow for more complexity? Listen to how you story yourself and your world.

The challenge with phrase polarity is that the points are often pitted against each other. It’s as if data and wisdom are two distinct paths so you can have one or the other but not both. The phrase “effective or ineffective” recognizes no middle ground. It eliminates any common ground. The same holds true if you define yourself as either good or bad. Do you have worth or are you worthless? Are you identified with a red state or a blue state? Can business have heart? Can data support wisdom? Can wisdom translate data?

Isn’t life sweet with only two choices! In such a paradigm it is easy to be the good guy and so by default the “others” are bad. In such a paradigm, when rushing to your very important meeting, all the “others” are in your way. My way or the highway is a bleak and immature paradigm.

The important questions do not live at the poles but are in constant movement in search of a balance point. Balance is available in the center and the center moves all of the time. Do you love your children? Do you want to make a better world? Do you want your life to have meaning? Is it possible that people in the other color states also want the same things?

Coloring outside of the lines requires crossing lines. It requires a desire to work with color, lots and lots of color, which opens the capacity to see a multitude of options. Everyday I work with people searching for the greater meaning in their lives. The first thing they come to realize is that they have choices. Not one or two but many, many choices. They have a full palette of choices. And they can only see the multitude of choices when they stop telling themselves that the world is black or white. They can only see the rainbow of possibilities when they get off the pole of rightness or wrongness and step toward the middle. Living a rich and varied story begins when you start telling a rich and varied story. Language is the building block of story. It matters.

Change Your Song

675. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It is funny to me the confluence of thought-rivers meeting in my life. For instance, Lexi recently introduced me to the Pete The Cat series of children’s books. When Pete’s white shoes turn red from treading in strawberries, is Pete upset? Goodness, no! He simply changes his happy song from “I love my white shoes” to “I love my red shoes.” A very complex thought delivered through a children’s book simplicity; motivational speakers the world over try to convey the same message with startlingly less finesse.

Just as Pete The Cat flowed into my day, Skip and I are in the midst of collaborating on a series of support mechanisms for entrepreneurs. For me, the heart of the series lives in my passion wheelhouse: change your story, change your world. This thought is a simplicity that gets lost in the adult world’s need for complexity. More than once in my consulting life I’ve heard, “But it can’t be that simple!” Translation: that is something I can do so I can either embrace it or insist that it is not possible. Often in the world of adults, complexity is equated with value. If it is simple, it is suspect (note: this is why our education and health care systems are in advanced states of collapse). Our attachment to complexity is often protection against owning our responsibility for change we know is necessary.

And, because Pete The Cat met Skip in the playing fields of my mind, my work with Skip is now finding children’s book simplicity. I heard the adult in me (admittedly a very small, some would say, stunted part of me) just exclaim, “It can’t be that simple!” The voice of Pete The Cat followed immediately saying, “Oh, but it is. It is so simple. Change your song, celebrate your world!”

See The Elegance

659. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Bryan and I talked tonight about the elegance of design. He told me that many years ago he became interested in the Golden Mean, which led him to research the Fibonacci sequence, which led to an interest in eclipses. He became fascinated by the simple elegance and paradox of astronomer’s capacity to precisely determine when an eclipse would happen and the impossibility (due to weather) of predicting if we would be able to see it. The Golden Mean and the Fibonacci sequence are simple equations that, when replicated, maintain the integrity of design throughout very complex structures and calculations. They are fractals. Much of classic architecture is based solely on the Golden Mean. Much of what you will learn in contemporary art school about composition is based on the Golden Mean.

Our physical bodies are complex structures based on a simple cell design. We are at the same time miracles of complexity and simplicity; more space than solid, more water than mineral, reducible to a small pile of dust and yet expansive beyond all imagining. We are elegant in our design, as nature only designs elegant forms from the same simple notion and very simple (yet complex) building blocks.

Our thoughts run according to the same principle. I once read a statistic that showed that we think mostly the same thoughts each day, day after day (don’t ask me how you measure such a thing….). We build our thought on a few replicable principles and then go holographic with them. A few simple assumptions will lock you in prison or set you free. Check out the pattern of the story you tell yourself each day. Are you locking yourself in or opening the cage? I realized years ago that the epicenter of my coaching work – or any other form my whacky work takes – was really about story change. I often say this to groups: change your story and you will change your world. They mostly respond, “It can’t be that easy!” or “Pie in the sky!” I didn’t say it would be easy – we are after all deeply invested in our stories; we are great fighters for our limitations. The wrong assumption is that it need be complex. We are elegant in our design, even down to our repetitive thoughts. Change the simplicity and you will some day be capable of manifesting an entirely new soaring cathedral of thought.