Use Joy Language

joy-croppedTripper Dog-Dog-Dog has moved through several names in his 3 years on earth. He has a cornucopia of names. For a while I dropped the “Tripper” part of his name and simply called him Dog-Dog. Now, much as a mother might use their child’s middle name, we only call him Tripper when he’s in trouble.

Lately I call him Dog-a-Dog (or doggadogga). He answers to Wag-A-Wag. He is an Australian Shepherd and has a bobbed tail that never stops wagging. He is a happy, happy boy. When I let him out in the morning I call him Fuss Bucket. When he comes back in I call him Poop Sack (for obvious reasons) or Bark Monster or Fur Ball. He sheds like a champion. When he circles through the rooms of our house looking for a safe place to deposit his bone, I (cleverly) call him Bone.

All the variations and derivatives are terms of endearment. Dog-Dog knows and responds in kind. Love is like that. Once, sitting on a train, I watched a grandfather lovingly toss his toddler grandson in the air saying, “You’re just Rubbish! That’s what you are! Rubbish!” The boy squealed with delight. The grandfather chuckled with pleasure and repeated the toss, “You’re just Rubbish!”

Language is a beautiful paradox. It is reductive even as it points to the unfathomable universe and the infinity of love. It is referential; we sometimes forget that the word “tree” is not the tree itself. It is merely an invented-phonetic-pointer toward something too complex to comprehend.

Language is powerful beyond comprehension. We use it to narrate our worlds, both inner and outer. The words we choose create the world we see. The words we choose define the world we inhabit. In my consulting/coaching days I used to love playing with exercises that revealed how easily we come to the language of gossip and blame. It requires almost no effort. Like sugar, hate-speak is addictive. It is the mark of a lazy mind.

The language of love takes some intention and consciousness. It demands conscious effort. It requires paying attention. It requires focusing the energy of the mind and, like any focus (or muscle) it demands exercise to be healthy. And, when exercised, it becomes easy. With great love, the word “Rubbish” can generate squeals of pleasure. The name “Fuss Bucket” will engender a full body joy-wag. And, a full body joy-wag will bring the love full circle. Love is like that. Joy is like that.

In his many books, Martin Prechtel writes beautifully about the power and necessity of speaking beautifully. Speaking beautifully creates a beautiful thinker and a beautiful thinker creates – narrates – a beautiful story, a beautiful world.

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What Happened?

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

Today was too beautiful to stay inside. My pals kidnapped me and took me to the beach. We ate chicken salad, looked at the waves roll in and talked of things past. We talked of changes in our lives, particularly the changes in the narrative we tell ourselves. The story of my life in 2013 is drastically different than the story I told in 2003 or in 1993. I have changed and the story I tell about myself has changed with me.

Personal change happens when we change our story, when we change our relationship to the story we claim as our past. Growth is not possible when we hold onto the story as we’ve always named it. Growth happens when we can open our hand and let go of the story that says, “can’t…” or “will never be….” Growth happens when we suspend the judgment and see the choices and opportunities.

Once I metaphorically lit a backfire so I might survive the forest fire that was roaring toward me. At the time I thought my actions were cowardice. Now I see them as wise. I survived.

Once I stood alone and without friends in a new city called Seattle. I had no job and no reason to move there. It was a pretty day in September so I decided to stay. “This is where I am so why not here?” I thought. At the time it seemed so arbitrary and without consideration. Now I see it as destined. It was the right choice at the time. Now I tell myself, “I was supposed to live in this city.”

Memory is a construct. It is a story that changes in the re-membering. It is not fixed in time. It is not truth. It can be contradictory. What once seemed so difficult, so painful, is now a story of potent learning. What once seemed so important is now insignificant. The smallest gesture can leave the greatest mark. The sequence of events is malleable. Memory is untrustworthy. It is unreliable. Memory is fickle. We create our past again and again and again.

We create ourselves again and again and again.

What if the story you tell yourself is neither true nor false? What if it is simply a story with multiple interpretations and you get to choose which version you claim? What would it take for you to open your hand and let go of the old story? What would it take to tell the story of thriving and fulfillment? As Megan recently reminded me, “What would your story be if you assumed the entire universe was conspiring for your good?

Make Another Choice

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

Today I drew cartoons. I had coaching calls. I turned soil and helped plant a garden. I’ve never planted a garden before. I read a recipe and made naan bread and turmeric chicken. I’ve never before made naan or turmeric chicken. I will do all of the above again and again. As I turned the soil and later as I kneaded dough I remembered a moment in class earlier in the week. We had a conversation about the absence of resistance.

The conversation went something like this: The absence of resistance in your life is a sure sign that you are living fully in choice. If you are pushing against what you don’t want, chances are you’re invested in the notion that you have no choice. Flip it over and say it another way: resistance is a signal that you are invested in a drama. Pushing against what you don’t want is a signal that your inner victim has come for a visit.

If you pay attention, resistance can also be a guide. Resistance shows you where you’ve invested in the idea that things happen to you. Resistance exposes the places in your life that you’ve abdicated your responsibility for your choices.

The great thing about planting gardens for the first time or making new recipes, is that presence is not a problem. Doing things for the first time invites presence. Not knowing brings us to this moment. We pay attention. It is the magic secret to learning. Another side benefit to stepping into unknown activities is that you have a choice. You can have the experience first and then make meaning out of it (note: this is how your brain works. Or, you can resist the not knowing, pretend that you should know, resist the moment, and miss the learning. It’s a choice. Experience is always determined in that tiny moment when you choose to walk toward something, or push against what you don’t want. It sounds simple because it is simple. Listen to what you resist and make another choice.

Emerge

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

Old structures do not like to give way to the new. The old structure, whether it is a personal identity or organizational system, resists change.

When I stepped off the plane Moira only said, “It’s bitter.” She meant the temperature; it was 16 degrees and the wind was blowing. We laughed and she drove me to campus to stay in the Illini Union Hotel on the campus of the University of Illinois. It’s a beautiful campus even with the wind chill making my eyes water. The hotel is actually within the student union, a massive brick and white-pillared structure that shouts, “academia!” It is solid and hallowed with history.

This university like all universities is an institution of education in a time that institutions of education are being pummeled by the waves of change. The internet is revolutionizing access to information and the power of the individual to create, pursue, investigate, and participate. The very role of “teacher” or “professor” is no longer relevant in it’s old definition and the new form is yet to emerge.

I’ve heard conversations questioning the very role of a campus in the face of the new world. There is most certainly a role but what is it? It’s emerging. Tuitions are unmanageable and unrealistic. In many circles the question, “Why not to put the money into a business start up instead college?” is leading the way. Experience is the best teacher and there are great business courses online and much information is free. Why not go into debt with something that has the potential to generate income than something that will strain your income for years to come? It’s a valid argument.

In various places around the country teachers are now refusing to administer the standardized tests. Students are refusing to take them. Finally, we are asking, “Why? What is the point? And what are we trying to do?” After all, what does it mean to learn?
This is the new form starting to emerge. The old is fighting back, ratcheting down and trying to contain and constrain. It is only a matter of time.

The old structure will fight the new, even if the old is irrelevant. Even if its existence impedes growth instead of facilitates it. In this way, organizations are no different than people. The imagination is never welcome in the old house but imaginations have a way of taking over and something new, wondrous, magical, and completely unpredictable always emerges.

Truly Powerful People (479)

479.
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 will come as no surprise to you that I have a twin. He is 9 years old, a toe-head blonde, sports a world-class smile, and he can easily out run me in our perpetual game of chase. He is a kind and gentle spirit so he loops back making it possible for his old-guy-twin to stay in the game. His name is Ian and he reminds me what is truly important in this world of too much busy work, worries and woe. He reminds me to play-to-play; he reminds me that the whole point of life is to become better and better at playing.

Recently our game took us to the river. He was already hiding when I arrived. He was concealed within a shallow pool; only his eyes above the surface, watching for the moment I might see him. It was such a clever hiding place that I passed him several times before catching a glimpse of my alligator twin. He popped from the pool and the chase was on. We dashed across sand bars, splashed through pools, leapt over sticky bushes, and finally collapsed in the shallows, buried our hands in the sand, anchors in the gentle current. That was the moment we transformed into water bears. No salmon was safe.

Ian reminds me of what it was to be young. He brims with delight. His cup is overflowing with hope and imagination. When we play our game there is nothing more important in the world; the concerns of the day vanish, the worry-attachments fall away. We run. We laugh (I wheeze). We imagine. We create.

We’ve played our game in the halls of a school, over and around a boardroom table, circling and circling his house, and now we’ve carried it into the Platte River (my favorite iteration). Our game can be played anywhere, anytime. If you happen to be standing where we are playing you will become a potential hiding post. Stand still. Imagine that you are a tree or a statue. We will. Better yet, spot your twin, and join the game.