Love The Mud [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ~ Picasso

It would seem to be a no-brainer. Mastery comes from a lifetime of doing. Trial and error. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule: success is nothing more than practicing the task for many hours over many years. As the old joke goes, it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.

Efficiency. Ease. Body knowledge. Body of Knowledge. Flow. Wisdom. The blossoms of a long-body of experiences. The farmer, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of land, knows the signs that no one else can see. They sense the storm coming. They smell the time for planting. They waste no time; their 10,000 hours having developed a solid relationship, a kinship with their environment and work.

An artist, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of music or paint or dance, knows the signs that no one else can see. Artistry is efficiency, a single line saying more than 20. A musical phrase capable of reaching deeper into hearts than was once possible. Like the farmer, their 10,000 hours becomes 20,000 and then 30,000. Their worth, their work, after so many hours of hands in the soil or fingers on the keys, is incalculable.

Awash in abstractions, organizations play by a different set of understandings. Bottom lines are blind to mastery. You’d be amazed (or not) at how many people I know who’ve been “let go” because a younger, less expensive person, might “fill the role” and “cost less.” Mastery as deficit. You’d  be astounded (or not) at how many people I’ve coached who were punished because they became highly efficient. Their life-of-experience made their work look too easy. They were either squeezed for more or released as unnecessary.

What happens when all of the organizational knowledge, the ease and efficiency that comes via experience, becomes a liability? Wearing my consulting hat I’d routinely shake my head at the standard folly of leadership – people in power suits and ties a hundred miles from the dust and grit of the boots-on-the-ground – determining with pencil and paper the time and worth of a task. Abstracting the worth of a life. Budgetary efficiency driving the carefully calculated undervaluation of experience. Actual efficiency red-lined by abstract efficiency. As John would say, “Penny wise and pound foolish.”

Maturity in season of life. It comes from a job description that came across Kerri’s desk. Maturity as a job requirement! A search for someone with the experience necessary to paint like a child. Seeking the mastery that results from years and years of plowing the same fields.

I wonder if the hiring committee merely tossed out flowery language or actually understood that their ideal candidate would come through the door with boots made muddy from a lifetime of walking the fields?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MATURITY IN SEASON OF LIFE

 

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Look The Other Way

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I am working on a project that requires me to read through a passel of old emails. I find myself cringing every time I read my former email address. It was the name of my business. It made sense to me at the time I used it. Now it seems like a little chunk of hubris. david@trulypowerful.com. Yikes.

I came to the name honestly enough. One day while facilitating a workshop with a group in Chicago, we bumbled into a conversation about power. I was surprised to learn that I had a lot to say about power, both personal and communal power. My contention was that people most often confuse control with power. They feel powerful when they feel in control and, in fact, true power is the opposite of controlling. The investment of someone who is truly powerful is to empower, not to control. Think about the best teachers, managers, leaders, or friends that you know. Their commitment to you is to help you grow and learn, to become the most powerful person you can be. Unless you are trying to control them, your commitment is the same: to empower them. The same ideal is at the epicenter of any good relationship, work or otherwise.

Discerning between control and power – not always an easy task – was the guide star of my budding business. The study of power over others (controlling) versus true power (power created with others) – that’s how I arrived at the moniker Truly Powerful. I believed that, with awareness, change usually soon followed.

There is a growing list of words that once had potency for me but these words have been so overused, over-applied, or misused that they are now fairly meaningless: paradigm, paradigm shift, story, transformation, purposeful, presence…power, personal power. A few years ago my move from Seattle to Kenosha prompted a life inventory, a deep gander at my motives and motivations. Being a lover of words and believer in the power of words, I paid careful attention to the words I used to define my self and my work. They seemed a façade, a skin that needed shedding. I have called myself life-coach, facilitator, teacher, director-of-plays, performer, artist, and, no matter the word I applied, I felt I had no business assuming I knew or understood any other person’s route to power, personal or otherwise.

In workshops I often used to say, “You are not broken, nothing needs to be fixed,” and I wondered who I would be – and what I would call myself – if I actually believed that about myself and others. Nothing is broken. Nothing needs fixing. A remarkable thing happens when we assume wholeness instead of brokenness. Like a time-lapse camera focused on a busy urban street, the coordination and synchronization of individual movement becomes apparent. We are much more connected than we realize. Look for wholeness and you will see wholeness. Look for connectedness instead of individualization and all the power, fulfillment, purpose and transformation you desire will become available to you.

I also used to say (and still do), “No one creates alone.” No one walks this path alone. No one is powerful by themselves. Power and fulfillment are group sports. Whether we experience it or not, whether we see it or not, truly powerful is a given.

The second in my Held In Grace series: Surrender Now

The second in my Held In Grace series: Surrender Now. The original is available at zatista.com

art prints/bags/cards/notebooks of this image

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Truly Powerful People (476)

476.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am paraphrasing an email from Megan-the-brilliant. She recommended a book to me, “Take The Lead,” by Betsy Myers.

Megan: “It’s about how leadership in the 21st century is much different than our ideas about traditional leadership – and this includes parenting, teaching, etc., as “leading” opportunities.

“Myers writes about this guy, Warren Bennis, who understands leadership as self-knowledge… She goes on to write:
‘That successful leaders are those who are conscious about their behavior and the impact it has on the people around them. These leaders are willing to step back from the fray and get an accurate picture of what is working in their organizations–and in their lives–and what is not. Moreover, they want to know the why. They are willing to examine what behaviors of their own may be getting in the way. Successful leaders understand that if we don’t lead consciously, it’s easy to repeat patterns that could be keeping us from achieving the results we are hoping for. The toughest person you will ever lead is yourself. We can’t effectively lead ourselves, which starts with knowing who we are.’

This makes me think of the work that you’re doing in the world. Powerful People, yes?”

Yes. Lead first yourself. And you can’t do that if you don’t know yourself. You can’t do that if you are invested in the idea that others are responsible for how you feel, think, see, etc.

More from Megan: “The other thing I noticed this week? In how many places have we disconnected the “word” from it’s “meaning”…. the language from the action…! We talk about teaching as though it is separate from learning…. but

If they’re not learning, we’re not teaching.”

And to Megan’s thoughts I would add: when teachers are not allowed to teach, no one learns. What does it mean, “to learn?” What is the purpose of “learning?” Hint: information transfer is not learning. As any bumper sticker will tell you: information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. Why would we shoot for anything less than wisdom? Hint #2: you can’t test for wisdom.

(oh, man…here comes a rant): Here’s an example of Megan’s observation that we separate word from meaning: excellence is never achieved through standardization (think about it, please). Yet we blather on an on, decade after decade, pouring our energy and our resources into standardization of education as if it were the holy path to excellence. If you want to dumb down your society, race to the bottom of the education ladder (and we are doing it), define excellence according to a notion of standardization. Better yet: make a test of standardization, position it as the central driver and definer of the verb, to learn. Structure your system around the passing of the test, refuse to acknowledge the disparity of resource (meaning, of course, only standardize the expectation but do nothing to standardize the circumstance, i.e. fund your schools according to the property values around the school – an excellent strategy for keeping the wealthy schools fully funded and the poor schools very poorly funded) while simultaneously binding available resources, teacher’s pay, etc. to the score on the test. Place the accent on failure (always a good strategy for making fear the driver of the system). Being so short sighted it’s no wonder we are so willing to offshore our economic health and outsource our thinking.

Forcing people to follow is not leadership. Lying to people so they might follow is not leadership. Leaders – true leaders – lead; they do not manipulate. True leaders can see beyond their profit motive and bottom lines. True leaders are dedicated to empowerment in others because they are seekers of self-knowledge (end of rant).

One of the many reasons I believe Megan-the-brilliant is brilliant: she’s awake.