Decide To Learn [Flawed Wednesday]

[No image today. My technology is having a rough morning]

I spent my day yesterday thinking about lines of perception. I’ve known for a long time that where a focus is placed will largely determine the dynamic reality, the movement, that is created. For instance, a focus on opposition will always produce a chaotic, explosive pattern. The moving energy locks up, tension builds, explosion. Repeat again and again. Focus on the relationships, the spaces between, and the movement, the energy, will harmonize around a common center. The behavior of a system is visible if you know where to look.

Points. Spaces between. Analytics or Synthesis? Break it into parts or look at the whole. Is it a particle or a wave? Both/And.

Tom used to say, “Teaching is a relationship.” It’s not about the material-to-be-covered. It’s never about the test. It’s always about the spaces between. Learning, at its best, is not about coverage. It’s about incorporation. It’s about meaning made from relevant experience. Experiences made relevant.

Every action has an intention, even if the intention is to stir the pot, to see what happens.

A few blocks from our home, outside the courthouse, protestors face each other across a perceptual dividing line. The energy is locking up. Tension is building. Last year a boy, too young to legally order a beer in a bar, legally brought a big gun to a protest. His mom brought him to the protest, big gun and all. He killed two people and maimed a third just a block or two from where he now stands trial. In the year since, he has been made a symbol, a well-financed icon of those who desire a dividing line. The pressure builds, just as the system demands. We await the explosion. It will be here, a few blocks away, or elsewhere, but it is coming just as the system requires.

There’s a less understood truism when the focus is placed on the points & oppositions: the tension builds and the explosion happens again and again because no one ever learns. It’s a repetitive pattern that perhaps feels like progress but is actually an eddy. Empty movement.

The only way out of the eddy is to attend to the relationships, to turn the focus to the spaces between.

read Kerri’s blog post about DIVIDING LINES

Be Indeterminate [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Through the good graces of our tomato plants, I’ve learned a few new concepts this summer. Determinate and indeterminate. Bush and vine. Determinate tomato plants (bushes) are bred to stop growing. Indeterminate tomato plants (vines) will grow indefinitely or until the weather conditions “are no longer favorable.”

Our plants are indeterminate. Each morning, Kerri visits our planting bench and checks her tomatoes. 20 taught her a few simple tending-rules and now, each morning, there are more and more little indeterminate miracles moving backward along the color spectrum, finally arriving at a brilliant red.

Life is indeterminate.

My new tomato-terms come just in time. My current project has me revisiting my past life as a teacher and facilitator. If I apply my new terminology to people I can’t help but think it is the lucky few who survive so much dedicated energy to stop the learning-mind in the name of education. The natural output of a system designed on manufacturing principles is to truncate the questioning mind by patterning the notion that there is a predetermined answer. It becomes a game of finding the answer that teacher wants – a closed loop – instead of an incitement of curiosity. Children are excellent game players and translate the gaming pattern into their now-dulled-adulthood.

There is a cycle apparent in all genuine learning processes. It begins with discontent. Curiosity is a movement born from some form of discontent. It leads to questioning. Questioning always leads to disturbance (the interruption of the known). And, just like that, out of the disturbance something new is seen, call it a breakthrough, call it an insight, call it new learning…Many classrooms – certainly the systems – are designed and organized to keep disturbances to a minimum. The mantra is ‘control’ rather than ‘inspire curiosity.’ Business has the same dedication.

We’re taught that disturbance is the sign of something wrong rather than the crusty earth breaking to reveal new verdant life.

Discontent leads to questioning, leads to disturbance, which leads to breakthrough. And, an insight will always lead to discontent. It’s a story cycle, where yearning meets obstacle. Learning is by definition uncomfortable and at its best when it is uncontrollable.

Last week I attended a meeting. My two companions and I brought our homework back to the team. One was content. The other two of us were filled with discontent. The leader of the session, at first, was angry. He did not get the result he’d anticipated from his exercise. “So, you two are telling me this process was worthless!” he raged. We’d spent our week questioning instead of answering. Discontent. Questioning.

“No! It was great!” we chimed in chorus. “Look at all the good information we uncovered!” It was a mess. Big disturbance. We cycled through our misalignment a few times, wrangling over perception and usefulness. More rage. And then…an insight. The breakthrough. All of the rage, all of the appeasing, began to flow in a single direction. A possibility took shape. A target materialized that was much better than the prescribed pursuit. Energy filled our zoom-osphere. Laughter. Excitement.

Learning. Indeterminate. Open questions. Hot pursuits.

I am drawn to and surrounded by the dedicated indeterminates; those who refuse to stop learning: David, Mike, Horatio, MM, Bruce, 20, Judy, and yes, Kerri…I am a very fortunate man to be surrounded by so many tomatoes moving their way backward along the color spectrum, not afraid to walk through their discontent toward bigger and bigger questions.

read Kerri’s blog post about TOMATOES

Teach [It’s Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

A teachable moment on Flawed Cartoon Wednesday from studio melange

idiot FRAMED PRINT copy

This one is for all the teachers I know and love. They’ve made it their life’s work to seek the teachable moment and they are masterful at finding it. Everywhere.

On this Flawed Cartoon Wednesday, studio mélange pays homage to the elusive yet ever-present teachable moment.

TEACHABLE MOMENT gifts & products

teachablemomentsPRODUCT BOX jpeg copy

read Kerri’s blog post on TEACHABLE MOMENTS

www.kerrianddavid.com

teachable moment cartoon & designs ©️ 2016/2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Look The Other Way

notalone-jpeg

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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Stalk The Story

title_pageLast year I wrote a book and only recently got around to publishing it. One of the many benefits of waiting several months to publish is that I forgot what I wrote so, in preparing to publish, I got to read my book as if someone else wrote it. I got to discover my own book!

Now that the book is out in the world I’m receiving lots of requests to talk about it or coach to it. The requests are driving me to read it again and again – only through a different set of eyes each time. The question I’m asking myself is this: What is teachable beyond the obvious? I end each chapter with exercises and ideas but the real teachable moments happen within the story (just like life!). Here’s a “for instance” tidbit from the book:

When a story stalks you through your lifetime you inevitably learn some things about stories; you unwittingly stalk them, too. One of the first things I learned was that the word “beginning” is arbitrary. An end is always a beginning. A beginning is always an end. What we call a beginning or the middle or an end is really a simple matter of our point of view. It depends on what we see.

We rarely recognize the teachable moments in our lives. They seem so distant or have become so wrapped in justification that we don’t recognize them as opportunities for learning. A teachable moment is often embedded in the story that stalks you. In the book I weave the story of Parcival through the main narrative because Parcival gives his voice away. The main character of my book gives his voice away. He invests in the idea of what he should be and, so, loses sight of who he really is. He betrays himself. I’ve yet to meet a person who hasn’t given their voice away or lived from an image (a “should-do”) instead of honoring their “I-want-to-do.”  A moment of self-betrayal is a story that will stalk you all of your life. It will follow you until you reclaim your voice. And, the capacity to reclaim voice comes from a lifetime spent stalking the moment of self-betrayal. It’s a life story loop.

What are the stories that stalk you? The answer to this might not seem immediately apparent but if you take a moment and reflect you’ll likely come up with a moment (or several) that has shaped or continues to shape your life.

A moment of betrayal and a moment of reclamation might make a tight little beginning-middle-end story or might represent two beginnings or two ends, depending on how you decide to see it. Wounds are often opportunities for growth. Triumphs are often the beginning of a new chapter. We grow. We learn. We story and re-story ourselves. We give pieces away and reclaim them later. What’s important is that we learn to see our dance, capture the moment, and grow.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Go here to get hard copies

 

Find Your Voice

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

Yesterday I worked with teachers and students in an art cadre. We explored what it means to make art.

I am resistant to write, “We made art” because it implies that the “art” was a product, a thing separate from the process. It implies that the “doing” was incidental and the outcome was the thing called “art.” That notion is upside down. The art is not the outcome. The art is the process yet we have no language to correctly express it. What happened in our art cadre was essential. The students and teachers recognized that a great product requires a great process; the process is the essential.

We focused entirely on process because I know that students and teachers alike are all the time squeezed into demonstrating outcomes. They are forced to let go the primary in service to the secondary. Art teachers are generally under siege and always have to prove their value to school districts because school districts see “art” as an incidental. Consequently, art is often taught as a product and therefore not art. It is misunderstood as something non-essential.

There is an entire industry known as “self-help” dedicated to a single, simple impulse: the full expression of the self: how to give full voice to perceptions and ideas without impediment. In other words, how do we get out of our own way? This is a question of process and reachable through “art” when art is understood. Businesses invest fortunes to “brainstorm” new ideas, to see patterns and give form to new conceptions. Perception is the province of “art.” I hear whining from the glass towers of commerce: “Why aren’t schools producing self-directed, critical thinking workers?” Answer: dedicating the focus to outcomes and answer regurgitation (in other words, beat the art out of people) will always produce a hiring pool of anesthetized answer regurgitators. We get what we produce. Self-expression and critical thinking are sister skills. Quash one and we quell the other. Art would seem to be an essential skill for business.

One of the saddest moments of the day came after the cadre. Two teachers stayed to talk. They told me that they knew what they are doing to kids (yes…doing TO kids) is wrong. They are required to produce products. They believe that they have no voice in the matter. They told me that they agreed with everything we explored but must serve the product expectations of their district. I didn’t ask the question I wanted to ask. There seemed no point. I wandered when they would wake up and recognize that supporting a system that they knew to be harming kids was also taking a toll on their health and lives. Voice is not something other people give you. It is something that you have to agree to give away. Voicelessness is a terrible thing to exchange in order to follow a rule, especially if you do not believe in the premise of the rule.

Walk Toward The Vanishing Point

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

The other day in Melissa’s class, the students were drawing pictures. They were learning about perspective. Most were drawing according to single point perspective: all lines meet at a single spot called the vanishing point. In the drawings, roads and train tracks ran toward the horizon, telephone poles and barns all followed the lines disappearing into a single point.

The lesson will continue for a long time. Now that the students have drawn lines to a single point they will begin exploring the greater implications of perspective. They will discover for themselves that things look radically different according to where you stand. They will learn that you can never occupy another person’s perspective so you will never be able to see what they see (imagine the implications); they will discover that perspective is personal and as varied at there are people on the planet. The possibilities of an exploration in perspective go on and on. We forget that at one point in history artists were mathematicians. Artists were scientists. There wasn’t the separation or the story that we tell today. Imagine the implications for education if we weren’t so blinded by subject separations and so singly prejudiced against the arts. Music is math, after all. Color is either chemistry or optics depending on whether you are mixing paint or light.

The next day, we met with other teachers, each sharing their experiences in the classroom. Beth (an amazing educator) listened to Melissa’s story and said, “I love the term, ‘vanishing point!’ There’s a whole world happening beyond that point and we just can’t see it.” She was lost in thought for a moment and then exclaimed, “Beyond the vanishing point anything is possible!”

Beth deals in possibilities. She is one of the few people I’ve known who recognizes that we actually live at the vanishing point though most of us pretend that we know what’s going to happen. Beth courts the vanishing point. She plays with it. She tries things just to see what will happen. Hang out with Beth and you will jump in puddles, race through tall grass, and take a turn down a road just to see where it leads. She knows that when you walk toward the vanishing point you walk into possibilities. Beth knows that life is vital in the direction of the vanishing point; the foreground of the picture is the present; it is where we currently stand. Beth knows it is the deepest human impulse to say to your self, “I wonder what’s over that hill?” And then follow the impulse. Beth knows this greatest of human impulses is at the heart of great education. Beth knows like Melissa knows, it is so simple and so possible when they are allowed to walk with their students toward the vanishing point instead of being forced to turn away from the horizon and pretend that there is something standardized about learning.

Thank Melissa

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

Avalon disappeared into the mists of time. It is there, or so we are told, but it is out of reach to we mere mortals. In the age of reason the mystery retreated to the other side of the veil. I thought of that as this afternoon we drove through fields shrouded in fog towards a rural elementary school. We were visiting Melissa’s classroom; a place alive with magic and excitement and the vitality that is present wherever true learning is taking place. If magic survives beyond the veil then Melissa’s classroom is a portal to that sacred place.

Tom once told me, “You will know when you are doing important work by the size of the tide that rises against you.” Melissa is doing important work and is standing tall despite the towering wave that crashes over her (and every teacher in the nation) everyday when she asks, “Why are we doing this? What does this test or this shabby curriculum have to do with learning?” She asks and others turn away. She is the voice in the crowd that says, “This emperor has no clothes!” And like the child in the story, the truth-teller is shunned initially, hushed by the adults who are too afraid to say, “We know. We see it, too.”

There are plenty of teachers and administrators and parents and business leaders that see it, too. There are many conversations about fixing things. There are endless strategies and punitive measures to raise standards though no one is certain what standards we are raising (hint: test scores have nothing to do with learning; neither do lists or rankings or any other from of measurement). On the surface we are expert at finger pointing and assigning blame and still the emperor prances naked through the streets.

And beneath it all is Melissa and scores of educators like her that know the system as dictated to them is doing the opposite of what it professes. So, she wades into the muck everyday and ignites imaginations and encourages her students to explore, pursue, experiment and make messes. Her students make choices (they control themselves because she teaches them to be powerful): they are engaged in a quest of discovery. Her students are excited to come to school because what they do is real; unlike most of the adults who should be lobbying for their betterment, they are very clear and vocal about what has merit and what has little or no value.