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Showing posts from March, 2006

The difference between choose and decide

My partner, Chris, and I were debating the other day about whether there was a difference between choosing and deciding. He insisted that we would not have 2 words for the same thing: if the words were different, there was a reason. I pointed out that the words probably came from two different languages (they do - choose has an Old English root and decide has a Latin root). And Chris was triumphant: if they came from different languages, they also came from different experiences! How can you argue that?

More to the point, I lost momentum because the little voice in the back of my head was reminding me (loudly) that Chris always has a reason for making these seemingly eccentric distinctions and I should probably pay attention. So I have checked the usual range of dictionaries and find that they all use "decide" as a definition for "choose." While that supports my side of the argument, it doesn't help me notice my blind spot (Chris always helps me find my bli…

Critical thinking

We use the word "critical" in at least 2 ways: one means of vital importance and the other means finding fault. Neither is the meaning used by academics, which tends towards the ability to appreciate and evaluate a work or concept. This kind of appreciation is, indeed, critical: if we lose our ability to see both good and bad, we do not have any means of making choices.

I'm thinking about 'critical' this morning as I read the reviews of the version of The Lord of the Rings that appeared in Toronto newspapers. And I am trying to remember when the last time was that the newspaper critics understood that they are not analysts - who break things into pieces - but the representatives of our critical faculties as they are stimulated by a particular work. Negative reviews are not the only reason that brilliantly talented young people have less and less hope of working in Canadian theatre, but they certainly contribute to the problem.

I wonder what the Canadian theatr…

the thing that runs under the music

I was doing some modeling work today with a young man who plays piano by ear. He said that he listens for the thing that runs under the music - a pattern of emotion and meaning - and that his ability to replicate that determines how well he plays. He is a very bright young man.

We sometimes talk about the undercurrents in a situation, but how often do we take the time to pull them into our awareness so precisely that we could replicate them or modify them, a little at a time, to a pattern that promotes more useful states of being?

There is always something that runs under the music and makes meaning to add to the sound. Tomorrow, pay attention to a particular relationship and notice what runs underneath it.

Why give people a choice?

This is my question for the week: what is the benefit of allowing people to choose? As a parent, you start with this early: would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue one? There are two benefits to giving a small child a choice: one is that you hope it teaches the child how to make choices and the other is that it channels attention (which is the opposite of choice).

So. . . sometimes we give choice to take away choice. When we say "the red shirt or the blue one?" we take away all the other shirts - and the possiblity of going naked -- and the chance to talk about a new toy or an old issue. In fact, we take everything away - for that moment - except the two shirts. It sounds rather draconian, doesn't it? Parents trying to get a three year old out of the house on schedule are often willing to resort to desperate measures. Including taking away the choice to stay put.

And sometimes we give choice to prepare for future choices which we know will inevitably be offer…

Creativity, opportunity and knowing what you want

The question for the day is this: if you have a clear sense of direction and a destination in mind, would you ever run out of ideas how to get there? The challenge is not to innovate for the sake of innovating - if you have a perfectly good way to get where you are going, it would be hard to argue that you should change. Creativity is not primarily about avoiding boredom: it's about exploring. And you can't explore until you pick a direction.

A direction alone will allow for creativity. Human nature is such that we seldom have a direction without also having a real or imagined destination - a place to go or a thing to achieve that, however unknown in its specifics, will be known to us by particular characteristics or benefits. As we move in our chosen direction toward our imagined destination, we naturally use all our resources to find the steps that will take us where we want to go.

Can you imagine a time when you had a strong sense of direction and a goal in mind when you g…

Our love/hate relationship with walls

Having known people who lived in a house with fewer than 4 complete outside walls, I am fairly certain that walls in a house are a good thing. Whether they are keeping the wind out or the roof up, walls make a house more comfortable in Canada. I'm fairly certain this would also be true in warmer climates, where I would sleep better with fewer insects and less visits from "surprise pets".

Walls keep the outside out so that the inside can be defined and regulated. When we are the ones doing the defining and regulating, we quite often like walls. They make it possible for us to create comfort and give us a measure of predictability because they limit what is possible. We can put up artwork or windows to create an impression that opens up without risking that the outside will suddenly become the inside.

Walls also remind us that there is an outside. Everytime we run into a wall, we know that there is something on the other side that we cannot reach. We wonder if the other …

Outside the Bowl

A friend and I are running a workshop next week on Thinking Outside the Bowl(TM). One of the ways we ourselves are moving into a wider frame is to see one another as collaborators instead of competitors. Thinking is not a commodity: everyone who teaches it well creates opportunities for other teachers, trainers, and coaches.

Our company name presents another frame: NLP, neuro-linguistic programming. More accurately now, to us it represents the infinite flexibility with which we can combine neurology, language and physiology to represent, understand, and live our experience of the world. When we model our thinking as something we do with mind and body and words, we begin to understand how patterns can be recognized before they can be analyzed. This is the beginning of trusting ourselves as complete beings to think faster and make better choices than we had thought possible.

What about the patterns that entrap us instead of enabling us? We move beyond those patterns by borrowing someo…

Solving puzzles

Do you like puzzles? Many people do - they are able to relax in the face of uncertainty and play until things fall into place - whether those things are jigsaw pieces or Sudoku numbers. If you ride the GO train during rush hour, you will see some of these people, intent and relaxed, pens poised over their papers. You will also see the other kind of people, the kind who use puzzles as a test of their ability to face the problems their days will bring. They move quickly, although they may get stuck between movements; their brows are furrowed, and they look relieved, not pleased, when they finish.

Our family has gone through phases of playing with those tangled puzzles that require you free a ring or handle from a wire form (sometimes they are made with wood and/or rope). My best chance of solving those puzzles always depends on the certainty with which I approach the task: as I relax in my certainty that I'm not going to solve the puzzle, the ring slips off into my hand. This does…

Competence and confidence

I've been reading Henry Mintzberg this week on Managers, not MBAs. In it, he talks about MBA programs as instilling confidence rather than competence. Mintzberg believes this is not only wrong: it's dangerous. He says there are four kinds of people: sad people who are neither confident nor competent: people who are competent but not confidence (paying attention to them can have enormous impact): people who are both confident and competent (they have the world by the tail) and the people Mintzberg says are typically the products of MBA programs - those who have confidence without competence.

As a professional who offers training to business people (including managers), I know how easy it is to create programs that build confidence at the expense of (or without regard to) competence. People will pay for confidence in the same way they will pay for heated seats in their luxury cars or days at the spa. They know their money is well spent when they feel great. Confidence feels g…